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The Secret Life of Groceries

Benjamin Lorr • 2020

A lot of the negative reviews of this book were based on the fact that it is not exactly so much about groceries & the supermarket (which is fair!) and that it is an absolute screed, an ideological argument bolstered by reporting rather than reporting that flows into an ideological argument (somewhat less fair!)

Here is what I will say negatively about the book: it is unfocused and does in fact read as overly personal. Lorr tries to cosplay Sinclair at times, and it is not particularly interesting or useful: his ideological writing is best when he recedes from the action and just lets his narrative do the work for him. This is what frustrated me more than anything: I simply do not give a shit about his time hobnobbing with various progressive factions!

But the book is good. You will learn a lot, and I think it is fair. Lorr does not spend enough time talking about the value proposition of the entire apparatus he critiques, but he certainly acknowledges it — and I think, even if it's unsatisfying, him saying "I don't know what the right answer is or if this is all worth it" is honest. I learned a lot in each section he covers, even if they don't cohere to anything more substantial than "jeez, supply chains are insane and sanatic, huh?"

5/28/2021
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