Bedside Manner: Dystopian Dreams

Gilded Age Gossip Girls and the second coming of Upton Sinclair

Bedside Manner: Dystopian Dreams

As a full-time graduate student, freelancer, mom, wife, and dilettante hobbyist with a Facebook problem, I don’t do as much reading (of books) as I used to. I try to alternate my guilty pleasures (YA lit) with headier, more literary fare. Funnily enough, when I corralled all of my in-progress titles, I saw a pleasing balance among them.

The Luxe by Anna Godberson – recommended to me by one of my students in my Women’s Popular Genres class at UT. We were wrapping up our discussion of Wharton’s The House of Mirth and this book came up as we talked about other representations of Manhattan’s monied elite, like Gossip Girl (which I’ve heard referred to as “Edith Wharton’s Kiddie Korner”). I haven’t actually started reading it yet, but it is the first in a YA series (of course) following two young Gilded Age socialites behaving badly.

Blog Theory: Feedback and Capture in the Circuits of Drive by Jodi Dean – I’m completing my dissertation on how women mediate Big Food via novels, cookbooks, and blogs. Not sure if it’ll make it into the final version, but interesting reading nonetheless. Not really suited for wind-down time, tho.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – Don’t tell the people who will be awarding me my PhD here in the next few months, but I haven’t read this yet. I KNOW. Shameful. My book club just finished The Passage by Justin Cronin (which was simply amazing, plot holes and reliance on tired tropes notwithstanding) and my friends said that certain parts reminded them of The Handmaid’s Tale. So, I plucked it from my bookshelves (I purchased it at Half Price Books a few years ago with the intention of finally correcting this grievous gap in my education) and put it in the stack where I could see it.

Free For All: Fixing School Food in America by Janet Poppendieck – This came out last year, at the height of the discourse about school lunch reform (the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act was passed late last year). I’m only a few chapters in (Mrs. Q at Fed Up With Lunch chose this book for her virtual book club), but am already finding it really important and moving. She charts the long, political history of America’s school lunch programs and examines school lunch from every angle: nutrition, marketing, environmental concerns and so on.

Matched by Ally Condie – Our latest book club selection. After this, The Passage, and The Hunger Games trilogy, I either need to write a paper on food and reproduction in dystopian fiction or maybe give up dystopia altogether. The plot is pretty simple: Cassia gets matched to her best friend Xander like well-bred pups in their futuristic society. Or does she? Condie badly telegraphs the narrative arc of her yep, trilogy, in this first installment (the followup, Crossed, comes out in November 2011 and the third book in November 2012), but it’s a pleasant-enough read. It’s pretty refreshing to be 300 pages into a book and know that you’re near the end, rather than have just hacked through the prologue.

Down below: 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12. I’m pretty ambivalent about parenting books, but this method has been helpful in managing youthful intransigence and tantrums.

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. I think I’m sort of over Pollan. Three years ago, I thought he was the second coming of Upton Sinclair, but now I just think he’s a big fat sellout.

An extremely old issue of Brain, Child magazine. I don’t even know what it’s about. Maybe working mothers? I think I might have been too busy to read it.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Bedside Manner, dystopian fiction, Matched, Ally Condie, In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan, Free For All: Fixing School Food in America, Blog Theory: Feedback and Capture in the Circuits of Drive, The Handmaid's Tale, The Luxe, Anna Godberson, Janet Poppendieck

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