Magazine article The Spectator

Sending Up Eating Out

Magazine article The Spectator

Sending Up Eating Out

Article excerpt

When he was once asked why he had never written a novel about Hollywood, having spent four years there working as a screenwriter, Raymond Chandler replied that he thought no one could ever really write a novel about Hollywood, because Hollywood was already a kind of novel. It did not exist in any form but was more a composite of fantasies; theatrical, financial and sexual. The reality of backstage Hollywood, he reckoned, was far more surreal and blackly hysterical than any literary spin on it could ever be. Indeed, even to this day no fictional writer has bettered Kenneth Anger's legendary history of the studios, Hollywood Babylon, published in 1975.

The same might be said (if not quite so excitedly) of this novel's subject London's currently fashionable restaurant scene. How can you satirise the world of restaurant openings, restaurant critics and restaurant snobbery? London may be experiencing something of a gourmet boom at the moment, and 'superchefs' may be rock stars to some, but no one really takes any of this seriously enough in the first place to leave room for much satire. It glitters and it's tasty and it's diverting, and that's about it. There's nothing particularly wrong in paying 250 to have 5 worth of ingredients chopped and heated by the stubbled chef of the moment, if that's how you want to spend your money (or your company's money), but we do not really require a writer to spend the best part of a novel pointing out how vain it all is. A canny survey of the country's over-priced restaurants would really have been more entertaining to read about than the fictional outfits that James Delingpole satirically invents for us, and probably more surprising. …

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