Wednesday, April 04, 2007

On Food...and Drink

Adam Gopnik writes in next week's issue of the New Yorker:

There are four kinds of food in books: food that is served by an author to characters who are not expected to taste it; food that is served by an author to characters in order to show who they are; food an author cooks for characters in order to eat it with them; and, last (and most recent), food that an author cooks for characters but actually serves to the reader.

I can't remember the last time I read about food in a novel, which may be because the food was often just "Styrofoam peanuts in the packaging" of the novel's narrative. I can, however, recall the first sentence of a novel I've just started:

Jack Reacher ordered espresso, double, no peel, no cube, foam cup, no china, and before it arrived at his table he saw a man's life change forever.

I know Gopnik's talking about food not drink, but I think it's a prime example of a description that falls into the second category. Nothing could describe Jack Reacher, the loner, bare-minimum hero of Lee Child's thriller The Hard Way, better than that order of espresso.