A cogent, revealing look at the future of food.

RESETTING THE TABLE

STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT THE FOOD WE GROW AND EAT

A perceptive analysis of America's food system.

Political scientist Paarlberg, who teaches public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School, levels a well-informed, evidence-based critique of a broad swath of players in food production and consumption: food companies (which process, package, transport, and advertise products), supermarkets, and restaurant chains, all of which have created “food swamps” of unhealthy choices; as well as “advocacy organizations fixated on local food and organic food” and “those who push for agroecology or food sovereignty over green revolution farming.” He debunks food movement activists such as Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, and Alice Waters, calling their advocacy of preindustrial agriculture elitist. A return to those farming methods, he writes, “can work on a small scale for those with plenty of money to spend, but it will never be a society-wide solution.” Drawing on scientific and economic research, combined with visits to farms and food plants, Paarlberg asserts persuasively that “modern farming protects the environment not only by using less land compared to several decades ago; it also uses less water, less fossil energy, and fewer chemicals.” Analyzing the use of pesticides, fertilizers, and GMOs, the author argues that much fear of these products is unsupported by research. “Visions that privilege what comes from nature over what is made by people have a mystical appeal,” he writes, “but they malfunction as practical guidance.” Paarlberg highlights many commercial farms that judiciously employ scientific methods in planting, harvesting, and raising livestock. Yet for many food activists, the idea of applying modern science to agriculture and food production has “become strangely controversial”—even though “compared to small farms and local marketing systems, bigger operations are better able to detect and avoid contamination.” Paarlberg criticizes commercial farm organizations, too, for supporting food processing companies, and he calls for farmers to become strong advocates for healthful eating.

A cogent, revealing look at the future of food.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-65644-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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