I discovered this beautiful little book and its author via Vine Leaves Literary Journal, for whom I’m a staff reviewer, when Amanya Maloba won the magazine’s prestigious Vines Leaves Vignette Collection Award 2014.
If you’re wondering what a vignette is, it’s a literary form named after the amount of writing that could fit on a vine leaf. It’s not the same as a very short story or a piece of flash fiction, and it can be either prose or poetry. It’s often prose with a poetic ring to it, in fact. (There’s a more detailed description here, with tips on how to write them, on the VLLJ website.)
If you’ve not read any vignettes before, I highly recommend this book as your starting point, because this is a masterful collection from a surprisingly young author, considering the sophistication and worldliness of these pieces, although they are at the same time fresh and zesty. (Conscious now that I’m falling into food-related adjectives! Will try not to become cheesy…) The range of foods and experiences reflects Maloba’s rich cultural heritage and life experience, including global travel.
Inspired by Food and Drink
Food is of course the theme of this collection, each of the pieces triggered by some kind of eating or drinking experience, and while they each work perfectly if viewed in isolation. They vary in length from a paragraph to a few pages, each densely packed with a rounded sensuous yet intellectual analysis of the experience. Some sound autobiographical, others not (e.g. some in the voice of a man, or of the deceased), but they all hang together well. I do so love a themed collection: the theme helps ensure a coherent reading experience of disparate pieces.
The elegance and incisiveness of the writing is complemented well by the exquisite cover in the less than obvious colour choice of blue, not usually associated with food. (Can you name naturally occurring blue foods? Bet you’re stumped beyond blueberries!) There’s also an understated simplicity about the components – the apple, Adam and Eve’s first food, yet also the poisoned fruit offered to Sleeping Beauty by the witch, and the simple, homespun yet gloriously coloured jug of – is it water? is it wine? The image here doesn’t show up the glossy cover of the paperback, just the saliva-inducing gleam of the jug and the apples. This striking packaging will encourage you to savour this book in every respect.
For Literary Foodies
A perfect gift for the literary foodie in your life, or anyone who enjoys fine, succinct writing and the opportunity to explore culinary and emotional worlds through the pages of a book. Measuring just 11cm by 17cm, you might even pack it in your lunchbox…
Available as an ebook and in print, but for the full sensory experience, plump for the paperback.
For more about the author and her work, visit her website: www.amanyamaloba.com.