In my opinion, this is a miracle of a book. By turns funny, self-deprecating, gorgeous, sad, crude, generous, transporting, and lingering with hints and aftereffects, The Telling Room is a portal to the dreams and hopes and fears we spend our entire lives trying to belittle and ignore. The lesson of this kind of story seems to be to risk and trust and let oneself follow one’s dreams, and The Telling Room is what happens when someone puts himself at stake in the world–he or she is rewarded fabulously. I loved the sense of urgency and desperation and hopefulness that the narrator embodies, as he hunts for his story and himself and his life in a piece of longed-for cheese. I loved the promise of release for the narrator in the book, the coming-true of certain dreams, the trust in the universe through which this man stumbles with beguiling confidence and trust and luck. And I loved how this weirdly allusive book has that secret and necessary and truly authentic ingredient of love all over it, the narrator dreaming his way towards feeling what it is to be alive in the world, the narrator willing to lavish love on everything in this story. At the risk of sounding crazy, it’s as if Paterniti’s dream emerges in the world as a piece of cheese–I mean, the dream literally emerges as a small tin of cheese–and the stuff of his dream becomes a strange verdigris of cheese floating in olive oil. In his previous miracle of a book, Driving Mr. Albert, this dream emerged with the cosmology of a brain afloat in tupperware. In both books, one can’t miss and unmistakable “aura” of history and mystery that Walter Benjamin and the narrator and his subject Ambrosio eulogize and celebrate so incredibly and beautifully.
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