Reading: Stephan Eirik Clark’s “Sweetness #9”

Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark, Little, Brown, $26 (400p) ISBN 978-0-316-27875-1

SWEETNESS COVER 2From the publisher:

It’s 1973, and David Leveraux has landed his dream job as a Flavorist-in-Training, working in the secretive industry where chemists create the flavors for everything from the cherry in your can of soda to the butter on your popcorn.

While testing a new artificial sweetener–“Sweetness #9”–he notices unusual side-effects in the laboratory rats and monkeys: anxiety, obesity, mutism, and a generalized dissatisfaction with life. David tries to blow the whistle, but he swallows it instead.

Years later, Sweetness #9 is America’s most popular sweetener–and David’s family is changing. His wife is gaining weight, his son has stopped using verbs, and his daughter suffers from a generalized dissatisfaction with life. Is Sweetness #9 to blame, along with David’s failure to stop it? Or are these just symptoms of the American condition?

David’s search for an answer unfolds in this expansive novel that is at once a comic satire, a family story, and a profound exploration of our deepest cultural anxieties. Wickedly funny and wildly imaginative, Sweetness #9 questions whether what we eat truly makes us who we are.

This book was a little terrifying because none of the horrifying crimes against humanity committed by the corporate characters within its pages seemed even slightly outlandish or impossible; in fact, the profit-driven sins seem mild in comparison to the things we know have happened and are happening daily in corporate offices around the globe.

Well written, often funny, complete with attractively repugnant anti-hero, irony, hipster-attitude-cred, the occasional over-the-topness, conspiracy theories, and a hyperbole of paranoia – which, actually, seems completely rational — Sweetness is a quick and entertaining and horripilating read. Especially if you – like me – tend to nosh on bagged snacks while page-flipping. Be warned, have a piece of fruit instead.

As always, I bought my copy at my AMAZING local independent bookseller, THE CURIOUS IGUANA – click anywhere in this sentence to GO THERE! And you should. Tell them I sent you.


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