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This review is taken from PN Review 43, Volume 11 Number 5, May - June 1985.

THE FILLING LINE Julie O'Callaghan, Edible Anecdotes (The Dolman Press) £4.00
Sylvia Kantaris, The Tenth Muse (Harry Chambers/Peterloo Poets) £3.00

'The Milkmaid Restaurent', reads my paper napkin, 'Where eating becomes a habit'. Snatches of conversation from voices as varied as those of office worker, waitress, mother and refugee, the twenty-seven poems of Julie O'Callaghan's 'Edible Anecdotes' sequence humorously record the meanings attached to food in Western society, where eating is experienced as 'a habit' rather than as a need. Divorced from hunger, consumption becomes the terrain for a range of human experience: sin, patriotism, sex, art, religion. In these poems the consciousness of each event is shaped by the moment of eating and drinking. So a family's journey during a hot night, 'the car filled with sassafras pine and lake smells', is somehow defined when:


up ahead on the night was a yellow neon sign
we pulled in, a girl came to the car window
and I asked for five mugs of ice-cold root beer
(Anecdote no. 8)


Consumption patterns experience; these patterns of consumption are themselves socially constructed. A simple relationship with food is impossible when creamcakes are 'naughty but nice', when food represents, as it does in these poems, both reward and sin. The only example of a 'natural' relation between food and hunger occurs in the final poem of the sequence, spoken by a refugee from Cambodia who describes her escape: 'No meat onry lice, walk ar day an get no meat.' This is the only one of the twenty-six anecdotes to be encased in ...


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