40 Foot Buffet Book Club, Month #1, Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal: For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public”

We are excited to announce the inaugural month of The 40 Foot Buffet Book Club. This quarter we will be reading seminal texts from three different genres – satire, autobiography/political ideology, and philosophy.

First, we’ll start off with an appetizer of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” Second, we’ll struggle through Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf. And finally, we’ll do some navel-gazing with Jean-Paul Sartre’s roller-coaster of excitement Being and Nothingness.  Meetings we’ll be held on the last Wednesday of every month at the local senior center or at the local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Light appetizers will be served. BYOB.

Month 1A Modest Proposal: For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public

In 1729, Irish cleric, satirist, essayist, pamphleteer and poet, Jonathan Swift proposed in his now canonical pamphlet that poor Irish families sell their children to the rich for eating in order to raise money for their families. The pamphlet was written as an attack on the landlords for the lack of concern for the living conditions of their tenants and to mock the tedious calculations of the proposals by political economists to raise money.

  1. How do you think Swift’s proposal was received? Do you think the readers “got it?” Do you have any experience with failed satire, print or internet-based?

 

  1. Do you think poor Irish children taste good? Would your answer change if the meal of poor Irish children was prepared by an English chef, French chef, or an Iron Chef?

 

  1. Swift writes that “[a] young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout.” How would you prepare a child to eat? What kind of wine would you serve?

 

  1. To solve the Social Security problems of the United States some experts have proposed the eating of senior citizens that are no longer productive members of society. With the aging of the baby boomer generation in the coming years there should be plenty of senior citizens to feed all of the underfed in the US along with several sub-Saharan African countries. Do you agree with this plan? If not, then think of all of the savings in medical costs and the joy of not seeing any more planning-for-retirement commercials with baby boomers enjoying their retirement by sailing or opening a winery or being in situations that call for Viagra! Now do you agree with this plan? No? Then what, Smart Guy or Gal, are your ideas for solving the catastrophic problem of an overburdened social security and medical system and a gutless political body to do anything about it?

 

  1. The subject of the 1966 novel Make Room! Make Room! by was the dangers of overpopulation and depletion of natural resources, primarily fuel and food. This novel in turn inspired the movie Soylent Green. In the dystopia portrayed in the both the book and movie, government-rationed synthetic foodstuffs – in tasty red, yellow and green varieties – created by the Soylent Corporation provide the primary sustenance for most people. In the movie Charlton Heston melodramatically exposes the secret that “Soylent Green is people!” What other societal ills could be solved by eating large segments of the population? Crime? Illegal immigration? The entire Supreme Court and all clerks?

 

  1. Look around at your fellow book group members. Who would you eat? Why? Who appears to be the most celiac-friendly? Who seems to have the most MSG?

 

(From the archives (2009) and updated.)

One thought on “40 Foot Buffet Book Club, Month #1, Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal: For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public”

  1. Despite all expectations to the contrary, friendship with you has actually become more challenging. The reading requirement may kill me. BTW, the Swift proposal closely mirrors Trump’s proposal to pay for the wall using DACA kids, student of history and scholar that Trump is.

    Like

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