REVIEWS

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen

Lucy Knisley is a talented cartoonist, and Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, her new book out from First Second, shows off her skills as an artist, which are considerable. However, the book also demonstrates her failure as a writer on multiple levels. Relish seeks to be a memoir that is also a meditation on food and food culture and cooking, but it reveals almost nothing about Knisley, and while it demonstrates that she loves food, there is little evidence that Knisley knows much about food or food culture. Every time Knisley tries to make a larger sociological point beyond her own experiences, it’s unclear whether she’s simplifying the issues so that they’re impossible to understand or whether she simply doesn’t understand the issues she’s raised.

There are also recipes in the book. Not only are they not worth buying the book for, but many of them are simply generic recipes one could find through a random internet search. Does anyone need a recipe for pesto or sangria or chocolate chip cookies that could be found anywhere? Even more puzzling, most of them are not personal or pertinent to the plot or directly related to a story or memory. It would be one thing if the recipes were generic, but functioned like the songs in a musical or the fights in an action movie. Instead they feel miscellaneous and extraneous.

Simply, the book fails as memoir because it’s not revealing. I don’t mean this in a salacious nature, but because historically the memoir is about revelation. There’s a trend in contemporary memoir to provide not a revelatory experience, but rather to cash in on celebrity, providing a book which shares a great deal of facts, but has no interest in getting at something essential to the character of the person. It can be compared to how reality television manages to stop short of reality and character and understanding the people being filmed.

Knisley is writing about herself and her family, who are still alive and with whom she has contact, and it shows. There’s a noticeable lack of emotional detail, as if she is going out of her way to avoid sharing anything that she or anyone depicted might find uncomfortable. As a result, Knisley never manages to do more than share a series of stories, none of which are very personal or affecting. Reading the book is more akin to hearing stories an acquaintance tells to a group of people she does not know very well than it is to reading one of the memoirs mentioned earlier. One learns that Knisley grew up in New York and went to college in Chicago. That in college she finished her final project early, unlike her classmates, so she cooked for them and they all loved what she made. That she once met Kate Hudson working for her mom’s catering company. She went to Rome when she was young and didn’t care. That her parents are divorced but they’re always portrayed as getting along incredibly well. In fact her mother’s boyfriend has a far more fraught and troubled relationship with her mother than her ex-husband does, according to Knisley’s book.

At one point she writes, “I’ve since turned to the mixing bowl so often in times of turmoil, I can practically bake blindfolded. The act is so soothing–reminding me that I might be a mess, but I can at least do ONE thing right.” (Page 32, Panel 6) That’s good to know. It’s a sentiment to which I and many people can relate. Of course this might have been a statement better used in a book where Knisley actually relates a story involving emotional turmoil. Instead of showing us this, she told us this. Except for loving food–this is representative of the book’s emotional content.

For example, in one of the book’s lengthiest stories, Knisley, her friend Drew, and their mothers travel to Mexico. The story’s laughs come from Drew, who spent a couple hundred bucks on pornographic magazines while there, which he left behind in the airport. At the end of the story Knisley depicts her and Drew’s childhood selves left behind on that trip. In Drew’s case I’m not certain how exactly that qualifies–I’m a male who’s bought, read, and thrown away pornography and never thought of any of it as a life-altering experience–but for Knisley, it’s because she had her period for the first time.

“Many women recall the flushed embarrassment of purchasing sanitary napkins for the first time, accompanied by Mom as a brand adviser,” Knisley writes. “I cannot fully recall my feelings, though, buying them alone, from a Mexican druggist who had no idea what I was trying to ask for.” (Page 66, Panels 1-2)

That Knisley speaks of other people having an emotional reaction to this, but she doesn’t share her emotions with the reader is typical of the book. The story becomes more confusing when at the end Knisley tells us, “What amuses our mothers most, when they tell the story of our Mexican ‘concurrent coming of age,’ is that the two of us believed, sincerely, that our secrets were well kept from them.” (Page 69, Panel 1) Why Knisley wanted to hide this information and why her mother let her deal with it on her own or what happened the following month when they were at home is never explained in any way, shape, or form. This is even more confusing because in every other story of the book, they’re portrayed as being very close–the word “Mom” is capitalized throughout the book for no apparent reason. It also complicates the book’s tone. Knisley is sharing a memory which tends to be messy and uncomfortable and real–and these are the very elements that Knisley avoids at all costs, in this story and throughout the book.

In a book that is a collection of short pieces like this, the throughline is the characters, but we don’t get to know Knisley and the other people are not explained particularly well. Her parents seem to be just as happy today that they’re divorced as they were when newlyweds and she repeatedly makes clear how much her father loves her mother’s cooking. At the same time, her mother’s boyfriend is a vegetarian who prefers to cook for himself which is a problem because “for my mother, a rejection of her cooking can be seen as a rejection of her affections.” (Page 138, Panel 6) Knisley never portrays her divorced parents as exchanging words in the course of the book, and though she does in an odd adolescent moment compare herself to Persephone and her parents to Demeter and Zeus, they’re never portrayed as troubled or combative. Her mother’s boyfriend’s sole appearance in the book includes the line, “Can love ever work?” (Page 138, Panel 6) It’s unclear whether Knisley poorly depicted the collapse of her mother’s relationship with a man or if she chose to portray her divorced parents as getting along better than her mother and her current boyfriend. It’s an issue I feel I should avoid and leave to mental health professionals

On one page she writes, “My mother cooked for strangers all the time, so she was rarely interested in cooking around the house.” (Page 148, Panel 4) And yet her mother is constantly cooking for people and there are multiple stories about her mother cooking at home. Is Knisley in that instance referring to a specific period of time? This is never explained and it’s easy to simply dismiss it as the result of what happens when stories that are thematically linked and take place over decades are grouped together, but the problem is that we don’t know or have an understanding for who any of these characters are and so the book feels much more fragmented than it should.

More than just failing as a memoir, when it tries to be more than Knisley’s own story, it fails even more completely. For example, Knisley writes, “My parents moved to New York City in the late seventies, where they lived the kind of Manhattan life that has since migrated to Brooklyn.” (Page 102 Panel 1) Many people might nod at such a description even if it’s vague and not entirely certain what she means, but many people have talked and written at length about how the Village has changed over the course of a generation, and in the book’s afterword, Knisley reveals that she lives in that neighborhood today. So people who work in advertising moved to Brooklyn and artists moved into the Village? Families live in Brooklyn and single people live in Manhattan? I honestly have no idea.

When discussing her mother’s job at Dean & DeLuca and all the different kinds of people she met working there, Knisley writes that “in present-day Manhattan, this has become rare, as so many trained culinary professionals come to New York to work in food that there are fewer jobs washing dishes or waiting tables to pay the rent for artists or students.” She goes on to write, “It’s nice, of course, to have professionals in the kitchen, but it might be said that without creative people from other spheres, restaurants miss out on something…” (Page 104, Panels 2-3) The ellipses are Knisley’s, but the odd phrasing “it might be said that” and “miss out on something” sets up an argument without providing evidence or explanation or even a single example of something that’s lacking. I was also deeply confused when talking about getting a job in a food store, she wrote that “in Mom’s day, you could be hired as long as you had the time and inclination.” (Page 117, Panel 4) This contrasts to Knisley’s own experiences where she “had to answer a bunch of psychological questions.” (Page 117, Panel 5)

When she talks about food culture, Knisley is similarly confused or confusing, and it’s impossible to tell which. Near the end of the book, Knisley makes two very broad statements: “These days there is a huge culture of people who are excitedly learning to connect with and love food in new ways.” (Page 164, Panel 3) She goes on, “It’s especially exciting in America, where food hasn’t always been a major part of our culture, like it is in France, for example.” (Page 164, Panel 4) This contrast is shown with a panel where under an American flag is a pie and box of macaroni, while underneath a French flag is piled a feast – bread, wine, cheese, macaroons, and other foods.

To argue that the United States has no food culture is either ignorant or stupid. American holidays revolve around food–picnics and barbecues on the Fourth of July and Memorial Day and Labor Day, feasts on Thanksgiving and Christmas, Passover and Easter. County fairs and harvest festivals, suppers after church on Sunday and Friday night Shabbos dinners have been a mainstay of our lives and culture for centuries. I think about the centuries of food culture and tradition in New England, which includes chocolate chip cookies (as mentioned earlier, a recipe for which Knisley includes in Relish), hamburgers, New England clam chowder, graham crackers, and more. This is why in his 2009 book Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, one of the rules author Michael Pollan laid down was, “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”

When Knisley writes, “Bad habits or industrial compromises have forced many of us to reexamine our relationship to food and begin to embrace eating as a connection to our bodies and a form of celebration,” (Page 165, Panel 1) is she arguing that Pollan and many others are wrong and she’s creating a counter-narrative where what’s important is not rediscovering traditions that have been lost to a century of industrial food production, but rather, creating something new, unrelated to and disconnected from what has happened in the past? Or is she misspeaking? Or does she not know what she’s taking about? It’s impossible to say given the text.

“We’re still a young country, discovering new things, creating traditions of eating and sharing,” (Page 165, Panel 2) Knisley writes. “Like me, still a young woman, learning about what moves me, what I want. What I love.” (Page 165, Panel 3) For her, it’s not about rediscovering old traditions. If it were, then Knisley would not be the hero of her own story. I’d be curious as Knisley embarks on her book tour how people across the country respond to her claim that we don’t have a food culture. Would they say that only recently have Americans “[begun] to embrace eating as a connection to our bodies and a form of celebration”? (Page 165, Panel 1) More confusing is the fact that the book’s target audience is ages 15 and up, for no reason I can ascertain other than the fact that she has a recipe for sangria in the book. There are more complex and thoughtful books about food aimed at teenagers.

Knisley spends so much time and energy detailing sensory experiences, smell and taste, and trying to find a way to convey that visually, and while she’s not always successful, it’s fun and inventive. Her use of color is excellent. She’s a talented draftsman, but for as much care and effort as she devotes to her art, she seems to devote an equal amount of time and effort to not conveying emotion, trying to tell stories without revealing anything complicated or uncomfortable, and not thinking about the issues she raises. This keeps the book from feeling real and alive. As spontaneous and fun as her art is, her story is stilted and limited. The sensory experience of food is one of the few things that she can accurately convey and one of the only things she’s willing to depict.

She’s passionate about food, yes, but passion only goes so far. She needs a subject other than herself or she needs to go deeper into her own thoughts and feelings and experiences. If you’re looking for a book that tells you that Lucy Knisley is awesome and loves food, then Relish is for you, but if you’re looking for anything more, then unfortunately you’re out of luck.

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23 Responses to Relish: My Life in the Kitchen

  1. Gerry M. Allen says:

    Just finished Relish: My Life in the Kitchen and enjoyed it immensely. The collection of vignettes is light-weight, perfect for its fun presentation. A grounded approach ignores now-lionized foodies, praising grandmother’s pickles and the simple joy of hot cookies from the oven.
    Emotional content is in the eye of the beholder; I found myself tearing up as I remember similar events to those portrayed.
    While a few of the recipes seem generic, the vast majority not only add to the cooking scene, but illustrate points in the section.
    All in all, just what I want from an artist sharing her life. No Confidential magazine here.

  2. ADD says:

    Sounds pretty typical of First Second’s releases, which is why I gave up on the imprint years ago. They seem to smooth the edges off of everything, in hopes that generic, middlebrow fare will go over with the “graphic novel” crowd, whatever that is in 2013. And Christ, that lettering! I’d quit reading on page 1 for that alone.

  3. ADD says:

    “It’s proximity.” Don’t they even have fucking PROOFREADERS?!?

  4. Ben says:

    Well, I enjoyed the book mostly for the art, and I don’t think it was a failure as a memoir. Kind of made me want to read some Lewis Trondheim. But I can’t agree with this:

    “Does anyone need a recipe for pesto or sangria or chocolate chip cookies that could be found anywhere? Even more puzzling, most of them are not personal or pertinent to the plot or directly related to a story or memory. It would be one thing if the recipes were generic, but functioned like the songs in a musical or the fights in an action movie. Instead they feel miscellaneous and extraneous.”

    The recipe for spiced tea on page 5 says “Get ready for your house to smell like Christmas” immediately following an intro that establishes how important taste memories are to the author. Christmas, memories. This one you could call extraneous, since the connection to the rest of the books isn’t that obvious.

    The grilled lamb recipe on page 15 refers back to the easter potlatch on pg. 12; it’s explicitly mentioned as being the same recipe used at family gatherings.

    The pesto recipe on pg. 26 is blatantly set up on pg. 24 and the message seems to be that homegrown food tastes better than store-bought.

    The cookie recipe on pg. 37 follows a chapter about cookies.

    The carbonara recipe on pg. 52 refers back to her eating carbonara on pg. 46.

    The huevos rancheros recipe on pg. 74 refers to the huevos rancheros at the hotel on pg. 58.

    The mushroom recipe on pages 83-85 is seen being cooked on page 81 and eaten on page 78.

    The sushi recipe follows a chapter about eating in Japan, which features sushi on an invisible conveyor belt.

    The sangria recipe is kind of out of the blue, but I think it’s a joke since the whole chapter is about how difficult it is to make croissants. Not pertinent, but I liked the whole “I don’t have a good croissant recipe, so… here’s how to make *insert random easy concoction here*”

    The pickle recipe is in the midst of a chapter book-ended on page 136 with an empty fridge and a pantry full of relish, and on page 145 with a closet full of pickles.

    The shepard’s pie has a story in the recipe itself about feeding college students, after we see a college student make something inedible on pg. 150-151.

    I thought the recipes were pertinent to the story, although I don’t know if I’d every try any of them at home because they’re mostly things I already know how to prepare. I didn’t buy this book expecting Michael Pollan, I just flipped through it and liked the artwork enough to take it home. I’ve read it a couple times and I thought it had some funny anecdotes and made me want to be eating at a dinner table. Like the scenes in Craig Thompson’s Carnet de Voyage where they eat dinner or cheese, but repeated and extended to a full book. I guess sometimes I enjoy simple pleasures instead of looking for “emotional turmoil” or “messy and uncomfortable” or “revelation” in a book. This is a fine book if you don’t want those things.

    “Reading the book is more akin to hearing stories an acquaintance tells to a group of people she does not know very well than it is to reading one of the memoirs mentioned earlier. ” I agree and I’m OK with that, because I like stories.

  5. Knut Robert Knutsen says:

    Confusing?

    The book is called relish and the cover is a drawing in close up of Lucy Knisley eating food that she clearly likes. It bills itself as being about cooking anecdotes (“my life in the kitchen”)

    It is not called “Depression: a searing look at the emotional turmoil in a young artist’s life, through her parent’s harrowing and emotionally scarring divorce, her mother’s emotional distance, her father’s absence and her deep need to have her parents reconcile through their mutual love of food”.

    But I see how that can be confusing. To some.

    If you want something embarrassingly revealing and utterly depressing, read Chester Brown. He’s very, very good at it.

    But don’t expect every memoir to be about depression, isolation, masturbation and having sex with prostitutes. Or similar material.

    Part of the deal with memoirs is that you get the version of that person that they want to share with you. Even those who “share everything” conceal important truths about themselves, perhaps more easily as the force of their “candor” distracts from what they really don’t want to talk about.

    “Relish” is an upbeat, rambling series of anecdotes about a woman (or most of the time, a girl) who loves food and wants to talk about it a little. It doesn’t represent itself as anything other than fun, foodie “chic-lit”. Writing a lengthy critique lambasting a book for not being what it’s never presented itself as just seems absurd.

  6. Dan says:

    If someone wants to write trite, inconsequential, ultimately meaningless fluff, then they have every right to do so, but let’s not act like it’s doing the book some sort of disservice to merely point out that that’s what it is. Time is rather finite, and I’d rather someone warn me off this nonsense than otherwise.

  7. Dave Hartley says:

    This review presents such a level of myopic over-reading that I can’t tell whether the confusions it describes reflect the failings of the text or those of its auditor. This isn’t helped by silliness such as “the word “Mom” is capitalized throughout the book for no apparent reason.” Presumably it is capitalized – as in the page reprinted immediately under that paragraph – where it is used as a proper noun.

    At least Mr Dueben’s complaint that Ms Kinsley fails to reveal anything about herself cannot be directed at him :

    “I’m Alex. Most of the writers here at CBR have a beat, a publisher or specific field that they oversee, but my beat is broader and more informal. I spend much of my time talking with independent and underground cartoonists, designers, comic strip creators and webcartoonists. It is, quite possibly, the coolest job ever.

    When I’m not here at CBR, I work for Suicidegirls.com, where I interview people about comics, art and literature, and freelance for publications like The Daily Beast, SFX and the Hartford Advocate. I drink too much tea, meditate far too little, and still intend to one day fulfill my childhood ambition of living in a treehouse.”

    Awesome.

  8. Alek Trencz says:

    “[...] the word “Mom” is capitalized throughout the book for no apparent reason.”

    It’s standard to capitalise “mom” (or “mum,” “dad,” “ma,” “pa,” “Grandma,” etc) when using the word in the place of a proper name.
    EG: “One of Mom’s catering clients…” where the word “Mom” could be adequately replaced by Mom’s actual name.
    When talking about “my mom,” “someone’s mom,” or “being a mom,” so that the word “mom” on its own is not being used like a proper name, then it is not normally capitalised.
    EG: “… helping my mom at the Green Markets…”
    Both examples are from the first Relish excerpt above, and both are handled correctly there.

  9. Ian Boothby says:

    “To argue that the United States has no food culture is either ignorant or stupid. American holidays revolve around food–picnics and barbecues on the Fourth of July and Memorial Day and Labor Day, feasts on Thanksgiving and Christmas, Passover and Easter.” She’s not saying it has no food culture, but compared to France? No, no it doesn’t. You’ve listed holidays and special occasions which is when Americans focus on food, where French food culture is an everyday thing.
    I really enjoyed the book and the illustrated recipes were useful to me. It was like an enjoyable casual conversation with a friend, maybe we don’t find out what makes her mother and father cry but that’s not the type of book this is. Looking forward to what she does next.

    • Martin Wisse says:

      To be honest, you’re both right. There is a food culture in the US, one old enough for Rex Stout to complain about it being dismissed unfairly in favour of European cuisine back in Too Many Cooks (1938), largely based around regional traditions and recipes, but it did take a blow post World War II with the rise of fast and convenience food.

      American cuisine at its best has nothing to be ashamed off, but a lot of people still eat crap. Not that France is that different of course.

  10. Sangriateenager says:

    The level of pettiness in this critique is surprising. She run over your favorite cat or something?
    The book is sweet and fun to read. Not a moving coming of age as a vegan in a salumeria, not a gourmet zen manual, not a paean to the Great Graham Craker North England Tradition of Most Excellent Cuisine. Just a bunch of tales from someone with a family connection to professional food and that seems to love her parents and has a good relationship with them. I was not expecting Fun Home told by the chef from Treme.

  11. Greg Fontaine says:

    Someone writes an article that actually takes the critical tone of the original Comics Journal at Groth’s peak involvement with the mag and everybody freaks out.

  12. Mike Hunter says:

    ——————————
    Dan says:

    If someone wants to write trite, inconsequential, ultimately meaningless fluff, then they have every right to do so, but let’s not act like it’s doing the book some sort of disservice to merely point out that that’s what it is. Time is rather finite, and I’d rather someone warn me off this nonsense than otherwise.
    ——————————

    Indeed so!

    ——————————–
    Sangriateenager says:

    The level of pettiness in this critique is surprising…
    ——————————–

    Even though the complaint about the capitalization of “Mom” was nonsensical, where some see “pettiness,” I see close reading, precisely on-target criticism.

    As for more sweeping charges:

    ———————————
    Alex Dueben says:

    Relish seeks to be a memoir that is also a meditation on food and food culture and cooking, but it reveals almost nothing about Knisley, and while it demonstrates that she loves food, there is little evidence that Knisley knows much about food or food culture. Every time Knisley tries to make a larger sociological point beyond her own experiences, it’s unclear whether she’s simplifying the issues so that they’re impossible to understand or whether she simply doesn’t understand the issues she’s raised.
    ————————————

    Descriptions and sample pages strongly suggest that there was hope that by throwing together not-very-interesting autobiography, unperceptive and unknowledgeable “food-related-stuff” — with recipes as filler — shallow commentaries about the larger culture, Knisley and First Second hoped that synergy, or some sort of critical mass of quality, would result.

    The book fails as autobiography, not delving deeply into characterization, motivations; fails to intelligently deal with what food can be as an aesthetic/emotional experience, offering naive and absurd observations. The litter of inconsistencies, unclear arguments, muddled assertions of Knisley’s which torpedo her attempts at grander perceptions have been well dissected by Dueben.

    Alas, even the art is uneven; the Green Market and catered event panels are splendidly successful in visual clarity, conveying diversity in a pleasantly flowing fashion, the variety of figures differentiated with just the right degree of necessary detail.

    (I’ll readily accept Dueben’s measured praise of Knisley’s ability in “detailing sensory experiences, smell and taste…the sensory experience of food”; that he is perceptive in finding and analyzing faults makes one trust him when praise is handed out.)

    …And then things plummet to the mediocrity that is the “NO!” page; simplistic settings, lazily minimal. The paucity of visual cues given no help from the coloring; that orange tone making it look like the sushi restaurant and wine bar were in the same floor of the same building…

    ——————————-
    Sangriateenager says:

    The book is sweet and fun to read…Just a bunch of tales from someone with a family connection to professional food and that seems to love her parents and has a good relationship with them. I was not expecting Fun Home told by the chef from Treme.
    ———————————

    Are those the only alternatives, lightweight, undemanding fluff and Serious, intensely painful drama?

    For its autobio aspects, Dueben never faulted the book for not being “Fun Home,” for failing to be an account of a “harrowing and emotionally scarring divorce, her mother’s emotional distance, her father’s absence”; simply pointed out inconsistencies, failure to delineate more than minimal relationship details:

    ———————————–
    Alex Dueben says:

    There’s a noticeable lack of emotional detail, as if she is going out of her way to avoid sharing anything that she or anyone depicted might find uncomfortable. As a result, Knisley never manages to do more than share a series of stories, none of which are very personal or affecting. Reading the book is more akin to hearing stories an acquaintance tells to a group of people she does not know very well….
    ———————————-

    Even an account of a happy, well-adjusted childhood that was “a series of stories, none of which are very personal or affecting” would likewise fail critically and artistically.

    Never having seen “Treme,” can only say that the “foodie” aspect of the book is painfully lacking. And having worked at restaurants many years, when she writes that…

    “…in present-day Manhattan…so many trained culinary professionals come to New York to work in food that there are fewer jobs washing dishes or waiting tables to pay the rent for artists or students….It’s nice, of course, to have professionals in the kitchen, but it might be said that without creative people from other spheres, restaurants miss out on something…”

    …I can blast away with no hesitation. Is not having people who are only at a job in order to “pay the rent,” because its scheduling is convenient for the pursuit of their “real” interests, rather than those who are dedicated to the field, something to be regretted?

    And I’ve not found that having “creative people from other spheres,” much less “students,” contributes anything special, whether of substance or je ne sais quoi nebulousness, to the workings of a restaurant.

  13. michael L says:

    Oh gosh, these are more or less the same grievances I had after reading Knisley’s French Milk (fragments of fluff with no direction or point). Sad to hear that she hasn’t evolved at all as a storyteller — but these pages are pretty visually appealing, at least.

    Also, how are there possessive errors on BOTH of these pages (“who’s,” “it’s”)?! How does that even happen?! She _does_ need a proofreader!

    • Mike Hunter says:

      Scant budgets for publishers to hire proofreaders; for the longest time now, I’ve become painfully used to seeing typos in books by major authors, from major publishers…

      • Adam says:

        That’s just silly, Mike – especially since this is a Macmillan book.

      • Mike Hunter says:

        “An article from Forbes online titled ’10 Disappearing Middle-Class Jobs’ lists proofreaders are down a whopping 31%! Publishers and those in the communication industry are cutting the once vital staff positions in favor of ‘software’. This explains why so many traditionally published books have more errors than in the past by replacing human eyes with a computer. ..” http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/595494-proofreading-jobs-on-the-out ; the Forbes piece: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jennagoudreau/2011/06/22/disappearing-middle-class-jobs/

        “For quite some time, the trend in traditional publishing has been to cut back on editing in order to save money. This can mean fewer editors (fewer sets of eyes examing the text and/or fewer editorial reads of the manuscript), expecting both copyeditors and proofreaders to perform this innately time-consuming process much more quickly (for instance, performing a task that always used to take two or three weeks in one week or less), using more less-qualified people because they are cheaper, and/or just plain skipping steps in the editorial process. Those proofreading already typeset pages may also be strongly discouraged from “finding” errors that still exist (or have been introduced in typesetting and/or making previous corrections) because it takes time and more money to do fixes after typesetting…” http://www.amazon.com/forum/kindle%20deals?cdForum=Fx11TC0RX14K3FD&cdPage=13&cdThread=Tx1OELK174HN2UG

        “One of the great new myths is that traditionally-published books are cleaner and better proofed than indie-published books….” http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=7343

        “Do Publishers Edit Books Anymore?…Many publishers, regardless of where they started on the ‘editorial spectrum,’ have had to cut their budgets, and so there may be less attention to detail…” http://www.rachellegardner.com/2011/06/do-publishers-edit-books/

        “…many publishers have not helped their cause by cutting back on copyediting and proofreading and putting out books that are chock full of basic errors. And these include, I am ashamed to say, even some of the most prestigious university presses..-” http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2011/11/29/what-we-should-learn-from-the-collapse-of-borders/

      • Dominick Grace says:

        Actually, it’s not silly, it is the way things are going. The number of errors that crop up now in books from major publishers, by major authors, is remarkable. A book I was involved in, from a mid-sized publisher, was published riddled with errors (literally several per page), despite the book’s editor–not an in-house editor, the guy whose name is on the cover–having proofed the galleys and having submitted corrections, which were not made (most of the errors wer eadded, somehow, in the formatting stage; how this happened remains a mystery, but if it involved human agency, then this publisher has the worst editors in history). He, I, and a few others crowd-proofed the first printing and identified hundreds of errors, which–with more than a little pressure on the press–he got them to consider fixing for the second pringin. Most, but not all, were corrected. In my own experience–not many books but a lot of articles–I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve received feedback from an in-house copy-editor or proofreader (once out of twice with books I’ve edited, maybe twice out of over 40 with articles I’ve published). Only twice have I seen atraditionlaly marked-up set of galleys, with a copy-editor’s notes included. Almost always, the manuscript goes in, formatted galleys come back, the author proofs them, and the book or article goes to press. I’m sure there are still plenty of exceptions, but in-h0use copy-editing and proof-reading is far less the norm than it used to be.

    • Paul Slade says:

      Everything Mike and Dominck say about the state of modern proof-reading in the big publishing houses is sadly true.

      Case in point: A couple of years ago, I went to a talk by the British novelist AL Kennedy, who was promoting the hardback edition of her novel The Blue Book. She explained that the publisher (Jonathan Cape) wanted to make the book a beautiful object in its own right, so as to encourage people to buy it in its physical form. Holding up a copy, she showed us the embossed cover, the gold lettering, the carefully-chosen shade of blue background etc.

      Back In London, I stopped by my local bookshop, spotted her novel on the shelf there and flipped through it to decide if I wanted to wait for the paperback or not. Every one of the first three or four pages I happened to glance at had a glaring typo on it, so I decided in the end not to buy the damn thing at all – in any form.

      Paying a proofreader to carry out this basic craft function of the publishing trade would have cost a fraction of the fancy cover design, and done far more to ensure they really were offering a premium product. But I guess that wouldn’t have the same visibility on the shelf, would it?

  14. Greg Fontaine says:

    Pretty much everyone in her crowd scenes (at least the ones sampled here) have shallow “isn’t life great” grins on their faces, which seems to fit into the theme the reviewer is touching on of the author being afraid to portray emotional complexity.

  15. Mike Hunter says:

    A couple more pages from “Relish” may be seen at http://comicsandcola.blogspot.com/2013/01/food-comics-in-kitchen-with-alan.html .

    At the bottom of Knisley’s first page, I thought at first glance it was a couple of turds rendered therein, or tubers. Nope, it was some fondly-remembered “croissants from a tiny Venice bakery.” Where is the lightness, the glow? Heavily hatched, dully colored, they look earthy, heavy.

    And the slapdash page that follows; sheer mediocrity!

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