Jonathan S. Foer: A Campus Visit

During orientation for the College of Charleston, each Freshman received a copy of Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer’s latest nonfiction book about factory farming, meat consumerism, and cultural ideas surrounding meat. For most of the year, many of the lectures, documentary showings, and group involvement activities have centered around discussing the impact of farming animals and how we do and should feel about it.

Very often, we discussed these ideas in class and how we felt about them. In fact, scroll down and there is a picture of my BGS (Beyond George Street) class discussing the book in Rivers Green. (I’m the one in the plaid shirt).

During his first speech (which I attended at 2:00pm), he mentioned that his goal certainly was not to attempt to convert a generation to vegetarianism—something he deemed impossible. When I received the book back in June, however, that’s exactly what I felt like he meant to do. What a snot-nosed liberal policy-pusher, I thought, shoving his green-leaf ideology down our throats.

Only, it didn’t, not really. He leaves a lot of room for improvement—moral wiggle room. The attacks you expect him to make he never truly makes because he accosts not you—the omnivore—but the industry as a whole. Rather than approaching the subject with a mind to depress and horrify the reader, he attempts to uplift by sympathizing with the plight to better ourselves.

I, like many others I am sure, were reluctant to read the book out of fear he would impose moral superiority. In fact, the book is a shocking choice, considering College of Charleston’s various sponsors. Surely, they expected some flak from alumni contributors or local restaurants. During his final speech, made in the TD Arena before hundreds of students and citizens of the community, he took an early jab at an advertisement above his head.

“What’s this?” He looked up, indicating the Kickin’ Chicken banner above his head. He made the point that with sponsors like these for our stadium, reading the book might be questionable. He also inquired after the name, making vague connections to animal cruelty in the form of kicking chickens.

I arrived at these presentations with a pretense, ready to berating, but Foer proved more reasonable than he seemed. The day previous I attended a vegan potluck outside of the library, and I actually enjoyed this food. If it were an option in the cafeteria, surely I would choose it over half-cooked hamburgers on stale buns or suspiciously pink hot dogs. Why not listen to what he had to say?

Yesterday, Foer explained his position in his own words, and if you missed the presentations, I will write a recap of what was discussed.

With a newly grown beard, he looked more like James Franco than he did in his cover photo. He took the stage of the first forum, engaging the participants on a personal level. He explained his own college experiences and his experiences with college but seguing into a discussion about his work. In the next two posts, I will paraphrase things discussed both about vegetarianism and storytelling. Read both or read either, depending on what you’re interesting in, but do take his ideas in consideration.

{These essays, recording some of the interview questions asked, will be posted later this evening or early tomorrow morning.}

About derekberry

Derek Berry is a novelist, poet, and student located in Charleston, SC.

Posted on October 24, 2012, in books, College of Charleston, Controversy, culture, Education, narrative post, Politics, writer, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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