Mary's Library

Friday, October 06, 2006

James Lileks

It's Friday! The weekend is here. We know what that means. Two days for us retired people to stay home and read books, while the gainfully employed frantically run around doing all of the things they don't have time for Monday through Friday. Even though I have actual serious reading that I'm doing (see What Wilhelm is Reading for details), it's always fun to have something a little lighter to dip into on the weekend. So, let's look at the works of James Lileks.

Mr. Lileks is a newspaperman, blogger, and author. And, he is a very, very funny man. I'm always amazed, and more than a little intimidated, by the quantity and quality of his work. His Daily Bleat, on his blog, is always a treat. I really don't know how he does it. Anyway, James Lileks has been making a career of poking fun at popular culture of past (but not that far past) decades. As the caption to his blog says -- "Humiliating Defenseless Ephemera Since 1996".

He seems to take special delight in skewering the domestic arts with books such as The Gallery of Regrettable Food (2001), Interior Desecrations: Hideous Homes from the Horrible 70's (2004), and Mommy Knows Worst: Highlights from the Golden Age of Bad Parenting Advice (2005). The Gallery of Regrettable Food is a tribute, so to speak, to the "cookbooks" of the 40's, 50's, and 60's -- especially those books published by food companies in order to hype their own products ("You're not just cooking. You're cooking with 7-UP!"):

They're not really recipe books. They're ads for food companies, with every recipe using the company's products, often in unexpected ways. (Hot day? Kids love a frosty Bacon Milkshake!) There's not a single edible dish in the entire collection. The pictures in the books are ghastly - the Italian dishes look like a surgeon got a sneezing fit during an operation, and the queasy casseroles look like something on which the janitor dumps sawdust. But you have to enjoy the spirit behind the books - cheerful postwar perfect housewifery is taught in every book. Sure, you'll fall short of the ideal. But what's an ideal for if not to show up your shortcomings?

From The Gallery of Regrettable Food


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