Jamilti, One of Our Thursdays is Missing, The Family Meal, Quiverfull, The Dinner

Uncharacteristic frequent updates as I get through my backlog. I read these books in July. 

Jamilti is an early series of works by Rutu Modan, mostly a collection of “graphic short stories.” The style doesn’t vary too heavily, but the subject material does - ranging from pseudo-horror to fantastical to realistic depictions of the difficulties of daily life. It’s a mix of elements, tied together by a common artistic style, and an attention to Israeli life. I enjoyed some of the works, but certainly not others, and found that Modan’s style, while grotesque and expressive, was not really for me. Not in a hurry to pick up other books by this author.

One of Our Thursdays is Missing is yet another entry in Jasper Fforde’s amazing Thursday Next series. I’ve been recommending this series all over the place, because I think it slipped under the radar for a bunch of the book geeks I know, and it shouldn’t have - it’s one of the most imaginative worlds that I’ve ever read, and it’s meta and just plain fun. Thursday Next is a book detective in a world where books are deeply important, and she can dive into the narratives and help fix things. 

As the series continues, the tone changes - one of the things I love about these books is they continue to be different, despite focusing on the same main character. This entry is actually from the perspective of the fictional Thursday (the Thursday in the Thursday Next books, speaking of meta) - and I loved how she was different and yet similar, and how it explored a different part of the same universe. Not as strong as the first two or three, but worth reading if you are into the series.

The Family Meal is Ferran Adria’s home cookbook. If you had to backtrack and read that sentence twice, well yes, it is the guy who ran El Bulli, he did write a cookbook intended for home cooks, inspired by the food the staff ate every day, and it’s, well, not very inspiring. The recipes are clear, the layout nice - each proposed menu has a time plan, a list of ingredients, pictures of various techniques, etc, but the approach to the pictures and writing is so clinical that I wasn’t tempted even once to make the food in the book! It all shares a similar set of colors and a sensibility that doesn’t make it particularly appetizing, and there are lots of repetitive recipes - most of the desserts are “fruit with salt and oil” or “fruit with salt and vinegar.”  For a cookbook like this, that isn’t aspirational but rather meant for actual cooking, the clinical approach means that when I’m looking for something to make for dinner, I’m never going to turn to it for ideas. Too bad.

Quiverfull. Wow. So I read The Child Catchers, which is by the same author, back in May, and was a huge fan of the way it illuminated a entire subculture. Quiverfull is the same, except it takes on an even more controversial topic that evangelical adoption - the Christian patriarchy and submission movement, which encourages Christian women to submit to their husbands (and/or fathers), to not use birth control, and to have as many children as God allows.

Reading this book was horrifying for me, more so because I don’t believe in God. As page after page testified about how these women rely on God to regulate their pregnancies - not using birth control, and trusting that he has a plan for their children, I was overcome by a sense of despair, mostly stemming from the fact that there’s no greater power watching out for them.  I put down the book every chapter wishing that someone was watching out for these women - pregnancy and childbirth are dangerous, and their belief in a higher power means that they are often not taking agency in looking out for their own lives. 

I think the book is excellent - a compelling, detailed and revealing expiration of the underside of these megachurches and patriacharal culture. However, I felt that often the author wanted to sound impartial or at least balanced, which prevented her from tackling some of the disgusting rhetoric or horrible consequences present in the book. In Child Catchers, she does a much better job speaking directly to the reader, and it’s easier to get through the book with a sense of hope. In Quiverfull, her desire to study the movement from an outside and unbiased perspective makes it upsetting to read page after page of claims about the value of submission in women.

Finally, The Dinner. This book reminded me of a more grotesque and horrifying version of God of Carnage - from the emphasis on minuscule details (the food at the restaurant) to the twists and turns. Really, talking about this book leads to spoilers, but if you want a mindfuck, it’s worth a read.