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What's for Dinner?

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  158 ratings  ·  25 reviews
James Schuyler's utterly original What's for Dinner? features a cast of characters who appear to have escaped from a Norman Rockwell painting to run amok. In tones that are variously droll, deadpan, and lyrical, Schuyler tells a story that revolves around three small-town American households. The Delehanteys are an old-fashioned Catholic family whose twin teenage boys are ...more
Paperback, 211 pages
Published December 22nd 2005 by New York Review of Books (first published 1978)
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Average rating 3.75  · 
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Oct 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: nyrb
Well, it started out promising anyway. Snappy, occasionally insightful, droll—with an ear for the rhythms and interplay of language (and dialogue, in particular) that called to mind Delillo, however approximately. But long about half-way through, I realized this thing was on the fast track to nowhere. It's all well and good to spruce up the language—fluff it like droopy pillows on a sofa—but sometimes you need more than just decoration. What's for Dinner? treads the same suburban dysfunction ter ...more
Olga Zilberbourg
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A sweet portrayal of a rehab facility, populated by people of various ages and backgrounds. People are their for various reason. One of the focal characters, Lottie, is an alcoholic. Another mourns the death of her son and his family. Two people are suicidal. A young college woman had overdosed on drugs. Though the general milieu is that of middle-class and middle-aged people, the writer succeeds in subverting stereotypes here and gives us a deeper view of the characters as individuals, through ...more
Jul 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Now THIS was good. Very sharp dialogue, an unexpected yet somehow mundane plot (not the other way around), a great sense of subdued, dry humor, fast and enjoyable to read while also being well-written, etc.

Here, depression and alcoholism are problems people can actually tackle and work against successfully, frequently through alliances with others who have their own similar bad situations to think about. This sounds off-puttingly inspirational, but it's actually done very well; it's more an und
🐴 🍖
had me thinking of david lynch throughout -- i mean, nothing WEIRD weird happens (nobody trapped in a knob on a dresser, nobody goes to bed w/ a headache & wakes up as balthazar getty) but, like, in the foreground it's all "golly gee" & "my gracious," bridge games & pie-making & would you believe that darn cat knocked the clock off the mantel again? when really the plot elements going on concurrently are alcoholism & infidelity & incest & mental illness... it's almost like sleight-of-hand: "watc ...more
Matthew Mousseau
Mar 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels-novellas
The question "What's for dinner?" is posed in the first chapter of the novel. Enter Mary Charlotte Taylor ("Lottie" for short) - the perfect wife and housekeeper, for all appearances. But the reader soon learns her embarrassing secret. Her husband, Norris Taylor, asks the titular question "What's for dinner?" The question is posed after Lottie asks: "I wonder what you'll do when I'm gone?" The question is rhetorical. In the context of the first chapter, it is a matter of no consequence what Norr ...more
Mar 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019
I'm not really sure what drew me to this book. I suspect it was one of those that I plucked off an obscure best-of list somewhere, one of many that fill my to-read shelf. It's not something I would normally read and yet it feels like I've come across this setup before. Reading other reviews it seems like there are countless stories like it. There's not much of a plot, it's a slice-of-life basically, and the vast majority of the book is dialogue. It works though. Sort of. The humour is more hit t ...more
Ofelia Hunt
May 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who eat things sometimes and don't other times
I'm curious about poets who think they're novelists and novelists who think they're poets so I read this book as an investigation and my research indicates that James Schuyler is a poet and a novelist and this novel is very very good from this subject-position or something.

Most of the text is conversation and it is all simple and perfect and with characters who are people and there are no terribly fake sentences like about the sunset off the river Kwai dappling the eyebrows of super-poetic monst
Jul 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
"Stara gruba Deirdre leżała rozwalona na wiktoriańskim krześle. Łeb oparła na tapicerowanym podłokietniku, z mordy ciekła jej ślina. Obraz doskonałego spełnienia."
Lekki i nielekki obraz amerykańskich przedmieść, ze szczególnym uwzględnieniem uzależnienia od szkockiej, depresji, telenowel, gospodyń w średnim wieku, nudnych romansów i grubych bassetów (cytat wyżej). Polecam szczególnie na niedzielne przedpołudnia, gdy za oknem deszcz.
As someone who's not easily amused...I was in helpless laughter reading this; it's up there with Confederacy of Dunces as funniest book ever.
Set in middle class US suburbia, it concerns a group of neighbors meeting up for dinner - a childless couple; a flirtatious widow; and the superb Delahanty family: overbearing authoritarian Dad, overweight Mom, unfailingly sweet natured, boring Grandma...and two hefty "stalwart" teen boys - quashed unmercifully at home, but getting (covertly) into pot-smoki
Blanka Maruszewska
Dajmy na to - bezdzietna mężatka koło czterdziestki popija nieco więcej niż przystoi. Odsyłamy ją na odwyk do kliniki psychiatrycznej, mąż przyjeżdża na "terapie rodzinne" wraz z krewnymi innych pacjentów (a barwna to mieszanka).
W domu, w przedmieściu, zaczyna romansować z "wesołą wdówką" ze "skorpionami w bieliźnie".
Wplączmy do tego dwie rodziny - luzackich wielodzietnych i wielozwierzęcych i sztywną rodzinę z teściową na karku i dorastającymi bliźniętami (zależnie od definicji - sypiającymi
Jun 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chcielibyście zajrzeć w zwyczajne życie w amerykańskim miateczku lat 50-60? Ta książka jest właśnie takim mikroskopem. Problemy z alkoholem, pojawiające się narkotyki, romanse, plotki, a wszystko to muśnięte lekkim piórem autora.
Niewymuszone rozmowy, dużo rozmów, brak frustracji, całkiem sporo szczerości - wszystko to, co zdaje się straciliśmy przez to jedno pokolenie. Niby całkiem niedawna rzeczywistość, a jednak ogląda się jakby odległy świat. Świat, za którym zaczyna być tęskno
Daniel Polansky
I read this book.
Mar 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
The stories of John Cheever, Richard Yates, John O'Hara, Evan S. Connell, et al.: you might think you've read every tale of postwar suburban malaise as you'd prefer to read in this lifetime (not to mention binge-watching Mad Men). But you haven't read poet James Schuyler's What's for Dinner, so it turns out you'll have to make time for one more.

What a beguiling, unassuming, stealthily funny little masterpiece this book is. Rescued from obscurity by NYRB Classics, this novel follows every convent
Jesse Kraai
Aug 10, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 1970s
I only finished this book because it was kind of short and a NYRB selection. Like a lot of NYRB books it's trying for theory rather than story. We are looking down on the characters, trying to say something larger than them. No character is developed and the scene is static. We're supposed to jack off in front of an immobile picture of suburban American life. ...more
Dec 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This wonderful novel could be shelved with drama because it is almost entirely dialog that conjures a whole life just as it happens in a play. Scenes take place most often at the dinner table, the group therapy table, in bed; and swim along rapidly on waves of light but pointed exchanges between clearly drawn characters. Really a delight.
Jul 07, 2008 rated it liked it
i read the entire book over one beach day this weekend. to be blunt, my life hasn't changed one bit after reading it. It has its moments, to be sure, and there are clever characterizations and dialogue, but it was like reading a long and not very eventful play. I imagine the book was quite original for its time, but it's a pleasant read now, with no dramatic insights. ...more
Aug 06, 2012 added it
Shelves: i-quit
i'm forgoing a rating, as my inability to finish was not schuyler but the rampant typos in the first hundred pages. ever a stickler, despite the humorous and lascivious underpinnings i usually go in for, i had to call it a day. ...more
Jun 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
Impressionistic and enjoyable, this short novel felt a bit like a lighter take on Yates' Revolutionary Road. The characters interactions and reactions managed to feel real, yet the book successfully retained a certain degree of gloss that gave it the sort of Mad Men-era style it captures. ...more
Jul 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Always interesting to see what happens when a gifted poet turns to prose. This is another NYRB find. Cheeveresque. Laughed out loud a few times.
Nancy Dardarian
Jan 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Really a hoot. loved it.
Apr 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Surprisingly fresh and modern for something written in the '70's, with great dialogue. ...more
Dec 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
wicked and wickedly funny
Matt Walker
Jan 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
So charming. Don't let too much more time go by in your life without having read this. ...more
Mar 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'd be willing to bet a modest sum that DFW really loved this book. ...more
Bart Lomiej
rated it liked it
Apr 13, 2019
rated it it was amazing
Dec 18, 2013
Dwaine Schoner
rated it really liked it
Feb 10, 2014
rated it liked it
Oct 03, 2016
rated it it was ok
Nov 24, 2008
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NYRB Classics: What's for Dinner?, by James Schuyler 1 8 Oct 30, 2013 10:24PM  

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