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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Book Crush

Have you ever become infatuated with a character in a book? They said Dorothy Sayers, who wrote the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, never married because she became too enamored of her own hero. I can see why; Lord Peter is old school hot, charming and entertaining, frighteningly intelligent, and he has a tortured past. What's not to love?

I recently conceived a book crush, myself. What makes it more complicated is that he's a real person--the book was a memoir. Well, more of a tell-all kind of deal, actually. Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain. If you haven't read it, go to Amazon this minute and buy it. You won't be disappointed. It's fiendishly engrossing, full of down and dirty details about what goes on behind those swinging kitchen doors, at restaurants from a seafood joint in Provincetown to a mob-run Italian place to a classic French brasserie in Manhattan.

And the voice! Swoon. Tony Bourdain's got this brash, take-no-prisoners way about him that just lights me up. Especially when coupled with his wry, brutal honesty about himself. He's a great representation of one of my favorite heroic archetypes: the self-hating narcissist. (Other good examples of the self-hating narcissist: Greg House, on House, M.D.; Dr. Perry Cox on Scrubs; Lord Goring in Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband) This is a man who is brilliant at what he does, and knows it. He doesn't care who he pisses off, and is, on the surface at least, only concerned with himself. The core of him, though, is a deep passion for his work, and his willingness to do whatever it takes to be true to his calling. And there's an element of him that, on some level, doesn't believe he's worthy of love. Although he'd mock you eternally for ever suggesting such a thing.

How can you not fall for someone like that? Or maybe it's just me. My husband was much amused to hear about this crush, and very good-naturedly sat down to watch a couple episodes of Tony's show on the Travel channel, No Reservations. (The show dilutes his voice a little, actually. At least for me, it's a purely cerebral crush--not much to do with how Tony looks or moves or sounds when he talks. It's the way he talks that gets me--and you have a lot more of that in the book.) But at any rate, we watched and enjoyed, and when it was over, Nick was kind of quiet for a minute. Then he said, "Interesting. This is really your type, isn't it? This must be how I come off to other people." And I think that's true. I know Nick so well at this point, after ten years, I don't really see it anymore, because he's not a 'type' to me. He's Nick. But when we first met, when I was first attracted to him, it was because he was so confident, almost arrogant, but with this underlying sense of humor about himself; even showing, sometimes, a fleeting vulnerability that just completely did me in.

I never understood when other people said things like, "he's not my type." I guess I always assumed they meant that the person in question had blond hair when they like brunettes, or was short when they preferred tall. Which was always ludicrous to me--hot is hot! I've seen short, sexy guys with compact muscles and dark hair, and I've seen lanky blondes with wiry muscles and long legs, and what the hell is the sense in limiting yourself? But now I see. At least for me, the common thread in most of the guys I've dated/been infatuated with/married is this self-hating narcissist personality. In fiction, as well. The push-pull of it, the dichotomy, keeps it fascinating. Plus, there's a bad boy thing in there, too, which doesn't hurt.

So there you go. 28 years old, happily married, and I finally understand my 'type'. Better late than never, I guess!


I love this kind of hero too! Oh, so very much. I'm nuts for chefs to begin with, but throw these other elements in and I'm totally there. Which explains my crush on Gordon Ramsey.

Okay, you've totally convinced me. I'll have to go get the book!

Ramsey doesn't really do it for me; I think he's a little too pragmatic. Tony's got the soul of a poet, underneath that chain-smoking, hard-drinking, punk exterior. God, I dig that.

Maria, you won't regret it! I promise.

PS Louisa: I really love the quotes you've been doing on the sidebar of your blog. I Love Love Love that line from An Ideal Husband!

Me too! You can't go wrong with Oscar Wilde. Half the funny things ever were said by him. (The other half, it turns out, were said by Mark Twain.)

Ha! This is so true...Nick is totally the same type as Tony Bourdain. But hotter, of course.

You see it too! Meg, I love you. Thanks for the confirmation.

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