At its best, Yelp help can help you find a lunch that won't ruin your day. At its worse, the website is, if not a petri dish for extortion, a willful enabler of bad, whiney writers. The first big problem is, according to a judge, no longer up for debate, but the second begs for a solution. That's where Cormac McCarthy comes in.
No, the reclusive 78-year-old author of Blood Meridian and The Road has not abandoned grand Western mythologies and apocalyptic visions and turned his typewriter toward the crafting of spare, grim Yelp reviews of restaurants, groceries, and clothing stores. Instead, using only slightly more punctuation than the real McCarthy probably would prefer, San Franciscan EDW Lynch has attempted to channel the writer on his newish blog Yelping With Cormac.
The latest review, very appropriately, is of a Taco Bell franchise:
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We do not hear from the man who ate the taco until November of that year, when he returned to the town on the back of a mule. The villagers gathered in the square reverently as if before them rode some great emissary. Staring with coalblack eyes at the man in his rags and on a crude cedarwood pike the halfeaten taco moldering. He dismounted and stood before them. And in a quiet voice he began to speak. The villagers overcame their fears and ancient taboos and approached him. To listen and to assure their eyes that he was of flesh and of blood. The man spoke of his trials with the taco so terrible even God could not eat it. That it had cleansed not only his gut but also his soul.
Clearly, the taco sucked. In his review of a Starbucks, "McCarthy" demonstrates his gift for heavy, quotation mark-less dialogue as two cowpokes debate the virtues of contemporary coffee:
This here's a latté.
A deluxe coffee, Wallace. Four dollars of brown gold.
Wallace leaned down and grabbed the cup from Madison's hand and took a drink. He spat it out. Goddamn, he said. Tastes like a pregnant mare's urine.
No it dont. Give it here.
Wallace wiped his face with his arm. Tastes like spent cartridges in a pickle jar.
While Lynch's blog helps, Cormac McCarthy can't save Yelp any more than his most hopeless characters can save their own damned skins. He needs other writers to keep him company, to throw their literary heft up against an avalanche of the banal, bogus, and bitter. If McCarthy is preoccupied with road food (and, curiously, Forever 21), might Raymond Chandler step in to handle dive bars, cheap lawyers, and bail bonds offices? Couldn't Miranda July do boutiques and art supply stores? Philip K. Dick could tackle science and history museums, computer repair shops, and pharmacies. Then they could all switch.