Dispatches > The Buzz

His book is a bomb

Revolutionary fiction by the Unabomber and cuisine for the bicoastal elite are acquired tastes

Issue: "The new school year," Sept. 11, 1999

Unabomber gets published
The Unabomber's 17-year bombing campaign ended in 1996, but he hasn't stopped preaching his gospel of destruction. Now serving a life sentence for killing three and injuring 29, Theodore Kaczynski is busy writing and returns to print this fall. Unlike the 35,000-word manifesto printed in The Washington Post and The New York Times, the new works have more sympathetic publishers. His 368-page memoir is coming in a few weeks. Before that comes a story called "Ship of Fools" that is available on the Net (at www.contextbooks.com). It will also be printed in the September issue of Off, a magazine published by students at the State University of New York at Binghamton. In this mad parable, Mr. Kaczynski tells the story of a boat whose passengers--a woman, a Mexican, an Indian, and a homosexual--gripe to one another about the captain's injustices instead of staging a mutiny. Since they do nothing, they strike an iceberg and die. Off's 21-year-old editor Tim LaPietera calls it Mr. Kaczynski's mockery of the Left. "He's saying, 'People who are leftist shouldn't waste their time with what he calls reform, such as equal wages and equal treatment for women,'" he said. "The main issue is we have to stop the industrial machine before it takes away all of our humanity." This latest Unabomber missive is the sort of rhetoric that launched revolutions, assassinated presidents, and built juntas. It was the common plate of 19th-century anarchists and 1960s peace-loving terrorists. The Unabomber and much of today's Left share some similar premises: that real change requires destroying society to reestablish a new perfect order. Since human nature never bends to crazy utopian dreams, they seem always to result in blowing people up. The culture of food
What's cooking in the United States? Epicurean writer Leslie Brenner serves up an unappetizing look at this question in her book American Appetite (Avon) which pokes around at the various morsels that have been popularized on plates and palates in recent years. What can be easily seen from the book-- though the author never makes this point herself--is that Americans are as faddish about food as about clothes, cars, and music. From William Kellogg to Betty Crocker to Julia Child, different styles flow in and out of fashion. Ms. Brenner talks about how avocados, oysters, asparagus, and even illegal nonpasteurized cheese from Europe have all reached chicdom in this country. Where once few Americans would eat foreign food, some now seem to eat only the unpronounceable. Ms. Brenner hails Julia Child and James Beard, because they supposedly saved us from the bland world of iceberg lettuce, Campbell's soup, and Crisco cooking. Too bad all she cares about are what people eat at high-end restaurants in New York and Los Angeles, and her disdain for what everyone else eats is obvious. Nothing exists in Flyover Territory except Utah bagel shops and Cajun cooking. American Appetite throws little blips of insight like croutons on a bicoastal salad of bland commentary. Ms. Brenner sprinkles in sermonetttes about the civil-rights movement, McCarthyism, and even the Immigration Act of 1965 (without which we wouldn't have so many ethnic restaurants, naturally). The ketchup-hating author has no space to discuss non-elite dining. For example, middle-class restaurant chains like Big Boy, Howard Johnson's, or even Bennigan's and TGIFriday's, which have had a healthy hand in defining "normal" American food, are unmentioned. Everybody eats-and what goes in our mouths is as cultural as what we read or watch on TV. And the ideas and worldviews that influence our entrees are wonderful subjects for discussion. Too bad such an underdone topic gets explored by such a picky eater.

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