In Mississippi, people tweet about cake and cookies an awful lot; in Colorado, it’s noodles. In Mississippi, the most-tweeted activity is eating; in Colorado, it’s running, skiing, hiking, snowboarding, and biking, in that order. In other words, the two states fall on opposite ends of the behavior spectrum. If you were to assign a caloric value to every food mentioned in every tweet by the citizens of the United States and a calories-burned value to every activity, and then totaled them up, you would find that Colorado tweets the best caloric ratio in the country and Mississippi the worst.
Sure, you’d be forgiven for doubting people’s honesty on Twitter. On those rare occasions when I destroy an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s, I most assuredly do not tweet about it. Likewise, I don’t reach for my phone every time I strap on a pair of skis.
And yet there’s this: Mississippi has the worst rate of diabetes and heart disease in the country and Colorado has the best. Mississippi has the second-highest percentage of obesity; Colorado has the lowest. Mississippi has the worst life expectancy in the country; Colorado is near the top. Perhaps we are being more honest on social media than we think. And perhaps social media has more to tell us about the state of the country than we realize.
What is going on when a book simply makes no sense to you? Perhaps a classic that everyone praises. Or something new you’re being asked to review, something a publisher has warmly recommended.
I don’t mean that you find the style tiresome, or the going slow; simply that the characters, their reflections, their priorities, the way they interact, do not really add up. You feel you’re missing them in the dark. And your inevitable reaction, especially if you are an experienced reader, is that this must be the author’s fault. He or she is not a good observer of life.
But the exceptional competence and warmth of Noma’s staff was proof of a shift in service philosophy I’ve noticed in recent years — a reaction to the changing relationship between restaurant and customer. At dining’s loftiest cathedrals, the fulcrums on which spectacular hospitality pivot have subtly recalibrated. If the underlying motto of luxe hospitality has always been "let us take care of you," the finest practitioners now convey an additional message: "We're in it together." That attitude isn't meant to let service pros shirk their responsibilities. Instead it acknowledges the improvisational nature of genuine interaction.
Even in the best restaurants, things go wrong. Platters topple. Glasses break. Preferences are forgotten. Words are misunderstood. The finest hospitality pros I’ve seen in action understand that they can’t control what they can’t control; they can only control their reaction. And so they choose to react with sincerity, imagination, and diffusing levity.
Any description of H(a)ppy can only fail to do justice to its wildness and its honesty. It is a superb novel by a genuinely experimental and committed novelist. In Barker’s hand, narrative, however fragile, not only survives but thrives.