Wednesday, October 05, 2005

JUNK Review - North Texas Daily

This one's from my hometown of Denton, TX...

Author replaces drug war with food
Zachary AustrewDesign Editor
October 06, 2005

Hide your Snickers.

In a not-so-future Denton, moral and civic authorities set aim on a new advisory to societal good: candy.

“Junk” (Emperor’s New Clothes Press, 2005, 214 pages) by Christopher Largen, a current NT student from Denton, is a fictional account of the American government’s crack down on obesity through a War on Junk Food.

The plot is quickly revealed as puns are layered endlessly thick.

“Wake-and-bake” refers to slurping coffee and munching donuts, Police warn youngsters of toxic chemicals “junk-dealers” mix in black-market cake batter and concerned parents circulate petitions to destroy halfway houses erected near the middle schools.

Gangs cynically named the “Praline Posse” and the “Meatloaf Mafia” rage in rich turf battles while government–sponsored billboards read, “Be a patriot – eat more Tofu!”

In this world, fatty foods are illegal, immoral and dangerous.

Yet, behind each faux moment of “sweet crime and punishment” is Largen’s pro-activist soul. Being a co-author of “Prescription Pot” (New Horizon Press, 2003), a non-fiction biography of a federal marijuana patient. “Junk” is a tongue-in-cheek examination of the individuals swept up in America’s real War on Drugs.

Replace drugs with sugar. Erase the crack epidemic and insert obese brownie fiends searching for sweet smack.

“Junk” is timely. With the success of the 2004 film “Super Size Me” and a growing concern for escalating obesity rates, food and fat are high on American radars.

Largen is cautiously astute of the current fears. “I went with food as the symbolic substitute because everybody eats,” Largen said.

He is also fully aware of “the real dangers of poor diets and obesity” which he says is “responsible for more deaths in our nation than drug abuse.”

Scattered throughout “Junk” are faux newspaper clippings, 911 operator transcripts, chart-topping rap lyrics, and interviews with government officials.

The novel’s use of humor serves to disarm the reader to the audacious scenario, also acting to reveal the vulnerability of all the war’s actors. The junkie, the thief, the cop, the pain, the judge, the witness, the sentence, the minister, the affirmation, the death. No one is safe from the wrath of this war on drugs. Wait, I mean this war on junk food.

Largen says the novel is not that far from the truth. Every character, happenstance and event comes from the past six years of his fight to reform marijuana regulations. And Junk exposes pitfalls of total prohibition as opposed to strict regulation. “Prohibition provides the government no regulation, which compounds and exacerbates the health and safety problems associated with it.” Largen said.

Junk recently earned the premier Parents Ending Prohibition book of the month award. PEP is a non-profit, pro-legalization of marijuana, organization whose mission is to reveal what they believe to be the harms of America’s War on Drugs.

This wonderfully written, fast-paced tale exposes the dark underbelly of American drug policies. The sweet substitute provides insight to the gray, unwritten dirty side while questioning its toll on the everyday person.

Largen says it is all a health issue, not a criminal one. “If someone is robbing my house for a Twinkie, that is a criminal issue. But if someone is eating a Twinkie, that is a health issue.” Largen said. And “if you take a health issue and turn it into a criminal matter, you make the health issue worse.”

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