Reading Notes #3 - It was very uplifting to see how...

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ANTH 499 Reading Notes #3 April 11, 2007 I was surprised to see how quickly Monique Truong delved into the use of the senses in her book, The Book of Salt. It was interesting to see how the Vietnamese chef, Binh, could taste the envelope that his brother sent a letter in and determine whether the salt he sensed was from a “kitchen, eat, tears or the sea”. It was interesting to see the tensions between the Americans and the Parisians through the perspective of an ‘outsider’ or an ‘other’ and see how Truong described the setting through Binh’s eyes – the struggle of comprehending the conversations at the cafés. The sense of smell is addressed again when Binh looks through the help wanted ads and ventures throughout the city seeking those jobs, but believes he is accompanied by the “stench of the unemployable”. It seems that he felt very ashamed of his status in society – still “carving chunks of turnips into swans” – such skills that he did not want to admit to.
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Unformatted text preview: It was very uplifting to see how Binh’s poor ability to speak French actually helped him when he mistakenly said, “I am the cook you are looking for”. I thought that Truong would have included a little bit more following this first meeting between Binh and Gerrtude Stein and Miss Toklas, but instead Binh looked back on his time working for Mesdames very briefly and jumped right into describing his new job and the expectations of his new employers. I liked how Truong included some amusing parts. One in particular was when Binh was unable to determine what ‘Thin Bin’ meant and went through several different theories of the meaning before finally concluding that its meaning was handsome. I especially like the way in which Truong described the scene between Miss Toklas and Binh when he attempted to state that he wanted to buy a pineapple, but was unable to do so at first because he forgot the word and then proceeded to place his hands on his head to form a crown....
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