Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book twelve: The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti.

The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese by Michael Paterniti wants to be a better story than it is. The book is the story of a very particular, hand-crafted cheese created in Guzman, Spain. There's a cave dug into a hill on the edge of town, outfitted with an old door.  Inside, villagers told their best stories and secrets. I wish the stories and secrets of this cheese had been more engaging.

In 2000, the author found himself in this room with Ambrosio Molinos, a Spanish cheese maker who used a family recipe to create Paramo de Guzman, a cheese that is highly-prized the world over.  Ambrosio doesn't last long as a cheese craftsperson.  For a variety of reasons, he gives up his craft, alienates many of his friends and family, and even contributes to the demise of the famed cheese.

This book was written over more than a decade and I think that hindered the focus of the story.  Well that and the fact that the book doesn't end as dramatically as the story would suggest.  It fact it's a bit of a fizzle.  But that's not the reason I didn't much enjoy the book.  Paterniti spends much of the book whining about how hard it is to be a writer.  He prattles on about missing deadline after deadline. He bemoans the fact that he can't seem to pull together a workable draft.  All of that just gets in the way of the more interesting story and characters.

And then there are the footnotes. I'm seldom a fan of footnotes particularly when they don't seem necessary.  And while some of the notes in The Telling Room were interesting, even fun, the vast majority were distractions.

Nonetheless, The Telling Room did make me wish I could travel to Spain for tasting of Paramo de Guzman.

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