Trying and doing since 2001
for 14 April 2004.
I just finished a really chilling
book. Strangely enough I found
it in the YA section. I say that
it is strange not because I don't
expect to find chilling books
written for young adults, I say
that because I was surprised by
the way that it was chilling.
It was a sci-fi book about a future
dystopia written from the perspective
of teenagers. The entire narration
was written in mallspeak and it
had heavy social and political
criticisms of all things "American".
Beyond Catcher in the Rye's
playful romp through a single
youth's interpretation of adolescence
in New York City where the system
was OK but the people were phony
Feed hints that phony people
come from a phony system. Viewpoints
by the narrator Titus were augmented
by sly comments by the author,
delivered through the landscapes
and relationships that Titus found
himself in. In the YA section
I expect to find novels that profile
the perils of internal conflict,
love, puberty, parental relations,
not novels that confront themes
of global proportion like pollution,
poverty, and the effect instantaneous
corporate controlled mass media
has on culture.
A review of Feed states "It's
amazing how little needs to be
exaggerated." This comment is
spot on and expresses the exact
reason I found the book so haunting.
Whereas books like Brave New
World or 1984 create entirely
new worlds born of exaggeration
on extreme trends present in the
real world, Feed only nudges
at present day living. Teens
play video games, hang out in
malls, live in suburbs, watch
TV, listen to music, drive cars,
go to fun places during spring
break, and are bored at school.
The only significant difference
is that 75% of all people have
a direct neural link to a TV/Internet
type network in their brains.
This gives the people of Feed
telepathic-like "mchat" abilities,
the opportunity to record and
share memories, and non-stop access
to advertising and online shopping.
Even these abilities, while different
by their convenience, are not
that different from what people
enjoy today. Instant text chat
is available both on computers
and cell phones, online shopping
happens daily, and digital cameras
allow folks to share images from
their lives anywhere, anytime.
It is through this lens of slight
exaggeration that MT Anderson
shows readers that the world is
already choking and dying from
industrialization, American politics
are insular and oppressive, and
effectively, people's minds are
already continually bombarded
by messages delivered by corporate
outlets. It is the message of
media control that I find most
interesting. Communications theorists
have speculated about the impact
of mass media for centuries.
Recently, Marshall Mcluhan popularized
that the "medium is the message"
meaning that the content of a
communication is unavoidably shaped
by the medium by which it is communicated.
An easy example is the difference
between books and movie adaptations.
Marshall Mcluhan thought that
TV was going to create a new "global
village" where physically disparate
people could know about and participate
in similar realms of activity.
He also felt that the visual nature
of TV would make people less textual
and less linear. Right in step
with Mcluhan, Anderson shows that
the ephemeral nature of chat,
video, and corporate advertising
produces minds that are illiterate
and easily distracted or dissatisfied.
The teens of Feed demonstrate
the uncomfortable fact that future
Americans will not likely become
more informed by their easy access
to information but instead will become
more indulgent to their own hedonistic
Obviously a cautionary tale, Anderson
does not readily provide a way
out for his characters. He hints
at salvation through obscure information
and hobbies that deviate from
the mainstream. Violet, the book's
supporting actress, tries to resist
by making unpredicable and random
consumer choices. These things
are appropriate for the YA audience,
but left me wondering what to
do about the environmental and
political issues in the book.
As a potential future parent what
can I do to raise informed children?
Much like Catcher in the Rye I
feel that this book should be
a middleshcool boilerplate. In
a classroom setting this book
could help children become aware
of this complicated and layered
world they will inherit. Scratch
that, reshelve the book in non-fiction
political science and teach it
in college. Maybe future leaders
will read it and be able to steer
this nation away from the course
it is on.
courtesy of John Winters