An excellent insight into the food chain from farm (read: feedlot) to fast food tabletop.
It's not a pleasant subject to read, but Schlosser does an e...moreAn excellent insight into the food chain from farm (read: feedlot) to fast food tabletop.
It's not a pleasant subject to read, but Schlosser does an excellent job in sticking to the hard facts and presenting them in an understandable (digestible?) manner. The in-depth (but not exhausting) exposé of the fast-food business - from the manner in which animals are raised & slaughtered, what exactly they are fed, to the working conditions of employees in slaughterhouses & the fast-food outlets themselves - presents a troubling picture.
Rather than paint a bleak future, Schlosser remains hopeful, and he explains how change can be brought about. The power does indeed lie with the consumer, and Schlosser cites several examples where businesses practices changed either because of consumer action, or due to proactive steps taken by the industry itself in anticipation of consumer disapproval. If the situation that Schlosser portrays is an ugly one, it's because we as consumers are continuing to vote for it at the register.
Since the publication of F.F.N. there have been some changes: the banning of trans-fat oils in U.S. restaurants, the decision by fast food chains not to use (some) bioengineered crops, the bill to remove sugar-laden sodas from U.S. school's vending machines, Jamie Oliver's campaign to improve school meals, etc.
- Excerpt on the use of flavor additives. This was one of the most interesting segments of the book, as it is a privileged peek into the almost invisible industry of 'natural' & artificial flavors and fragrances. (less)
Despite the harrowing details, there is enough wry humor and understatement to balance out the mood of Brannaman's narrative. His bare-bones account o...moreDespite the harrowing details, there is enough wry humor and understatement to balance out the mood of Brannaman's narrative. His bare-bones account of his painful formative years, from abuse to enforced orphanhood to the separation by his first wife Adrian, is marked by spare language, self-control, and even self-deprecation - trademarks of the American Midwestern temperament. There is something almost quaint about his outlook on life and his trove of back country wisdoms, as if he harks back to an era long gone. Judging from the photographic documents, he sure likes to dress for the part. But that's really how he is; those folksy apothegms obviously come naturally to him. (less)
Overall the book reads OK; the writing may not be outstanding or particularly detailed, but it's a pleasant read. There wasn't anything particularly o...moreOverall the book reads OK; the writing may not be outstanding or particularly detailed, but it's a pleasant read. There wasn't anything particularly offputting about Death at La Fenice except for its predictability. (view spoiler)[The Nazi/Nazi sympathizer trope follows the usual formula. Unfortunally I had guessed who had administered the poison from the moment the word cyanide was mentioned, and I stuck to this conviction throughout the rest of the novel. There's basically one cinematic/literary formula involving Nazis and cyanide, and Donna Leon chose to stick to it, instead of offering a variation. And the why...Well, even when that was revealed in the end, that too was a stereotypical Nazi predilection apparently popular in bestselling crime novels. (hide spoiler)] A few passages reminded me of Petros Markaris' style, specifically in the scenes and dialogue between Brunetti and his wife, children, and in-laws. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This is a very engaging read, once you start you just can't seem to put the book down. It's hard to classify its genre, though. Is it a murder mystery...moreThis is a very engaging read, once you start you just can't seem to put the book down. It's hard to classify its genre, though. Is it a murder mystery, a crime thriller? A post-modern parody of said genres? There are a myriad references to literary/TV/cinematic genres - chick-lit women, forensic TV dramas, the epistolary novel, the diary form, noir cinema, children's books, pop psychology journalism, etc. Aside: What does Haruki Murakami have to do with the parting gift Amy's parents give her as she leaves NYC for the South? It's hard to take the narrators at face value when they themselves are perpetually self-referencing and deconstructing their very own selves. "Did you like Diary Amy?" "This is the point in the story where I tell you I have...." Halfway through the book I lost interest in all the blather, the he said/she said, did he/didn't she business. What caught my attention instead was the Gothic atmosphere of post-economic crisis American suburbia: the residential complex at risk of being overrun by jungle weeds and raccoons, the creepy wooden shed no one wants to approach, the empty shopping mall inhabited by ogres and ghosts, the toxic discarded styrofoam cups lining the shores of the lake, the highway robbers, Bluebeard luring the fair maiden with his promises of riches and trapping her in his remote abode.... It's all there, but I wanted more of it!(less)
The edition I read totals 185 pages, but only 122 of those comprise the text proper of The Vagina Monologues. There is a prologue (by Gloria Steinem)...moreThe edition I read totals 185 pages, but only 122 of those comprise the text proper of The Vagina Monologues. There is a prologue (by Gloria Steinem) as well as an introduction (by Eve Ensler). For some inexplicable reason, the Contents page is placed between the prologue and the introduction (that is, btwn pages xix & xxiii)! The last pages about the V-Day campaign and the compilation of letters and stories are, quite frankly, overkill. Sure, they are useful as a documentation of the social/historical phenomenon that is TVM - the testimonies of the performers involved in the annual celebrations, and the varied reactions to the performances - but to individual passive readers of the text (rather than an involved & communal audience) there is no absolute or immediate correlation between the text and the performance. They are two separate experiences, and not necessarily comparable. As a reader of the text I did not get particularly moved in the way that either viewers or performers of the monologues seem to have been. The text is brief, and I could not help but feel that it was simplified, as if the intention was to make it as accessible as possible. It was moving and poetic at times, but it was also a rather simplified kind of poetry, with metaphors and imagery that was quotidian rather than literary. And to be honest, I am left wondering why there is absolutely no mention of the vagina's omnipresence in today's thriving porn industry. (less)
For the most part this was a disappointing read. It starts off with all sorts of lit-crit ambitions but it only goes so far. It's as if the author has...moreFor the most part this was a disappointing read. It starts off with all sorts of lit-crit ambitions but it only goes so far. It's as if the author has, after first consulting a grad-course syllabus on deconstruction, listed the standard titles and referred to a smattering of key concepts, but eventually lost interest in the metafictional possibilities. Despite all the name & title dropping, there is a lack of depth to the novel, on many counts - theme, characterization, plot. After graduating from college, Mitchell and Leonard embark on separate but parallel journeys, the quintessential American-male-travels-to-Europe-(and beyond)-for-enlightenment trope. Madeleine is the connecting link between the two male adversaries. Her trajectory does not follow its own thrust; she merely bounces off one male and then the other, in a zigzag pattern. I read on, hoping Madeleine would eventually chart her own course, but she apparently can't, or won't. I read on, hoping all those references to Derrida, Austen, Joyce, etc. would lead to an eventual literary epiphany of some sort, but it seems all three characters behave like fish out of water once they're out of school, and the exposition reverts to a one dimensional plot development with not much else happening re the text, imagery, literary references, allusions, etc. to provide the novel with weight or depth. I read on, hoping the change of setting from America to Europe (& India) would inform in a fresh, new way but it only was a paint-by-numbers route following the standard stops and commentary by the characters. (Here I could also mention that the author apparently has poor knowledge of the geography of Greece, for he describes a most improbable route that Mitchell and Larry undertake. The ferries between Italy and Greece do not dock at Piraeus. Andritsena is not a stop along the road between Corinth and the Mani region; it requires a considerable detour up the mountains. Not to mention that the condition of roads & public transport in southern Greece, back in the early 1980's, would have been almost as primitive as those of India, but Mitchell or Larry didn't remark at all on this.) Overall I got the impression that Eugenides was churning out a half-hearted concept of a novel.(less)
The plot (the body of a murdered American serviceman found floating in a Venice canal leads Brunetti to investigate the goings-on at the US military base nearby) is set firmly in the present - well, just after the first Gulf War, to be exact - allowing the author to touch on current international relations and assorted relevant socio-political topics: US military imperialism, the fall of the European Eastern bloc, environmental concerns, the dealings btwn governments and criminal cartels, terrorism, women in the professions, etc.
As Brunetti traverses the city (more often than in the first volume), there are numerous references to bars, canals, campos, islets, boat lines, etc. He has occasion to visit the home of a working class family, illustrating the commonplace in a city otherwise known primarily for its idealized romantic past.
The writing is an improvement, with better flowing dialogue, and Brunetti is more talkative than his monosyllabic replies typical of the first volume (eg. "Either. Both.").
Again, there are numerous references to literature; this time to Jane Eyre, and of course Henry James once more. I even found a sentence with typically Jamesian structure -> "Signora Concetta Ruffolo lived, her son Guiseppe sharing it with her during those brief periods when he was not incarcerated, in a two-room apartment near Campo San Boldo, an area of the city characterized by proximity to the severed tower of that church, to no convenient vaporetto stop, and, if one is but willing to expand the definition of the word 'proximity', to the church of San Simeone Piccolo, where Sunday mass is still said, in open protest to such concepts such as modernity or relevance, in Latin."
Unfortunately, there are some editorial issues with this Penguin edition (ISBN 0143034820, ISBN13 9780143034827). In a list itemizing the American foodstuffs brought in especially for the US troops, the text reads "crisps." The ship Karin B is repeatedly mispelled, and there are several typos, the most obvious one being "From another tin, she took sweets wrapped in violent-coloured foil and stacked them on another plate."(less)