What We're Reading Now: Food Blogs, Twitter Bots, and "The Noble Hustle"
I swoon for Colson Whitehead's sentences the way screaming tweens fall for Bieber ballads, so I was thrilled to see that he was adapting his fantastic 2011 piece for Grantland about playing in the World Series of Poker into a full book, The Noble Hustle. I know exactly squat about the mechanics of the game, which turns out not to matter much, as the book is really more about Whitehead's wry, somewhat nihilistic worldview (his playing gear is a sweatshirt representing The Republic of Anhedonia), and the way poker has blossomed from a niche game into a national pastime, in which lawyers, dentists, and even the occasional novelist, place their bet that this will be the moment that turns things around.
A lot of food blogs strike me as quaint, given how divorced their authors are from the day-to-day realities of running a restaurant kitchen. Which is why Molly Wizenberg's Delancey caught my eye. Wizenberg, whose Orangette is one of the earliest and best food-blog players, could have easily written a glossy cookbook about the titular restaurant she built with her then-new husband, eliding all the messy stuff in favor of pretty photos and pizza recipes. Instead, she chose to be forthright about the effect the restaurant had on her marriage, and how cooking professionally can often be a far cry from the romantic fantasy held by food-lovers who get into the business. Which is not to say there aren't pretty photos and pizza recipes, too.
After reading about the rise of Twitter bots that so closely mimic the real thing that they're able to convince whole friend groups of real people to follow them, I was all the more intrigued by the premise of Joshua Ferris' third novel, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour. It follows Paul, a dentist and semi-Luddite, who discovers that someone is impersonating him on Twitter, Facebook, and a website ... and might just be better at being Paul than Paul himself. Best known for his funny and heartbreaking Then We Came to the End, Ferris is an expert at finding the strangeness in modern conventions, and the versions of ourselves we present on social media are certainly ripe for skewering.