The Kitchen Man

The Kitchen Man

by Ira Wood
     
 

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In this delightful, laugh-out-loud first novel, Gabe Rose, the brash Jewish waiter with a play in his pocket, is looking for his big chance. Where else to find it but at the gilded, overpriced tables of Boston's fanciest restaurant, where crooked politicians, tight Old Money, preppies, parvenus and, of course, the stars come to dine on yesterday's fish under…  See more details below

Overview


In this delightful, laugh-out-loud first novel, Gabe Rose, the brash Jewish waiter with a play in his pocket, is looking for his big chance. Where else to find it but at the gilded, overpriced tables of Boston's fanciest restaurant, where crooked politicians, tight Old Money, preppies, parvenus and, of course, the stars come to dine on yesterday's fish under tonight's hollandaise? Under-30 Gabe contrives to meet over-40 Cynthia Kagan, a tough, sexy playwright-director, big in feminist circles…Plot and character are pas de deux under Wood's fast-stepping, always engaging choreography, but how to explain all the sharp and colorful, emotionally honest, sometimes heart-grabbing ensemble work? Besides the fun, The Kitchen Man is about love and loyalty outside conventional categories of age, gender and body proportions, a gamey kind of You Can't Take It With You with extremely recognizable people.-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

An excerpt from The Kitchen Man

Everyone else I know accepts temporary malaise, the blues, as an ordinary human infirmity like the flu and sees nothing wrong with a few lackluster days of self-pampering and doughy lying about. But my own chosen love, my Cynthia, the caramel center of my bittersweet life, views depression as indistinguishable from masturbation and weight lifting: a waste of limited male energy.

I admit it. The tides of my disposition fluctuate with my luck at the mail box. Following this morning's letter of rejection I returned to the house with the glazed, magnetized eyes of the children of the damned.

"Uh oh," was all Cynthia said.

"Maybe it's a sign. Maybe I should give up playwriting. Finally admit it. No, I do not have any talent. It's time I grew up, accepted the fact that some people have it and some people never will."

She waited for me to finish. It is no secret that in her women's group I am known as Uncle Vanya.

"Maybe I should just give up and find something I'm good at."

"How about pottery? Or the guitar," she said. "Definitely. The guitar. And give yourself a solid month. Then if the Rolling Stones don't ask you to join them, take up, let's see, sand painting." According to Cynthia you don't pout about rejections

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
Gabriel Rose, the "kitchen man" of Ira Wood's engaging first novel, is that all too rare creature in American fiction - neither a ladies' man nor a man's man, Gabe is a mensch who not only loves women, but can also like them as friends and equals. Finding himself attracted to a director both 13 years older and considerably more successful than he, Gabe, a frustrated Boston playwright making ends meet as a waiter, finds his way to this somewhat formidable woman's heart through her stomach...a totally convincing creation that demonstrates Mr. Wood's gift for heartwarming comedy. (November 3, 1985)
Kansas City Star
Mr. Wood has written a funny, almost zany, sad and touching story of a young man finding himself. The Kitchen Man is an inside look at a modern, enlightened couple sharing an abundance of honesty and compassion. (February 16, 1986)
Columbus Dispatch
Warm praise is due Ira Wood's novel. Exhibiting a keen ear for the honesty of an intimate first person narrative, with an eye toward animated detail, Wood's dish tastes far better than standard fare. Overall, the major selling point of Wood's concoction is the impressive writing style. It is never self-indulgent nor pretentious. Wood brings off a joke, then moves on to humorous realism. There are dashes of poetic passages, each well controlled. In words that have the power, from beginning to end, to reassure and convince that loving all-out, while never giving in, is still man's best choice. (January 5, 1986)
Utne Reader
If you've ever been 1) a waiter/ess 2) in love 3) out of love 4) a man 5) a woman, you'll love this warm and witty saga of passion between equals who happen to be male and female. (April/May 1986)
Toronto Globe & Mail
The novel is a treat, bursting with farcical turns of events on the road to Gabriel's self-realization, teeming with characters by turns funny, touching and real. Wood has an amazing talent for creating rounded people who might very go off and become central figures in their own books...If Gabriel Rose, lover of women and food, failed playwright and successful mensch, is on the feminist menu, where do I place my order, please? (March 22, 1986)
Library Journal
Gabriel Rose is a playwright working as a waiter, and his first-person narrative by first-novelist Wood is a wonderful, warm story of a modern man's secret hopes and fears. Gabe's play, The Kitchen Man , has won some plaudits but no production, while his service at classy Les Neiges d'Antan nets him Best Waiter in Boston. But deep down he's still little Gabey, always overweight and unworthy of love. Until playwright-director Cynthia Kaganolder, divorced, zaftig, stunning to Gabecomes into his restaurant, takes him into her extended family, and teaches him at last to love himself. Often funny enough for laughing aloud and occasionally touching enough to elicit a tear, this is a fine, full-bodied book with remarkably human characters. A book to read and relish. Michele Leber, Fairfax Cty. P.L., Va.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780965457835
Publisher:
Leapfrog Press
Publication date:
06/01/2009
Edition description:
REPRINT
Pages:
306
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 20: PARTIAL CHAPTER TEXT

Everyone else I know accepts temporary malaise, the blues, as an ordinary human infirmity like the flu and sees nothing wrong with a few lackluster days of self-pampering and doughy lying about. But my own chosen love, my Cynthia, the caramel center of my bittersweet life, views depression as indistinguishable from masturbation and weight lifting: a waste of limited male energy. I admit it. The tides of my disposition fluctuate with my luck at the mail box. Following this morning's letter of rejection I returned to the house with the glazed, magnetized eyes of the children of the damned. "Uh oh," was all Cynthia said.

"Maybe it's a sign. Maybe I should give up playwriting. Finally admit it. No, I do not have any talent. It's time I grew up, accepted the fact that some people have it and some people never will." She waited for me to finish. It is no secret that in her women's group I am known as Uncle Vanya. "Maybe I should just give up and find something I'm good at."

"How about pottery? Or the guitar," she said. "Definitely. The guitar. And give yourself a solid month. Then if the Rolling Stones don't ask you to join them, take up, let's see, sand painting." According to Cynthia you don't pout about rejections, you make more submissions, just like you don't jerk off when you can make love or bench press dumbbells when you can work in your garden.

Which is what we are doing, pulling summer beets, red and hard and clinging with earth, raking over the soil planting cabbage in their place. Our bodies are machines, oiled with perspiration dusted brown. I pull a beet, Cynthia will take it. She shovels manure, and then I rake it. Rake it, take it, rake it, take it, on and on and on. I do not feel like talking and Cynthia obliges me. She knows, the work is my cure.

Cynthia's legs are caked with socks of earth, her forehead bears an airbrush smudge where she whisked her hair from her eyes. She wears a tight-fitting tank top, only a film that breathes with her sweat slippery breasts, and a pair of terry cloth shorts, damp in the crotch where they ride. I have not lost my desire for her. Our good sex is my only pleasure and perhaps the only reason she merely sighs when our eyes meet, sighs with a resigned shake of the head which says, I'll wait.

With the planting finished we sit, ankles crossed, under the land's oldest white oak and cut the beets from their greens. Hummingbirds thrash desperately, sipping nectar in flight as our black sentries, the crows, gather in the branches. Her gaze does not leave me, my soft belly that hangs over my shorts like the yeasty overspill of a muffin, my thick haunches, the odd patches of hair on my shoulders and neck. I am beautiful to her. Not almost beautiful if I lost ten pounds, not potentially respectable if I finally had a play produced, but unreservedly beautiful for who I am.

Our toes dig the loamy soil, our cat wreathes our ankles in pensive figure eights. The satin leaves of the Swiss chard, the castle wall of scarlet runner beans, the tomatoes, drooping pregnant with fruit, all wait. She draws my face to hers. Her fingers skim the line of my cheek and fan wide at my neck and shoulders. Her palms slide across my nipples. As I raise her arms to slip off her damp top, her breasts, streaked with grit, tumble against my chin. Our bodies are wet, smelling of sweat and work, flecked with earth and needles of pine. As she pulls my shorts to my knees I kick them free of my ankles and ease onto a soft mattress of damp hay.

Drinking one another, sliding, licking, our noises are quieter than the catbirds calling and the passionate orchestra of crickets in the grass. Cynthia swings on top of me and places me inside her and we clutch, barely breathing, just feeling, not moving, murmuring, both of us, with our own primal sounds. How grateful we are.

My best friend laughs at my gardening. Why bother? You can buy the same damned lettuce at the Safeway. Old people garden. And spinsters. Farmers and immigrants. But he doesn't know. He has no idea.

Picture standing, naked, ankle deep in the earth, with your love. In July, when the air is a dense wet aura, a flannel sheet grazing your bare skin; when the squirrels are so busy they forget the bird feeders, when moths, like pellets, bat your windows and the prickly fronds of summer squash tickle your inner thighs. You have watched your love kneeling, stretching, tugging weeds. Her muscles slide beneath her skin. She sweats where your tongue wants to be. And the good air fills you, and your body thrums from the inside out. You are an animal, naked in the grass, in the dirt. You are hot and you want.

(There would be more gardens in American, I think, if Organic Gardening or Country Journal popularized the notion of garden sex. Plant your bed and sleep in it. Make your love and eat it, too. Sloganeering aside, a muscular pair of thighs behind a rake is a bigger turn-on than a pair of sixteen-year-old buns sewn into a pair of designer jeans. Any day.)

Always an outsider, in the garden I am at the center. Not a hub about which all else turns, but an organ breathing life inside a great whole. In the garden my body eclipses my mind's poor potential for pleasure, my tension spills in a tide of orgasm and my love and I, bodies braided, lips licking salty skin, twine and roll like dolphins, float weightless on a crackling hill of straw.

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Meet the Author


Ira Wood is a publisher as well as the author of two novels The Kitchen Man and Going Public and the co-author (with Marge Piercy) of the erotic thriller Storm Tide. His workshops, given nationwide, emphasize the importance of the writer's craft and overcoming the inner and outer barriers to creativity.

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