Can Zagat survive the rise of electronic communication?
The fine folks at Zagat sent me an early copy of their latest little red book. It's friendlier than Mao's effort, but it's beginning to feel similarly dated. The problem is that the book sounds like it's making fun of me.
The rise of the Internet -- not to mention of snark -- has meant that people spend a lot of time being sarcastic in print. One of the ways they signal their sarcasm is to put quotation marks around words that aren't direct quotes. For instance: Glenn Beck had a "thought" about American politics.
Zagat, famously, is made up almost entirely of quotes. That means that a lot of words that don't seem to be direct quotations actually are. But without a line identifying the speaker, or any good reason for the words to be confined between quotation marks, they just come off as sardonic. For instance, a review of Johnny's Half Shell reads:
A 2006 move to "the Hill" meant "more tables" for "the power crowd" at this New American seafooder set in spacious "upscale" digs with polished wood floors, white tile accents, and "lovely" outdoor seating eyeing the Capitol.
Zagat isn't making a joke about Johnny's moving to the Hill: the new address is 400 N. Capitol St. Nor are they implying something by saying there are "more tables" or noting the "lovely" seating. But it sure reads like they are. Indeed, the whole book sounds like it was written by this guy:
Maybe it's time to drop the quotations?
November 9, 2009; 5:40 PM ET
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