I felt a little strange. The second half of the book didn’t fill me with the urge to travel so much as it made me a little confused. I think Tony Bourdain lost me around Tokyo, or maybe it was England when he begins elaborating on the life of a chef. I had been enthused at first by his bad attitude, his smoking, the drinking and the danger, and in the second half I was more critical of it. How much of his, “nothing to lose” attitude was real or constructed? He was always careful to mention what could go wrong in everr situation. When I watched a few clips of the show on YouTube, I picked Cambodia and Russia, the two that fascinated me most. I don’t think it’s the food so much as the place though. As Bourdain explains though I think that they are intertwined enough.
In the show you can see his mannerisms, as Kelsey Baak mentioned in class, and see how they apply within the book. He is on the little boat in Cambodia cracking jokes about Gilligan’s island while the cameraman shoots up close scary men that invade their boat. I like being able to see this, but I enjoy the book more, because I feel like his adventurous self is balanced out with honesty, if only a little.
It is however interesting to read the book, and then go watch clips of it. I enjoyed seeing what matched up in my head and what didn’t. The tiny fried birds in Cambodia looked exactly like they did in the TV show. I didn’t know whether to be disturbed that I could imagine the tiny crunch of bird bones, or pleased with my imagination.
But, back to my original point. By the end of the story I had enough of Bourdain’s bad attitude, his hating on vegetarians, his constant notation of ‘whores’ and ‘beautiful women’ throughout the narrative. What I had trouble reconciling with was, isn’t Bourdain as privileged as these vegetarians that eat bland vegetables and sit in their house that he spend a whole chapter complaining about? After all, just because he has seen the plight of the world doesn’t make him any better if he’s just seen it for his benefit.
I am reminded when he pays the boy that has driven him around all night $2 extra, and yet he mocks people that sit in their house and send a few dollars to help the reconstruction of the rain forest. Is this not similar?
His constant attention to women also leaves me a little confused. I begin thinking things like, “where is Nancy,” and, “why did she not come with him.” Throughout the story she is only mentioned when he needs to call her to remind her of something, at least for the most part. There are exceptions, such as the beginning and the end of the book where he seems genuine about his wife, and to her. Because of this, I end up being conflicted.
In the end though, there is still something in me that wants to eat a cobra’s heart, even though I am absolutely terrified of snakes.