Friday, December 19, 2014

Reading and writing

All of my recent (and future) Dish guest-blogging can be found here. Photographic evidence, here. If you'd like me to write for your publication, is the place to go.

Requisite self-promotion out of the way, I'm going to share the entirely un-pitchable observation that the 1998 novel I bought randomly in Montclair (a day trip chosen similarly at random) turned out to be excellent. Ruth Ozeki's My Year of Meats is quite unlike any book I'd ever read. I'd say read it if only for the fireplace scene, but it's... I mean, ambitious doesn't begin to describe it. It's about classic Japanese literature, food safety, domestic violence, rural America, urban America, filmmaking... and so very much more. Yet it somehow works.

I was reading My Year of Meats on the train recently, and then just after that, while walking around in New York, I spotted a different Ozeki novel on the ground. Didn't seem like anyone was looking in it, and no owner info. in the book itself, so finder's keepers.

As for the earlier novel's conclusion... Spoiler alert here, I suppose:

The Goodreads readers aren't too thrilled with the way the story ends. Basically, the novel evolves into a polemic against factory-farmed meat. This doesn't entirely come out of the blue, because the whole novel shows protagonist Jane's growing ethical qualms about her job, promoting American meat to Japanese housewives. But it does feel like a different kind of narrative. That said, as someone who's easily put off meat, this novel readily did the trick.

The book also sets things up such that you think that Jane will surely adopt Akiko's baby. (I'll admit that I was a bit tired when I finished reading, but I'm maybe 98% sure that this doesn't end up happening.) Jane can't get pregnant because of two different encounters with beef hormones (I promise this makes sense in the novel), and Akiko - the estranged wife of Jane's boss - wants to give up her child-to-be for adoption, a child conceived after her husband raped her. While yes, Jane raising Akiko's child would seem a bit too easy or obvious or something (is the word I'm looking for "pat"?), it would at least bring things full circle, and reconnect the ending with the plot.

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