Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In Which Dawno Plugs a Book

The happy serendipity of the Internet leads me from a post about a great food meme to a post about a book by a waiter...

I am on Twitter. I tweet. I read other folk's tweets. I follow about 50 tweeters, one of whom is Wil Wheaton, actor, writer, blogger and uber geek. In a tweet he sent last night, he recommended reading a post by the writer of Waiter Rant, a blog, and also, as I find out at his blog, a book. I followed the link in the tweet and read the post, which was insightful. Went to take a look at his book. The Harper Collins website had preview pages, so read all there was available of Chapter 1 and decided I wanted to read the book right then - and, as luck would have it, they had it available as an e-book, so I could download it immediately and not have to wait for it to come in the mail.

Download completed, I dropped everything else I was doing (I've been very busy with the whole beading thing lately and was in the middle of re-organizing my beading area, doing an inventory of my creations and re-naming and creating tags for them, amongst other stuff) and started reading. By 11 pm I was getting rather tired and went to bed with about 3/4 of the book completed. I have just finished reading it.

Waiter Rant (by Steve Dublanika, The Waiter) starts off with a preface that introduces you to the author's conversational, first person style. He's obviously educated and witty:

"Today waiters are expected to be food-allergy specialists, sommeliers, cell-phone-rule enforcers, eye candy, confessors, entertainers, mixologists, emergency medical technicians, bouncers, receptionists, joke tellers, therapists, linguists, punching bags, psychics, protocol specialists, and amateur chefs. Foodie-porn TV programming has generated a new class of entitled customers with already overblown culinary expectations and a rapidly diminishing set of social graces. Economists say that the restaurant business is a bellwether of the nation’s economic health—but I think it’s a bellwether of America’s mental health as well. And let me tell you, 20 percent of the American dining public are socially maladjusted psychopaths. We should start putting Prozac in the Perrier."
147 words into the book and it's got me completely hooked.

The sub-title is "Thanks for the Tip -- Confessions of a Cynical Waiter" and yes, he's cynical. But he's also self-analytical, a keen observer of people and a writer whose descriptions neatly place you right in the setting - I felt like I would be able to recognize his anonymized restaurants and the people who worked there, if I ever made my way out to New York City.

About mid-book the reader has learned a lot about the author's life, what led him to become a waiter, how and why he struggles with the culture of the restaurant world and its denizens. If you are going into this thinking it's just a series of anecdotes about the behavior of quirky customers, you will be disappointed - it's that to a point, but it's also an introspective memoir and very nearly a psychological/sociological treatise on the way people treat people in the service industry. He keeps it all moving apace, however, with his personable writing style and sense of humor. You also find that he puts his education to use with mention of, or allusions to, classical literature, but also from popular literature and culture. While his prose is accessible, it doesn't talk down to the reader, either.

The book is also about the author learning that he *is*, indeed, a Writer. Starting with a blog that eventually gains a large following and then on to getting an agent, and a book deal, the author discloses the ups and downs many writers experience before finally breaking into publication. I know a bit about that as a moderator on Absolute Write where daily writers discuss their triumphs and challenges and disappointments.


Because I want to make a point about writing, I'm going to discuss the end of the book - please don't read on if you don't like spoilers and intend to read Waiter Rant. There's nothing else said after the spoiler, so if you're going to pass up the spoiler bit, you're done - thanks for visiting!


The book closes with the author still working as a waiter, even though his book has sold. Unlike the lotto winner who walks into work the morning after the numbers were posted (yeah, you don't have that dream, do you?) and says "take this job and shove it," he takes a respite from waiting and then, eventually, goes back to it, albeit at a less stressful place and pace. The hopeful thing about his return to the job, is something he says just a few paragraphs from the end of the book:

"Now that I’m a waiter trying to become something else, I feel like my life has direction. The chip I was carrying on my shoulder fell off. My sense of hospitality has returned. I no longer feel like a loser. Those horrible dreams about wasted talent have disappeared. For the first time in a long time, I’m at peace with myself."

I like a book with a happy ending.


Thumper said...

I've been reading the guy's blog since nearly the beginning...his writing definitely improved over the years. Don't let the ending fool you, though. He ends it still being a waiter, but he quit shortly after turning in the final draft.

It's a good book, and I'm glad it's working out for him...I'm curious to see what he has up his sleeve, because he's never going to be able to work as a waiter again.

Dawno said...

I didn't think he'd stay a waiter much longer. I'll be watching his blog on my Google Reader for updates.

How's da bunny doin?? I hadn't been able to sub to your blog on my reader, so I keep forgetting to visit - but now I see it on Blogger, so I have and I'll pop in more often.