I have a very weird relationship with books: I usually get caught up with thinking too much about how long it’s taking me to read a book, while I read the book, that I get turned off by the idea of reading a book. I like text in short doses, which is why I gravitate more towards articles, blogs and short stories. (Though I can’t say the same for this NY Times article, holy shit that’s long [still good, though])
But Huang has a really easy-going, ultra informal style of writing, where it almost feels like you’re reading a blog. Sometimes, though, it hurts the writing.
What I’ve noticed a lot so far from reading his memoir is that he likes to pepper in a lot of hip-hop references, which I’m cool with, but sometimes it goes a bit overboard and they don’t accelerate his points at all.
He tends to also talk a lot about certain childhood experiences/stories that don’t really provide any depth to his FOB-ness. I’m not saying they’re not important… because they are important to Eddie Huang and the person he’s become in life… but as far as serving the narrative of FOB as a book, some of it doesn’t really provide anything.
Though, the parts where Huang really cuts deep and comes out like a modern-day poet are the parts where he connects food, family and culture with the Chinese/Taiwan immigrant experience. Man, he makes some amazing observations and insights that really make FOB worth copping.
Not really into writers describing food, because any person can describe food by using words like rustic and vessel. But to really poeticize food, by not describing it, but connecting it to your own experience and really drawing the connections (or disconnect) with cultures via food or family: that’s special and that provides a really distinct authorial voice.
One particular section of the book I really dug, was when he talked about the first time eating Cavatelli and how, at first, the tomato sauce served with it was “bland”. But after eating it, he ended up loving it, and that’s because the tomato sauce served its purpose being that basic. He goes on to say that food doesn’t need to be anything more than it needs to be. A simple tomato sauce served with sausage and peppers is probably simple for a reason. Some of the best food you’ll ever eat was made with the most simple, minimal ingredients. Here’s a quote about that from him in page 160 (hardcover)
“Whether it’s food or women, the ones on front street are supermodels. Big hair, big tits, big trouble, but the one you come home to is probably something like cavatelli and red sauce. She’s not screaming for attention because she knows she’s good enough even if your dumb ass hasn’t figured it out yet
Now that’s really insightful, all being provided via Huang’s voice. Those are the best parts of FOB. I recommend just to read those bits.