Saturday, February 27, 2010

"Only written media, and maybe to some extent live theatre, can break down the wall between in and out. You’re not looking at your feeling from within. An Alice Munro story rushes you along in about 25 minutes to a point where you’re imaginatively going through a moment of deep crisis and significance in another person’s life. I know I’m expressing this in very vague terms, but I think these epiphanic moments have a social and political valence as well, because they’re what we mean when we talk about being a person, about being an individual, about having an identity. Identity is precisely not what consumer culture says it is. It’s not the playlist on your iPod. It’s not your personal preference in denim washes. The moment you become an individual is the moment when all that consumer stuff falls away and you’re left with the narrativity of your own life. All the things that would become impossible politically, emotionally, culturally, psychologically if people ever were to become simply the sum of their consumer choices: this is, indirectly, what the novel is trying to preserve and fight in favor of."
I'd been reading this in thinking that maybe I would write a review for the paper that I've been dabbling in writing for, but opened up the paper this week to find it had been spoken for already! Good to see it being advocated for, regardless. Foer's take differs than some of the Food Inc, Food Matters, Food Rules content already out there on the market by virtue of it being more lyrical and more informed by matters of existential angst and personal family history. Foer isn't much of a realist, he's a novelist and philosopher in reporter's clothing here, which I find to be rather compelling, with his maximalist novel writer's instincts guiding him to a pretty sympathetic approach to some congenitally complicated matters. My own skeptical thoughts sometimes sneak in like- certain kinds of privilege can often make it easier to argue for absolutes and make moral clarity quicker to arrive and easier to abide by, but Foer is being sincere in searching, and I don't want to begrudge him questions like "What should I be feeding my son?" We really all should be asking those kinds of questions, regardless of our socio-economic circumstances. His search is never simple, always deeply considered, and, if abstract, the kind of abstract that makes the question of what we should be consuming less obtuse, not more, and it's ever respectful (towards those he interviews, towards his reader, towards people in general by seeming to hold the idea that being human in this world demands of us some investigation into our choices), a quality I find helpful and good in all writing.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Something that is quite good to do when you are unexpectedly flu-ish and stuck in the house all day and you are not caring so much about all of the things that you are not getting done by sleeping in and thinking to yourself alone, is read short stories by people who you have not read before and to allow whole lives of characters to take root in your lonely soul for a while and make you quickly feel better and not so fevered. I had read a few of these stories over and again, and avoided others for no official reason, but today I gladly braved some of the unfamiliar terrain, and the piece by Alice Munro in particular was enough to make me sit up and be grateful for careful observations of that so tricky human heart.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

At times, impossible-seeming insight, distilled, crashes upon my consciousness, and I feel immense relief that people write, and write well, and think, and think deeply, and help us understand what it is to be:

""If you can think of times in your life that you’ve treated people with extraordinary decency and love, and pure uninterested concern, just because they were valuable as human beings. The ability to do that with ourselves. To treat ourselves the way we would treat a really good, precious friend. Or a tiny child of ours that we absolutely loved more than life itself. And I think it’s probably possible to achieve that. I think part of the job we’re here for is to learn how to do it. I know that sounds a little pious."

The scope of this project is so great, and the execution of it so flawless, it's enough to restore a bit of the much depleted hope that print media's days aren't completely numbered. I've been reading small sections before bed for the last couple of weeks- there's enough content to wade through for a good long while. The book review section alone is fairly dense, and the sheer fact of its existence, how much it's a leap of faith and a testament to the resiliency and power of holding stories in our hands, makes me want to make big, hyperbolic declarations about having this project in my possession being one of the best things to happen lately. In other words- hooray!