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So this book is amazing. The Cook is an incredibly original novel from Wayne Macauley. Don’t let the fact this blurb is unusual stop you reading this book there really are few books like it.
Yes it has cooking as an underlying theme like many other books but what those books don’t have is sheer passion and inspiration and motivation and drive.
It is a story about having the will and strength to succeed that is to say knowing what you are and knowing what you want to be and working as hard as it takes to get where you belong.
There is a great Q & A with the author on his website:
RYAN O’NEILL: You mention that when writing The Cook you attempted to relate your novel to the works of great writers you love. Can I ask you about your literary influences, both Australian and international?
WAYNE MACAULEY: I’ve been asked this question a number of times and every time I answer it I feel like I am being reductive, quoting a handful of writers as if they will somehow ‘explain me’. But my reading has been extremely broad and varied over many years, with fiction playing an important but not definitive part in it.
So this time I have decided to make my list of authors more comprehensive (which, when I think about it, is the only really honest way to answer your question). This list, chronologically ordered, describes the authors on my shelf that I still turn to for inspiration or comfort, or most often to snap me out of my lethargy and remind me what great writing is: Heraclitus, Plato, Montaigne, Cervantes, Pascal, Defoe, Swift, Voltaire, Sterne, Lichtenberg, Kleist, Schopenhauer, Gogol, Kierkegaard, Dosteovsky, Tolstoy, Nietzsche, Stevenson, Conrad, Hamsun, Walser, Kafka, Orwell, Beckett, Gombrowicz, Camus, Bernhard, Murnane, Coetzee, Sebald…
Brilliant review from Eleutherophobia:
Macauley’s riotous tale is made all the more urgent by his employment of a colloquial first-person vernacular, bringing Zac’s scatter-gun, hundred-mile-an-hour thought processes brilliantly to the page.
It’s as if the narrator has scribbled down these notes while he’s half-watching a pan on the stove.
While it takes some time to tune into, this works fabulously: Zac is, after all, a troubled and presumably relatively uneducated teenager, thus his narrative becomes increasingly mashed up with expressions gleaned from the cookbooks he scours.
All of which imbues this book with a fierce readability, propelling you through the pages with the simple desire to discover whether Zac succeeds.
And I am not even going to hint at what transpires, beyond saying that you are very unlikely to read a more memorable ending to a book this year. A fun, high-octane, Bourdain-busting book.
And, I should imagine, a real talking point if someone you know unwraps it just before they plonk the Christmas turkey in the oven.