Contented Reader

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Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

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Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Fannie Flagg




I’m having such a lovely Saturday.  I just spent most of the morning in the bathtub with Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, enjoying the sweet, funny, hopeful story, using my feet to refresh the hot water from time to time, until I ran out of pages, and there was nothing more for Idgie and Ruth and Evelyn and Mrs. Threadgoode to say, and I had to reluctantly pull the plug and return to the world.  Simple pleasures really do make life worth living, don’t they?

This book is an old, old favorite of mine.  My copy is from 1988, and says “Now A Major Motion Picture” in large, prominent letters on the cover.  I’m sure I found it when I was in college, at one of the used book stores I took so much pleasure in haunting on Saturday afternoons.

This book sort of amazes me.  It was popular, a bestseller, in a decade, not so long ago, in which gay love was still the Love That Dares Not Speak Its Name for a lot of America.  But good women in the heartland read this book, and loved it, and somehow failed to notice that it was a lesbian love story.  And yet I remember that the first time I read this book, as a very young woman who hadn’t yet really realized that there was a big world that wasn’t part of the Independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, I, too, read it as a story of two women who are very close friends.

It really is a masterful bit of camouflage, and a literary trick that I don’t think would work today.  I am, obviously, a big fan of the progress that has been made in gay rights in the last twenty years, but I have to admit that we lost something when we lost that secret world which could be passed under the eyes of the ignorant without their ever seeing what it was.  It would be hard to explain to a seventeen year old how people ever read this book as something other than a love story, or why the charming movie based on it is so stripped of its heart.

Part of what makes it work is the long-past Southern setting, the rural charm of the storytelling, the barbecue and cornbread and Dot Meems’s comically bad newspaper writing and the never-quite-serious racism of the local Klan and Idgie’s bee-charming and tall tales.  This is a past with its pain cleaned up, a sort of alternate world where the problems exist but no one really suffers.  An idyllic little world where a butch teenager can steal away her beloved from her husband, bring her back to her rural home town, and count on the loving support of her whole family and community when she does it.

Sometimes, a little escapism is what I want, and this book delivers it with sweetness and heart and competent writing as well.  I can’t think of a better way for me to have spent this Saturday morning.

But now it’s nearly noon, and I’m realizing that I haven’t remembered to eat anything yet today, so I think I’ll go search for something to eat.  No, not fried green tomatoes.  Ew.  I enjoyed reading about the charms of the rural south, but I can’t imagine actually putting that in my mouth on purpose.


Written by Contented Reader

October 1, 2011 at 11:21 am

Posted in Reviews

One Response

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  1. Lani made fried green tomatoes once, and they were fantastic.

    Samantha Jones

    October 13, 2011 at 8:16 pm


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