Marc Basset has a well-deserved reputation as a pitiless restaurant critic. When he writes a devastating review of a celebrated restaurant, the chef commits suicide, roasting himself in his own fan-assisted oven, with Basset's review pasted to the door. Suddenly Basset is moved to do something he has never done before: apologize. Startled by the widow's forgiveness and absolution, he feels unexpectedly euphoric. In an effort to maintain this newfound state of bliss, he decides to gorge himself on contrition by apologizing to every person he has ever done wrong.
And that's just the beginning.
After a series of virtuoso expressions of regret, word of Basset's mollifying power spreads, and he is tapped to become Chief Apologist for the United Nations. His job is to travel the globe in his own Gulfstream V private jet, apologizing for everything from colonialism through exploitation to slavery. It is a role that brings him fame, wealth, and access to a lot of very good chocolate. But in a world overdosing on emotion, does Marc Basset really have the stomach to become the sorriest man in history?
Built of delicate layers of heinous crime, forgiveness, and outrageous gastronomy, Jay Rayner's hilarious new novel is an arch comedy of modern appetite and etiquette.
The life of a merciless restaurant critic takes a dramatic turn when he discovers the intoxicating pleasure of penitence in this savory spoof. Moved to offer his apologies to the bereaved wife of a chef who commits suicide after reading an unforgiving review, Marc Basset has an epiphany: "I felt wonderful." Inspired, he embarks on a hunt to find all the victims of his lifelong cruelty (there are plenty) and offer them the apologies they deserve. During one especially tearful and eloquent admission of guilt, Basset's talent is recognized, and he's immediately whisked away to become the chief apologist for the U.N.'s nascent Office of Apology. Basset's new role affords him luxurious perks as he apologizes for what feels like every distasteful event in history, most of which his family has some infamous connection with. Perhaps inevitably, his triumphs turn sour, and he fears he's become a monstrous cliche machine. Rayner, the restaurant critic for the London Observer, takes a wonderfully impossible, although nowadays not completely far-fetched, notion and follows it to its conclusion with irrepressible humor and sarcasm.
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Simon & Schuster
September 05, 2005
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Excerpt from Eating Crow by Jay Rayner
I am sorry you bought this book. If it was given to you as a gift, then technically I am not required -- or even entitled -- to apologize to you. My apology should go to the original purchaser and they, in turn, should say sorry. To be honest, though, I can't be bothered with any of those rigid laws and rules anymore. I can see they are needed for diplomatic exchanges, and as a onetime exponent of the art of the international apology -- the leading exponent, I suppose -- I was constantly grateful that the Professor had gone to the bother of formulating all the laws in the first place. But they have their time and their place and this isn't one of them.
The point is, I'm sorry this book was bought. Somewhere along the line somebody has been conned by the smart-ass cover art which the art director obviously thought would set it apart from all the other guff on the bookshop shelves (and which, admittedly, did the trick, or it wouldn't be in your hands now). Beautiful trees have been destroyed needlessly to make the paper. Then there's the grievous waste of oil-based ink. And we mustn't forget the obscenely large cash advance paid on this insidious doorstop which will, inevitably, result in the publisher having to spend its remaining money on banal, dead-certain bestsellers to the exclusion of anything new, interesting, or challenging. Finally, of course, there's the waste of your time, should you be one of those people who insist upon finishing a book once they've started it, and I know there are a lot of you out there.
I admit -- and under the Professor's first law, I am required to admit -- that I am not sorry about absolutely everything in this book. There's some pretty good writing between pages 129 and 133. I like the descriptions of my father, which are honest, and I always will have a warm place in my heart for the tasting menu of chocolate dishes in chapter 29. It really was as good as I make it sound.
As for the rest of it, I think you probably get the idea by now. I'm sorry. I'm just so bloody sorry.