Thursday, May 08, 2008

Stuffed and Starved, by Raj Patel

It seems that, going by the blurb on the front of the book, Naomi Klein had a near out-of-body experience reading this book.

What did I miss in Stuffed and Starved? The book purports to be about ‘markets, power and the battle for the world food system’. Its title points to the irony of so much food now being produced, yet one half of the world is stuffed, that is, obese, while the other half is starved.

I had two difficulties with the book.

Firstly, it’s written in that breathless, smart-arse style. The author highlights one paradox after the other in the most self-congratulatory manner. This is the style of an author saying, look at me, I’m quite smart. The experience is like trying to swim through molasses.

Secondly, the book seems incoherent over all. It’s a hodgepodge of different subjects that doesn’t gel into one overall theme. You go from soy production in Brazil to the rise of the supermarket culture, yet I couldn’t discover how it all worked together as a theme.

The last thirty pages or so I just skimmed through. I felt like Mr Patel was wasting my time.

I should have known better when I read a blurb somewhere saying that the author was quite opinionated.

Or perhaps I’m just a dopey reader with a really short concentration span.

Having recently read Michael Pollan’s In Defence of Food, I’d urge readers to buy yourself a copy of that book, or his equally excellent, The Omnivore’s Dilemma

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