Posted 07 August 2002 - 10:17 PM
Great question, Lesley C. As you well know, the question of who one's readers are--even if it's only one imaginary "ideal reader"--is important to every writer. In writing this book, I was hoping to find interested readers not only in people who make food their life, whether they work in the restaurant business, write about food, or are passionate about food, but also anyone who is simply curious about what happens behind the scenes in a restaurant. For instance, many people like to watch behind-the-scenes looks at how special effects are done in movies, even if they're not in the film business or even film buffs. I was hoping to appeal to the kind of reader who is interested in microcosms, in the minutae of a particular world. Although I never thought I was interested in geology, I was fascinated by John McPhee's writing about it. And although I never thought there could ever be enough of interest about the subject of oranges, McPhee, again, made that fascinating. That's the kind of thing I was aspiring to. And since restaurant dining has become so hugely important in our culture, I hoped that there would be a natural gravitation to a book like this.
What I didn't expect was that there would be readers who actually have little or no interest in food and fine dining who would be curious enough to read the book--these have been some of my most engaged readers, and those I've found have not been in New York.
Each time I publish a book, I hope against hope that there will be even just one critic who really "gets" the book, and this time I've been fortunate in that regard. JoAnn C. Gutin, an anthropologist who reviewed the book for N.Y. Newsday, probably represents my ideal reader better than anyone. She wrote:
"Leslie Brenner's absorbing "The Fourth Star"...is about fancy food, sure. But more than that, it's a kind of hymn to teamwork and the pursuit of excellence. The context of the pursuit hardly matters: This book could be about an orchestra or a polar expedition or the Belmont Stakes and the emotions would be the same."