The Devil's Larder is a book of short essays, mostly from fictional characters, about food and taste, written with a sort of sinister knowingness. I was surprised by this book, after reading a few novels. While still largely iambic, he allows in essays his sentences to play around more than in fiction, like Guy Davenport or Evan S. Connell. Like the best food writing, it's really about death.
Here's an excerpt. Scan it!
This afternoon, I thought I’d fill my time by making bread. My old wrists ache with tugging at the dough of what, I think, will have to be my final loaves. I tore a strip off for good luck, kissed it, put it on the window sill. I warmed the oven, greased the tins, and put the dough to cook on the highest shelf. Now I’m waiting at the window, with a smudge of flour on my lips and with the smell of baking bread rising through the house, for the yard to fill and darken with the shadows and the wings.
I haven't read Quarantine, because it's about Jesus, and I am wary of fiction that contains Jesus, having been raised around people who sneak a little Jesus or America into anything, like raisins in chocolate chip cookies, something they think is sweet and you would like, or perhaps need. Good sources inform me that I should put aside these assumptions and read Quarantine, and that it reads like Gift of Stones and The Pesthouse, all focused survival dramas in blasted zones.
The Pesthouse, Crace's most recent novel, is terrifying. I read this one on a train, too, the Sunset Limited between New Orleans and Palm Springs in June. The Sunset Limited is a good train for reading, because it is mostly stationary, stuck behind freight.
Here's the first paragraph of The Pesthouse:
Everybody died at night. Most were sleeping at the time, the lucky ones who were too tired or drunk or deaf or wrapped too tightly in their spreads to hear the hillside, destabilized by rain, collapse and slip beneath the waters of the lake. So these sleepers (six or seven hundred, at a guess; no-one ever came to count or claim the dead) breathed their last in passive company, unwarned and unexpectedly, without experiencing the fear. Their final moments, dormant in America.
Scan that, man. It begins, as epics properly do, with a trochee: EVryBODy DIED at NIGHT. and then another trochee: MOST were SLEEPing AT the TIME, the LUCKy ONES and so on, broken up every ten syllables or so to interrupt the rhythm, to keep you from noticing.
It's mastery, simply.