by Sandra M. Gilbert
Norton, 404 pp., $29.95
I have been blessed with the ability to distinguish between the taste of the water of the Sheng and of the Zi rivers, to tell when the flesh of the goose is that of a black or a white one, know whether the chicken has perched in the open air or when the meat has been cooked over firewood that is already worn-out….1
The pavement was made of jelly and resembled a variously colored mosaic; the columns, which looked like porphyry, were large sausages; the bases and capitals parmesan cheese…. In the center was a choir-stall made of cold veal…. The singers were roast thrushes with open beaks, wearing surplices of pig’s caul….
He has given voice to all the experiences of common life; he has endeared the farmhouse and cottage, patches and poverty, beans and barley; ale, the poor man’s wine; hardship; the fear of debt…. What a love of Nature, and, shall I say it? of middle-class Nature.
I was assured that I should lose the modest measure of literary reputation I had won by novels, short stories and essays if I persisted in the ignoble enterprise. One critic forewarned me that “whatever I might write after this preposterous new departure would be tainted, for the imaginative reader and reviewer, with the odor of the kitchen.”