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November 12, 2010

The Reading Group discussion thread

LobsterWe now begin our discussion of Stewart O'Nan's Last Night at the Lobster, the first entry in the Dining@Large Reader's Group.

My hope is that a few of you will grab the reins and go with this. 

I thought of this book after a comment of mine comparing a new restaurant to Red Lobster was taken as an insult.

Really, what I meant was that  Red Lobster is brilliant in how well it manages the messages it sends to consumers. The new restaurant was also shrewd about its messaging -- only the message was about  style and enjoyment instead of value.

I have friends who shudder at the mention of Red Lobster -- they've never had those cheese biscuits.

The best rule any book club I ever belonged to had was this: the first comment should be a positive one.

Here is a Penguin.Com reading guide to the book that includes an interview with O'Nan. Take the weekend to post your thoughts. I'll have a look on Monday morning and decide how we can best continue the conversation if at all.
Posted by Richard Gorelick at 12:02 PM | | Comments (9)


I thought the first 140 characters were interesting, but then I lost interest. #positive #cupcakes! #Mobbies

This was a well-written boring piece of fiction! I feel like I am right there... and I don't want to be. I've got to finish reading just so that I know he made it out of the mall and back across the street to the restaurant without falling down. I was secretly hoping we'd get the inside scoop on what makes those cheesy biscuits so awesome...

It was very well-written. He captured all the nuances of running a restaurant and the alienation of corporate servitude.

That being said, it was like having my ex-girlfriend describe all the mean people, boring people, stupid people etc. at her office for ten hours straight. I gave up after 50 pages.


Page 11 – "Ty's styling in a black leather jacket".
"a soul grip"
1991 called and it wants its ethnic talk for white people back.

Page 15 – Unsure of what vernacular of the last 50 years "youngblood" is from. Only ever heard it in the possibly statutory rapey Bad Company song.

Ironic bonus - I was reading this in one of my Little Italy haunts and all the stuff in the book was happening all around me all the time. I couldn't take the recursive ennui.

I really wanted to like it, but maybe I'm just too close to that stuff on a daily basis.

P.S. I've never been to a Red Lobster. When I was in high school a friend of mine made fun of someone else for taking his girlfriend to RL. In high school. So I probably have a snob-infusion reaction. I think my brain interpreted what my friend said as, "If you go to Red Lobster, you will never ever ever have sex with a girl."

My hour is up already? Okay, that felt good. Next week, can we talk about my fear of intimacy with the Kool Aid guy? Oh yeah! See, he's a man shaped like a pitcher, holding a pitcher of himself. To me, that feels like a lifelong commitment to Kool Aid because of the infinite recursion. What? Yes, I'm out of Wellbutrin.

Bonus/curse: I had the B-52s Rock Lobster in my head every time I looked the book. There goes a narwal, look out for that piranha!

Subtopian tone poem.

The whine Liszt.

À la recherche du homards perdu.

The Franzia Consideration.


Amanda C, I remember one gargantuan fabricated lobster suspended over the restaurant tables. Words cannot convey the repulsive creepiness of that dining experience.

I read the whole book, even though I didn't love it. Maybe if I had ever eaten at a Red Lobster I would appreciate it more. The book certainly didn't make me want to go to one ever.

I would like to hear from people who work in restaurants to see how their experience compares. I most appreciated the descriptions of the difficult customers--those rang really true to me.

Has an idea for a sequel. "First Day in the Garden"

Has anyone else wondered why someone would go to a chain restaurant like Red Lobster in New England where the real thing is available at real restaurants; Or even more curious going to Taco Bell in the southwest US and even Mexico?

The book was OK. I never worked in a restaurant but I have observed similar characters in other work environments.

I thought the book was ok. Not great. There were many things that reminded me of my past corporate restaurant table-waiting days. I didn't feel like any story was fully developed, but I guess that's difficult when only a few hours pass in the novel. It did make me want cheese biscuits.

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About this blog

You are reading the archives. For updated blog posts about the Maryland food scene, see Richard Gorelick's new Baltimore Diner blog.
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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