Friday, June 08, 2007

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Judi Barrett's highly regarded novella is a gripping account that depicts the daily toils of the residents of Chewandswallow. On the surface, the town of Chewandswallow is truly a jammer's paradise. Each day the daily weather report calls for sky-dropped jams of many varieties and these resident jammers literally stand in the streets mouth open when it comes time to eat.

"What's the weather report today?"

"I heard it's cloudy with a chance of meatballs."

And so on...

There is however a sinister element at work here and whether Barrett is making a parody of human consumption and calling into question our gluttonous tendencies is certainly worth mentioning. We know. This is a child's book with sweet pictures and tales of awesome jams, but why then would the jams turn sour?

As the story unfolds, the jams that befall Chewandswallow take on a more nefarious form. No longer hamburgers or spaghetti with meatballs but rather stinky cheese and over-cooked and rubbery broccoli "rain" down upon the citizens of Chewandswallow . In addition to a general shift in the quality of the jams, the jams also become proportionately dangerous in size and literally destroy homes and disrupt daily commerce. Eventually, these jammers are left with the decision to live among heaps of food or pack what they have left of their dignity and sail away on giant sandwiches.

Barrett, having received her MA in Jamology, does directly address two very important aspects of the JamZone credo. First, not every item of food is a jam. Yes tika masala and chile verde tacos are sweet and we would devour vast quantities if either of these jams were to drop from the sky. But what about Bingle? What if a toxic mixture of Jello, Pringles, and beer were to fall from the sky? Would that be a jam?

Second, jams, when they morph into grotesque proportions, can bring about unforeseen maladies that can reek havoc on one's body and personal life. We have all been there. Indian buffet, lunch time. Fork in hand, you just get after it and get serious on some food. Eyes closed, you drift through giant Saag dunes in search of your naan and tika oasis. A half hour later you come to your senses on the floor of the bathroom with the lights out. You are cold and want to call home.

Barrett's tale is ultimately a lesson in how to not let the jam get the best of oneself and even if it ends in a bleak retreat, does offer us some hope. Maybe somewhere a jammer's paradise does exist. A place where, as Greens has stated, "baseball games are canceled because of a pie storm and boats are made from sandwiches." Furthermore, if this magical jam paradise does exist, we would hopefully, like the people of Chewandswallow, more than likely embrace temperance in the face of falling jams.


At 5:33 PM, Anonymous Brandy said...

Great post, Greens! That book nurtured my Jam when I was very young and I still fantasize about boarding a magic Jamming junk piloted by sweet Elven chefs and leaving this drab world behind for the mole sauce shores of Chewandswallow. If we could solve the spoilage/public health issue, I'd be there. Jamberry by Bruce Degen is another classic from youth. It is about a boy and a bear Jammimg their way through a wacky land singing about all the different berries they see. It is not only a great Jam text, it also is really fun to look at when you're faded on fine medical.


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