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August 6, 2009

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The Stakes

Wow. Just excising a line from A. O. Scott’s review of Julie/Julia here. Talking about Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” he says:

The book stands with a few other postwar touchstones—including Dr. Benjamin Spock’s “Baby and Child Care,” the Kinsey Report and Dr. Seuss’s “Cat in the Hat”—as a publication that fundamentally altered the way a basic human activity was perceived and pursued.

Ignore the impulse to say “uh wait, says who?” or nitpick the list, and focus instead on the broader observation, the fact that some books actually do just that: alter the way a basic human activity is perceived and pursued.

What a goal! What a reward.

I mean, they do, don’t they? Is that still true?

Posted August 6, 2009 at 11:30 | Comments (3) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted


Diet books do this all the time. Earlier this decade, the Atkins resurgence changed how half my social circle ate as people became carb-phobic. Restaurants had to change their menus to adjust.

Similarly, I think Michael Pollan, with The Omnivore's Dilemma has shifted our macro approach to food, and I find it heartening that the Obama Adminstration has a food policy now.

Wait, which "basic human activity" was changed by The Cat in the Hat? Learning to read, maybe. But it lacks he simplicity of eating and breeding (procreatively or recreationally) associated with the other three books listed.

Likewise Silent Spring had a major effect, but I'm not sure it hits that "basic human activity" threshold. Close, but not exactly.

I assume he meant that childrens' books would never be the same after Cat in the Hat -- the wackiness, the surreality we now associate w/ the form springs from there. Just my best guess.

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