Trying and doing since 2001
for 14 April 2004.


[Like, Unit!]

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

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