It was only a couple of days ago that I was tweeting back and forth with Evan Dawson (blogger for The New York Cork Report and recently published author) about our mutual addiction to books. We jokingly asked publishers to stop putting out so many goddamned intriguing books so we could catch up on our “to read” piles, and I admitted that for every three books I finish reading I usually wind up buying 5 more, making my pile ever larger instead of smaller. And the truth of the matter is that there is a lot of good stuff out there, both fiction and non-fiction, and the recent breakthroughs of both independent publishing and ebooks just makes the dangling carrot even bigger and easier to catch. To paraphrase Henry Rollins, when I walk into a book store I start to freak out because I feel like there are endless shelves of books giving me the finger and saying “fuck you” because they contain knowledge within them that I don’t.
But every once in a while you come across a book that, without question, makes you completely distrust the money-lusting snakes that make their homes inside the den known as a publishing house. Hey, listen, it’s a business, I get it. Nobody’s there to judge what is good or bad literature, and in some weird-ass way I’m thankful for that because despite Dubya’s attempts to dismantle this country’s intrinsic liberties, I don’t want a censor board in the world of books, and unfortunately that means that there will always be a lot of shit out there…shit that people will buy as a punch line, much to the chagrin of the trees that wasted their flesh to make the pages the shit was printed on. So, no, I’m not without strong opinion on this, and you’ll understand why I went on a bender when I received a PR email peddling a book called the Fart Without Fear Cookbook, to see if by any chance was I interested in an advance copy for review.
And I quote (typos and all), “Each year bloggers, foodies and newspapers around the country list the hottest recipes such as last years the hot recipe the bacon-stuffed, bacon wrapped Italian sausage – a recipe sure to play havoc on your stomach. THE FART WITHOUT FEAR COOKBOOK by chefs WAYNE CHEN and GARY GOSS is a tongue-in-cheek cookbook that offers Super Bowl recipes and tips on how to avoid those embarrassing moments when the food settles and decides to ‘vent.’” This isn’t tongue-in-cheek publishing, it’s head-up-asshole publishing. Chapters like Breakfarts, Loaded Lunches, Oop Soups, Side Splitters, and Dangerous Dinners actually had me for a moment, and I was tempted to go ahead and let them send me an advance copy just so I could ridicule the product and not just the concept, but it’s not exactly the greenest approach to life so I held back. What the FUCK people? A cookbook that teaches you how to cook foods that will still make you fart, just not funky fart?! “Now you can experience the flavors, joy and bawdy sounds of your favorite meals but without their odiferous aftermath.” Ugh.
They don’t post a single sample recipe on their website or offer up any legitimate culinary/nutritional background on how they’ve revamped comfort food recipes in order to remove the “deadly” from the silent ones. So who the hell goes ahead and throws down 17 bones for this thing willingly? Have I really gotten to be that much of a curmudgeon that I don’t get this? Has my sense of humor begun waning in my old age, along with my eyesight and bladder capacity? If I want to laugh, I have a tendency to pick up a book by, ohhh, I dunno, Christopher Moore. But I sure as shit don’t pick up a cookbook—well, unless it’s got Sandra Lee on the cover, then I’m definitely picking it up to laugh. Let’s call a spade a spade (or an ass an ass)…these guys got drunk during their 40th high school reunion, had a really stupid idea, and someone with not quite enough brain matter and just enough salesmanship decided to publish the really stupid idea. How’s that for adding value to the world of literature? I won’t go as far as to say that the art of publishing is dead, but at the very least it is surely bleeding out on the kitchen linoleum from a knife to the belly. And as they say in the news world, if it bleeds it leads.