Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Book: Waiter Rant


Waiter, I'd like to send back my book.

You know what this reminded me of? Not Buying It, which I also didn't love. I liked this book a little better than Not Buying It, but not by much.

I was going to say "What is it about books based on blogs?" but then I realized that Not Buying It wasn't based on a blog, although it felt like it should have/could have been. Which is just reminding me how annoyed I was by that book.

OK, moving on. Waiter Rant is written by the guy who wrote the popular blog of the same name. I never read the blog, but I remember hearing about it and thought it sounded amusing. I never worked as a waitress, so maybe I'd feel differently about the book if I had.

But whether I've waited tables or not, there's just no getting around the clunky writing and overuse of 'fancy' words like "lithe" used more than once within memory's reach.

This book also suffers from the short-view vs. long-view focus shift that plagued Not Buying It. It's like an inside-out hourglass essay over and over and over again. Let me set it up for you:

1. Waiter sits by the window, looking sad, thinking Reflective Thoughts.
2. Customers come in the door. Waiter sizes them up, makes judgments.
3. Writer/waiter then takes judgments and expands them into a global observation. For many paragraphs. Insert broad generalizations, world-weary cynicism, or wannabe insights as desired.
4. Waiter snaps back to reality, finishes up with customers. Makes more snide comments.
5. Customers leave. Waiter smokes out back, assumes gloomy posture once more.

Repeat for 22 chapters.

Well, I'm being a little harsh. But there was really almost no energy in this book. All attempts at flashy, cynical Anthony Bourdain-style writing were ham-fisted at best. Also as in Not Buying It, I really didn't get what I wanted. What I wanted was shocking customer anecdotes. Waitstaff running amok. I wanted to never eat in a restaurant again because I was so disgusted by what really happens when waiters turn bad. Instead, I got a 38-year-old guy who doesn't want to be a waiter anymore, who happens to write a funny blog that got some attention, and now he's turning it into a book... about being a 38-year-old waiter who writes a blog and got a book deal. Oh, and a few really lame customer stories. And crazy restaurant owners. But where's the fun?

I read Kitchen Confidential and loved it. I trusted Bourdain's blurb on the cover. I shouldn't have. It's like fish on Mondays. Shouldn't have ordered it.

So why did I read it? Well, I kept hoping for some good stories. And it was mildly entertaining, and I really needed a brainless book. If I had been a waitress at some point, maybe I would have enjoyed it more. But it was kind of like expecting blinis and caviar and getting pancakes (from a mix).

Oh, all right. The parts about the foodies were pretty funny. And I learned that my standard tip (usually between 17-20%) is adequate (barely). But, ho-hum. Maybe the blog was better.

4 comments:

Tammie said...

interesting.
i remember the blog but never read it.
this is another one of those books i keep meaning to read but never do. something always stopped me. i think in my mind i just picture the guy as being a bit of a loser.

Miss D. said...

Yeah... that's kind of what you get inbetween the lines...

Anonymous said...

You apparently have never waited tables nor know anyone close to you that does, otherwise the stories told in the book would ring true to you.
Whether or not the "book also suffers from the short-view vs. long-view focus shift that plagued Not Buying It. It's like an inside-out hourglass essay over and over and over again"

Daphne said...

Anonymous: thanks for stopping by. I believe I made that same point: "I never worked as a waitress, so maybe I'd feel differently about the book if I had."

I didn't have a problem with the stories -- in face, I wished there were *more* stories. "What I wanted was shocking customer anecdotes. Waitstaff running amok. I wanted to never eat in a restaurant again because I was so disgusted by what really happens when waiters turn bad."

What I had a problem with was the bad writing and boring story.