Even great writers are capable of producing dross, but I think Serenade is the worst book I’ve read by an otherwise fine writer (James M Cain). It’s an implausible, silly, poorly constructed novel – a highly misconceived mash-up of opera and noir.
However, it has one great scene, in which the hero, an opera singer on the slide, catches and cooks an iguana in the Mexican desert. Looking at the trussed beast, he somehow knows what to do – some primal instinct or deep genetic knowledge kicks in. He prepares two pans of boiling water, then hurls the living lizard into one, and straight away extracts it, and plunges it into the second (the process causing the iguana to evacuate its gut, thereby ‘cleaning’ it. The iguana tastes wonderful (yes, like chicken).
The whole episode gives him the will to go back and try to get his career back – which he does when the lead drops out at the Hollywood bowl at the last moment, and a call goes out ‘Is there a tenor in the house’.
Anyway, I had a similar experience this morning. I looked in the fridge and saw some cream, that had recently turned, some mixed berries, once frozen, now quietly forgotten and fermenting, some milk (well gone), and some cream cheese, with a pretty pattern of green and black mould.
Seeing all these things, the idea formed in me, somehow bypassing the conscious or rational part of my brain.
My hands began to move.
And then, twenty five minutes later, 12 mixed berry scones came out of the oven.
Only 3 remain.