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Garner serves up the perfect proportions of food and literature. Nothing escapes the eye of this veteran book critic in this soup to nuts anecdotal reportage. In 6 chapters, Garner strips away the pretense surrounding fast food, biscuits fried in butter, and pb&j. If you're looking for haute cuisine, not here. And oh, Garner likes his martinis shaken not stirred. Bon Appetit!
- Ellen— From Upstairs Delicatessen (Staff Pick)
Garner gathers a literary chorus to capture the joys of reading and eating in this comic, personal classic.
Reading and eating, like Krazy and Ignatz, Sturm und Drang, prosciutto and melon, Simon and Schuster, and radishes and butter, have always, for me, simply gone together. The book you’re holding is a product of these combined gluttonies.
Dwight Garner, the beloved New York Times critic and the author of Garner’s Quotations, serves up the intertwined pleasures of books and food. The product of a lifetime of obsessively reading, eating, and every combination therein, The Upstairs Delicatessen: On Eating, Reading, Reading About Eating, and Eating While Reading is a charming, emotional memoir, one that only Garner could write. In it, he records the voices of great writers and the stories from his life that fill his mind as he moves through the sections of the day and of this book: breakfast, lunch, shopping, the occasional nap, drinking, and dinner.
Through his lifelong infatuation with these twin joys, we meet the man behind the pages and the plates, and a portrait of Garner, eager and insatiable, emerges. He writes with tenderness and humor about his mayonnaise-laden childhood in West Virginia and Naples, Florida (and about his father’s famous peanut butter and pickle sandwich), his mind-opening marriage to a chef from a foodie family (“Cree grew up taking leftover frog legs to school in her lunch box”), and the words and dishes closest to his heart. This is a book to be savored, though it may just whet your appetite for more.
Named a Best Book of 2023 by Amazon, Milk Street, Powell Books, and Daily Mail
“For those of us who live to read and eat, this book is a feast.” —Jennifer Reese, The New York Times
"The Upstairs Delicatessen, [Garner's] delightful, quote-stuffed memoir, tracks the evolution of his reading habits ('Autobiography, for me, quickly edges into bibliography') and pairs that appetite with another, for food . . . what makes it as satisfying as that midnight cheeseburger, is the same formula that keeps Garner’s reviews fresh and entertaining week after week: his eagerness to amuse and the rolling canter of his prose–embellished, always, by his notorious addiction to metaphor." —Adam Begley, Times Literary Supplement
“Memoir, thoughts about food, and literary criticism are stacked, in The Upstairs Delicatessen, like the bright layers of a Venetian cookie . . . One nice thing about Garner’s book is that he doesn’t just go for the classics. Younger or more recently published writers like Bryan Washington, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Anthony Veasna So all have a place at his table." —Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker
“This is one of my favorite books of all time.” –Christopher Kimball, Milk Street Radio
"This very funny book, partly autobiographical and wholly delectable, was recommended by a novelist friend. Which is fitting, as Garner is a book critic for The New York Times and he writes of the endless pleasures of food and reading. His writing is as cool and elegant as a tall glass of milk, his literary references both sacred and profane. For me, he’s up there with A J Liebling and Calvin Trillin as an American food-writing master. More, please." —Tom Parker Bowles, Daily Mail
“Garner, whose book reviews are a highlight of the Times culture pages, serves up a commonplace book composed of literary quotations, advice for living, recipes, and a heaping side order of memoir. . . . Garner’s mind—his 'upstairs delicatessen'—is generous, excellent company.” —The New Yorker
"One of the most eccentric memoirs I’ve read in years: Garner, a longtime New York Times critic, boils (dices and purées) his existence down to a pair of obsessions—books and food—so completely, it’s both honest and hard to say where the man ends and M.F.K. Fisher begins." —Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune
"Dwight Garner is a food writer . . . and perhaps that is too limiting a term for him . . . of the first order!" —Norman Van Aken
"The phrase “upstairs delicatessen” was coined by Beat critic Seymour Krim to describe memory, and Garner raids his to serve up a feast of vivid recollections personal and literary . . . All converges in this zesty concoction of funny and poignant autobiographical anecdotes, incisive and wide-ranging reflections, and striking, often hilarious quotes from a literary smorgasbord." —Donna Seaman, Booklist (Starred Review)
"An 'omnidirectionally hungry human being,' Garner has always paid attention to what has entered and exited the mouths and minds of writers. The narrative passes seamlessly between quotes and stories of literary and cultural greats, and this undeniably enjoyable wander through digestive habit has absurd and hilarious heights . . . Garner’s wit and dexterity with a quote will keep any reader with something tasty to eat or drink in hand captivated . . . A wonderful mix of culinary memoir, literary reference, how-to in indulgence. Grab some snacks and dig in." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Delicious. Garner dishes up a plethora of tasty morsels for literary foodies to nosh on.” —Publishers Weekly