By Susan Harris
Since the entire world is on vacation, anticipating vacation, or just back from vacation, we recommend "Agony in the Kitchen," from our issue of September 2003. Juan José Millás depicts a fretful man who installs his family in a beautiful seaside house but can't take a holiday from his anxiety. Will the children be swept away by the tide? Is the car door locked? Did his wife turn off the television? ("You turned off the circuit breaker," she reminds him.) The agony of the title refers to the last minutes of the lobster stashed in the sink overnight; wakened by its death throes, the man tries to put it out of its misery but only prolongs his own. It's a precise portrait of (to quote Pauline Kael's review of Tati's M. Hulot's Holiday) "the ghastliness of a summer vacation at the beach."
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