Good writing I could not do

I’d be hard pressed to write a decent sentence about food or music or or theater or art in general. It’s far outside my element, my comfort zone. Would a habit of reading some well-written reviews improve my writing? Perhaps!

Here’s a wonderful opening to a restaurant review by Pete Wells at The New York Times. (You can listen to him read it on Fresh Air, which is how I came across it.)

The lady had dropped her napkin.

More accurately, she had hurled it to the floor in a fit of disillusionment, her small protest against the slow creep of mediocrity and missed cues during a four-hour dinner at Per Se that would cost the four of us close to $3,000. Some time later, a passing server picked up the napkin without pausing to see whose lap it was missing from, neatly embodying the oblivious sleepwalking that had pushed my guest to this point.

I just marvel at the first sentence. Who could read it and stop? Every subsequent one does just as much work, if not more. It’s very clear by the end of this where he’s going. With this review, Per Se was downgraded form four stars to two.

I don’t care. I’d not have eaten there anyway. I care about the review for Wells’ masterful way with words, on a subject I’d butcher.

He gets four stars.


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