Nach was fortunate enough to be able to say, “Oh sure, I knew George Lang.” And that might mean something, except for the fact that everyone seemed to have known George Lang, and, to be sure, George Lang (1924–2011) knew everyone. Musician, restaurateur, impresario, storyteller without peer, entrepreneur, humorist, and endowed with a dozen more designations, this charming, volatile HUNGARIAN, as he readily lets everyone know, was a bit short in stature, but, substantiating the cliche, definitely larger than life. Even before this book made its appearance in 1998, he had called on some of his friends for supporting words—Elie Wiesel, Paul Newman, David Halberstam, William Safire, George Soros, and Walter Cronkite.
Here he brings his skills as a raconteur to the highest level. Combining with astonishing skill a crazy quilt of anecdotes and structured narrative, he presents us not an autobiography but a succession of stories that draw us on, entertain us, give us glimpses of a world that few of us could have experienced, and introduces us to a breathtaking array of friends and—occasionally—antagonists.
Especially attractive, of course, for those who have dealings with the universe of food will be the material on his work in catering and restaurants, most notably his two great culinary shrines, the Café des Artistes in New York and Gundel in Budapest. And, of course, the people who he encountered along the way, from chefs and writers to those like himself, lovers of the good life in all respects.
Published by Knopf, the book is exquisitely designed, with many interesting personal photographs scattered through the text. All of the display type—from the title page to the chapter titles—is done in bold calligraphy. It may surprise no one who knew George Lang that he was an accomplished calligrapher and that all of that material is his own work. The copy we offer is an unused first edition in Fine condition.