"What the Soviet Union was to the ideology of Marxism, the Low-Fat Campaign is to the ideology of nutritionism -- its supreme test and as now is coming clear, its most abject failure. You can argue, as some diehards will do, that the problem was one of faulty execution or you can accept that the underlying tenets of the ideology contained the seeds of the eventual disaster." (p. 41)

Ok, yes, just yesterday I was all "whine, bleh, me-me-me, I can't find a good book to read, bleh bleh."

But today I am reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food.

It may be changing my life. I mean, we can't be sure yet, since it's been just about 24 hours. But you know how I'm not at all prone to being over dramatic, so chances are my life is in fact changing.

Ok, let's get serious here.

Pollan's a great writer; within the introduction of his book, he manages to whisk the reader through the last 50 years of eating food in North America. He explains the ideology of "nutritionism," and -- frankly -- makes you a bit queasy about all the crap you've been ignoring on the ingredients list of virtually anything you'd find in a grocery store freezer. Actually, if the lists of things you can't pronounce don't make you queasy enough, he walks you through all the things fed to pigs, cows and chickens to nutrient-up your pork, beef and eggs.

Now, the manifesto part is summed up in the first line of the book and on the cover of the paperback: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." But these simple words of advice do not actually signal the start of a book that is going to talk down to you. This is a work of journalism written for wide public access, and if anything it's an order not to reorganize your diet (necessarily) but to rethink how and what you eat.

Fascinating stuff.

By the way, other reads to consider if you're with me on this track?

In Edmonton, We eat together, by Julianna Mimande and Gabe Wong -- a book not just about eating locally, but about Alberta growers and producers.

And, in general, I'm pretty excited about Sophie Dahl's Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights, though have yet to pick it up.


something... else...

I'm in a wanting sort of mood these days.

I'm not sure how to best explain that, actually.

But let's take the smallest possible example: I want new jeans. I need new jeans. I cannot find a pair of new jeans to fit me if my bloody life depended on it. Everything is too loose in the waist, too tight in the thighs, or simply impossible to drag past my knees. I think I cranked my back trying on pairs of pants today, actually.

And so now I'm woefully depressed and feel like failure to purchase new jeans is the rough equivalent to failure in life in general.

Not that I'm being remotely over dramatic.

So, to books.

Where, unusually, I am also left wanting.

Books and I just aren't really getting along. It's like everything I read is falling flat, or is sort of out of tune. It's not unlike how I can't seem to enjoy any romantic comedies released in theatres in the last three months -- on paper, every single movie appears to be exactly what I would like, and yet they suck. I'm looking at you, Leap Year.

Maybe it's a reflection, too, of what I've been trying to put to the page lately. It's like I can't stand the distance between writer and subject. Now I know I'm not making sense (but kudos to you for getting this far, friend). I just want... I want to be whisked along on a fantastic journey by a really great writer. I want poetry and awesomeness. I want a story I can believe in. I want... something other than what I've been reading or writing or thinking lately.

Bleh. Maybe I just need more sunshine.

I will tell you what has been a delightful break from my "I want, I want, I want"-ness lately, though. Vancouver, by David Cruise and Alison Griffiths. As I think I mentioned before, it's so formulaic I can't in good conscience recommend it.

Except, of course, that it's a really fun read. There's adventure. And deceit. And mystery. Characters you can't quite care about, but which have enough of a connection to the earth that you want them to make their way forward.

Vancouver is less a tale of a city, and more a story of an assumed mindset. If you assume those who find their way to the Lower Mainland seek new lives, fresh starts and something more for themselves, then you can go for the ride, from the story's start thousands of years ago with one man crossing the Bering Strait, to its end in modern-day Stanley Park and East Hastings. If you need a break from real life, it's not a bad ride at all.


in-between reads: good and bad, bad, bad

Just back from a (warm, amazing, lovely, awesome) weekend away, and got to some really great reads.

Including this article about Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama making nice. (I know, I'm obsessed.)

Also, this profile of Barack Obama's chief of staff.

I even picked up a book about social media I'm super keen to get into. (And then, yes, I got my reading list for next year. *exciting!*)

And... Yeah, that's about it.

See, I was also reading Elizabeth Hay's collection of short stories, Small Change. And I fricking hated it. In fact, I still have one last short story to read, and I can barely work up the energy....

I know what you might be thinking. "Doesn't she always complain about short story collections because she's not really deep enough to get them?"

Yeah, I see your point. Except I loved Birds of America. And my problem here isn't a lack of depth. At least, I don't think it is. (Although I imagine no one ever really thinks they lack depth...)


All the stories are connected, and I understand how they're connected, since they deal with the same characters again and again.

So why not just link the stories as "chapters" and then tell a single story in a clear, straightforward manner?

I don't know.

Instead, Hay opted to write all the stories in first-person, so the reader can keep trying to guess who is talking. Each new story is like a puzzle. And you spend so much time trying to figure out what the person is saying, whether they are male or female, whether you've already kind of read this story but from a different perspective, that you don't actually get to enjoy any of the stories for what they are.

Of course, without the guessing game, the stories would just be repetitive tales of how one woman (and possibly a second woman with the same name) breaks friendships again and again.

Highlights? Only one:

"This is the tragedy of love. We are most serious with the people we most admire, and the people we most admire love to laugh." p. 128

I know. Barely a highlight. I was in transit when I thought those lines were particularly noteworthy. I'm not so sure now.

Ugh, so negative. If you've not yet read Late Nights on Air, do not let this review stop you. Seriously.


on being shallow and having role models

I've been working on some academic stuff, but it hasn't stopped me from reading a super shallow book just for fun.

And that shallow book is Vancouver, a novel by David Cruise and Alison Griffiths.

This one's been on my bookshelf for years -- probably since its 2003 publication. (Which, incidentally, also means I've dragged it across the country at least once. Interesting.) At 914 pages, though, I just didn't get around to reading it.

Now, I can't really put it down. As this reviewer argues well, the book is super formulaic. Kinda sexy. Kinda silly. Not a bad read if you're in the mood for something you don't really have to invest much thought in.

Kinda like eating Lucky Charms for dinner.

Not that I've done that more than once in the last seven days.

Speaking of food, the most recent issue of Vogue has a fantastic piece by Sophie Dahl called "Secrets of the Flesh." Dahl, who has a new cookbook out, has an amazing take on food and body image.

Frankly, her article is like having a really awesome talk with your super self-confident friend who actually likes eating and doesn't really care what size she is.

It's a little ridiculous how refreshing that is and how much I actually want to hug a former model.

Last offering of the evening: A couple weeks ago, Jian Gomeshi talked to Elizabeth Gilbert on Q. Even if you don't buy into the whole Eat, Pray, Love/Committed thing (I don't either), it's totally worth listening to Gomeshi's take on romance....

By the way, did everyone already know Eat, Pray, Love was set to be a movie with Julia Roberts?

I have concerns. Mostly because of Julie&Julia, which was exactly half a good movie. As in, loved Meryl Streep and Julia Child. Hated Julie Powell. I am not sure I have much patience with movies about women who write all about themselves all the time. (Says a woman who writes a lot about herself.)

On the other hand, Eat, Pray, Love is directed by the dude who brought us Glee. So he's already earned a place in my heart.



Quimby alert

In the spirit of Oscar night -- and no, I don't want to talk about Sandra Bullock or her win for a movie that looks like it should have debuted on the Hallmark channel -- I offer some book-to-movie updates.

Big news: Ramona Quimby is going to the big screen! With none other than Aidan Shaw as her dad. I mean John Corbett. No, I mean Aidan Shaw.

We remember Ramona Quimby, Age 8, yes? Yes!

No new news on Diablo Cody's Sweet Valley High project. But, it looks like we'll see the twins in their 30s next year?

Meanwhile, this movie appears to have nothing to do with Christopher Pike. Harrumph.