“Every Cheesecake Factory looks like what would happen if a time-traveling Italian artisan drew ancient Egypt from memory.”

Vox ruminates on the phenomenon that is The Cheesecake Factory. Bits:

Plainly describing what a Cheesecake Factory looks like to someone who has never been to one may cause them to think you’re lying or trying to trick them. That’s what happens when you invite someone to imagine the unimaginable. Who would expect that you could walk from your local mall right into a place where Egyptian columns flank Greco-Roman accents, where mosaics buttress glass fixtures that look like the Eye of Sauron? With soaring ceilings, interior palm trees, and faux-wicker chairs (but, somehow, no water feature), it is a factory only of chaotic phantasmagoria.


In my informal survey of Factory fans, it wasn’t just the memories that stood out, but the absolutely stunning variety. “It’s the ultimate our-group-can’t-agree-on-a-place restaurant,” said one responder, “A mall food court with table service.”

Patricia Lockwood on DFW

This whole piece, about The Pale King and Infinite Jest, is great, but this paragraph in particular is fanTAStic:

Time​ will tell who is an inventor and who is a tech disruptor. There was ambient pressure, for a while, to say that Wallace created a new kind of fiction. I’m not sure that’s true – the new style is always the last gasp of an old teacher, and Infinite Jest in particular is like a house party to which he’s invited all of his professors. Thomas Pynchon is in the kitchen, opening a can of expired tuna with his teeth. William Gaddis is in the den, reading ticker-tape off a version of C-Span that watches the senators go to the bathroom. Don DeLillo is three houses down, having sex with his wife. I’m not going to begrudge him a wish that the world was full of these wonderful windy oddballs, who were all entrusted with the same task: to encompass, reflect, refract. But David, some of these guys had the competitive advantage of having been personally experimented on by the US military. You’re not going to catch them. Calm down.

The final three paragraphs are outstanding as well, but I won’t steal their thunder by copying them here. Just go read the whole thing.

(Lockwood noted here previously, on John Updike, back in 2020; in my long years of failing to blog books, I realize I never wrote here of her memoir Priestdaddy from 2017, which is excellent and worth your time as well.)