Ruth Reichl | Nonfiction Memoir, 2019
LA Times food critic Ruth Reichl catapults into the opulent, gastronomically eloquent, ostentatious world of billionaires, Gourmet magazine and its owner, Condé Nast.
It is astounding to read of her experiences entering this whole new world and working to find her place. And then, as the book progresses, we are witnesses as she shakes up the staid Gourmet magazine and it becomes more radical and more relevant. This is a respite from the last few books I read, which were ponderous and serious (Me and White Supremacy and An Indigenous Peoples’ Guide to American History). Save Me the Plums is light and easy to read.
However, its gift is also its demise. It is too light. Reichl, surprisingly for a memoir author, is not transparent or reflective. She tells us what occurs, but she doesn’t tell us how she feels about it or what she is thinking. One example is when she receives pressure in this new New York world of hers, to buy a $6500 dress. She eventually decides, which we learn about, but we don’t read of her internal conflict, or her values, or her feelings, or even her decision-making process. She is either a poor writer or a shallow writer, and I am inclined toward the latter because her descriptions of food and their tastes and textures are positively mouth-wateringly yummy. Her lack of real authenticity and depth moved this book from four hearts to three for me.
She also repeats a perspective that has shown up in a few books I have read recently. Authors sometimes enter the corporate world and write about it as if they are the first to discover and reveal the machinations of big business. What she writes of is neither new nor news. It is boring if you have spent 40 years of your career interacting with big corporations, and I find the surprise and fascination of these authors to be naïve.
Read Save Me the Plums for the fun, the grandiosity, and the almost tactile delight of exploring new foods. But don’t read it for insight into a food celebrity or you will be disappointed.
From “Booked in Bend” book club list for 2020.