I was in the middle of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle when I got distracted by a featured post on Xanga.  I read all 700 + comments—thus breaking my New Year’s resolution already.  The post told me that even though I’m a nice person who works in human services, pays my taxes, loves my children, and looks after my neighbors, I’m definitely, positively going to hell.  Sheez, I’m not even gay!  I don’t even kick the dog.  Heck, I don’t even HAVE a dog.

The whole thing, including the many, many comments concurring with the blogger’s assessment of my afterlife, reminded me of the Roman Emperor Caligula.  Not that I spend a lot of time thinking about Roman Emperors, but recently my husband and I have been watching the old miniseries, I, Claudius.  Anyway, Caligula declared himself a god, and not just any god, but Jupiter, the Big Daddy of the gods.  People believed him because…I don’t know why anyone would believe him, but there are a lot of things people believe that I don’t understand.

Caligula/Jupiter rather capriciously killed anyone who displeased him, and he was so very easy to displease.  If you kissed his butt and he was happy with you, it was party time, but everyone around him lived in fear, because no matter how upright, kind, productive, pleasant, helpful, or anything else you might be, Caligula would have you whacked on a dime.

But it’s the book I wanted to talk about. 

I was kind of bummed about going to hell when I went back to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, in which Kingsolver discusses her family’s experience with living for a whole year on only locally grown food, much of which they grew themselves.  She also weaves in a great deal of essay/commentary about food, especially about the intensely negative effects of relying on Big Agribusiness for our food supply. 

And there I was, going to hell again!  I think my diet is pretty good, especially by American standards.  I limit my saturated fats and I consume more vegetables than anyone I know.  But it seems I’ve been eating the wrong vegetables!  Some were trucked to me with gallons of fossil fuels from the far corners of the earth! 

I’m making light, of course, but I am far more sympathetic to Kingsolver’s argument than to the featured post I mentioned.  (Also, she didn’t actually threaten me.)  Consider: a small number of giant corporations produce the majority of our food, even the fresh produce.  They are not interested in providing us with the best tasting food.  They do not concern themselves with the nutritional quality of our food.  They are motivated by one thing and one thing only: maximizing their profits.

The profit motive leads to such travesties as the production of plants that cannot reproduce themselves, so farmers can’t save seeds for the next crop (forcing them to buy more seeds from the company).  And the “Round-Up Ready” plants that can survive being hosed with herbicides that kill all the weeds around them.  Do you want to eat food that’s been hosed with Round Up? 

We can now buy only one variety of wheat.  Every turkey available to you for your holiday meal is of one breed.  The bio-diversity of our food supply shrinks and shrinks—courting disaster, like an undiversified portfolio.  And of course, buying food produced far away burns fuel, creates pollution, and oh, the list goes on.  It’s enough to make you want to pull on your hemp clothes and visit your p-patch right now.

Of course, a piece of my brain is reminding me that the ability to transport resources is one of the things that makes humans so successful as a species.  And how many things would you have to live without if you adhered to a local food only rule?  Do bananas grow in your state?  Mine neither.

January is the wrong time to read this book.  Even the crunchy organic food delivery service I recently subscribed to is hard-pressed to find much local food to send me now.  But a little more mindfulness about my purchases, over the course of a year, adds up to a significant impact, especially if other people are a little more mindful too. 

Our planet is our responsibility while we’re on it.  What happens after, I don’t pretend to know.



I recently read two books I enjoyed: The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, both by Khaled Hosseini.  I now know far more about Afghanistan than I did before, but I won’t be visiting anytime soon.

I also read The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold, and thought it had merit until it went way past over-the-top towards the end.  (Yes, I’m catching up on the bestsellers I meant to read but missed.) 

More disappointing was Barrel Fever, by David Sedaris.  I usually find him very funny but that book is a must-put-down.  Then I started but put down Alice Sebold’s second novel, The Almost Moon, which has both poop and matricide in the first chapter.  And it doesn’t improve from there.  Most damning is the unforgivable sin of literature–it’s boring.

Hence, I’ve burned through the whole stack of library books that were supposed to get me through the end of the year.  What should I pick up tomorrow?  Recommend  me something, Xanga. 

Caveats:  No science fiction, no romance trash, no spies.  Literary fiction or mystery preferred.  Non-fiction seriously considered.  All suggestions appreciated, even if ultimately rejected.  Thank you.

After visiting the library today I came home with these Xangan-recommended titles and authors:
The Risk Pool, by Richard Russo
Mr. Timothy, by Louis Bayard
Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri
When We Were Romans, by Matthew Kneale

My selections were based mostly on what was available at my local branch of the county library system.  I’ll report back with reviews.

Please continue making recommendations.  I hope to fill 2009 with quality literary experiences.  Or at least avoid the slow death that is Seinfeld reruns.