A marvelous, funny, and just pleasant-to-read interview with Jonathan Safran Foer has just appeared on The Young and Hungry, serving partly as a preview of his upcoming nonfiction book, Eating Animals (or, if you just want to buy me a copy, that’s cool too).
MJL actually brought you news of the book back in March 2007, which means that the project has been maturing for a while. Since then, he’s starred (with Rabbi Yitz Greenberg) in a PETA documentary, If This Is Kosher, about the Agriprocessors scandal.
According to Foer, the book starts out as a memoir of his vegetarian-ing — when his son began asking questions about why they ate meat, he found himself questioning his own accountability — and ends up as a sort of universal polemic, a call to the masses to stop (or, at least, question) eating animals.
The interview itself is pretty profound and fairly revelatory. We get such tidbits as Foer’s favorite cereal (Puffins), pasta shape (rigatoni), and fruit (lychee); his ideal food (“Breast-milk, because I don’t have to cook it, and the baby likes it.”)
Foer’s answers also hint at the subject matter of his book. Generally, I’d be wary of any book that switches from memoir to societal dictum. But something about Foer’s combination of emotional passion and intellectual obsessive-compulsiveness might make him the perfect candidate to write this sort of book. His answer to why he’s a vegetarian is both exceedingly simple and notoriously logic-driven:
I’ve become a vegetarian many times in my life. I’ve gone on and off, and different times have been inspired by different reasons. I started when I was nine, very simply because I didn’t want to hurt animals. It was totally uncomplicated. And then as I’ve gotten older the reasoning has changed. I’ve thought more about environmental issues, workers rights issues, sustainability issues, the wastefulness. At the end of the day it’s probably still, mostly, because of animals. I guess what I mean is the older I’ve grown, the stronger the argument against eating meat has become in my eyes.
There’s one part that I’m still trying to process. It’s the shortest answer he gives in the whole interview, and it speaks to Foer’s whole tension between the traditional Old World Judaism that he writes about so beautifully in his books and the parts of him that seem less eager to be identified as a Jewish literary staple:
I know that you are Jewish. Do you keep kosher?
No. Well, incidentally I do because I don’t eat meat. But when I was eating meat I did not keep kosher.
I can’t imagine that the book itself wouldn’t mention kashrut at all. On the other hand, I don’t know if he’ll say much more than he did in that answer. I guess we’ll all find out in November.