Once a literary novelist of some respectability, now brought low by the double insult of obscurity and crippling debt, Robert G. Mehlman is a man in need of money and recognition, fast. It is, of course, to cookery writing that he turns. A practised decadent, a habitual spendthrift and a serial womaniser, he has, ostensibly, all the right qualities. But the path of fame is never a smooth one.
Phantom Pain is the bitterly funny but unpublished manuscript of Mehlman’s autobiography. In it, he tells the parallel stories of his decaying marriage and his affair with a woman he meets by chance and who accompanies him on the road. Their journey takes them on a chauffeur-driven, midnight run from New York to Atlantic City where they gamble away most of Mehlman’s remaining funds and then north, to Albany, where his unlikely salvation and the inspiration for his book Polish-Jewish Cuisine in 69 Recipes lie.
Read a chapter in English here.
Other Press, New York 2004. Proof copy.