Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Service Included (by Phoebe Damrosch)

I picked this up at Elliott Bay Bookstore in Seattle to read on the flight home. And indeed, I read most of it on the flight home! It's the memoir of a server at Per Se, Thomas Keller's French Laundry equivalent in New York. And since I've eaten at the French Laundry, I was interested in a behind-the-scenes look at how a restaurant like that works.

I went back and forth on the narrator. At times she seems a little smug or didactic, at other times, oblivious, at other times, tone-deaf (I'm as liberal as the next person, but did she really need to go off on Republicans in the middle of a paragraph when it wasn't relevant to at all?). For the most part I liked her, but it was a Julie Powell kind of like. You like her, but... there's that "but."

The problem with this memoir is that it's half-good. The first half delves into the restaurant being set up and all the little details that go into the service there, and it's terrific. The second half focuses a lot on her relationship, and it lacks resolution. The guy seems to be clearly a shady character, but I guess we're supposed to assume, at the end, that he isn't? Or more like she wanted a happy ending for her book.

Also, I hate the disingenuousness that comes into play when the author is clearly working a job to write a book about it and pretends she isn't. The opening of the book is like "I had to stop pretending I was a writer... clearly I was just using writing as an excuse for waiting tables." Well no, not when you've GONE AHEAD AND WRITTEN A BOOK ABOUT IT THAT I AM READING RIGHT NOW. Gah! I hate that!


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