1.15.2011

I Hate(d) You, Jonathan Safran Foer

Neva, my gifted and talented writing pal, told me she also thought Jonathan Safran Foer was overrated. "The first book was good, but the second, not so much." This made me as happy as you can get when someone you respect confirms your immature envy; when someone tells you you're justified in hating someone with more success, and when that someone pays your lunch bill on top of that. Thanks, Neva.

It might be that she was tired of listening to my complaining about how lucky he was. To me, he writes like you do when you're in school: full of energy without any awareness about how irritating it is to read writing too full of energy. Bits of his work are amazing. Look at a couple of hundred pages of it and you feel like you're babysitting an ADHD kid without his ritalin.

Being so successful, JSF is everywhere. That doesn't mean I listened. I didn't, which took a lot of effort, being that he was marketed more heavily than a Big Mac. Only when I was on my bike and couldn't get to my iPod fast enough to find something else to read, did I let him in. My iPod screen doesn't budge when you poke at it with gloves and last month, even in San Francisco, there were a few days cold enough to think twice before pulling off a glove, even when it's to avoid listening to someone you hate.

Okay, maybe I'm too jealous of his Big Mac-like ubiquitous, seeing that he has such a goofy disjointed voice. Why do people take his writing seriously when his books read like middle school crazy? How do you get to be on The New Yorker's Twenty under Forty when your second novel's first paragraph contains the line, "Another good thing is that I could train my anus to talk when I farted." His story in The New Yorker, to prove he was worthy of the honor, wasn't proof at all. It was more of the same: ritalin-loaded, snarky middle school kid with a long list of non-sequiturs. That's not talent: that's smart-ass.

Blame my fear of frozen bicycle fingers for listening to him read from "Eating Animals" his third book. Right away, he went straight to my heart with an anecdote about his grandmother stuffing him full of food, crappy awful food, and him enjoying the attention enough to be complicit. Who can hate a person like that?

It's to-the-heart-heart-heart from there, going from his grandmother to nature. The rest of the podcast was an interesting and disgusting account of what we allow factory farms to do to birds, fish and cows, all so we can enjoy cheap sushi.

He then explained that the UN says factory farming is the number one cause of global warming and one of the top causes of every environmental problem, everywhere. This was shocking enough to make me lurch practically off my bike and hit a sand patch. I couldn't hear the next thing he said, worrying at that moment about potentially getting run over by car commuters spewing hate and carbon out their tailpipes. Stupid people racing to stressful jobs, ignoring the ocean outside their passenger window, the waves dotted with surfers like ants on a dropped popsicle. Wake up, commuters. Look around. Take notice.

My potential murdering commuters aren't the only ones not looking around and taking notice. Turns out this book is "Food, Inc." for your kindle. If you haven't seen "Food, Inc," you're probably thinking that was just a flu bug you had after you ate chicken for dinner. Something like 76,000,000 cases of food poisoning happen in this country every year. Don't even try to blame all that on warm picnic food.

Sorry about the hating, Mr. Foer. This is a book for people who try to do the right thing, who want to make the world a better place but don't know how to start. I bought a copy and one for my daughter, too. That should make it even.