As I said in the previous post, David Chang (of Momofuku fame) was supposed to read from Thomas Bernhard’s Old Masters at the Eating Out Loud event at the Million Dollar Theater a couple of nights back, but decided against it because, said one of the MCs, it was too bleak and gloomy.
Now, I haven’t read Old Masters, but I’ve read enough Bernhard to know that bleakness and gloom, and also hilarity, are his stock in trade. But I never thought he had much to say about food and from what I can gather, Old Masters dosen’t have much to say about it either. (I know I could be quite wrong about this).
The editorial description on Amazon runs as follows: “In this exuberantly satirical novel, the tutor Atzbacher has been summoned by his friend Reger to meet him in a Viennese museum. While Reger gazes at a Tintoretto portrait, Atzbacher—who fears Reger's plans to kill himself—gives us a portrait of the musicologist: his wisdom, his devotion to his wife, and his love-hate relationship with art. With characteristically acerbic wit, Bernhard exposes the pretensions and aspirations of humanity in a novel at once pessimistic and strangely exhilarating.”
I’m with David Chang – I don’t think I’d have wanted to read any of that to an auditorium full of foodie hipsters either. But there may have been alternatives.
In Gathering Evidence, Bernhard’s sort of memoir, he recounts being at an Austrian boarding school in the 1930s. Although he didn’t know it at the unaware of time, the school was actually for “maladjusted children:" Bernhard's "maladjustment" was bed-wetting. He wrote,
“It was my misfortune to be revealed as a bed-wetter on the very first night. The method of treatment used on me in Saalfeld was to display my sheet with the large yellow stain in the breakfast-room and announce that it was mine. But this was not the only way in which the bed-wetter was punished: he did not get any of the so-called ‘sweet soup’ like the others—he got no breakfast at all. This ‘sweet soup’ was a mixture of milk, flour, and cocoa served in soup plates, and I adored it. The more often I was denied it—and that was almost every day—the more I longed for it. I suffered this deprivation throughout my stay at Saalfeld because I could not be cured of my bed-wetting. . .. . . I had entered a new hell.
If I’d been David Chang I’d have read that.