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Novelist Jonathan Safran Foer tackles nonfiction with his latest effort, 'Eating Animals'

November 11, 2009 |  1:56 pm

Animal advocates everywhere are talking about author Jonathan Safran Foer's latest book, "Eating Animals."  Foer, known primarily as a novelist whose prior works include "Everything is Illuminated" and "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," went the nonfiction route with "Eating Animals," which tackles the issue of factory farming and the toll it takes both on animals and the environment.  Here's an excerpt from our colleague Susan Salter Reynolds' review:

Jonathan Safran Foer Looking forward to your turkey dinner? Think twice. It's time, argues Jonathan Safran Foer, to stop lying to ourselves. With all the studies on animal agriculture, pollution, toxic chemicals in factory-farmed animals and exposés of the appalling cruelty to animals in that industry, he writes in "Eating Animals," "We can't plead ignorance, only indifference. Those alive today are the generations that came to know better. We have the burden and the opportunity of living in the moment when the critique of factory farming broke into the popular consciousness. We are the ones of whom it will be fairly asked, 'What did you do when you learned the truth about eating animals?' "

Some of our finest journalists (Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser) and animal rights activists (Peter Singer, Temple Grandin) -- not to mention Gandhi, Jesus, Pythagoras, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, John Locke and Immanuel Kant (and so many others) -- have hurled themselves against the question of eating meat and the moral issues inherent in killing animals for food. Foer, 32, in this, his first work of nonfiction, intrepidly joins their ranks, inspired by fatherhood, the memory of his grandmother (who survived the Holocaust by scavenging her way to freedom) and something else.

This something else is what made critics of Foer's fiction, the novels "Everything Is Illuminated" (2002) and "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" (2005), fall over themselves to praise him. It is a kind of fearless modernity: one part "whatever," one part descendant of Holocaust survivor (we've only got this one life, if that, to get things right) and one part soaringly beautiful, annoyingly entitled liberalism. What did you do when you learned the truth about eating animals?


Photo: Jonathan Safran Foer in 2007.  Credit: Granta

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