Sunday, March 31, 2013

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

1987, undated movie tie-in McGraw-Hill edition
Fannie Flagg
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe: A Novel
Original price $7.99, purchase price $3.50
Slightly worn paperback

Rather than tell the story from one perspective, as in her debut novel Daisy Fay, Flagg jumps around in time and space (although usually Alabama and Georgia), sometimes telling the story in first-person through newspaper clippings, more often as third-person, either inside a particular person's head, or more objectively and omnisciently.  As such, the book is a bit ragged, and it doesn't help that it is full of chronological errors, sometimes a few days, but more often years or even decades!  (A man born in 1917 can't be 80 in the 1970s.)  Since this ruins a joke in one case-- a man gets tricked into a marriage, but the timeline says 1950 when it should be the same year, 1940-- it really irritated me.  If I recall correctly, this was handled much better in Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!, which we'll get to in 1998.

On the plus side, Flagg here does a good job of creating a little world, particularly the café of the title (the book omits the accent mark throughout) and the surrounding little town.  The movie version simplified things, including combining the characters of Idgie and Ninnie, and those of Eva and Ruth, which makes absolutely no sense.  Also, Sipsey's family is just shown as servants, without the other dimensions they get in the book.  I also really like how Idgie and Ruth's romantic relationship is normalized --they're kinfolk and neighbors, not scary perverts-- and Eva's sexuality (bi but mostly warm and open) is treated sympathetically throughout.  The book isn't as funny as Daisy Fay, but there are lots of smiley moments.

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