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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Lunch Date: Playing

posted by on April 3 at 14:06 PM


(A few times a week, I take a new book with me to lunch and give it a half an hour or so to grab my attention. Lunch Date is my judgment on that speed-dating experience.)

Who’s your date today? Playing, by Melanie Abrams

Where’d you go? The Aloha Kitchen

What’d you eat?
Sweet & Spicy Seasoned Deep Fried Chicken ($7.99)

How was the food? Well, it’s funny. I wandered into the Aloha Kitchen hoping for Hawaiian food, but it seems to be strictly Korean. There’s lots of Kimchi and barbecue stuff. But I was the only one in the restaurant and I’d been greeted, so I decided to stay because I was raised Catholic and I feel extreme guilt for things that are not my fault. So I just ordered the most basic kind of Chinese-style food I could, expecting a bowl of candied chicken parts. Instead, I got a plate of seven miniature chicken legs, coated in a crunchy fried shell and covered with a spicy, sweet, and sour sauce. It was good, if really messy—eat a gooey, coated chicken leg with your fingers and see what happens to you—meal. I’d eat there again, if I was in the mood for Korean food.

What does your date say about itself?
Playing is an erotic paperback original novel about a nanny who steals her employer’s date and then enters into a S&M relationship with him. The man is an Indian who happens to have leather cuffs all over his house. The back cover informs us that the author, Ms. Abrams, is married to the genius novelist Vikram Chandra.

Is there a representative quote?
Yoon laga thha jaise gungunaata ek abshaar dekha thha.” His fingers massaged down her spine, each verebra vibrating under his touch, and he pushed gently at the small of her back.
“What does it mean?” she asked.
“Once I saw you through a downpour”—he paused—“And it was as if I had seen a humming waterfall.”

Will you two end up in bed together? Yes, but I think I’m going to regret it in the morning. I always read books about S&M relationships—I’m fascinated by the S&M thing, in part because it seems so ridiculous to me, and I really want to read about what the thinking behind it is—and I always walk away unsatisfied. It’s not working for me as an erotic novel, but it is, at least, working to make the main character, Josie, three dimensional as a young novice entering a world that her older lover knows almost too well. It’s not as trashy as, say, a Harlequin romance, but it’s pretty goddamned trashy. But trashy, in this case, is pretty fun.

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Man, you're picking this book over Love Is a Mixtape? Who are you?

Posted by Levislade | April 3, 2008 2:12 PM

Really, you think Harlequins are trashy? Do you mean hot, steamy sex when you say trashy, because if so Ellora's Cave books are a far more apt reference. However, if you mean trashy as in in a dopey romantic story (and given the representative quote this may indeed be the case) then carry on with the Harlequin reference. Or perhaps you mean trashy as in the heroine is so annoying you immediately want to throw the book in the trash? In that case, Harlequin definitely fits the bill.

Posted by PopTart | April 3, 2008 2:29 PM

PopTart: Trashy as in romantic with bad writing. Not trashy as in hot fucking. That is all.

Levislade: Maybe you liked Love is a Mixtape because you're a music guy and I didn't like it because I can't even hit one actual, successful note on Guitar Hero.

Posted by Paul Constant | April 3, 2008 2:40 PM

How do you eat and read at the same time? Whenever I do this, I end up with my lunches from the week spread over every third chapter. And some on my shirt. I've nearly given up trying.

Maybe I need a book made entirely of water-and-grease-proof plastic.

Posted by SDizzle | April 3, 2008 2:56 PM

@3 - Hmmm, good point. And yet you obviously have great regard for music, and write about it quite well. I wouldn't expect Nick Hornby, for instance, to be able to hit a note on Guitar Hero, but I would think he would enjoy that book. I'm not trying to bully you into enjoying a book you didn't - these things are usually impossible to parse - just teasing it apart a bit.

Posted by Levislade | April 3, 2008 2:58 PM

Oh. Well then, nevermind. Sorry!

Posted by PopTart | April 3, 2008 3:01 PM

Levislade, I have a really hard time reading a lot of writing about music, especially the Rolling Stone/Spin school of music writing, or Chuck Klosterman-style writing. I adore popular music, but the Pearl Jam quote from the last book really made me nervous about his writing. Once someone starts equating music to some sort of larger thing in a strained metaphor, I clock out.

SDizzle, I just let the food fall where it may. A lot of our books here wind up spattered with sauce. It's gross, but I think eating alone, in silence, is kind of grosser.

PopTart, no need to apologize...I should've been clearer.

Posted by Paul Constant | April 3, 2008 3:22 PM


Posted by Will in Seattle | April 3, 2008 4:16 PM

I'm with you on the music books, but there are a TON of good ones. None from the Rolling Stone school, though. Most of the good ones are by Brits -- Hornby, Stuart Maconie, Simon Reynolds, Paul du Noyer, etc. etc. They seem to have a cultural tradition of being able to personalize the story without losing the basic concept of "here's some stuff that's true that you might be interested in", or without that crazy annoying flash POW bad New Journalism crap that everybody who wishes they were Lester Bangs does. Klosterman is actually OK, for an American, when he's writing about himself, at least. The best music writer in America writes about country, not pop: Nick Tosches; he indulges in the flash-bang style a little, but he delves into such deep weirdness that he gets away with it (not like the bogus whitebread "weirdness" of guys who think that Pearl Jam and Soundgarden are different bands).

Posted by Fnarf | April 3, 2008 4:59 PM

The Hawaiian Lunch Plate food of today and Korean food are the exact same thing. I thought you knew that.

Posted by Gay Seattle | April 3, 2008 5:37 PM

"I always read books about S&M relationships—I’m fascinated by the S&M thing, in part because it seems so ridiculous to me, and I really want to read about what the thinking behind it is—and I always walk away unsatisfied.'

So, When you say "ridiculous", do you mean worthy of ridicule or does it just seem silly? But then why are you always reading them?

I have found that whenever I meet people who are into SM or to a lesser extent read their writing (its such an obvious trope), it doesn't take much digging to find the root cause; the raw vulnerable nerve that is always on display. These people are often lacking in certain coping skills and usually have histories of poor attachment, if not outright trauma (which are endlessly being enacted and reenacted). They rely on this framework and the clarity of splitting to relate to their fantasized, and theatrical others rather than engage with the messy uncertainty of the dyad, or triad or whatever grouping. Whether they have guilt or have adapted to accept it, there is always a sad element. SM among other things, gives these people, a safe predetermined framework to relate sexually to others of their kind; a way to tap into the electric source of their difficulties. As such it is intoxicating and like any pleasurable experience self reinforcing.
Check out "Object relations" if you want to go deeper.

Posted by LMSW | April 3, 2008 7:51 PM

I agree with you about Klosterman's writing Fnarf - except that one chapter where he details his raging alcoholism - I found that a bit disturbing.

Posted by KariMDinCanada | April 3, 2008 8:21 PM

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