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The Upstairs Delicatessen: On Eating, Reading, Reading about Eating, and Eating while Reading

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by Dwight Garner
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As a child who would rather stay inside reading while consuming a sleeve of Hydrox cookies, Dwight Garner found kinship via the written word with others similarly inclined, from Frank Conroy to Dorothy Allison, John Updike to Tina Brown.

Nearly from the beginning, Garner’s tastes were slightly at odds with the figures he admired, characters and authors alike. This also happened with significant people in his life.  Part of his story in this almost-memoir is coming to terms with those divergences.  Honestly, given the breadth of Garner’s reading, he must have gone mad if he hadn’t. How many of us can reconcile the breakfast advice of Henry James and Hunter S. Thompson?

Most of us don’t have Garner’s advantage of making his living as a book critic. Erudite as he is, he’s no elitist, confessing to such sins as an affection for peanut butter and pickle sandwiches, and gossiping happily about other people’s equally innocent weaknesses. 

His appreciation for writers is, if anything, more expansive than his love for food. Reading his references to them and brief quotations from their work is like being offered a sampler platter that whets one’s appetite for far more than it’s possible to consume. 

An effective antidote to literary and culinary ennui.


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