Tuesday, October 18, 2005

JUNK Review - Indiana Daily Student

I liked this review so much, I think I'll have a root beer float...

Witty story much more than 'junk'
By Rebecca Hosier
Published Friday, October 14, 2005

At first glance, Christopher Largen's narrative titled "Junk" seems to be just that: junk. It's an array of articles, dialogue, fiction narratives, song lyrics, commercialized advertisements and newspaper clippings scattered throughout the book with enticing titles such as "Want to Micromanage your Employees' Pee-Pee? Urine the Right Place!"

But let's not make conclusions based on visual epistemology. From the opening lines of the narrative, "Junk" envelops the reader in an explosive prologue which precedes an equally suspenseful and gripping first chapter in the book. In the prologue, one character is kidnapped out of her room in the middle of the night with only the thought that "War. Is. Hell." The reader is left in awe of the action that has just transpired and curious about what war must be taking place in which casualties and hostages are being claimed, even kidnapped, out of their homes during the night.

The answer: The United States government has officially declared a war on junk food in an over-zealous attempt to stop the rising percentage of obese American citizens. The police are cracking down on all forms of junk food, making them worse than drugs and starting a program called "SCARE" (Substance Consumption Abuse Resistance Education) to replace the good old "DARE" courses (Drug Abuse Resistance Education).

Largen's text is filled with witty ploys on real-life people, places and organizations. He hosts characters such as Chastity Speers and Fernando Rivero (parodies of Britney Spears and Geraldo Rivera). With these correlations between real life and the world of the government gone mad, and with the inclusion of articles about managing employees' urine (among other things), the humor is endless. Yet through the combination of narratives and "Channel 8" interviews, along with various newspaper article clippings, the reader gains a sense of real-life, everyday government and political criticism. The text seems to ask just how far the United States government is willing to go in order to enact violent retribution for violations of trivial regulations. And with the war on junk paralleling the raging wars on drugs and terrorism, the juxtaposition of these political wars no longer seems far-fetched.

Largen makes a concise criticism of the war on junk when he writes that the government had to release many murderers, rapists and other hard-core criminals in order to make room for junk food offenders. The government even goes so far as to give murderers, rapists and drug abuse offenders shorter sentences than those citizens who are caught eating, creating or distributing any kind of junk food.

The use of newspaper articles with humorous names but strictly serious styles of writing also enforce Largen's criticism of prior and current government involvement in any sort of war in which there are casualties. And the war on junk definitely suffers casualties, whether from police brutality, obesity or even one instance of a death by Twinkie. Many people suffer their lives in the path of the government's attempt at making a better, slimmer America.

Christopher Largen's writing style emanates precision and conciseness in his clever debut of the world gone awry. For not only is America involved in the war on junk, but around-the-world bans on nonhealthy foods are being enforced. The involvement of other countries opens the narrative to the introduction of the Mafia-like Candy Man, the head of a large junk food distribution ring which revolves around all of the main characters in the narrative.

Largen weaves a careful and endearing tale about the struggle of several main characters to stay above the temptation of a chocolate craving or the "deadly" doughnut craving, bringing all their lives crashing into each other in a surprisingly thought-provoking ending.Whether you are political or not, democrat, republican, independent or otherwise, and whether or not you crave white chocolate or dark chocolate or must have that morning donut, Christopher Largen's novel is one to be enjoyed by everyone.

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