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April 11, 2008

An Author's Oo La La

Posted by carol
Guest blogger Gayle Brandeis is the author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write and the novels Self Storage and The Book of Dead Birds. Here she muses about the decadent pairing of books and food.

When I started to receive invitations to visit book groups, I knew I was in for a treat. I hadn't realized that this treat would often be literal.

Books and food are two of my very favorite things in the world. I love the fact that the words have the same vowels in the center --- books and food, that wonderful double o, oo, like the sound you make when you've read or tasted something amazing. Book groups and food, it turns out, make for a most excellent pairing. They certainly make me say "oo."

When I visit book or writing groups to discuss my book Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write, there is often an abundant spread of fruit (strawberries often at the centerpiece --- a sweet nod to the opening line: "A strawberry changed my life.") When I visit book clubs to discuss my first novel, The Book of Dead Birds, I'm sometimes greeted with chop chae and kimchi or other Korean delicacies, sometimes a bowl of candied ginger, my main character Ava's favorite snack. My latest novel Self Storage lends itself well to potlucks, since the characters live in family student housing and often have eclectic communal meals with their neighbors. The novel I'm currently writing is set on a pear farm. I look forward to book clubs full of pear cake!

It's always fun to see what's on the literal table at book clubs --- even if it's a simple plate of store bought cookies --- as well as what book club participants bring to the table; I find it so fascinating and moving to hear my new friends' (for they always become friends over the course of the meeting) takes on my work. I love how these engaged, engaging readers often find themes and meanings I never consciously intended, how they help me see my work in a fresh new way. Even if I'm talking to a book club by speaker phone and no food whatsoever is involved, I still find the process incredibly delicious, incredibly nourishing. Oo la la, indeed!

--Gayle Brandeis