Tuesday 8 June 2010

The cherry plum test

Sitting at my desk at work, eating green grapes and sinking, quickly, into the maddeningly pretentious and incredibly delightful novel known in English as The Elegance of the Hedgehog (trans. Alison Anderson), I read the following:
The cherry plum test is extraordinary for its disarming clarity. It derives its power from a universal observation: when man bites into the fruit, at last he understands. What does he understand? Everything. He understands how the human species, given only to survival, slowly matured and arrived one fine day at an intuition of pleasure, the vanity of all the artificial appetites that divert one from one’s initial aspiration toward the virtues of simple and sublime things, the pointlessness of discourse, the slow and terrible degradation of multiple worlds from which no one can escape and, in spite of all that, the wonderful sweetness of the senses when they conspire to teach mankind pleasure and the terrifying beauty of Art.

The cherry plum test is held in my kitchen. I place the fruit and the book on the Formica table, and as I pick up the former to taste it, I also start the latter. If each resists the powerful onslaught of the other, if the cherry plum fails to make me doubt the text and if the text is unable to spoil the fruit, then I know that I am in the presence of a worthwhile and, why not say it, exceptional undertaking, for there are very few works that have not dissolved – proven both ridiculous and complacent – into the extraordinary succulence of the little golden plums. (pp. 54-55)
I cannot claim that the green grapes currently making their way into my belly are as good as these cherry plums (I've never eaten a cherry plum). I can say that in my current Barbery/grape cage match, neither is coming out a clear victor.

In other words, I am thoroughly enjoying myself.


Heidenkind said...

I don't think I've ever challenged my books to stand up to food before.

Anonymous said...

Ooh, I've got this on my TBR pile. Have had good reviews from my family so I'm looking forward to reading it this year (such is the state of my TBR pile...)

verbivore said...

I'll be very curious to see what you think of the book when you're finished. I didn't love it, although it prompted a good discussion in my book group.

Stefanie said...

I've been wanting to read this one for awhile. It hasn't always gotten good reviews but they have always been interesting.

Meytal Radzinski said...

Well, now I want grapes.

As for the book itself, I have not read it and every time I find myself debating whether or not to buy it, I just go, "Meh" and pass it up. I think I've just had too many pretentious novels recently...

Bookphilia said...

heidenkind: Dara you.

chasingbawa: It's not entirely awesome, but it's really good. I'll be interested to read your review.

verbivore: So, now that I'm done - what didn't you like about it?

Stefanie: Yes, and I can see why the reviews have been mixed. I'll look forward to your review, too.

Biblio: I have grapes again today but they're not very good; otherwise, I'd offer you some. As for The Elegance of the Hedgehog...life is short. We should read only what we feel truly attracted to.

Anonymous said...

I am currently listening this book via audible.com. I truly appreciate the cherry plum test and refer to it now when something is incredibly beautiful - such as the movie Melancholia.