Saturday, July 24, 2010

Emptying the Skies

by Jonathan Franzen

I don't think of Jonathan Franzen as a journalist; in my mind, he's strictly a novelist, and so I was surprised to see him writing a piece about, of all things, the illegal songbird poaching industry of Mediterranean members of the European Union (I use this awkward description because it seems strange to refer to Cyprus and Malta as Europe).

In this lengthy article, Franzen accompanies members of the Committee Against Bird Slaughter as they tear up lime stick traps in the Cypriot countryside, wanders through the almost lifeless regions of Malta, and explores the backwoods (and backwards) regions of Italy.  I had never thought of songbirds as being an expensive meat (called ambelopoulia in Cyprus), but apparently this is an industry worth billions of Euros a year.

Franzen's article is clear and well-written.  He got attacked in Cyprus, although he ran while other members of his group got beaten up.  He also sampled the forbidden food, although to his credit, it brought forth more guilt than anything else.

This was an interesting article, portraying the EU in a different light than one normally sees.  You can detect a little bit of schadenfreude in Franzen's comment about how usually it is the European lecturing the American about ecological excess, but that little potshot can be forgiven, as this article helps raise awareness of this issue.

Also, I want to point out the lovely Adrian Tomine cover to this week's issue.

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