Finishing with a Kick in the Pants

July 19, 2012

I have finished Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. I very much enjoyed the book, but I have mixed emotions about it.

Most of all, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I looked forward to getting off work to read it, the way I hear people at work getting excited about watching the TV show they're currently keeping up with. Contrast that with the book I'm reading now, which I put down regularly and wonder if there's something else I could be reading, Fried Green Tomatoes is definitely a keeper. I spent many hours sitting on the patio reading while my cats nibbled on grass, and in the recliner, which one cat has pretty much claimed as her own and I have to ask special permission to use. I went a long time without using it and they've gotten out of the habit of sitting on my lap. I need to get back to that. I need more books like this one.

A buddy of mine who is a teacher once gave a few of us a minor lecture about the difficulty of writing a narrative by jumping back and forth in time. It was a warning and a suggestion that we not try it unless we were seasoned writers. In a side-by-side with the movie, I can say that the movie went back and forth from present to past (depression era). The book – much more so than the movie – jumps around in time. It doesn't just go from present day to the past; it jumps from present day to two main points in the past and a sprinkling of other temporal locations. Each chapter begins with the date and place, but it was fairly easy from context to figure out where in the century I was, but that might be because I saw the movie first and I knew what was going to happen in one timeline, so I could tell when I was reading in the other.

I thought that she handled it very well, but I felt that there was perhaps a bit too much of it; too many different times. Not that I lost track (I didn't) but it just seemed a little too much. Along the same lines, there seemed to be more characters than one is used to reading about. I didn't feel, necessarily, that there were simply too many characters, but that possibly too much time was taken in following up on so many of them. Taking time to digress and give history about a couple of key minor players is good, but we seemed to be all over the place at times. And while she tied most of it together in the end, I'm not sure that it all added to the story, enough to justify the erratic flow.

As I said before, a lot of it is about a woman in the 80's waking up and discovering that she's no longer a young woman and that perhaps all of the rules she's been following so closely weren't as important as she had thought. Similar to Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind in that respect.

The other part, now that's a real kick in the pants. What's hinted at in the movie is just stated flat out in the book. I don't like to write spoilers, so I'll be vague. But, there were a couple of fabulously unexpected things toward the end of the book/movie. I loved reading about the love and loyalty that Flagg expresses, even though I could feel my more orthodox Catholic friends squirm a little in my mind while I read those parts. Clearly, I'm not one to judge anybody, much less fictional characters or the author who writes them. And the disapproval that my mind projects onto my unsuspecting friends only makes it more delicious.

This was a book well worth reading. I purchased it on my Nook, but I would actually like to have it on my bookshelf. Thank you for reading this review. I look forward to writing more soon.

Until then I remain

Your friend in books,


A Chick Flick with a Kick


A few months ago I watched a movie that a friend leant me called Fried Green Tomatoes. I had never seen it, nor have I read the book, which is a little embarrassing because my mother is a retired librarian and I worked at a bookstore for six years. But, oh well. I watched the movie and was stunned. I was expecting a chick flick, which it is, but with an extra kick. A chick flick with a kick.

So, tossing around for a good book to read to follow up The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society with, I started Ulysses (of all things!) and when I got tired of thinking so much I sat in my coffee shop shopping with my nook for another book. Nook's "Related Titles" feature has let me down on more than one occasion. I like it, but it offers a limited number of options and they're not always on the spot. Like with Guernsey Literary etc., for instance. I mean, the author's niece had to finish it up and she's listed as a coauthor, but the fact that I liked that book does not mean that I'll like the niece's books written for children. Not a good guess.

Then I decided to download the sample of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fanny Flagg. I've been meaning to read it. I download many samples that remain samples. This book, however, was downloaded in full as soon as I reached the end of the sample. I just like the way she writes. It's a good story – this I already knew. But, aside from that its' just a pleasure to read the prose. The blurbs indicate that it's humorous, and I suppose it is. (I'm still reading it, by the way; I haven't finished it.) So far the humor is the subtle way she writes. I haven't laughed out loud so far, but I have desired to keep reading in spite of being hungry and in spite of the fact that I'm sitting in a coffee shop at 4:52PM and I'm supposed to be in Elgin – 30 miles away – at 6 and I still have to shower and change.

So, I have a challenge/request. If you are a woman who is in her 40's or 50's... oh heck, even in your 30's; if you are a man married to a woman in that category; if you know a woman who is over thirty please go to your nearest book place, virtual or physical, and read this chapter. This is going to be difficult because I'm reading it on a Nook and I don't have any way of knowing the page number in a book. The chapter is called "212 Rhodes Circle" but there are several chapters with that name. On my Nook it is on page 49. The subheading is "January 5, 1986". Read this chapter.

It's interesting that I started reading Ulysses, which is often compared to Mrs. Dalloway (I've seen several comparisons, anyway) and this chapter in Fried Green Tomatoes made me think of Mrs. Dalloway. The chapter is not the intense stream of consciousness that the other two novels are, but there is a striking similarity in the emotions that this chapter evokes and those that I recall from Mrs. Dalloway. I thought of Woolf's novel as soon as I finished the chapter; I just didn't connect the dots to Ulysses until just now.

So, gentle reader, please take a moment and read this chapter from this classic from the American South and see if you don't find just a tiny little inkling of resonance with your own life. And, see if the prose doesn't lift you off of your chair and carry you away for just a moment. Then come back and tell me. I want to know.

Waiting to hear from you,