Stephen's Reviews > The Man Who Ate the World: In Search of the Perfect Dinner

The Man Who Ate the World by Jay Rayner
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's review
Jul 25, 2011

did not like it
Read in May, 2009

Jay Rayner has written only one book -- this one -- and, if there is Mercy in the Universe, he will not write another, at least until he gets his head right. This is easily the most depressing book I have read in many years. Each chapter recounts a visit to a city which is "big" in the culinary world; each was more depressing than the last. The chapter on Las Vegas touched not only on the great food available in that city but on the falsity, the ostentatiousness, the unreality and pretense of the place. The chapter on Moscow was even darker, haunted by the role of organized crime in extorting protection money from restaurants, the plebian tastes of Russians, and the scarcity of quality food to cook and eat. The chapter on Dubai read more like an expose of the unconscionable living conditions of the international workers imported to build the opulent hotels and playgrounds for the global rich. So I quit. I gave him 120 pages; he can keep the rest. I almost never set aside a book once I have begun to read it. A willed optimism has allowed me to press on to the last page of some really poor reads. Rayner spent a decade as a newspaper reporter covering murder, war, pestilence, fraud and human misery. His next decade was as the restaurant critic for the London Observer. The poor fellow needs to get religion or take psychotropic drugs to improve the ugly myopism through which he sees the world. Until he does, I will neither buy nor read another of his books.
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Petabyte I think his ugly myopia, as you put it - is part of his charm. Where Anthony Bourdain is pretty dark and rugged in his own way, he remembers the magic of good food/good dining; and Rayner sees another side of it.


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