Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Last Night at the Lobster

The evening book group is meeting on Tuesday, April 13 at 7:30 p.m. to discuss Stewart O'Nan's Last Night at the Lobster, a very short novel in present tense that describes the last, snowy day that a Red Lobster is open for business. Its manager, Manny, is a sympathetic hero, but it's evident from the start that his compulsion to do everything by the book (even signalling his turns in the deserted mall parking lot in the first pages of the book) isn't going to save him. As Stewart O'Nan explains,
Darden doesn’t sell franchises, so a manager of a Red Lobster or Olive Garden has all the daily responsibilities of an owner but none of the privileges. He or she can put all of his or her hard work and pride into the place and have it snatched away at the whim of the home office.

(from the Penguin interview with Stewart O'Nan. Another interesting part of this interview was whether O'Nan references The Old Man and the Sea when he describes the stuffed marlin Manny thought about taking at the end of the night).

Last Night at the Lobster is so exacting in every detail, it's like an anthropological study of Red Lobster, both the employees and the customers. I swear that Manny's old wrestling coach, a lunch regular, comes by BHPL afterwards to check his email.

You can find the discussion questions for the book here. Barnes and Noble interviewed O'Nan a few years ago here.

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