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July 25 , 2009

A Dissertation upon Roast Pig


A Dissertation upon Roast Pig

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Eighteen selected short stories from both sides of the Atlantic. They are all about people who came upon wealth of some kind. Ideal reading for those with a powerful envious disposition. (If you don't know whether you are envious, read the book and find out!)Some of the story lines: a homeless Chicago drunk gets help from Grandma; a boy…

This book include Charles Lamb’s biography and his works.  

A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig is a collection of food-related essays from the early 19th century, with a humorous bent. They're but a few pages each - a light read to bring a smile to your face, then on to the next little foodie treat. 

Charles Lamb's writing is playful and amusing. He'll have you chuckling away at his creation myth for the titular roast pig, then set your mouth watering with an enticing description of its succulence. It's not quite all-out food porn, but I would quite like some crackling, even though I'm full right now. Food might be the broad umbrella under which all his essays find themselves, but there's nothing samey about any of the offerings, whether it be the hungry chimney sweeps, metaphors of London fogs as food, or a pun-heavy conceit of the days of the year all coming to a feast. 

The only possible criticism is one that often applies to collections of essays or short stories: that it's all very well done and a pleasant read, but it's never quite substantial enough to really get your teeth into. Each piece does everything they set out to do - they're clever, engaging and evocative - but they're not so roaringly funny that you'll grab the nearest person and insist they read it, or delve into deep deep food fantasies. There's a sense of Very good. Next? Wonderful as a light snack, but lacking slightly as a main meal. 

Beyond the format (and that's not something that you'd want to change anyway), there's nothing to knock in 'A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig. It speaks to a modern audience as much as it did to its 19th century audience. Such is the quality of the writing that there's little to date it; it's as sparkling as it ever was. Timeless humour is particularly difficult to achieve, and this is greatly to Lamb's credit. 

If you're looking for a high quality yet relaxed read, with humour and food woven together, then A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig is an excellent choice. You might not head back for leftovers the next day, but that's by no means the end of the world. Warmly recommended.

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