If you spend more time in Starbucks than is healthy for your adrenals, read P.J. O’Rourke’s review of Taylor Clark’s Starbucked . As you might expect from Mr. O’Rourke, the critique is probably more entertaining than the book under discussion.

O’Rourke gives Clark high marks for restraining his admitted biases and admitting that Starbucks is not what’s ailing the world—even the caffeinated part of it. What’s most interesting about the reviewer’s take is that he seems more impressed by the writer than by the work, discerning personal growth with every chapter completed.

I saw Mr. Clark on Book TV recently, reading from his tome. While I expected a diatribe about globalization and the havoc corporate chains wreak on small businesses and local economies, his interpretation of Starbucks’ influence is more nuanced and balanced. And yet, as O’Rourke points out, Clark does discuss “rumors that Starbucks deliberately sells bitter, burnt-tasting coffee so that customers will order its more expensive syrupy, milky concoctions.” Call me a cockeyed paranoiac, but I would not be surprised if that were the case.

I regularly buy the blandest, simplest concoction they offer—a tall house blend—and it is uniformly awful. It tastes like week-old espresso filtered through the Boston Strangler’s stocking cap. And yet there I am, virtually every morning. “Why?” I ask myself. It must be the communal environment, the equable, peaceable ambience, like the inevitable teenager on her cell phone two feet from my head: “It was like, and then I’m like, and then he’s like, and then like, what the—” Or the family of twelve crowded around a table meant for two carving up a biscotti into roughly corresponding crumblets. Or Edwin McDweeb on his laptop, the power cord strung through the legs of half a dozen unsuspecting and soon-to-be tripped-up patrons, no doubt intercepting someone’s credit card security code from the unencrypted ether.

I must definitely reconsider my routine . . .

Articles by Anthony Sacramone

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