Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser

(pb; 2004: non-fiction)

From the back cover:

“Fast food has hastened the malling of our landscape, widened the chasm between rich and poor, fueled an epidemic of obesity, and propelled American cultural imperialism abroad. That’s a lengthy list of charges, but Eric Schlosser makes them stick with an artful mix of first-rate reportage, wry wit, and careful reasoning.

“Schlosser’s myth-shattering survey stretches from California subdivisions, where the business was born, to the industrial corridor along the New Jersey Turnpike, where many of fast food’s flavors are concocted. Along the way, he unearths a trove of fascinating, unsettling truths – from the unholy alliance between fast food and Hollywood to the seismic changes the industry has wrought in food production, popular culture, and even real estate.”


This is one of the most horrifying books I’ve read in recent years. This is as nauseating as Jack Ketchum’s excellent Stranglehold (which featured the non-gratuitous but graphic sexual torture of women and a boy) and Rudolf Hoess’s autobiography Commandant of Auschwitz.

Schlosser tells how the fast food industry (which began in the 1930s) originated, expanded and dominated all facets of American, now global, life, causing widespread economic, social and geological havoc. I knew fast food corporations were ruthless and that fast food was unhealthy, but I hadn’t taken into account the scope of its corporate influence – which tells the American government what to do, not the other way around. A good portion of the aforementioned economic, social and geologic havoc stems from the oligopsonic agribusinesses that largely employ uneducated and uninsured immigrants, pushing them to work in highly dangerous factories (the chapter about the meatpacking plants is especially repugnant).

Schlosser ends this entertaining (if often sickening), fact-filled unmasking of corporate greed on a note of cautious hope, with reasonable suggestions on how to affect major changes.

Anybody who’s ever set foot in a fast food restaurant needs to read this; after doing so, you may never want to eat fast food again (though you probably will anyway, because it's convenient).

The fictionalized film version was released stateside on November 17, 2006. Bruce Willis played Harry Rydell. Greg Kinnear played Don Anderson. Luis Guzman played Benny. Patricia Arquette played Cindy.

Richard Linklater directed, from a script he co-wrote with book author Eric Schlosser.

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