What I don’t like about American novels

July 30, 2015 § Leave a comment

When I read American novels I am struck by the number of products, food in particular, that are given their brand name. It is true that these ‘consumables’ are very common in America but are they quite as common as American novels would lead you to think? Identifying food or drink by brand is not as evident in English literary novels. The branded food, mentioned in American novels, is usually bad (unwholesome) food.

You will find brand-naming in novels written in the 1960s, perhaps earlier. And also in novels, set in 1950s, though written in the 1990s, for example, Elizabeth McCracken’s The Giant’s House and Alice Hoffman’s Seventh Heaven. Why do American novelists advertise denatured mass-produced consumables that don’t do people or the environment any good?

Any Irish or English or Scottish or Welsh reader of American novels should be able to answer the questions below.

Give the brand name for the following:

A fizzy non-alcoholic drinks (four letters or two four-letter words)

A breakfast cereal (eight letters)

A biscuit (four letters)

A fast food ‘restaurant’ (nine letters)

A cake (seven letters)

Shouldn’t novelists be a little bit charier of mentioning branded products and so giving free advertising to companies who have enormous advertising budgets? And clearly are doing their jobs very well if the branded product has, in the consumer’s mind, become almost become synonymous with the biscuit or drink. Aren’t small ethical companies, aiming to give farmers a living wage, or trying to preserve traditional skills, or providing for the education of children, far more in need of novelists’ gratuitous advertising? Why must novelists always be helping those giant multinational companies?

Before your made-up character reaches for a very real and much-advertised cold drink, think.

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