by Hanan Baker
The Exotic Club
In “The Gourmet Club” food is used to dramatize the idea of “exoticism” by acting as the item over which obsession leads to a discontent with the “normal”. One must imagine that to make the transition from normal to exotic there must be some sort of driving force. A good candidate for this driving force is the extreme. Being extreme in any sense is often dangerous. Too often what results is a burning obsession that drives one to the verge of insanity. Experiencing this extreme leads people to absurd actions just trying to repeat the experience. This is exactly the role food plays in “The Gourmet Club”
One reason that food can be seen to take this role is because at the beginning, the way the members of the gourmet club are described is blatantly labeling them as exotic. The way the author dismisses other potential problems that these members, especially count G, could have, but highlights their relationship with food makes it very difficult to focus on anything else but the food. It is how their relationship with only food is described that makes them “exotic”.
More specifically, the mechanism that the author uses to describe exoticism through food is with using exoticism itself. In a way, his writing can be seen as exotic. First, there is the most obvious technique he uses, which is intense imagery through use of over-the-top language. As a motif, this unnecessarily descriptive language appears to bring out the elaborateness of the characters, which further highlights their exoticism.
Then there is the interesting point of view that the author uses. As a reader, we are fully aware of count G’s thoughts, however, we are still somewhat isolated from him. By making it as if we are on-lookers it brings out the exoticism by making it foreign. That is, we are observing these strange behaviors, not experiencing them. Alienating this type of person is exactly what makes them “exotic”.
Another way the style of writing is “exotic” is by being irregular. The story isn’t a story in the traditional sense. It jumps around from one experience to another, such as from dream to reality to imagination in the dark. Some scenes seem to be thrown in there, not because they are necessary to further the plot, but because by breaking the traditional flow in a reading, the exoticism being describes becomes more pronounced.
Thus, overall, the characters in “The Gourmet Club” are exotic because their dangerous obsession with abnormal food experiences becomes so extreme that they can think of nothing else. This drives them to unnatural realms and that is when they become “exotic”. Food is used as the driving force of their decline to exoticism. Food is used in this way because it is the main focus of the story. The members are so obsessed with food that they eventually resort to strange, disgusting methods of enjoying it. By describing these happening in an unusual way, the author is able to emanate exoticism.