personal challenge memoir review #3: farewell, my subaru

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i am sick, yet again. this is my second cold in less than a month. & there’s a blizzard raging outside. we’ve probably gotten about a foot of snow so far & it’s not slowing down much. so i have tucked myself into bed with a stack of cheesy madeline wickham novels & some generic brand “fizzy vitamin C drink”. while i recover, please enjoy my brief yet scathing review of farewell, my subaru by doug fine. it’s the memoir of a man who decided to buy a ranch & devote himself to being an ecologically sustainable gentleman farmer. it is a terrible book.

hated this book. from the moment that the dude offered up a recipe for bruschetta & didn’t even call it bruschetta because he seems to have never heard of bruschetta before (he presented the recipe as if it were a remarkable discovery he made whilst dicking around in his kitchen one day, as opposed to a standard fare appetizer at any half-reputable italian restaurant anywhere in the world), i knew i was in for a bumpy ride. the dude is apparently a journalist, which i find difficult to believe. when trying be funny & desscribe an adventure, his prose dragged & bored me. but even worse was his conclusion chapter, in which he tied all of his attempts at gentleman farming, running a veggie oil car, & living off the grid on solar power while raising goats, & shacking up with a yoga instructor to climate change & wars over fossil fuels. *slow clap* inventive! original! wait…no. the dude claims that he hadn’t even heard of veggie oil cars before 2006. really? how is that possible? you travel all across the world & back again on journalism assignments & you’ve never heard of veggie oil cars? & the fact that a biodiesel conversion would require a diesel engine escaped him as well. *sigh*

first, he adopts goats & names them after natalie merchant & melissa etheridge. later he adopts chickens & it takes him forever to realize that maybe he can sell their eggs & make a little revenue, as opposed to eating fritattas morning, noon, & night. he drops thousands upon thousands of dollars converting his home to solar power, including his water heater. seriously, so much money. he didn’t bother securing a source of veggie oil for his converted truck until he’d already had the conversion done, & throughout the book, he basically bumbles along like an ass. he spends several chapters trying to wean himself off the local wal-mart, referring to it as “wallyworld” at least a dozen times. that was humiliating for me to read; i can’t even imagine how it would have felt to be the moron who committed it to print. i am seriously AMAZED that this dude went out of his way to BUY A RANCH for the purpose of LOCAL SUSTAINABILITY & had even already invested in a couple of dairy goats before it occurred to him that many of the goods he purchases at wal-mart (including his addiction to rotisserie chickens) maybe aren’t in line with his project. not to get up on my high horse, but it’s been years since i set foot in a wal-mart, i manage to find alternative retailers for anything i might want to pick up there, & most wal-marts aren’t even conveniently located for people (like me) who don’t have cars in the first place! [edited to add: i wrote this review a little more than a year ago. i have since purchased a car. but i have not used it to go to “wallyworld”.] it’s a self-fulfilling cycle & one that is really not that difficult to break with even the tiniest shred of self-awareness & discipline. ARGH!

maybe my favorite thing about this book is that it was included in a recent “new yorker” round-up of gimmick-y localvore/environ-adventure memoirs, along with plenty, no-impact man, sleeping naked is green, etc. all the article said about this particular book is that the author traded in his fossil fuel car for some goats, but he saw fit to write a defensive letter to the editor, trying to distance himself from eco-stunt writers on the grounds that he’s into his third year of “sustainable” living at the ranch & is raising his son on home-grown produce & goat milk. gee whiz! someone page al gore! i see a man who is FAR more deserving of his nobel award! god, this book was dreadful.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Kathleen says:

    Your personal challenge memoir reviews are making my life better. Consistently entertaining, and save me from reading the dross. Nice one!

  2. soveryunhip says:

    (Fan, lurker, first time de-lurking.) Idk about the Walmart issue… it really depends on where you live. I’m in the suburbs without a car, and it’s impossible to pretty much get anywhere, but it’s still easier, public-transportation-wise, here, to get to a Walmart or a grocery store than it is to get to the local farmer’s market. When some friends of mine were living in Kentucky, they were able to get lots of local, ethically-raised food from this awesome co-op, but that’s not so much a reality for them in Los Angeles. And if you can only afford cheap food, cheap clothes, can’t farm ’cause you’re in the city and there’s no community garden or you just don’t have the time, don’t know how to sew (and also don’t have the time)… Which is why climate change is gonna kill us all, I guess. :/

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