Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Cooking with Fernet Branca
Amazing Disgrace
Rancid Pansies

by James Hamilton-Paterson

I stumbled across Amazing Disgrace and read it first, not realizing it was in a series. I was initially intrigued because it's published by Europa Editions, and I've enjoyed a number of their other books. (Old Filth, for example, and they published The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which I haven't read but which was a big hit back when.) Their books have a distinctive look, which is how I noticed it.

Cooking with Fernet Branca came out first, in 2005, and Rancid Pansies came out in 2008. Assuming I read Amazing Disgrace close to when it was published in 2006, I took nearly a decade to read all three. No matter! The character at the center of all three books, Gerald Samper, is so memorable and so particular that one can jump right back into his world after a few years absence and not miss a beat. He's absolutely the sort of person I'd like to have for a friend.

He's a middle-aged British queen living in self-imposed exile in Tuscany. He's pompous and scathingly humorous toward others, but a jolly sort whose insults are (mostly) all in good fun. He's aware (but pretends not to be aware) of how ridiculous he himself is, while simultaneously being utterly certain of how exceptional he is. He's sarcastic and brilliant; he's me.

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