Book Reviews: Pynchon, Whuffies, Fat Food

Yes, we all know how Kindle & Co. are going to steal budgets from paper presses, yet while books are still a common cultural good, I want to recommend three readings which recently filled my days with joy and the priceless gift of offline information. It's not that priceless, though: Amazon quickly has to get rid of tons of books before everyone switches to eInk :mrgreen: As the avid reader might notice, Thomas Pynchon's “Inherent Vice”, Tara Hunt's “The Whuffie Factor” and the infamous picture book “This is why you're fat” do have nothing in common. Just saying.

Thomas Pynchon: Inherent Vice

Thomas Pynchon wrote many great classics. His latest Oeuvre Inherent Vice describes the post-hippie, drug-rich era of the early '70s in California. In between smoking his beloved joints, Larry “Doc” Sportello wades through a mythical surfer-paradise trying to make his living as a private investigator. Pynchon's novel is rich with clich and features almost any stereotype one can imagine about the psychedelic setting. Even though “Inherent Vice” disguises itself as a story of crime, Pynchon takes the reader into a labyrinth of plots and subplots. Pimps, narcs, super-villains and a mythic entity called the “Golden Fang” populate a colorful, yet sometimes frustrating setting. Thomas Pynchon is a genius when it comes to playing with language, yet still his new book contains too much artificial flavors for my personal taste – yet still it's a fascinating joyride through a fascinating era.

Tara Hunt: The Whuffie Factor

I've mentioned The Whuffie Factor: Using the Power of Social Networks to Build Your Business by Tara Hunt on Twitter before – it's definitely one of my favorite books on the “economy of attention”. “Whuffies” is the name Tara chose for the “currency of attention” – using examples from Moleskine to Willitblend, Tara outlines the fundamental market change fueled by new media. If you ever wondered what all the buzz about crowdsourcing, trust-agents and word-of-mouth effect really means, this book is for you. Even more so if you are planning to include social media channels in your own marketing strategy: Tara not only offers in-depth theoretical insights, she also shares a handful of practical strategies which might give you the edge over your competitors.

Various Authors (and photographers): This is why you're fat

I admit: this one is not a good read. It's all about the pictures of the grossest, fattest calory-packing fast food you could ever imagine. This Is Why You're Fat: Where Dreams Become Heart Attacks does feature a couple of recipes, but if you're ordering this book, you better hide it from your nutritionists ever-critical eyes. He might not be too fond of “Corn dog pizza” or the infamous “Burrito Cake”. The richly illustrated book also features a couple of recipes, but the truth is: you can also find these pictures online at thisiswhyyourefat.com – but a true fan of megalomania burgers and not-so-mouth-watering food photography will warmly welcome this new guest on the bookshelf titled “weird”. The NYT recommended not reading this during, before or after meals – the faint of heart shouldn't take a look between meals either.

My favorite god/ess

Johannes asked me to write a review of my favorite god/ess for monochroms Polytheism blog. The Viennese based group announced 2008 as the year of polytheism: the basic idea is to overcome unnecessary borders drawn by religion and – this is just my personal interpretation – to post-teenage religion.

What do I mean by post-teenage? Once you're in your twenties, you're statistically a lot more likely to rather accept and adopt various styles, be in the field of music or fashion or whatever, than to just hold on to one “scene”. Religion in that respect mostly is far behind pop culture, even though during the last decade I sensed a very interesting shift in terms of polytheism, especially amongst economically blessed women in their 40ies who are interested in “esoteric knowledge”. Nonetheless, many followers of different gods still don't hesitate to convince others that their own super-being is far superior to the ridiculous error their adversaries refer to as supreme master. Funnily enough just a couple hours before I was asked to write this text I saw a very funny poster at mmoabc.com, which depicts a woman carrying a sign that says: “Says the bible: war is sent by god.” The picture is part of series of spoofs of the well-know motivational motives featuring a colorful image and some silly words. The text accompanying this picture says: “Religious War. Killing each other to see who has the better imaginary friend.” And this I believe is just what the year of polytheism is all about:

The “International Year of Polytheism” (powered by monochrom) wants to overcome the epoch of the monotheistic worldviews (and its derivatives such as “The West” and “The Arab World”) through the reconstruction of a polytheistic multiplicity in which countless gods and goddesses will eventually neutralize each other.

But even though it is easy for me to support the idea and to feel frighteningly in tune with the great polytheist movement, I'm having hell of a hard time answering the question about my favorite god/esse/s, since I worship countless of them. Some live in my flat, some I talk to on a regularly basis, some I had sexual intercourse with and some I have never seen nor even dared to imagine in their full glory. And what exactly does favorite mean in that respect? Is my favorite god the one who brews the coffee just like I like it or is he the engineer who engineered the robot who built my bike? Or the guy who gives me this incredibly self-satisfied feeling when I'm flying high above the clouds in my wildest dream? Or is she the one who made every piece of organic matter live in such a way that we can interpret it as living matter if we want to? Is he the one who gave us freedom or is she the one who enslaved us?

There are many favorite gods, but like in the famous Kung Fu series featuring David Carradine, when the decade of training at the Shaolin monastery is done, only one of the grad students can become the new master. And if all of them surrender their title as their code of honor requires that means they still have to fight. So if I have to give one definite answer I go with the great green frog god, the one who is constantly watching over all frog- and non-frog creatures and makes all other gods tick. Even though Buddha is quite a cuddly roughneck, too…