ISN'T it weird when a book is aimed at a youthful market but speaks to another, more elderly one? Dolly Alderton's memoir Everything I Know About Love is a telling example. It is aimed at readers between 15 and 35 — but it's only people in their fifties and above who can grasp just how accurately the messages on the pages hit the collective spot.
Alderton is the sage of the loins, the guru of the burgeoning yet tempered guavadilla. She has more nous than Nietzsche and is definitely more drinking-fit than De Beauvoir.
This book has been on the shelves for a season or so but I heard about it only when I complained to a psychologist friend about how difficult it is for someone of my advanced years to grasp the soul and mind of someone in his/her twenties to embody it in a character in a book. Dolly Alderton, my shrink said, go read Dolly Alderton.
I've been reading it in dribs and drabs since November. Some of the chapters are so good that I read them over and over again. Specifically, “Twenty-eight Lessons Learnt in Twenty-eight Years". There is so much youthful wisdom locked into this chapter that it is humbling. I mean, I remember what it was like to date a woman for the first time. Sweaty palms. Kissing with closed lips … unsure of yourself, afraid of embarrassing yourself. It never occurred to me that the woman probably felt the same.
Now, years later, not even a lifetime of experiences can give me access to the skull spaces of today's youngsters. Everything is so different — and yet the same, if you read Everything I Know About Love and “translate" it in terms of your own life. Moreover, apart from the humour and pathos of her life with her best friend, Farley, and their first adventures in the realm of intimacy and sex, Alderton's memoir is such that you can also read it as a testimony to Homo sapiens' weirdness.
I'll offer samples of her wisdom: “If a man needs to be ‘kept interested’ in you, he’s got problems that are not your business to manage.” About a Brazilian wax: “Don’t ever get one for a man. And don’t ever not get one for ‘the sisterhood’ — the sisterhood doesn’t give a shit. Volunteer at a bloody women’s shelter if you want to be useful, don’t spend hours debating the politics of your pubic hair.” Concerning other hair: “There is no quicker way to bond a group of women than to bring up the subject of rogue, coarse chin hairs.”
And sex: “Sex really, really does get better with age. If it keeps improving like it has done so far, I’ll be in a state of constant coitus aged 90. There will be no point in doing anything else.”
I like the way she thinks.
Alderton also offers a bunch of tasty recipes in between. After telling an incredible story of the day she got drunk with a friend, boarded a bus to Oxford Circus and started thinking halfway there that they were on their way to the city of Oxford, she posted a recipe for Hangover Mac and Cheese. Purer you won't find. After a description of how it happens that is able to dazzle and jive every night until dawn, she gives the recipe of a seductress's sole meunière. She also makes apple pizza with an ice-cream accessory.
Did the book teach me anything? Of course! Everything I need.
Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton was published by Penguin and costs R301 at Exclusive Books.
Rich people have only one real problem — how to pay less tax. Fabulously rich people's children have a different problem — how to spend their parents' billions without doing anything that might make people suspect they have a mind.
This is the broad backdrop of I Eat Men Like Air, a delightful novel that gives you the chance to look down on these poor people in their fight against drugs, hedonism, boredom and the great enemy of their good lives, namely a frighteningly bad self-image.
The story? A billionaire's son commits suicide but there is an outside chance that it was murder. I didn't read to solve the mystery. I read from a perverse yearning to see Alice Berman crack open one character after another and show how pathetic they are. Especially one Lulu, a social media influencer. Is that silly of me? Maybe — but it was really nice to constantly feel superior. Another tip, obscure as it is: Sylvia Plath.
I Eat Men Like Air by Alice Berman was published by Pegasus Elliot Mackenzie Publishers and costs R385 at Exclusive Books.
I'm an absolute sucker for books with titles like this one's. I buy them without even trying to understand what they're about. Sometimes I put them down after a few pages, ashamed because I was victim to my wild curiosity. Not this time.
Tteokbokki are Korean rice cakes whose boring interior is veiled by a spectacular pepper sauce. Baek Sehee sees them as metaphor for her life. Bland on the inside, but she can present a public front of interest. No wonder she falls victim to a lingering depression.
In this book, she posts transcripts of her conversations with her shrink, and often amusing introductions to the conversations. What ultimately led me to see that I could recommend the book is how the psychologist leads her to insights into the way people can convince themselves of strange and untrue things — and how to counteract this.
I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki by Baek Sehee was published by Bloomsbury and costs R281 at Exclusive Books.
After the death from cancer of Ryan Riley's mother, he realised that one starts cooking in different ways when there are terminally ill people in the house. From there, his approach was: simple, easy dishes with good food; then delicious meals for the recovery period; and finally, mouthwatering dishes for the festive time when the dark cloud has lifted.
At the first stage, there are dishes I would appreciate at any time: scrambled eggs with miso and spring onions, shrimp with orzo, potatoes with Marmite and cheddar. Things like that. In the recovery phase, it gets a little more complicated: onion soup, cod with mango chutney and okra, fried gherkins, kimchi cucumbers, fennel salad, za'atar and sumac pesto. Then comes the great fun: lamb chops with prune sauce, a miso, mushroom and parmesan crumble, kimchi and cheddar quesadillas. The most amazing recipe is for pancakes with harissa and maple syrup. The Lord gives and takes, says Riley — but this book of his just spoils the reader with scrumptious food ideas.
Small Pleasures by Ryan Riley was published by Bloomsbury and costs R603 at Exclusive Books.
♦ VWB ♦
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