This week’s reading:
Food Politics, Marion Nestle
In Persuasion Nation, George Saunders
Platinum Pohl, Frederick Pohl
Ironically, I was on spring break this week, which ought to have meant lots of wonderful reading. In practice, it meant spending Monday in San Francisco (admittedly, riding around in a convertible and getting a wonderful tan), Tuesday totally jetlagged, Wednesday procrastinating, and yesterday and today frantically doing my midterms from last week. Oy.
On the other hand, what I did manage to read was quite excellent! Food Politics took me about four days to get through, which for me is quite a lot. It’s not only long, but extremely dense. Any book that’s got an entire chapter on the regulation of nutritional supplements says slog. Even if the subject matter is sometimes arcane, though, I was pleasantly surprised by how readable Nestle made it and how well-written the whole thing was. The book takes on the USDA, the FDA, the FTC and the food industry, and looks at the history and the politics that make our nutrition landscape look the way it does. Since I’m working on a major nutrition project, and I also have always struggled with my weight, I found this book to be very compelling. If you weren’t sure why it matters that the USDA rather than NIH produces our country’s health recommendations, read Food Politics. By the time you’re done, you won’t just know why that’s so, but you’ll care a hell of a lot.
George Saunders was perhaps the perfect thing to read next! I’d never read him before, but I rather liked his endlessly caustic, cynical voice ripping our media culture to shreds. My favorite story, “Jon,” features a kid raised from birth to rate products and commercials - a sort of marketing fatted calf. But really, all the stories are equally inventive, and his rant on “Same-ish Sex Marriage” is worth the cover price all by itself.
Finally, I will publicly admit that I’ve been a fool. I’d always avoided Frederick Pohl because I lumped him into the “good science, bad writing” category with people like, oh, Stephen Baxter. Wow, was I wrong! I need to read everything this man has ever written. His grasp of politics, society, human nature, and, yes, writing is impeccable. What I like the most is the unusual settings he chooses for his stories. One’s set inside a maximum-security future prison; another takes place on a luxury island resort. There’s even a time-travel baseball story! To make a long story short, Heechee saga, here I come!
Shabbat Shalom, everyone! I’m going to go pace up and down and wait to get my hands on more Pohl!