Nonfiction: July 2008 Archives

Dine at your own risk

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This week I've been reading Waiter Rant: Thanks For the Tip -- Confessions of a Cynical Waiter (Ecco, 302 pages, $24.95) and here is my unabashed recommendation: If you eat out with any regularity, read this book!

Waiter Rant

It's written by a New Yorker who calls himself "The Waiter," and he's the creator of the popular and award-winning Waiter Rant blog. This week, however The Waiter was outed as Steve Dublanica and though it's not been confirmed, the restaurant in which he worked -- which he calls "The Bistro" throughout the book -- is the Lanterna Tuscan Bistro in Nyack, N.Y., according to New York magazine.

Dublanica also appeared this morning on the "Today" show and announced his "retirement" from waiting tables. (Probably a good thing, since he also disclosed that one of his favorite retaliation moves was to pass gas near rude customers and then walk away.)

The book is hilarious and disgusting and very insightful. Dublanica not only tells tales about what servers might do to you if you're rude -- spit in food; fill coffee with regular instead of decaf; play hockey with meat if it's sent back; tell the customer his credit card has been denied -- but also gives good tips for diners: "If a restaurant's bathroom is nasty," he writes, "the odds are good that the kitchen doesn't bother maintaining Health Department-mandated levels of hygiene either."

Appendix A -- "40 Tips on How to Be a Good Customer -- should be studied and committed to memory. I've always thought of myself as a pretty pleasant restaurant patron, and as I read through the list my assumption stands, except for Rule No. 4: "Sit where you're seated!"

"Please let the hostess do her job," Dublanica writes. "She's only trying to seat customers evenly so that everyone gets the best service possible without overwhelming one server. And trust me, when your waiter overhears you whining about your table, he or she will know that you're an annoying table snob who thinks you're entitled to underserved rock-star treatment and that, in all probability, you're a bad tipper to boot."

I have a restaurant pet-peeve, and if I had a blog dedicated to restaurant pet-peeves, this would be my first entry: Getting seated next to the bathroom or the kitchen door, or the restaurant entrance door, or the busing station -- when the restaurant is FULL of empty tables! Obviously in that situation I don't think it's obnoxious to ask for a better table, but of course now I'll be much less likely to do so.

Kate Summerscale wins Johnson prize

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The story of a murder case that gripped Victorian England won Britain’s richest nonfiction book prize Tuesday.

Kate Summerscale’s The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: Or the Murder at Road Hill House beat five other titles for the $60,000 Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction.

Suspicions of Mr. Whicher

Summerscale’s best-selling book tells the story of an 1860 child murder that tested the mettle of one of Scotland Yard’s first detectives and inspired writers including Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Named in honor of the 18th-century critic and lexicographer, the Samuel Johnson Prize is open to English-language books in the areas of current affairs, history, politics, science, sport, travel, biography, autobiography and the arts.

The other finalists were The World Is What It Is, Patrick French’s often unflattering biography of writer V.S. Naipaul; Mark Cocker’s bird book, Crow Country; Orlando Figes’ chronicle of Stalin’s Russia, The Whisperers; Blood River, Tim Butcher’s account of retracing the steps of Victorian explorer H.M. Stanley; and New Yorker music critic Alex Ross’ The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century.

Last year’s winner was Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City, about life in Baghdad’s Green Zone.

AP

Read the Sun-Times review of The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Nonfiction category from July 2008.

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