YOUR CALL IS IMPORTANT TO US: THE TRUTH ABOUT BULLSHIT by Laura Penny (McClelland & Stewart), 277 pages, $22.99 paper. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
Despite its terrific title, there really isn't much earth-shatteringly new in Laura Penny's rant against the institutions messing with our minds and our money.
Anyone with basic media literacy skills is aware that advertisers have an agenda - to sell at any cost. We know that insurance companies are ripping us off and that our news purveyors are not trading in cold, hard facts.
Drug companies? A pretty easy target, though Penny's analysis of how they're permitted to pump out useless pharmaceuticals while the "bad" drugs - marijuana, coke, hallucinogens - face zero-tolerance campaigns in America is pretty compelling.
You have to wonder why a Canadian writer published by a Canadian house would pay so much attention to the situation in the U.S. It's as if Canadian bullshit is too earnest and decent to notice.
But watch our political pundits make up stuff while they're predicting what's going to happen at a party convention. Or listen to them insist that we're already in the midst of a federal election campaign - just to make us think we can't possibly miss a newscast - and you get the sense that Canada's crap has its own pungent aroma.
What is electrifying about Your Call Is Important To Us is the writing. Penny, a PhD candidate in comparative literature who currently teaches at King's College, has a machine-gun style that just keeps firing. She makes up phrases (like "truth decay"), unabashedly throws slang around and delivers a one-two punch of comedy and outrage that is a total knockout.
The book itself is a useful synthesis of ideas about power, profit and manipulation. But it kinda doesn't matter what she's on about. This is a writer to watch.
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Penny reads Monday (May 30) at the Hart House Music Room as part of the DownHome festival. See Readings, page 90.