There has been a lot of discussion lately, especially within the restaurant community, about a restaurant review published on June 11th by Frank Bruni of the New York Times on Ago in Tribeca. Needless to say this was arguably the worst (as in most negative) review by the New York Times (at least that I am aware of) and yet has received the best (as in most acclaim) praise. Here is where the “artistic” relevance to this blog comes from. Is all the praise this review is receiving due to its excellent description of the restaurant? Or is it receiving praise because it has transcended its “primary purpose” (that of a review) and has become a work of literature worth reading? To the extent are more people reading this particular review because of its style, humor, and overall creativity rather than because they are curious about the restaurant?
I am particularly enjoying this issue as being one who regards both the creation of a restaurant as well as the writing of a review as artistic endeavors, or at least as having the potential to be artistic endeavors. So to that end has this review become artistically active because it has so distanced itself from having another purpose, that of informing its readership to the quality of this restaurant. But if it is failing to do that then in reality its a bad review. I’m sure many familiar with the review would defend its informative capabilities and they would probably be right to do so, however one must also acknowledge the bizarre circumstance by which the reviewer was reviewing, its one of those “the wrong person to let that happen to” kind of cases.
What interests me about this scenario is (and this may seem abstract or even dumb to some of you) that this review can almost be seen as say a film adaptation of a work of literature, but one that has surpassed the original work and established itself independently. In regards to the restaurant, Ago doesn’t really serve a purpose, this bizarre wall of wine could have occurred anywhere. What I really mean is that there is nothing unique to who the restaurant is that produces this result.
I’ve made some assumptions along the way here that lead to arguments once had on Literature’s Next Frontie, where does journalism fall in the world of art? With reviews we have a similar situation as there is a primary difference between a reviewer and a writer, that of purpose. A reviewer has a job to do that must fulfill basic requirements in order to be published, a writer is free to write what ever he or she chooses (though it better be good in order to be published, and don’t ask me what good is because since I am not a publisher I do not have to make that terrible decision).
Thus let us turn this into a discussion on two points: First, can a review be art? And if it becomes art, does it then no longer exist as a review? Second, where does this particular review fall and from where is it receiving the praise? For a more culinary crafted discussion on this review please visit Coffee Straws.