Thursday, June 11, 2009

Review: Insatiable, by Gael Greene

I have had a copy of Insatiable lying around since it came out a few years ago. I finally decided to pick it up and give it a read. How did I find it?

Disappointing. Greene is awfully impressed with her own bad self and reveals all kinds of distasteful tidbits about her ethics as a journalist and restaurant reviewer. She confesses each peccadillo as if, by confessing alone, she is exonerated and can now travel through the rest of her life with a clear conscience and without consequence.

She had a lot of sex with a lot of men (
many of them famous - starting with Elvis!), and ate a lot of really really good expensive food in New York, Paris, and the rest of the world. Each chapter may as well be titled "What I Ate" or "Who I F*cked" and reads like a laundry list of decadent foods and sexy famous men. There is no real description of any of the restaurants or the food; it's a recording of who was hot at which spot. There is some self-deprecation peppered throughout the book with the intention, I'm sure, of making Ms. Greene more accessible to us lesser beings, but none of it rings true.

There are recipes spread throughout the book, but there does not seem to be any rhyme or reason as to where they are placed, or why. They actually represent the book perfectly - there was no order there either. Some chapters end with a recipe but there is no context within the chapter to explain the presence of the recipe. The recipes all look ok, but without any context, I think even the most intuitive reader would be hard-pressed to make a credible connection between the two.

Ultimately, where the book fails the most for me is that it lacks focus and direction. Ms. Greene has lived a fascinating life, but I did not get the sense that she had learned anything from it. Not that I was expecting any big major life-changing insight at the end, but I was hoping for at least some kind of punch line. Without one, it's just one of those long involved wandering stories your mother's eccentric friend Frieda launches into after a glass or two of wine after dinner that lasts so long that by the time she gets to the end even she has forgotten why she started telling it and everyone else has fallen asleep.

I have never read any of Ms. Greene's restaurant reviews. From what I gleaned from her memoirs, the only reason I would ever want to is to find out where to go if I want to be ignored while I ogle the A-List celebs who waltz past me on their way to the star tables.

There may be some folks who are insatiable for this kind of experience; I am not one of them.

Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess, by Gael Greene (Grand Central Publishing, April 2006)

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