Never Eat Your Heart Out

Judith Moore, Author
Judith Moore, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $23 (0p) ISBN 978-0-374-22073-0
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-86547-518-2
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Recollections of food--good and bad, ranging from breakfasts and picnics to watermelon and cranberries--trigger memories that shape this untidy grab bag of autobiographical sketches. Moore's first three and a half years were full of happy times with Daddy; then comes her parents' divorce, and she's shipped off to a farm to be raised by an evil grandmother right out of the Brothers Grimm. We're not told where, except that it's in Snow Country. Adolescence is next, and an early marriage to a dreary, small-town boy only remembered for his shoe size and the daughters he fathered. Adultery follows at age 39 (with a man 15 years older, whose mouth tasted of dentures), then separation and, finally, less negative feelings about her life. Moore seems to have a knack for meeting ugly people, whom she describes almost as vividly as she describes food. There are several wonderful essays--relatively free of autobiography--that stand alone as social histories of various foods--potatoes, for instance--and rabbits. There's a darkly funny train trip from Oakland, Calif., to New Orleans that reads like a sly send-up of early Joan Didion. There are moving thoughts on the meaning of canning and applesauce-making. And there is an endless, leaden account of a church supper that begins patronizingly and goes on to include every cliche of small-town life from Winesburg, Ohio, to Peyton Place. Moore is a wonderful food writer but a labored memoirist. (Jan.)
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