The Apprentice

I should reassure you straightaway that this has nothing to do with Donald Trump's show. This is a marginal commentary on The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen, by Jacques Pépin.

My thanks to Lauren for recommending this book!

The Apprentice is the second autobiography I will have commented on for The Marginal Virtues, and its author, Jacques Pépin, is a French emigré to the United States who, along with Julia Child and others, introduced French cookery to America. (One wonders what they and others of their school thought of the American backlash against the French in the noughts.) Oddly, there seems to be no popular name for this group (whose work will, I presume, be featured in Pépin's book), so I will dub it 'the French School'.

The edition I am using was published by Houghton Mifflin in 2003.


The Mistress of Nothing

First, my thanks to dee for recommending this book! She recommended it all the way back in December, but, thanks to the vicissitudes of random selection and being placed on the back burner, I didn't select it to read until July, when I picked it for this month.

Anyhow, The Mistress of Nothing is written from the perspective (and, indeed, using her as a first-person narrator) of Sally Naldrett, the lady's maid of Lady Duff Gordon, when the two women travel to Egypt for Lady Duff Gordon's health. It tells the story of Sally's gradual self-discovery ('awakening', one blurb on the back cover puts it) and the consequences thereof.

I would have liked to address one of the blurbs which praises The Mistress of Nothing for not being 'an Orientalist fantasy' while yet 'bringing 1860s Egypt to life' (at least I think that is what it says), but because my copy of the book, which is from the Ottawa Public Library, has a library bar code obscuring the blurb, I can't make out what it says to comment upon it. Not having read Edward Said's famous book Orientalism, I cannot comment on why I felt somewhat irritated by the blurb's reference to 'Orientalist fantasy' and its relation to the notion of 'Orientalism', but suffice it to say that I am, as a rule, suspicious of terms or words whose only function, it seems to me, are to serve as components in an ad hominem, or else a straw man, in argument or debate. But that is a matter for another time.

The edition of the book from which I quote was published in 2009 by McArthur & Company, a publishing house based in Toronto. I should mention that I will be going into quite a bit of detail about the plot of the book, so if you are keen to read it for yourself, I suggest you do that before turning to this marginal commentary. I believe, however, that this will be intelligible even if you do not read the book.


August Update

This is to let folks know that I am changing the order in which I write and post marginal commentaries for a few of the books I have selected to read for August and September, and to mention a milestone on The Marginal Virtues.

I am going to be waiting for a while for one of the books I selected for August, Lamb, to become available at the library, almost certainly until well into September. Therefore, I am moving The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen to the list of books I will be reading and commenting upon for August, and Lamb to the list for September. Thanks for your patience and understanding!

Also, because I forgot to mention it in the post itself, my marginal commentary on Hitman was the fiftieth post published on The Marginal Virtues. It feels a little unreal that I have already written that many posts (some of which, of course, are updates and the like), but I'm happy to have accomplished that feat (unspectacular though it may be). In particular, I'm glad that so many of the posts are on books that I would have never read were it not for your recommendations, so thank you all very much!


September Selections

You may not remember, but as I noted in my post when I announced the books selected from reader recommendations for August, I chose at random three books from the list of books 'on the back burner' for September, which is why I didn't canvass for recommendations this month.

So, without more ado, the books selected for September:

The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen, by Jacques Pepin.

Genesis: The Movie, by Robert Farrar Capon.

Urban Meltdown, by Clive Doucet.

My congratulations and thanks to those whose previous recommendations were selected: Elizabeth, Emily, & Lauren!

Following this selection of books from the back burner, I will be back to requesting recommendations starting in October. I will be shortly clearing the list of books from the back burner, so thank you to everyone who recommended books, and I am sorry if your recommendation wasn't chosen! Just keep recommending books and, with any luck, one of your recommendations will be selected sooner or later.


Dumbledore's Man Through and Through

In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the theme of loyalty is an important one, and, sadly, it is omitted in the film, for Rufus Scrimgeour does not appear in it, nor do many scenes between Harry and Dumbledore, nor does much of his questioning of Snape's loyalty, nor his disagreement with Ron and Hermione about where Draco Malfoy's loyalties now lie (with respect to the latter the film pretty much tells us flat out what he is doing; a dramatic necessity, perhaps, given restrictions of length, but again, omitting much of Rowling's genius in plotting and in leaving subtle clues and hints for the reader to enjoy and savour).

It is my intention in this post, then, to explore what I believe to be one of the chief themes of The Half-Blood Prince; namely, the theme of loyalty. If anything, of course, Harry's loyalty to Dumbledore is sorely tried more in The Deathly Hallows than in The Half-Blood Prince, but, if loyalty be a virtue, it is one which Harry had to learn as a habit in The Half-Blood Prince (not that he hadn't already demonstrated loyalty to Dumbledore; see The Chamber of Secrets) in order to remain loyal to the Headmaster and carry on the struggle under the most trying and difficult of circumstances in the last volume of the series.

The edition from which I will be quoting is the Raincoast/Bloomsbury edition of 2005. For those of you who wish to read the passages I quote for yourselves but have a different edition of the book, I will include the chapter from which the quotation was taken, using the abbreviation HBP (indicating Half-Blood Prince), followed by the number of the chapter; thus, for example, the first quotation is from the first chapter, and so is noted as 'HBP1'. This form of noting the chapter I am taking from the Harry Potter Lexicon, which is an excellent reference and resource. Needless to say, I will freely discuss what happens in the book, so if you haven't read it, proceed no further.



The first book I am writing a marginal commentary for in August is Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, by Bret 'Hitman' Hart. My thanks to Peter for recommending this book!

I must admit, I approached the book with much trepidation. I was never more than vaguely interested in professional wrestling as a boy, although I picked up a smattering of knowledge about it (as boys pick up a smattering of knowledge about everything), and my interest in it diminished as I grew older. What I heard and saw of it, moreover, led me to care for it less and less.

What is more, the book was an autobiography, written by a professional wrestler. I can count on one hand the autobiographies I have read, and the two that I remember I didn't care all that much for, despite the fact that one was written by William Shatner and the other by Robert Schuller (he of Crystal Cathedral fame), both of whom I at least have superficial reasons to admire. How would Bret Hart's tome fare?