Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The pleasures of snarling

I experience a Pavlovian response when I read the name B. R. Myers: the hackles rise on the back of my neck and my teeth bare in a lupine snarl. Since A Reader's Manifesto I've taken issue with the man's tone and his eagerness to insinuate that those who don't share his contempt of contemporary literature are not as intelligent as those who do. Consequently, I couldn't make it through the first paragraph of his review of The Omnivore's Dilemma without wanting to shake and rip his assumptions: The pleasures of the oral cavity (though we must say "palate" instead) are now widely regarded as more important, more intrinsically moral, and a more vital part of civilized tradition than any other pleasures. People who think nothing of saying "I'm not much of a reader" will grow shamefaced when admitting an ignorance of wine or haute cuisine.

Granted, all the people I know are the wrong sort, but still, they qualify as people, and they are nothing like those Myers claims to know so much about. I will not go so far as to say Myers has constructed them totally out of straw, but, outside my daughter's host family in Germany, anyone I know who'd tout his non-reader creds doesn't give a damn about wine or haute cuisine and would be surprised to learn that eating fancy is regarded as being more intrinsically moral than eating potluck in the church basement following a Sunday sermon.

So I had to turn away from the rest of Myers' review, let his obvious concern for animals mellow me up a bit for a couple of days before I could finish it.

And you know what? No matter how much the already-vegetarians squee over Myers' moral high horsemanship, I can't see what he hoped to accomplish by blasting Pollan for hunting or for eating meat in a review so high falutin' that he'd take his own words to task if he'd encountered them in an Annie Proulx story. The gourmets are certainly going to discount Myers as a crank instead of mending their evil eatin' ways and the common man meat-eater might remember that despite all the Christianity/moral values good, political correctness/secularism bad hoohah in Myers' piece, Jesus fed the multitudes on fish, not veggies.

Peter Singer himself can write about the benefits of eating locally grown food without chastising those who eat meat; B.R. Myers cannot see that Pollan's book may lead more people to reassess their eating habits and reduce their meat consumption than Myers' moraler-than-thou stance ever will.

Remember when you told the critics to tone down their hyperbole, Myers? You might want to listen to yourself sometime.


  1. Myers would very quickly get annoying, wouldn't he? I read an article of his recently that sounded so very cranky.

  2. *grin* I'm surprised he hasn't weighed in on the Adults Who Read Harry Potter scandal.

  3. Anonymous1:25 PM

    I'm afraid to read the review. I'm a vegan for goodness' sake and really enjoyed Pollan's book. You don't change people's minds by bashing them over the head with holier than thou rhetoric, especially those who are die-hard meat and potatoes and industrial food chain eaters. Maybe Myers likes to be so grating because he likes to get people riled up but doesn't really care about anything else.

  4. It's strange. He's written two other reviews for The Atlantic on factory farms/ethical treatment of animals issues and he even mentions in one that Peter Singer takes pains (in Animal Liberation) to present himself as prickly and aloof. Maybe he's content taking pot shots and preaching to the choir until someone else provides the paradigm shift.


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