Title: Heads in Beds
Author: Jacob Tomsky
Pages: 256 (240 on Nook ebook)
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday
Pub. Date: 20 November 2012
Review Note: This is a revision of a now-removed review I did of this book in December 2012. I purchased this book as an ebook for my Nook Tablet.
This has actually been driving me a little crazy. I got some positive responses to my review of Heads in Beds…and it’s nice to have people read a review I have written and enjoy it.
Here’s the thing, though: for the first time, I felt like a bit of a fraud. Let me explain:
Part of why I have such enthusiasm for the possibilities that lay ahead for me (food blogging and opening up this blog for other facets of my life) is because I’ll be starting from a relative clean slate on those other topics. I have no real history in writing about food or restaurants, really. I did maybe two entries that highlighted a “foodie” kind of thing before I embarked on my Twenty/20 Project. Therefore, I was writing from my experience only, and on a self-imposed but closely adhered to daily deadline.
As for other facets of my life…that’s also a relatively clean slate. Anytime I have written about an experience I’ve had that has nothing whatever to do with books, I wrote from a place of more honesty than I ever have with book reviewing.
That doesn’t mean that my reviews have not been honest. They have. You’ll notice though, I have largely not been negative in my reviews. At first, it wasn’t a conscious choice really. It kind of happened that way. Slowly but surely, it became a choice. I was interested in being extraordinarily diplomatic with my reviews. There is a very thin line between being diplomatic and downright withholding my gut reaction.
My review for Heads in Beds is perhaps the first time in my reviewing life that I felt less like a diplomat and more like a total fraud. I felt like a fraud because I was too interested in having a review posted after a lengthy absence on here, and I therefore wrote it without too much thought. Sometimes, that’s a good thing – it forces me to not over-think it. However, some books produce a bit of a mixed response, and it’s only through allowing it to sit for at least a few days to formulate a review that is more true to my reaction. This is how I failed with Heads in Beds.
As I had said in the original review, I had become interested in the book largely because I was taken with his interview on Good Morning America. I was expecting a certain tone in the book, I suppose. A tone that was perhaps bratty and snarky, but not necessarily devious and overly vulgar. I stand by my original viewpoint that this book is kind of like that friend that you might have that tells great stories about people at work…and that you might wonder what they would say about you when you’re not around. It falls squarely in the “guilty pleasure” realm for sure.
Shamefully, I am only now admitting that this book was just not for me.
The comparisons circulating that liken Heads in Beds to Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential is not exactly accurate. I can see why people would say that; there’s a lot of adult language, questionable behavior and general disdain for authority. Bourdain is kind of like that, but here’s the thing – Bourdain loved his profession…whole-heartedly. Pretty sure nobody would argue with me on that point. He might be a brat, but he loved his job. He loved his co-workers…those in the trenches of claustrophobic, over-heated kitchens. There was a certain tone of camaraderie between himself and his peers.
Also? He didn’t actively advocate the blatant ripping off of the restaurant business. He let you glimpse it’s “seedy underbelly”, but he didn’t give you instructions on how to dine-and-dash effectively.
Tomsky’s crime in this book, in my very honest opinion, is that he pretty much gives the reader a guidebook on how to rip off hotels. Granted, the book is more than that, but the “tips” are there. Bold as day. It is perhaps because I have friends that have worked (or are working) in the hospitality industry, but that part of the book never set well with me. In my eagerness for diplomacy, I wrongly ignored that part of my reaction to the book. I’m actually more than a little embarrassed that I did that.
The parts of this book that aren’t all that bad are some of the stories he told. Unfortunately, his attitude is just abominable overall. There’s several portions of the book where he gives in to self-pity and frankly, it wears on the reader after a while.
As for the language in the book, it’s not for kids. This alone doesn’t really bother me much. Adult language can punctuate situations and describe certain life experiences in a way that cleaner language just can’t. Sometimes, someone really isn’t a jerk – they really are an asshole. So the language didn’t bother me. What bothered me was that he seemed to be using it to show what a bad-ass he was…and it sort of felt…inauthentic to me. Very much in the vein of “he’s trying a little hard here“.
Obviously, I wasn’t there, so how would I know? But to this outsider, someone who has no experience in the hospitality industry, it came off as an expression of being overly bitter. It kind of made me wonder why he wrote it the way that he did. His GMA interview, and subsequent publicity for the book is like listening to a completely different person. I wondered why there was such a divide between his “public” persona and this bitter, foul-mouthed brat in the book.
Truth be told, if one believes that his life was even half as difficult as the book says, then I can understand how someone could become bitter. It just felt like if he had harnessed the bad stuff and told his story in a different way, maybe the book could have come out a little better.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars. Snarky and bratty, with a good dosage of adult language. Can be entertaining, but perhaps would have benefitted from a bit more editing.