Monday, August 31, 2009

I love vodka

If there's one thing that I have in common with Chelsea Handler, it's that we both love vodka. That Russian liquor is my beverage of choice because it doesn't taste anything and it's potent. And since I've been watching what I eat lately, I'm comforted by the fact that vodka doesn't have that much calories.

Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea is Chelsea Handler's second non-fiction book. Her first one, My Horizontal Life, where she chronicled her one-night stands, was a gas. This second book, however, is a riot. I'm not even thinking as to how much of this supposed non-fiction work is fabricated; what matters is that every chapter, every situation in this book can literally have you ROTFL.

Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea is divided into around 10 stand-alone chapters. You can actually skip chapters if a particular topic turns you off, and believe me, there are plenty of topics like those here. From her hilarious English trip to her thoughts about re-gifting, these stories are just a treasure. If you think that Handler is funny on TV, she's even funnier in these stories.

One of my favorite stories involves her trip to Costa Rica with her father. To start off, her father pretends that he and Chelsea are on their honeymoon so that they get upgraded to first class. Then what follows is one unbelievable situation after another. In the end, they get stoned together.

In another chapter, Handler recounts her brief relationship with a redhead even though she's still occasionally sleeping with her apartment building's super. At one point, the redhead pays her a surprise visit to break up with her while her other guy is hiding under the bed. In another outrageous chapter, the guy she's seeing ends up as the object of affection of a male peekapoo. She also recounts how she was jumped by three female teenagers as she was on her way to pick up her friend from the airport. The details are just hysterical.

Read this book if:
  1. Vodka is your poison too.
  2. You love Chelsea Lately.
  3. You know the feeling of waking up in a strange room with a stranger beside you.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Why we cover books in plastic

If you've been reading my blog for quite some time now, you'd notice how some of us Filipinos love to cover our books in plastic. I know a lot of people who won't even read books (whether they be new or used) unless there's snug plastic covering them. My good friend, Ajie, is one. Her OC level goes through the roof when she talks about books! Just check out this post.

I guess this practice started out when Filipino kids enter school, where they're required to have all their textbooks and notebooks wrapped in plastic. This requirement somehow makes sense. Our textbooks and notebooks come in paperback format, so the plastic made them last longer. I never had a locker back in my grade school and high school days. I had to lug around 12 of those 100-page notebooks and at least 10 textbooks in my bag every day for 10 months.

But why would this practice find its way to the books that we read for pleasure? Is it because of our tropical climate in the Philippines which can be so harsh on books? If anything, the day's heat can actually cause the plastic wrap to shrink over time, thus deforming the book's cover. Also, when you stack plastic-covered books in a bookshelf, they don't slide off as easily as books that aren't covered. So why do we go through all this trouble in the first place?

Then I discovered gauge 8 plastic.

The plastic cover usually sold in bookstores is flimsy and wrinkly. They shrink way too soon. The gauge 8 kind, however, is so thick it may sometimes be difficult to fold. It may cost three times as much as the regular kind, but, trust me, it's definitely worth it. It's not always available in bookstores and supplies stores though. And unlike the thin kind that usually comes in prepared rolls of 1 or 2 meters, you have to ask the store personnel how much plastic you want and they'd cut and roll it up for you.

I know a lot of people who wouldn't start reading their books unless their covered in those transparent plastic sheets. And I'm one of them. Somehow, a book without plastic just feels naked.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Not in this district

"Nano nano."

Sometimes, it's hard to touch on profound topics such as racism, bad political agendas, and the evils of organized crime without being preachy or condescending. These issues tend to make us feel uncomfortable, especially if we're exposed to them every day. They make us realize that we've also unconsciously done our roles in being racists or biased against a particular group.

District 9 explores these negatives in a unique perspective. We don't see humans discriminate against other humans based on gender, race, or sexual orientation. The film makers ingeniously extend the context of discrimination, focusing on aliens.

Watch it. It's funny, profound, touching, and graphic.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Bookshelf Project #8

This week's bookshelves are from a fellow blogger, Professor B. Worm.

These are from his Library of America Collection.
The books are spotless, don't you think?

He does love his Lehane, his Michener, and his classics.

I can see that he has a hardback of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's latest novel, The Angel's Game. I've been holding off buying this novel since most of the copies sold in our bookstores are trade paperback editions. I finally saw a hardback today and bought it immediately. I can't wait to read it.

What do you think of Professor B. Worm's bookshelves, dear reader?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Book loot and a few thank yous

Since many bookstores in the metro had their sale for the past few weeks, I decided to take advantage of it and buy new hardbacks. Here are some of my recent purchases:

Wright's The Moral Animal will always be my favorite. I just hope that his most recent non-fiction, The Evolution of God, is just as good. I also can't wait to read Grant's Hunger, the sequel to Gone, which was a very satisfying read. Duey's Sacred Scars, her second installment of the wonderful A Resurrection of Magic series, is also one of the YA novels I've been eagerly anticipating. And, thanks to Melvin, a fellow book blogger, I finally have a hardback of Bolano's 2666.

This week, I'm also fortunate to receive a few awards from my fellow book bloggers. Ryan passed on to me the Lemonade Award. Thanks, Ryan! Check out his blog for his no-nonsense book reviews. Also, Sheila gave me the Your Blog Rocks! Award. Head on over to Sheila's blog, for she has lots of giveaways and she features book and reading groups. Michael also has given me the Zombie Chicken award. I can't wait for the Around the World in 80 Days thing!

Lisa at Book Blab gave me a Your Blog Rocks award. Thanks, Lisa! Jenny at TakeMeAway sent me a BINGO award as well. And to those of you who nominated me for a few BBAW awards, thank you! I really appreciate it.

Do check out these blogs whose owners were gracious enough to send these awards my away. I always have a jolly good time checking out what their entries.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Gifting books

Don't you think that giving a book to a bibliophile is stressful? What if he already has this book? What is she hates this author? What if he just goes halfway through the book and decides to re-gift the book? Aaarrgh... Questions, questions...

These are precisely my thoughts when a close bibliophile friend celebrated his birthday last Monday and I had to give him a gift. Of course it's a no-brainer that I had to give him a book. The question is, which one? I had an idea to give him a classy bookmark but I can't find any of the more expensive ones. So, I thought that my gift would really have to be a book.

I know that this person loves his thrillers and, fortunately, there are lots of these in bookstores. But do I choose the Michael Connelly over the Harlan Corben and the Ian Rankin? One of the tips people offer when buying gifts is to think of a thing that you would want to have yourself. Unfortunately, I wasn't in the mood for some Kellerman, Grisham, Evanovich, Robinson, et al. In the end, I settled for a Georges Simenon, crossing my fingers that he hasn't read this one yet.

When I receive books that are not to my taste or I already own copies of, they either go to the re-gift pile or at the back of the bookshelf. The re-gift items are a blessing. Whenever I fail to buy any gift or feel obligated to give one to a person I barely even know, I just choose randomly from the pile. I just make sure that there are no personal inscriptions inside the book. (Tip: If you don't want the books you give to your friends to be re-gifted, write something personal on the front cover, on page 25, and on the last page.)

Bibliophiles are the trickiest people to give books to, don't you think?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Wonderfully creepy stories

Mention Daphne du Maurier and novels such as Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel, and Jamaica Inn would come to mind. Du Maurier is best known for these novels that focus on how elements of the macabre and the gothic can find its way in ordinary lives. If you feel daunted by the weighty themes of these novels, then checking out du Maurier's short stories will prove rewarding. Her short fictional works are equally compelling and creepy.

The New York Review of Books has collected some of the best short stories by du Maurier in Don't Look Now. First-time readers of du Maurier will not be disappointed, as these stories are extremely satisfying. In fact, some of them have been adapted to the big screen by notable film makers such as Hitchcock, a director known to revel in the bizaare and the otherworldly. Hitchcock and du Maurier do make a perfect pair. Both are storytellers of the highest order, and both have established a reputation for coming up with nightmarish scenes from the quotidian.

The best short story in the collection is probably "Don't Look Now." Like her other fictional work, the aspect of clairvoyance figures prominently in it. In the story, an English couple's vacation in Venice takes a dark turn when an old woman tells the man's wife that their dead daughter is just seated between them. Much to the dismay of the husband, his wife takes an interest in the clairvoyant woman and her sister. These two spinsters even warn the couple to go back to England to avoid something bad happening to them, but it is only the woman who goes back. What happens to her husband in the end has to be read to be fully appreciated. I won't give it away here naturally. It's just too creepy.

"Don't Look Now" was adapted into the big screen in 1974.
It featured Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland.

Another notable short story is "The Birds," which was adapted by Hitchcock in a movie of the same title. Du Maurier was very unhappy with Hitchcock's adaptation and she should be. The director changed the setting from the rustic province in the short story to the big city in the movie. If you saw the movie, you know that there's no reason offered as to why the birds just kept violently attacking people. In du Maurier's story, a family gets trapped in their boarded-up home to stay away from these avian attacks. You feel a sense of claustrophobia and anxiety as you read how the family take their meals while they hear the birds furiously clawing their way in their house.

There's also a short ghost story in the collection. In "The Escort," a British warship encounters a fellow British sea vessel who offers to serve as its marine escort on its way to friendly shores. "Split Second" has a Twilight Zone feel to it. In this story, a woman decides to take a short walk and returns to her home only to find out that there are strangers living in her house. In these stories, you clearly see how du Maurier is in her element as she explores the supernatural.

There are other stories about the macabre in this collection which are surely worth losing oneself in. The story entitled "The Blue Lenses" is about a woman who sees animal heads on people after undergoing a lens replacement surgery. The type of animal a person has somehow serves as a reflection on the person's true character. Her nurse, whom she has always trusted, reveals as someone with the head of a viper; her husband, on the other hand, has a vulture's head. "Monte Verità," the last story of the collection, tells of an ancient pagan cult residing in one of Europe's less-explored mountains.

There's something for every one in Don't Look Now. Du Maurier also manages to inject humor into these stories. Her writing may be too cinematic for some people, with each scene carefully plotted and detailed. But these just make her storytelling talents superb but highly accessible. Perhaps this is the reason some critics scoff at her oeuvre, stating that her bestseller status does not speak well of her literary chops. Nevertheless, these stories are entertaining and will surely delight fans of fantastic and gothic literature.

Read this book if:
  1. You have a taste for the macabre.
  2. You want to be surprised at the end of each story.
  3. You just want a good, old-fashioned gothic tale that you can read at night.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Bookshelf Project #7

This week's bookshelves projects are from Contempo, who was kind enough to send three closeup shots.

I love that all the books are covered in plastic. This is someone who truly values books. Contempo also has varied tastes -- there's fantasy, autobiographies, manga, etc. And I can see that Special Topics in Calamity Physics is there as well, which is one very, very good novel.

What do you think of her collection, dear reader?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Not another J horror

There's a Japanese literature challenge going around in many book blogs these days. While I don't really participate in these challenges, I was in the mood to read a novel by a Japanese author. I also wanted to satisfy my horror novel craving, so I decided to give this novel a go.

The Crimson Labyrinth, a novel by Japanese horror writer Yusuke Kishi, didn't really offer anything new. I was expecting a new angle on this storyline since The Crimson Labyrinth was a bestseller in Japan. In the novel, a group of 11 people find themselves to be unwilling participants in a game called the Crimson Labyrinth. The game requires them to compete against one another for a cash prize, forcing them to kill one another since there should only be one winner/survivor in the end.

If the storyline sounds way too similar to Battle Royale, well, it is, but with older characters. Kishi is an author that aims to shock his readers with narratives of cannibalism and extreme paranoia in a very hostile territory. Reading about the contestants eating one of their kind may elicit unpleasant reader reactions at first. But if this device becomes the main horror element in the novel, it just feels too drawn out. There's none of the supernatural factor that we've all come to expect and love in Japanese horror novels and movies. The novel disappoints big time.

In the end, Kishi doesn't even lead the reader to discover for himself all the unanswered questions the plot has raised. He simply explains everything, and none of these explanations can make you exclaim, "I didn't see that coming." Everything feels contrived.

Read this book if:
  1. You like J horror in all its forms.
  2. You think Battle Royale is the ultimate reality show.
  3. You're a game show fanatic.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What not to do during a book discussion

This Saturday, I'll be again attending a book discussion for the Flips Flipping Pages Book Club. The book club meets every month, and for this month, the theme is health and fitness. So, we're going to talk about books that go hand in hand with the theme.

The members of FFP are a fun-loving lot. They kid around, throw jokes at one another, and even make a few self-deprecating remarks every now and then. But when it came to the book discussion, when each member was talking about his or her favorite Seuss book, everyone became serious.

Since this would be my second time to join them, I've come up with a few things that one should NOT do during a book discussion. (I have been known to do some of these things though.)

  1. Yawn loudly while someone is saying a sad anecdote.
  2. Say, "I read that. You got it completely wrong."
  3. Fart.
  4. Interrupt the discussion by asking, "When do we eat?"
  5. Sleep.
  6. Arrive ridiculously late. Help yourself to the swag. Then leave.
  7. Fart some more.
  8. Trim nails. If time permits, buff them.
  9. Pick nose. Then fart.
  10. Take out iPod and listen to the Jonas Brothers.
  11. Say that Twilight beats Harry Potter in all aspects.
  12. Mention that you haven't read any of the books because you're finishing, umm, Ulyssees.
  13. Point out that you only read self-help books.
  14. Flirt with the resident hot chick or dude (or both).
  15. Tell members to suck it and just go see the movie.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The books that changed my life (5)

Jules Verne, the French novelist, had a very brilliant mind. In an age when submarines where unheard of, he wrote about it in 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. His novels were indeed prophetic. And for a gullible tween like myself back then who hasn't been anywhere, his works provided an escape from the routine, from the unremarkable places of childhood.

I first read 20,000 Leagues under the Sea when I was 13. I didn't read the preface nor the introduction at first. I finished the novel in two days -- it was that exhilarating. All the while, I thought that this novel was a contemporary one, so I was very much surprised when I read the introduction and discovered that it was written in 1870. Thus began my Jules Verne phase.

For two months, I went through Around the World in 80 Days, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and The Mysterious Island. Verne's last novel, The Mysterious Island, would appeal to fans of the TV show "Lost." Also, at the end of the novel, you become reacquainted with one of Verne's beloved characters -- Captain Nemo. In a way, The Mysterious Island is a sequel of 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.

Verne's works are delegated to the ranks of reading materials for children and teenagers. They can serve as a good introduction to other classics, like they did for me. Children should learn that classics need not be boring and only have characters that gossip with one another the whole day. Verne's novels even employ writing techniques that contemporary writers of techno-thrillers still use today -- the cliffhanger, the dramatic unfolding at the end, the detailed workings of each gadget.

Pretty soon, after my Jules Verne phase, I started reading Jack London's White Fang and The Call of the Wild, Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, and Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Come to think of it, Verne introduced me to some of our greatest books.

What about you, dear reader? Have you read a novel by Jules Verne?

Monday, August 17, 2009

A jolly good time at the graveyard

Who can turn a brutal subject matter of family murder into an opening scene for a young adult novel? Who can masterfully transform a bleak graveyard into a magical abode of a precocious boy? Neil Gaiman, that's who. Once again, our modern day myth-maker has written another novel that appeals across generations of readers. And like other Gaiman novels we've read and grown to love, The Graveyard Book has all his narrative trademark.

The Graveyard Book begins with a murder of a man, his wife, and their daughter by a character named Jack. Fortunately, their youngest child, a toddler, has decided to explore the graveyard nearby, allowing him to escape the murderous intentions of Jack. The ghosts of the graveyard then decide to raise the little boy as their own and protect him from Jack. They name him Nobody "Bod" Owens and give him the Freedom of the Graveyard. Silas, a character in the novel who is most likely a vampire, becomes the boy's guardian, bringing him food, clothes, and basically just talking to Bod about the world outside the graveyard.

Except for the first chapter of the novel, the first few chapters of The Graveyard Book are episodic. You read about Bod and his dealings with the graveyard's inhabitats, including the resident witch, the ancient Roman ghost, and Ms. Lupescu, Silas's occasional replacement and erstwhile werewolf/shapeshifter. We also meet Scarlett, a girl who's almost the same age as Bod, as she strikes a friendship with Bod. Their adventures as make us recall all those carefree times in our childhood when we whiled away the time just exploring every nook and cranny of our childhood haunts.

The Graveyard Book is an homage to our childhood, which has always been a very magical stage. Gaiman even manages to incorporate important values that should be imbibed as children. We see how Bod's adoptive ghost parents, the Owenses, raises him to become respectful despite his unconventional home environment. Also, Gaiman, without being preachy, effortlessly weaves scenarios into the novel that show why children need to go to school. The Graveyard Book thus spoke to the educator in me.

The book has won several literary prizes such as the Hugo and the Newberry. The awards heaped on it are richly deserved. The Graveyard Book is one very satisfying read, with an ending that is so bittersweet that you can't help but feel for Bod. Of course, I won't give anything as to the fate of Bod in the end. There's also something for everyone in it -- horror, fantasy, history, coming-of-age, and, of course, comedy.

Read this book if:
  1. You miss your childhood and all the magical things it brings.
  2. You think graveyards are wonderful play areas.
  3. You believe in ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and mummies.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Bookshelf Project #6

This week's pictures of bookshelves are from L.O.F.

Such a varied collection, don't you think? And I love how the books are squeezed into the shelves!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

More pictures

Zhang Zi-Yi takes the train!
From Found Shit

Art from books
From Books Are People Too

The facade of a library in Kansas City, Missouri
From Blatant Bibliophiles

The book tower in Berlin
From Germany Tourism

A bookshelf for all your vampire books
From Make: Technology on Your Time

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Out for blood

This marketing campaign is pure genius. In line with the publication of the official Dracula sequel, Dracula: The Un-Dead. by Penguin, the publisher is organizing Dracula-themed blood drives in select Canadian cities. We finally get something good from all the vampire trend going on. (Why didn't the publishers and fans of Twilight think of this first? Oh right, Edward and his family are "vegetarians.")

Have you read Dracula, dear reader? The first time I read it when I was 15, I was scared out of my pants. Even though it came out in 1897, it's still scary even to this day. Dracula is one of the best epistolary novels I've read. The letters the characters wrote to one another and their journal entries give them a unique voice.

This dish, which we locals call dinuguan, is one of my favorite.
For non-Filipino readers, it's a stew made of pig's blood, pork, and other variety meats.
Image from Ramen Days

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Under my umbrella

I don't get to read that many graphic novels for two reasons. First, they're way too expensive for my taste. A compilation can cost up to 2,000 pesos (around $30); "cheaper" ones are still costly at 500 to 800 pesos (around $10 to $15). Second, I find it difficult to focus on the artworks. The speed reader in me lets me finish reading all the text and dialogue quickly, but I end up rereading these graphic novels only to look at the artworks longer.

I've been looking for The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite (Vol. 1) for the longest time that when I finally found it last Saturday, I just had to get it. It's the first graphic novel written by Gerard Way of the band My Chemical Romance, and illustrated by Gabriel Ba. Unlike other graphic novels I've read such as Watchmen, The Sandman series, and V for Vendetta, The Umbrella Academy doesn't take itself too seriously. Reading it is effortless, and you just end up having a jolly good time with the characters Way has conjured.

The graphic novel starts out weirdly enough. One ordinary day, 47 women who show no signs of pregnancy began to give birth to "special" babies. Because these babies were simply abandoned, only 7 of them were left alive. These babies were then adopted a rich but eccentric scientist/businessman named Reginald Hargreeves. When asked by people why, he simply stated "To save the world of course." Cut to several years later to a time when Paris is being attacked by an evil zombie-robot named Gustave Eiffel, who pilots a death ray-shooting Eiffel Tower. Enter 6 of the 7 children who manage to kill Eiffel with their special powers. (The 7th child, a girl named Vanya, appears not to have any special powers. So she's left at the Halgreeves estate, watching all the action from a screen.)

Twenty years later, Halgreeves dies and the team of the Umbrella Academy reunite to pay their respects. But this time, we only get to see five of them. One of the original team of 6 has died, although the reason for his death isn't disclosed. The 7th girl, the prodigal Vanya, has cut her ties from the family. Little does she know that she'll be the instrument to usher in the apocalypse, which would see the team of the Umbrella Academy working together to save the world once again.

After reading The Umbrella Academy, you can't help but think that the first volume feels oddly derivative. There are elements that would remind you of the impending end-of-the-world scenario of Watchmen, the superpowered misfits of the X-Men, and, of course, the campy action scenes featured in Justice League of America. But Way weaves his narrative in a tight and suspenseful manner that you can't help it but just read along. The result is one all-out, funny, whimsical, and quirky story, which features the latest lovable characters in graphic fiction.

The Umbrella Academy team members are not full of themselves. They may be angtsy and full of repressed feelings, but they're very likable and are original. Way doesn't waste precious pages dwelling on his characters' personalities. It's as if he's reserving these narratives in future issues. I particularly like the characters of Rumor and Seance. Rumor has the ability to make people believe that lies are real by saying "I heard a rumor that..." or "I heard that..." Seance, on the other hand, can communicate with the dead and levitate. And apparently, at the end of the first volume, we discover that he has telekinesis as well.

If you're familiar with the music of My Chemical Romance, you may observe Way's touch in each and every page of this graphic novel. The terse dialogue and the intermittent action scenes bring to mind the syncopated rhythm and jarring cadence of rock music. And the villain hopes to usher in the apocalypse through, ehem, music, and classical music at that. Ba's illustrations are beautifully rendered in each panel. These illustrations are already worth the price of the graphic novel. The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite is just brimming with possibilities. It raises so many questions that I hope will be answered in the next installment.

Read this book if:
  1. You think you're the family's black sheep.
  2. You like your superheroes funny.
  3. You love music and books.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Old, underdressed, and confused

The title of this entry describes exactly what I felt when I went to the Comic Con last weekend in Megamall, a popular mall here in Manila where trade shows are usually set up. We didn't really plan to go, but I was with my good friend R., who's big on comics, umm sorry, graphic novels and who graciously paid the entrance fee (which I think is way overpriced).

The first thing I noticed that I was probably the oldest person in the convention. Everywhere I look, I see teens and tweens in costumes and eagerly checking out the merchandise. I checked out the merchandise myself, and I can barely identify the names of these action figures. There were certainly good deals on the toys though. R. bought a 6-inch X-Men action figure for 200 pesos (about $4).

There was also a panel talking about the comic book industry in the Philippines. Judging by the look of their audience, no one was really paying that much attention to them. The comic book industry in the Philippines is practically nonexistent. Writers and illustrators barely make a living from these comic books. They often have to resort to self-publishing their works. Most of the time, these self-published comic books just look photocopied.

Here are some of the pics my friend took during the Comic Con. (Thanks again, R!)

Merchandise, weird stuff, etc.

Why the wigs? These are actually used for the costumes.

The costumed young people

Shameless self-promotion

This guy doesn't know what he actually is.

Before going to the Comic Con, I finally found a copy of The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite. I seldom buy graphic novels, but I've been hearing a lot of good reviews about this work by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba. Yes, that's correct: the Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance. Hopefully, I'll be able to write a review about it soon.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

This waiter has a lot to say

Whenever I eat out with friends and family and get crappy service from a restaurant, I always tell them to complain only at the end of the meal. I warn them that, if they raise hell before our food is served, we may end up consuming bodily fluids from the kitchen staff and the waiters. After reading Waiter Rant: Behind the Scenes of Eating Out, I knew that my suspicions were true. The author, however, tells his readers that he didn't do such things, but he exacts revenge on annoying customers in very ingenious ways.

Waiter Rant is a memoir chronicling the experience of Steve Dublanica as he waited on tables in three different restaurants for about 9 years. Dublanica actually kept a blog called Waiter Rant, where he wrote about all the hilarious and sad happenings in the restaurant he was working for, which he hid under the name The Bistro. When the blog became popular (receiving more than a thousand hits every day), he got a book deal out of it. The result is one hysterical, heartwarming, and insightful memoir about the lives of waiters working in the fine-dining establishments in the US today.
Since waiters shouldn't be nasty to the customers, they develop a customer-friendly armor to protect the soft parts of their psyche from emotional assault. You can wear that armor for a while, maybe a long time, but eventually the cracks begin to show. You can't hide forever.
Dublanica's writing is vivid from the start. You wonder why he never started his career as a writer in the first place. But he's quick to point out that financial circumstances have led him to become a waiter, a profession which ranks the lowest in terms of satisfaction and fulfillment. He exposes the unglamorous lives that waiters and even the kitchen staff lead. Lives that, because of all the stress and unsatisfaction that it brings, can become effed up with drugs, booze, and other vices.

While we all may have an idea that it probably isn't the best job in the world to take people's orders and listen to them complain about the most trivial things, we're never prepared to find out how difficult it is to be a waiter. Waiting tables is a physically demanding job, sometimes requiring you to carry trays that come straight out of the oven and being on your feet for 8 hours straight.

Still, despite these downsides, Dublanica makes light of several situations that have the potential to result in disaster. He recounts the time when Russel Crowe walked into The Bistro and a waitress was so starstruck that she sniffed the chair Crowe sat on. He writes about how people have become so finicky with their orders that they won't order poultry that's not free range or fish that isn't organic. When a customer insults him in front of a group of people, he bides his time to come up with the perfect retort; when the customer pays for his check with his credit card, Dublanica accepts it but returns a few minutes later saying a bit loudly for the others to hear, "There's a problem with your card, Sir. Perhaps if you have another card?"

I think one of the reasons why the blog (and also this book) has become widely read is that some of the things Dublanica mentions about customers feel too close to home. We've all experienced complaining to waiters how our plates aren't too clean, that our food isn't hot, that the service is too slow, etc. These complaints are valid and should be brought to the attention of the restaurant management. Dublanica, however, writes about how customers have become rude, forgetting that waiters also do not wish to have these unfortunate situations come up.
Most customers care about only one thing -- getting what they want when they want it. They watch celebrity chefs on the Food Network and think that restaurants are magical places designed to jerk off their taste buds. They don't realize restaurants are places where people struggle to make a living. I've found that most people are cravenly indifferent to what happens in the back alleys of affluence -- whether it's behind a restaurant or a Wal-Mart.

In Waiter Rant, Dublanica also shares his thoughts about several things to his readers -- from the mundane to the profound. He provides his two cents worth on how much to tip waiters, how the statement "I'm friends with the owner" can do more harm than good, and how the words "please" and "thank you" can lead to the most efficient service you can ever get. Also, one invaluable thing you'll learn from reading Waiter Rant is how waiters are some of the most observant people on the planet.
When people are stuffing their faces, they often let their guard down. Eating is a primal activity that triggers an array of emotional responses. Think of all the arguments that erupt around family dinner tables. Food and human condition are inextricably linked. Because of this, waiters often get to see the unpleasant sides of people. Yet, amid all the petulance, anger, and entitlement, the occasional crumb of human grace falls from the table.
Once in a while, the author also shows us his sentimental side.
I watch as the couple walk hand in hand into the cold night air. Outside the woman looks up at her man starry-eyed and gives him a "thanks for dinner" kiss. Somehow I know watching that kiss will be my best tip of the evening.
I must admit that I've a soft spot for well-written memoirs that are terribly funny and that have been written by an insider in a world or industry that I know nothing about. I laughed out loud while reading about prostitutes in The Secret Diary of a Call Girl. I still remember Augusten Burroughs' dysfunctional family in Running with Scissors. I can still feel all the angst and pain of James Frey's A Million Little Pieces. Waiter Rant is one memorable read that will surely come to mind every time you eat out and meet these people who are the first and last persons we come in contact with when we go to restaurants.

Read this book if:
  1. You've waited tables at one point in your life.
  2. You just love them funny memoirs.
  3. You haven't said "please" and "thank you" to people for a long time.
Steve Dublanica