The im­agery of food

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By JIM CHIPP

Joanne Har­ris’ de­pic­tions of food are of­ten elab­o­rate and sen­su­ous – but not enough so for some read­ers.

Har­ris has writ­ten three nov­els with food-re­lated ti­tles – Choco­lat, and its two se­quels The Lol­lipop Shoes and Peaches for Mon­sieur le Cure´ .

She vis­ited New Zealand this week for the Christchurch Writ­ers’ Fes­ti­val.

Some peo­ple are ‘‘ quite ob­sessed’’ with Har­ris’ de­scrip­tions of food, and com­plain they want more, she said.

‘‘They read it as some form of food porn,’’ she said.

‘‘In re­al­ity it is just a lit­er­ary de­vice. To me it was a kind of emo­tional en­try point into what makes peo­ple who they are.

‘‘How peo­ple re­late to food is a kind of en­try to their char­ac­ter. Food is a univer­sal point of con­nec­tion.

‘‘In a world where we are all sep­a­rated by bar­ri­ers of cul­ture and life­style, food is still an area which ev­ery­body un­der­stands.’’

Har­ris, who is half-French, half-English, has also writ­ten two cook­books, but said she favours nei­ther cui­sine.

‘‘I’m happy to eat what­ever is pop­u­lar wher­ever I go. In France I eat French food.

‘‘I eat what­ever is lo­cal and what­ever is in sea­son,’’ she said.

Her French mother ad­vised her to eat lots of lamb while in New Zealand.

‘‘She has never re­ally for­given me for mar­ry­ing a veg­e­tar­ian,’’ Har­ris said.

‘‘When I visit France I ex­plain that I am af­flicted with a veg­e­tar­ian and they are al­ways very un­der­stand­ing.’’

With Choco­lat, Har­ris achieved some­thing only four other fe­male British authors have done – sold more than a mil­lion copies of one book.

She has now reached the point where the­ses are writ­ten analysing her work.

Some read­ers see things that are not nec­es­sar­ily there.

‘‘ The thing is, books are Rorschach tests.

‘‘What peo­ple see in a book is of­ten as much about them as what is in the book,’’ she said.

‘‘I’m not one of those writ­ers who sets out with an agenda of what they want peo­ple to come away with.

‘‘I’ve now quit be­ing a teacher and telling peo­ple what to do.’’

Among the re­cur­ring themes of her work are strangers who dis­rupt es­tab­lished or­der and a kind of low-key, im­plied magic.

‘‘The out­sider is al­ways the per­son who starts the story off,’’ she said.

Peaches for Mon­sieur le Cure´ also con­cerns out­siders.

The out­sider of Choco­lat, Vianne Rocher, re­turns to Lan­squenet, where she finds new out­siders have taken up res­i­dence. Moroc­cans have brought very alien dress, cus­toms and food.

Har­ris vis­ited New Zealand in part to pro­mote the re­lease of the pa­per­back edition of Peaches for Mon­sieur le Cure´ , and a new book of short sto­ries not yet re­leased out­side New Zealand, A Cat, a Hat and a Piece of String.

Food pornog­ra­pher: Joanne Har­ris, au­thor of Choco­lat, was in Welling­ton to pro­mote two new books.

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