Cat’s Cradle

Call me Jonah.

My boyfriend recommended this to me with “It’s really weird, but I think you’ll like it”. I didn’t find it that ‘really weird’. I don’t know what that says about me or the books I read.

Jonah (or whatever his name is) tries to write a book about the children of the Father of the Atomic Bomb. Those three are not your ordinary humans. Which is a good thing, because Jonah isn’t either.
Things happen, they travel to San Lorenzo, more things happen; as does the end of the world.

Cat’s Cradle was like a Where’s Waldo of metaphors and hints to real life during the time Vonnegut wrote it. Recognizing the commentary added a second layer to the novel. Usually I’m not such a big fan of working to Get The Message, but Vonnegut manages to communicate it without smacking you around the head with it. The embarrassing Americans? The “illegal” religion kept alive by the government? The fictional country of San Lorenzo? I wish I could have read this book for English, so I could dissect it until the final comma and discuss the whats and whos. Now I’ll have to find another way.

If I remember correctly I wasn’t sure about Kurt Vonnegut after reading  Slaughterhouse 5. If I liked his work or if I liked his ideas and how slim his novels were. I’m pretty sure I like his work.

Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut, Penguin Books 2008

The Well of Lost Plots

Making one’s home in an unpublished novel wasn’t without its compensations.

Thursday Next, part of Jurisfiction, moves into an unpublished novel to take some time off of her life, including the erasure of her husband.  She replaces a fictional character and lives with her pet dodo in a flying boat. If this sounds out of the ordinary to you, you must be unfamiliar with the Thursday Next books. Jasper Fforde creates books in which nursery rhyme characters are alive (except when they’re a victim of murder), and there is a world of fiction in which real people can exist and book-jump.

Of course the easy life of a fictional character (she even gets lines to say) doesn’t last long. Not only does she start small mayhem in the novel she lives in (one of the characters is desperate to make it better and stray from the plot line), but she also stumbles into a plot to take over the world of books.

I really like the worlds in Fforde’s books, but feel that he dropped the ball with this one. Just a little bit. He got stranded in too much detail about how the fictional world works, up to the committees, layers and several repeats of why the office was on the 26th floor because there were few author names that started with Q-Z. It makes the story drag, I rather had more scenes with Thursday’s pet dodo Pickwick. There always seems to be more space for the slightly absurd (there is also a nursery rhyme characters strike) anyway.

Just skip to the other Thursday Next books.

The Well of Lost Plots, Jasper Fforde, Penguin Books 2003

In Defence of Food

Eat food.

Michael Pollan is een schrijver die erg veel van eten houdt. Écht eten, in plaats van het overgeproduceerde poeder dat je in de supermarkten kunt kopen. Hij preekt voor seizoensgebonden groente en fruit, producten uit eigen land en niets dat je niet kunt herkennen als voedsel. Daarnaast sabelt hij de (Amerikaanse) voedsel- en ‘gezondheids’industrie neer, verhemelt hij allerlei niet-Westerse diëten en benadrukt hij dat Amerikanen echt eens moeten leren genieten van eten.

Michael Pollan is nogal een preker. En ondanks dat het boek maar 200 pagina’s is, doet hij het op zo’n manier dat het vrij snel irritant wordt. Natuurlijk is In Defence of Food geen roman die je in een nachtje uitleest, maar ik heb meer dan zes maanden over dit boek gedaan. Na de eerste vijftig pagina’s heb je tenslotte al de boodschap. Een boodschap die ik zelfs al kende door mijn beroepsgedeformeerde vader-kok. Maar dan waren er tenslotte nog de shocking facts. Die verdwenen na pagina 50, terwijl de boodschap bleef. En bleef.

Daarom zou ik eerder voorstellen (want het is wel een belangrijke boodschap) om online meneer Pollan op te zoeken, samen met termen als nutritionism, Western diet en Don’t get your food where you get your gas. Of lees dit boek en leg het opzij na vijftig pagina’s. Het scheelt het gevoel van ‘Heb ik dit niet al een keer gelezen?’


In Defence of Food: The Myth of Nutrition and The Pleasures of Eating, Michael Pollan, Penguin Books 2008