Rapid Review: Among Friends by M. F. K. Fisher

Food, Reading and Writing

I recently tore through M.F.K Fisher’s memoir, Among Friends, in order to orient myself within my current self-appointed task of writing about home and belonging. I’m sure I’m late to the party on noting Fisher’s legacy, however, this fine memoir is beyond worthy of resurrecting and I rabidly consumed it as I would her Aunt Gwen’s fried egg sandwiches. Fisher takes us into her circle of family and friends (and the Quakers who keep them at arm’s length in Whittier, California) and into the leas and living rooms of her memory. Fisher is warm-hearted but not sentimental in her prose. She is transparent without being tedious. And her beginnings hurtle you forward, “Everyone, no matter how much he likes the life he is leading, has an escape hatch. Often he is unaware of it as such. More often he recognizes it, or even invents it, to save his inner balance, commonly called his reason” and writes endings that leave you panting.

Fisher is foremost a storyteller and though her scenes hearken back to what we consider a more innocent time, she reminds us that life back then was sometimes as pointy as a Victorian settee without decorative pillows. What’s most remarkable is the way Fisher can pinpoint a personality, with careful observation of wee traits, and propose it to her reader with flick of her wrist: “All I can recall about her is that she [Miss Brotherton, her teacher] was small and sallow, like some kind of tropical night bird.” As is expected, we also get a few recipes (like cocoa toast!), but that is not the focus here (although her love for people is written with the same generosity as is food). While book recommendations are highly personal (read Laura Miller’s Salon article, The Fine Art of Recommending Books on pairing writers with readers) If you like memoirs, great writing, wry humor, not too much self-analysis, and sound storytelling, read this.

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