Thursday, April 12, 2012 |
"I don't know art, but I know what I like."
When it comes to what we read, what we watch, what we listen to, even what we eat, it's all a matter of taste. But does refined taste result in a more satisfying experience? Sure, many things are an "acquired taste," but is the effort to acquire them worth the end experience? These questions, and many others, are central to Newfoundland writer Edward Riche's latest book, Easy to Like, a satirical novel about taste and where it comes from and the consequences of having extremely refined tastes.
When Riche began writing Easy to Like he was all about "high culture" and "refined tastes." The self-professed "wine nerd" enjoys the finer things in life and wanted to explore why having "learned tastes" results in better experiences. "The proposition that you are discriminating about something you ingest being snobbery is nonsense," he said to The Next Chapter host Shelagh Rogers. "Everybody should be more discriminating about what they put in the mouth. And I guess you can extend that to what they put in their minds."
Elliot Johnson, the main character in Easy to Like, agrees with Riche. A struggling screenwriter and aspiring winemaker, Elliot "strongly holds to the view that something more complex, less monolithic, more elusive will provide the drinker with a greater reward," Riche explained. "He believes that those experiences will elevate their lives. that may be presumptuous of him." However, this view is constantly challenged by his friends and colleagues and they encourage him to scrap the lofty goals and go for economic success by making a populist wine, Zinfandel. According to Riche, "Zinfandel is the Two and a Half Men of wine."
However, something funny happened to Riche in the process of writing the book. Unlike his protagonist, he began to change his mind about taste. "Having completed [the novel], and thought about it, and talked about it that much more, I'm all the more confused."
One thing Riche isn't confused about, however, is the lens through which he explored matters of taste. A reviewer called Riche's previous novel "savagely funny" and the same can be said of Easy to Like. Riche chalks up his biting sense of humour to being from Newfoundland "a de facto colony of Canada," but also admits satire is a great tool to explore the absurdities of life. "The human experience is, at every level, is absurd," he said. "Satire is picking things up, picking them apart then reassembling them to make the absurdities more obvious to an audience."
Riche assures readers that there are no answers in Easy to Like. He feels less certain about taste, whether it be the books he reads, the wine he drinks or the television he watches, than ever before, and believes readers will feel the same. However, he's certain about one thing.
"If you want to read this book, you'll be completely baffled, but you'll be laughing."