M.T. Anderson, Feed

Outside my comfort zone: M.T. Anderson's Feed is hardcore YA dystopian fiction, with a strong cult following. I'm more of a dabbler with this kind of thing (cults, YA fiction, even dystopias), but it's a very powerful book.
From Dig Boston

Still, I didn't really enjoy Feed the way I wanted to, so let me speculate a bit about why not.

For some reason, this decade-old novel seems to have inspired more than the usual number of YouTube reviews and English-class film trailers. The use of video, both to express your own thoughts and to imagine a way to represent someone else's, doesn't feel normal to me, doesn't come naturally. In other words, I'm a consumer of this kind of technology, of most kinds really, not a producer, and this means that I'm uncomfortably aligned with Feed's generally despicable characters even more firmly than is usual with a dystopian novel.

And this feels a little bit like a cheat. I'm not offended or anything, because honestly, we all deserve to be pushed unwillingly into alignment with villains more often than we are. You're no hero, especially if you think you might be. Still, if one doesn't make much use of the technologies being challenged, because one isn't a fan even of their pre-dystopian versions, then the purpose of the compelled alignment is a little suspect for me. Yes, it should strengthen my resolve, but I don't like feeling nagged.

Anderson playing Twister, alone
I know, too, that I shouldn't need to be happy while reading a novel, to be coddled, but I kept carping silently but disruptively to myself during the reading of Feed. The characters are mostly a bit dim or unpleasant, with the brighter ones you might self-importantly like to identify with either hiding their lights under bushels or acting out arrogantly. The environmental devastation is more intense than the represented technology should be able to handle (boiling lakes, smog-driven skin lesions deep enough that people's teeth are exposed through the cheeks, no trees…), but apparently the society either isn't yet admitting collapse or is managing.

So, you know. The positive reviews out there all make proleptic fun of me for my inability to sing the body electric for Feed, and yeah, maybe I could've forced a different response, but instead I just admire the book. Its target market loves Feed, and it doesn't need me anyway.

(Here's a link to a very good review: shorter and more insightful than mine, and also positive rather than whinging.)


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