No Shoes, No Shirt, No Fiction: Let’s Get Out of the Restaurant

This post by Rebecca Makkai originally appeared on Ploughshares on 8/4/14.

I need to tell you something,” he said. He twirled his spaghetti around his fork.

She sipped her wine. “What is it?”

“Well.” He shoved the tangle of spaghetti in his mouth and chewed.

She fiddled with her spoon.

Suddenly, the waitress appeared. She had a grease stain on her apron. Her nametag read Renee. She symbolized harsh reality. “Can I get you somethin’ more, hon?”

He smiled and shook his head. He returned to his spaghetti. The waitress walked off, probably thinking about her ex-husband.

“What is it?” she asked him, tearing off a hunk of bread.

“I think,” he said, stirring his spaghetti in its blood-red sauce, “that we should stop perfunctorily setting fictional scenes in restaurants.”

Okay, a major caveat: Both of my novels have restaurant scenes. If you write, you’ve probably set scenes in diners, in coffee shops, in cafés, in bars, in fancy French bistros.

Here’s why you do it, why I do it, why we all do it:

-The restaurant is a semi-private, semi-public space. People can have a conversation, but there’s always the threat of exposure, of embarrassment.


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