Friday, July 31, 2009

Fast Food Nation

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser


My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I would have given this book 4 stars if I had not read it 8 years after it was published. It is a well organized, well researched, well written attack of the fast food industry.
I have to admit my initial reaction to Schlosser's acerbic and condescending criticism was to defend the fast food industry. So what if McDonald's introduced the first "assembly" line kitchen to increase speed and efficiency? It's called innovation. So what if the majority of fast food employees are teenagers that work less than 40 hrs./wk. (so they won't qualify for benefits) and the jobs require little training? What else are teens going to do for summer jobs--and what teen wants to work 40 hrs./wk. anyway (esp. during school)? So what if the fast food industry panders to children with toys and playlands? It's a crime to try to make children happy at a restaurant? Scholsser also seems to have a deep set dislike for Disneyland, whose connection to fast food I never really understood, other than they both were born in Southern CA. He also seems to think that kids wearing cowboy clothing is really important.
But then. Then he delves into the food production issues and it is hard not to agree with Schlosser that food safty and production in this country have some major issues. He writes about the problems with horrific details and then expounds on our government's lack of ability to correct it. I think I was more outraged by our government's lack of concern for its people and the way big business owns and controls the government. I mean, this is not just the food at McDonalds, but the food we buy at the grocery store and that is served to our children in our schools.
He does end with a good example of how by demanding changes from fast food chains, who are the largest buyers of food commodities, they in turn can bring the needed changes to food production/safety faster than the government obviously can. Some of these changes are already taking place as an afterword in the paperback edition I read relates. You can see changes since the book was written such as fast food offering more healthy choices, esp. to children. Perhaps what I learned most from this book, is that if there is an issue you care about, don't appeal to the govt. for help--talk with your money. Find a business that you can persuade with your dollar or publicity, and the needed changes will happen.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Indignation

Indignation Indignation by Philip Roth


My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was my first Roth novel. Novella. Short story expanded into a novella. Here's what I liked: I liked his effortless style; nothing fancy and poetic, just good crisp writing--very timeless. I liked the theme of following life backwards, to the one action that created the domino that got you to where you are. I liked the irony of how the characters fear a certain outcome, and by trying to prevent it, actually produce that exact outcome--I've always been facinated by that. What I didn't like: I don't know. But I do know it was an ok book, but not one that I loved or thought was amazing.


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Monday, July 13, 2009

Nineteen Minutes

Nineteen Minutes Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
This would probably be more like 3.5. Picoult really writes well and gives the reader a lot to think about. But it ended flat with me--the big reveal played more to surprise the reader than to be consistent with the characters, I felt.

Nineteen minutes is about Peter, picked on his whole life, who wakes up one day, takes 4 guns to school and shoots 10 people dead, wounding 19 others. It is also about Josie, who used to be one of Peter's only friends, only to abandon him to be part of the popular crowd. The parts I connected with best are from the points of view of Peter's and Josie's parents, as they wonder what they could have done to make things turn out differently. As a parent, it is hard not judge yourself for the actions of your children, and it is hard to know what they need or how to help them. It's also easy to take them for granted. In that way, this book really inspired me to try to connect better with my kids, and to be thankful for them.

Picoult writes well, getting under the skin of multiple characters without losing the reader. She's descriptive and emotive and the plot moves along well. There are a few factual errors that I found distracting though, like saying Peter's eyeglasses that help him see far away make his eyes look big--I know from experience that it would be the opposite, they would make his eyes look small. And then there is a pivotal point near the end that involves a sock, when she makes a point to describe Peter wearing flip flops. And like I said, the big reveal doesn't track with me--unless she's just trying to make a point about gun control.

A friend gave this to me, saying Picoult was her favorite author. I did enjoy it enough that I'll put My Sister's Keeper on my list.


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