In news whose tolerability likely correlates directly to your own patience for its chief proponent, American restaurant chain Chipotle has begun printing specially commissioned short pieces of prose on its bags and cups at the suggestion of Jonathan Safran Foer, the divisive author of Everything is Illuminated, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Eating Animals. The texts are designed to be read in two minutes or so, and come from a range of big-name contributors, including Toni Morrison, George Saunders, Sarah Silverman, Malcolm Gladwell and Judd Apatow.
Per Vanity Fair, the idea came to Foer as he sat in Chipotle eating alone, without having brought a book, magazine or smartphone to distract him from the bleak drudgery of the workaday life of the prominent bestselling author for as long as it takes to eat a burrito. ‘I really just wanted to die with frustration,’ says Foer, who is 37 years old and teaches at New York University. The author e-mailed Chipotle C.E.O. Steve Ells with his idea, and Ells proved receptive, giving Foer free editorial rein over the process.
Asked about the potential ideological conflict of the vegetarian author of a book about the ethics of eating animals working with the restaurant chain, Foer says: ‘There were things that I had to at least think about, like the fact that they serve meat, and I don’t eat meat. And the fact that they’re a sizable corporation, and that I don’t tend to get involved with sizable corporations any more than I have to, and the fact that I have no interest in marketing for anyone or endorsing anything. That having been said, I got to know quite a bit about the company, not in the process of doing this, but in the process of Eating Animals. Chipotle was pointed to quite often, as a model of what scaling good practices might look like.’
His real reason for doing it, however, was ‘800,000 Americans of extremely diverse backgrounds having access to good writing. A lot of those people don’t have access to libraries, or bookstores. Something felt very democratic and good about this.’ Which seems like quite a presumption about the clientele of Chipotle coming from the Princeton graduate professor of creative writing with three published novels under his belt who was himself moved to this action by eating in Chipotle, but whatever works.
He was chief hack and music editor of webzine Brazen from 2006 to 2010, and hosted Left of the Dial on Subcity Radio from 2008 to 2011.
He can be heard semi-regularly on the podcast of Scottish cultural blog Scots Whay Hae ('20th best website in Scotland!' - The List), and in 2011 founded Seen Your Video, a film and music podcast and blog based in Glasgow. He has a Masters degree in Scottish Literature from the University of Glasgow that will never have any practical application. You are on a hiding to nothing if you follow him on Twitter expecting any kind of hot publishing scoop.