The Telling Room: A Tale Of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, And The World's Greatest Piece Of Cheese

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The Telling Room: A Tale Of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, And The World's Greatest Piece Of Cheese

by Michael Paterniti

Random House Publishing Group | July 30, 2013 | Hardcover

The Telling Room: A Tale Of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, And The World's Greatest Piece Of Cheese is rated 5 out of 5 by 1.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

NAME ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
NPR • Entertainment Weekly • Kirkus Reviews • The Christian Science Monitor

In the picturesque village of Guzmán, Spain, in a cave dug into a hillside on the edge of town, an ancient door leads to a cramped limestone chamber known as “the telling room.” Containing nothing but a wooden table and two benches, this is where villagers have gathered for centuries to share their stories and secrets—usually accompanied by copious amounts of wine.
 
It was here, in the summer of 2000, that Michael Paterniti found himself listening to a larger-than-life Spanish cheesemaker named Ambrosio Molinos de las Heras as he spun an odd and compelling tale about a piece of cheese. An unusual piece of cheese. Made from an old family recipe, Ambrosio’s cheese was reputed to be among the finest in the world, and was said to hold mystical qualities. Eating it, some claimed, conjured long-lost memories. But then, Ambrosio said, things had gone horribly wrong. . . .
 
By the time the two men exited the telling room that evening, Paterniti was hooked. Soon he was fully embroiled in village life, relocating his young family to Guzmán in order to chase the truth about this cheese and explore the fairy tale–like place where the villagers conversed with farm animals, lived by an ancient Castilian code of honor, and made their wine and food by hand, from the grapes growing on a nearby hill and the flocks of sheep floating over the Meseta.
 
What Paterniti ultimately discovers there in the highlands of Castile is nothing like the idyllic slow-food fable he first imagined. Instead, he’s sucked into the heart of an unfolding mystery, a blood feud that includes accusations of betrayal and theft, death threats, and a murder plot. As the village begins to spill its long-held secrets, Paterniti finds himself implicated in the very story he is writing.
 
Equal parts mystery and memoir, travelogue and history, The Telling Room is an astonishing work of literary nonfiction by one of our most accomplished storytellers. A moving exploration of happiness, friendship, and betrayal, The Telling Room introduces us to Ambrosio Molinos de las Heras, an unforgettable real-life literary hero, while also holding a mirror up to the world, fully alive to the power of stories that define and sustain us.

Praise for The Telling Room
 
“Captivating . . . Paterniti’s writing sings, whether he’s talking about how food activates memory, or the joys of watching his children grow.”—NPR
 
“A gorgeous and impassioned monument to the art and mystery of storytelling, The Telling Room is rich, funny, humane, devastating, and beautiful. It made me want to applaud, it made me want to cry, it made me want to move to Spain. Michael Paterniti is a genius.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
 
“Unforgettable . . . a must-read for all who think of Spain as magical, who consider cheese as the ultimate gift of love, who love stories of betrayal, despair, revenge and redemption.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
The Telling Room embodies the spirit of slow food and life.”—Michael Pollan
 
“Elegant, strange, funny, and insightful, The Telling Room is a marvelous tale and a joyful read, a trip into a world peopled by some of the most remarkable characters—and, yes, cheese—in memory.”—Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 368 pages, 9.55 × 6.44 × 1.17 in

Published: July 30, 2013

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385337000

ISBN - 13: 9780385337007

Found in: Biography and Memoir

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese I received this book for Christmas and was immediately charmed by the title.  Who couldn't like a story about cheese?  Who would write such a story?  So I read.  What I found was a tale - no, a number of tales - that live up to all the reviews and then some.  I am a fairly fussy reader and I do not read a great deal of non-fiction.  This book is captivating and fulfills both the exploratory nature of non-fiction with the narrative appeal of the novel.  Like the cheese in its title, read and savour.
Date published: 2014-01-07

– More About This Product –

The Telling Room: A Tale Of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, And The World's Greatest Piece Of Cheese

by Michael Paterniti

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 368 pages, 9.55 × 6.44 × 1.17 in

Published: July 30, 2013

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385337000

ISBN - 13: 9780385337007

Read from the Book

1 1991  “It sat silently, hoarding its secrets.” This particular story begins in the dusky hollows of 1991, remembered as a rotten year through and through by almost everybody living, dead, or unborn. I’m sure there were a few who had it good,  maybe even made millions off other people’s misfor- tune, but for the rest of us, there wasn’t a glimmer. January dawned with tracers over Baghdad, the Gulf War. It was a bad year for Saddam Hussein and the Israeli farmer (Scud missiles, weak harvest), the Polit- buro of the Soviet Union (dissolved), and the sawmills of British Co- lumbia (rising stumpage fees, etc.). An estimated one hundred and fifty thousand people died in a Bangladeshi cyclone. The IRA launched a mortar attack on 10 Downing Street, shattering the windows and scorching the wall of the room where Prime Minister John Major was meeting with his Cabinet (“I think we’d better start again, somewhere else,” said the prime minister). In the Philippines, Mount Pinatubo erupted, ejecting 30 billion metric tons of magma and aerosols, draping a thick layer of sulfuric acid over the earth, cooling temperatures while torching the ozone layer.   It was a brutal year for the ozone layer. Here in America, it was no better: the rise  of Jack Kevorkian, Magic Johnson’s HIV diagnosis, Donald Trump’s dwindling empire. Rape, mass murder, and masturbation.* The country slopped along in a recession, and meanwhi
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From the Publisher

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

NAME ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
NPR • Entertainment Weekly • Kirkus Reviews • The Christian Science Monitor

In the picturesque village of Guzmán, Spain, in a cave dug into a hillside on the edge of town, an ancient door leads to a cramped limestone chamber known as “the telling room.” Containing nothing but a wooden table and two benches, this is where villagers have gathered for centuries to share their stories and secrets—usually accompanied by copious amounts of wine.
 
It was here, in the summer of 2000, that Michael Paterniti found himself listening to a larger-than-life Spanish cheesemaker named Ambrosio Molinos de las Heras as he spun an odd and compelling tale about a piece of cheese. An unusual piece of cheese. Made from an old family recipe, Ambrosio’s cheese was reputed to be among the finest in the world, and was said to hold mystical qualities. Eating it, some claimed, conjured long-lost memories. But then, Ambrosio said, things had gone horribly wrong. . . .
 
By the time the two men exited the telling room that evening, Paterniti was hooked. Soon he was fully embroiled in village life, relocating his young family to Guzmán in order to chase the truth about this cheese and explore the fairy tale–like place where the villagers conversed with farm animals, lived by an ancient Castilian code of honor, and made their wine and food by hand, from the grapes growing on a nearby hill and the flocks of sheep floating over the Meseta.
 
What Paterniti ultimately discovers there in the highlands of Castile is nothing like the idyllic slow-food fable he first imagined. Instead, he’s sucked into the heart of an unfolding mystery, a blood feud that includes accusations of betrayal and theft, death threats, and a murder plot. As the village begins to spill its long-held secrets, Paterniti finds himself implicated in the very story he is writing.
 
Equal parts mystery and memoir, travelogue and history, The Telling Room is an astonishing work of literary nonfiction by one of our most accomplished storytellers. A moving exploration of happiness, friendship, and betrayal, The Telling Room introduces us to Ambrosio Molinos de las Heras, an unforgettable real-life literary hero, while also holding a mirror up to the world, fully alive to the power of stories that define and sustain us.

Praise for The Telling Room
 
“Captivating . . . Paterniti’s writing sings, whether he’s talking about how food activates memory, or the joys of watching his children grow.”—NPR
 
“A gorgeous and impassioned monument to the art and mystery of storytelling, The Telling Room is rich, funny, humane, devastating, and beautiful. It made me want to applaud, it made me want to cry, it made me want to move to Spain. Michael Paterniti is a genius.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
 
“Unforgettable . . . a must-read for all who think of Spain as magical, who consider cheese as the ultimate gift of love, who love stories of betrayal, despair, revenge and redemption.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
“The Telling Room embodies the spirit of slow food and life.”—Michael Pollan
 
“Elegant, strange, funny, and insightful, The Telling Room is a marvelous tale and a joyful read, a trip into a world peopled by some of the most remarkable characters—and, yes, cheese—in memory.”—Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief

About the Author

Michael Paterniti is the New York Times bestselling author of Driving Mr. Albert: A Trip Across America with Einstein’s Brain. His writing has appeared in many publications, including The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, Harper’s, Outside, Esquire, and GQ, where he works as a correspondent. Paterniti has been nominated eight times for the National Magazine Award, and is the recipient of a NEA grant and two MacDowell Fellowships. He is the co-founder of a children’s storytelling center in Portland, Maine, where he lives with his wife and their three children.

Editorial Reviews

“Captivating . . . Paterniti’s writing sings, whether he’s talking about how food activates memory, or the joys of watching his children grow.” —NPR   “A gorgeous and impassioned monument to the art and mystery of storytelling, The Telling Room is rich, funny, humane, devastating, and beautiful. It made me want to applaud, it made me want to cry, it made me want to move to Spain. Michael Paterniti is a genius.” —Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love   “Unforgettable . . . a must-read for all who think of Spain as magical, who consider cheese as the ultimate gift of love, who love stories of betrayal, despair, revenge and redemption.” —The Wall Street Journal   “ The Telling Room embodies the spirit of slow food and life.” —Michael Pollan “Elegant, strange, funny, and insightful, The Telling Room is a marvelous tale and a joyful read, a trip into a world peopled by some of the most remarkable characters—and, yes, cheese—in memory.” —Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief   “By the time you hit the tenth page of The Telling Room, you realize you’re in the hands of a storyteller so masterful, emotionally subtle, and smooth that you’re willing to follow him anywhere, even into a cave. And you will.” — The Daily Beast   “Rich and shaggy, full of Castilian-size detours . . . one hugely likable book.&r
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Bookclub Guide

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1) When Paterniti first meets Ambrosio, Ambrosio expounds on the importance of taking time to cultivate food, to prepare it, to enjoy it, and -- finally -- to pass that food from our bodies as waste. How much do you agree with Ambrosio&rsquo;s way of living? Do you believe that what we consume and the way we consume it has such a pronounced effect on our lives?

2) The back-to-the-earth style of living that Ambrosio describes proves seductive to the author, as it does to many Americans who subscribe to a more slow food, sustainable lifestyle. To what extent do you think it&rsquo;s feasible to live life in this manner? Do you believe that a more agrarian, farm-to-table way of living is better than the more convenience-oriented lifestyle of the average American?

3) On page 71, Paterniti includes the following footnote: &ldquo;I would soon find out that digression was a national pastime in Castile, that to get to the crux of any matter you had to listen for hours, weeks, months, years.&rdquo; What do you think is his intention by including this note to the story? How did it affect the way that you read the footnotes that followed?

4) Ambrosio has a phrase, &ldquo;the disability of memory,&rdquo; which he defines by saying, &ldquo;Everything is rushing forward, so I must go back.&rdquo; In what ways is Ambrosio&rsquo;s story emblematic of this idea? Why do you think this idea captured Paterniti&rsquo;s imagination so completely?

5) When Paterniti first returns to Guzman, he writes that &ldquo;[I didn&rsquo;t] care to hold myself to the normal journalistic standard, for I wasn&rsquo;t entirely playing a journalist here. I was playing myself for once.&rdquo; Do you think that, by entering the story simply as himself, different opportunities were open to Paterniti than if he had investigated strictly as a journalist? What issues might have been avoided had he been more of an objective observer? How might a more objective book about Ambrosio feel different than the one Paterniti ultimately wrote?

6) In THE TELLING ROOM the idea of memory takes many forms, such as Luis&rsquo;s keys, or the cheese itself. Why do you think memory becomes such an important theme as the book goes on?

7) When Ambrosio gives Paterniti a key to the telling room, he says that it&rsquo;s where Paterniti will write &ldquo;their&rdquo; book. Who do you think the book ultimately belongs to? In what ways is the story more Ambrosio&rsquo;s, and in what ways Paterniti&rsquo;s? What does it mean to own a story?

8) At the outset, Ambrosio is portrayed as a mythic figure, and is later revealed to be, simply, a man. How does this shift occur? What parts of Ambrosio the man have to be cloaked so that we can believe in Ambrosio the myth?

<p class="MsoNoSpacing">9) The idea of fatherhood is another recurring theme, and particularly the ways that children carry on the traditions, ideas, and lives of their parents. On page 195, Paterniti writes, &ldquo;This was one form of <em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">enlace, too, the attachment of the child to the father, and with the passing of time the father to the child, so that even in death one lived on, carrying the ghost of the other like a baby inside.&rdquo; How are Ambrosio and Paterniti each defined by their roles as fathers? As sons?<p class="MsoNoSpacing">&#160;<p class="MsoNoSpacing">10) The whole of Castile shares a fascination with the legend of El Cid, a story that likely glosses over some harsher truths. How does the story of El Cid relate to Paterniti&rsquo;s relationship to Castile? How does it relate to his relationship with Ambrosio?<p class="MsoNoSpacing">&#160;<p class="MsoNoSpacing">11) On page 204, Paterniti describes a scene in which the mistranslation of a word &ndash; barber for sheep shearer &ndash; leads him to&#160; &ldquo;float away with the myth,&rdquo; imagining a barbershop for animals. What are some other instances of &ldquo;floating away with the myth&rdquo; in this book?<p class="MsoNoSpacing">&#160;<p class="MsoNoSpacing">12) Sara, Mike&rsquo;s wife, describes the idea that some people see the world as being clearly delineated (1 + 1 = 2), while other see it as a web of possible connections. Do either of these outlooks match up with your own worldview?<p class="MsoNoSpacing">&#160;<p class="MsoNoSpacing">13) Towards the end of the book, Paterniti describes the act of telling stories to his children as one that unites them as a family, and as &ldquo;some way of saying, &lsquo;History repeats.&rsquo; And: &lsquo;You&rsquo;re going to be alright.&rsquo;&rdquo; Do the stories you remember hearing as a child and the stories you tell now have a similar impact on you? What other ways do stories &ndash; and the act of storytelling itself &ndash; affect us?<p class="MsoNoSpacing">&#160;<p class="MsoNoSpacing">14) Ultimately, what do you think of Ambrosio, the myth and the man?<p class="MsoNoSpacing">&#160;<p class="MsoNoSpacing">&#160;
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