Small Fires by Rebecca May Johnson

Small Fires: An Epic in the Kitchen by Rebecca May Johnson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn’t sure for a while about Small Fires but then, all of a sudden, I realised that I got it. I was not looking for the next chapter end, but rather reading because I was lost to it, I was hungry.

I wanted to see where this fierce collection of essays (texts? poems? gatherings?) about food and kitchens and about cooking might go next; I wanted to see whether we’d have more of those strangely wonderful segues into discussions about The Odyssey; and because I wanted to have more of the ‘recipe’ being read as poem, as love letter, as something profoundly human.

I was into it. I got it. I wanted more of it. I checked the page number (66) because it always interests me when you get a book. When. How. Where. What happens on the page? Why is there and not elsewhere? I couldn’t pinpoint it for Small Fires (I never can) but I knew that it had something to do with the eccentric joys of this book, the uncontrollability of it, the way that it draws on Judith Butler through to Roland Barthes, the way that it talks about semiotics and tomatoes, dancing and anchovies, love and sandwiches.

I think if you understand this as a collection, something more akin to poetic non-fiction and the text as performance, a group of tiny fiery essays, crafted so smart and carefully, then you’ll not be far wrong. It is sprawling and provocative and sensual and so unique (oh, how I am increasingly beguiled by the books that tread their own path).

*nb: no relation, purchased copy

View all my reviews

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