Wednesday, December 31, 2008
You Will Enjoy Great Book.
Not sure how I missed the publicity blitz surrounding the publication of one of my favorite New York Times' reporter's first book. As my features writing students will remember, Jennifer 8. Lee is also author of my favorite example of a trend piece, "The Man Date."
Her new-ish book is The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food, and it begins, fittingly?, in Iowa, home of the Powerball, with an anecdote about an unprecentedly high number of winners for an interstate lottery a few years back. The mathematically improbable number of winners perplexed many -- until those winners cited a fortune cookie as their key to windfall.
Gotta take some umbrage at Lee's clever but false turn of phrase. "No one cares if [Powerball] is located in Iowa. No one's feelings are hurt," she quotes a lottery official as saying. Then adds: "Iowa is as inoffensive as it is flat."
Inaccurate Iowa stereotypes aside... this book is a rollicking journey through the world of Chinese food and culture in America. While Lee is clearly not a food writer, she's a whiz at explaining cultural phenomena. I'm finally getting a clear picture of why my hometown of Lancaster, PA, with its sitdown Tiki Tavern and Peking Palaces, was overrun with takeout China Kings in the late 1980s.
One question for the book's designers... How can you name a book The Fortune Cookie Chronicles and have a packet of soy sauce on the front? I get it graphically, I really do -- the fortune cookie is just the lynch pin among many American-Chinese hybrids, but why not put it on the cover?