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Rarely There

A collection of discourses - myriad, profound, uplifting...
Bah! Who am I kidding?!
It is just a blog.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Waiter Rant by The Waiter

waiter rant book reviewMe: Just because it is on NYT Bestseller list doesn't mean it is a great book. There are many brilliant books that never get on the NYT Bestseller list.
My alter ego: Yep. But, surely, many find it worth reading, or it won't be on NYT Bestseller - it sells, and that's what matters. Brilliant and Bestselling are mutually independent.

What prompted this terribly blasé conversation with the self was this book I just finished reading: Waiter Rant by The Waiter.

Why was I curious about this book?
Well, last year I came across and enjoyed a few posts by The Waiter, where he narrates his experience with customers, his philosophical musings, his rants. And when I found out that he is another one of those bloggers who got elevated to temporary stardom with his book (many food bloggers seem to enjoy this affliction of fame through book deals) I naturally wanted to see what it was all about.

Did I enjoy this book?
Yes, terribly so.
Did I think it was brilliant?
'Fraid not.
Do I think it needs to be brilliant?
No, not at all, not for the genre, not for the subject.
Do I think it is worth reading?
Sure, why not... Take it along on a long flight, especially if you are not in the food service industry. It can be entertaining and illuminating. It could make you think twice about eating out, and about calculating the measly 10% tip.
What did I like best about this book?
The honesty. The descriptions and observations, not just about the waiter life, but about human behavior in general. Despite the title, it is not a rant.
What did I not like about this book?
See the last statement of this post :)

What is it about?
It is a memoir of sorts. It attempts to educate the average restaurant-going public about the issues in the restaurant business like bad management, illegal immigrant labor, ideal and not-so-ideal customers, as well as the struggles of a waiter's life living on indeterminate and unpredictable income which heavily relies on the whims of the consumer.

The Waiter has been anonymously chronicling his experience in his blog for a while. The book reads like a collection of his posts, with a good effort to maintain continuity and interest, narrating his life experiences in an easy-read style, like a cohorent story. Anecdotes about his college life, his stint in medical service industry, and his entrance into food service industry seem honest and prosaic enough to be true.

It is well-written for a first book by a non-literary writer. I am not a book-snob. I do recognize and appreciate brilliant writing and aspire to be like those geniuses. I would expect a brilliant Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri who specializes in Literature. The Waiter admits he is a novice writer; and most good writers have to start somewhere and churn out textbook-style prose before they find their niche and personal style. That's why I believe a good editor is invaluable for the debut work. In that sense, this book has the required elements - it is funny, entertaining, cynical yet not irritatingly so, and reads like a story where we can follow the life of the protagonist with some interest. The unfeigned sincerity in certain chapters is admirable.

One observation that I found interesting: waiters in Oregon are paid the minimum wage by law and are not relying heavily on tips to stay out of poverty, unlike in NYC where they are paid less than half the minimum wage, which makes the 20% tip precious. Yay! Another reason I love Portland, OR!

That said, I found it a little grating to read exotic words - like remediated, trichotillomaniac, eremitical - where an equivalent simple one would have sufficed in context.

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