2014's fast food atrocities
Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.
There are countless ways to check out of your everyday life, and Claire Newbold comes up with a fascinating one in Lisa Zeidner’s compelling new novel, “Layover.” Claire is still numb from the death of her young son several years earlier, and her busy, affluent suburban life feels drained of meaning. When her husband confesses a brief affair she’s primed to do something drastic. She’s on the road a lot anyway for her job selling medical equipment, and she finds herself sneaking into hotel rooms without checking in, crawling into the spaces of the familiar business traveler’s routine. “No one would ever suspect me of fraud,” she says the first time, “though I know enough about the rhythms of that hotel, the staff’s frenzies and downtimes, the secret pockets, to take advantage.”
In the netherworld of small-city chain hotels, Claire swims laps, orders from room service, sleeps at odd hours. Hers is an intriguing alienation: Rather than seeing other people as strange and unknowable, she enters a state of heightened awareness in which she can quickly sum up — and dismiss — anyone she comes into contact with. “In a flash I could tell who loved their wives, who loved their work. Who had gotten laid, who had just spent huge sums of company money in lieu of getting laid. Who was smart as a fox, who dumb as dirt. Who was lonely, empty, afraid.” Zeidner has a keen ear for the wired rhythms of modern life, and she creates a sped-up, fed-up voice for Claire that’s also quite poignant. Claire is at once knowing and willing to be unguarded, and we enter her inner world with an easy, exhilarating intimacy.
When Claire is caught at her game in one of her usual hotels, she checks into the Four Seasons in Philadelphia. There, she shifts into an even more provocative mode, nearing a nervous collapse as she sets about reassembling her emotional life. She starts by concocting a hilarious hatchet-job portrayal of her husband’s lover and the lover’s husband, a poet (Zeidner has published two books of poetry as well as three other novels, and she has some wicked fun with this shadow character, even giving us a couple of his poems for Claire to take apart mercilessly). Perhaps unsurprisingly, her recovery begins in earnest only when she sets out to explore some new sexual territory of her own.
Zeidner has created an exemplary middle-aged heroine, wised up to life’s ridiculousness but still, in the end, capable of experiencing its blessings. “My pleasure felt distinctly intelligent,” Claire says of one sexual episode, and the line captures something of the experience of reading the novel. “Layover” may lean too hard on some stock components of female loss-
Maria Russo has been a writer and editor at The Los Angeles Times, The New York Observer and Salon, and is a regular contributor to the New York Times Book Review.More Maria Russo.
Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.
KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.
Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.
Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.
Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.