Shorts Review: Turkey Remains… and Thanksgiving in the Anthropocene

Yes, yes; it’s a bit late for this year, but I have two bits left to review from my Thanksgiving reading. They are a short story of sorts and a poem. The first was recommended to me and the other I found looking about for things to share with my middle grades students.

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“Turkey Remains and How to Inter Them with Numerous Scarce Recipes” is a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It’s actually an article?, essay?, journal entry?, note? which is included in the “Note-books” section (in my copy, on p. 193) of the posthumous The Crack-Up, which is a lovingly compiled body of Fitzgerald’s articles, notes, and letters in an attempt at an autobiography of sorts. The Note-books section is Fitzgerald’s own collection of things and thoughts of his own, perhaps meant to be used in later stories or just as a hobby or a diversion. At any rate, the book is out of print (or nearly so) and I found a copy on eBay and was shocked when a friend told me they had just read the same obscure book doing research on the roaring twenties for a baseball history. It does, indeed, contain articles and reflection on the twenties, right there at the beginning, which is as far as I have gotten: the beginning. On page 26, in fact, is where I have stalled. This mishmash is bound to take me all year, so I’ll just pick it up here and there and read a little more. And be entertained. Because it is interesting, but I’ll get to a review when I am done with the thing.

As for “Turkey Remains,” it is a bizarre piece of work, which is redolent of a humor left behind more than half a century ago. Still, as I said, entertaining, especially if you like to high-brow your humor. After reading it once in an article online, I ordered the book. When it came in the mail, I waylaid my husband in the staircase into the house and made him sit down and be read the darn thing. I watched his reaction and it was as I expected—indeed, as I had experienced myself only days before—surprise and then curiosity leading to resignation and a bemused smile. It is very short. It is, as it says, advice on how to deal with turkey leftovers with a handful of attenuated recipes. The recipes get wilder and more unbelievable as you go on, but I don’t want to spoil the fun for you. Let’s put it this way: Fitzgerald is no cook; he is a satirist. And this is no polished essay, it is an entry in his personal notes.

Warning: there are a couple racial terms that are not currently PC. At the time, I think they might have been, but names have changed due to negative connotations associated, etc.

I don’t know yet if I would recommend buying a copy of The Crack-Up unless you are a big F. Scott Fitzgerald fan. (If you are, then of course.) But I would recommend reading “Turkey Remains and How to Inter Them with Numerous Scarce Recipes” online, before Thanksgiving or on it, just for kicks. It’s… different. You won’t lose much time and you might just find your jaded millennialism scraped a little off.

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And now for the poem that I stumbled upon: “Thanksgiving in the Anthropocene, 2015” by Craig Santos Perez. I read this one in rattle’s online poetry magazine. I feel a little conflicted about it. Due to its stark, morbid outlook I did not share it with my middle schoolers, but I thought it deserved a read for Thanksgiving. Maybe next year for you. On the other hand, I don’t find it especially poetic. Mostly straight-forward and sort of resistance-y. My notes from the poem read: “Yeah, so not the best poem I’ve ever read, and yet it’s good enough. Thought-provoking, which is the point. Maybe too forward? Either way, I think it’s a good one to pull out for the holidays, especially for high school or college. A little crunchy and perhaps vegan, but…” Which is my main issue with the poem: it concentrates too long on one issue, which is factory farming. Otherwise, it soars through a number of American hypocrisies in moments and comes out the other side with us all with bowed heads around the table, needing forgiveness.  

So two short Thanksgiving reads for you. While the buffet table may be full of food, these two are food for thought.

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