The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Tuesday, April 13, 2004  

Too Much Chicken Soup

I’m convinced getting filthy and undeservedly rich, at least as a writer, takes but one simple idea, one promoted to the extremes, one then diluted to nothingness, and one in the end licensed to hell.

Case in point: the phenomenon begun by the little (and I mean that) book, Chicken Soup for the Soul, by Jack Canfield. Promotion? Plenty of that way back when, especially after the book gained traction.

The dilution of the original “Chicken Soup” idea to nothIngness is and has been, as best I can presume, a coordinated effort between Canfield and his publisher. The entire parade, or charade, has become something far beyond tiresome. Several of Canfield’s most recent volumes approach what may only be called “reader abuse.”

Speaking now just of diluting a single idea’s value in the field of “literature,” Canfield already has produced five subsequent general servings of his dime-store psychology.

Worse, Canfield has supplemented -- i.e., diluted and cheapened, -- his original “idea” by publishing as astonishing range of little add-ons to his first work: chicken-soup supplements including those for parents, mothers (at least four separate volumes), mothers and daughters, fathers, couples, grandparents, women (at least three separate volumes), working women, senior citizens, singles, teenagers (at least seven separate volumes, including one for Christian teenagers), pre-teenagers, “kids,” brides, volunteers, veterans, gardeners, travelers, horse lovers, writers, nurses, college students, sports fans generally, Nascar fans, golfers, fishermen, cancer survivors, prisoners, teachers (two separate volumes), sisters, pet lovers, baseball fans, expectant mothers, romantics, the “unsinkable,” office workers, caregivers, Christian families, Christian women, Jews, “country folk,” Americans, and Canadians [Ed.: Canadians?!].

I could go on and on.

Incredible and offensive as that unending series of crap might be, Canfield continues to reach for the stars, “stars” here meaning the very last almighty dollar. If you think it’s all over, think again.

It’s getting worse, believe it or not.

You see, and I admit these products probably have been on the market for a while, unbeknownst to me, but I am no less disgusted. What the hell am I talking about?

Specifically this: Perhaps the stupidest idea in food (human or pet) processing since purple catsup, namely, Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul, food for domesticated dogs and cats, produced for Canfield by Diamond Pet Foods, St. Louis, Mo., kibble for the perpetually insecure. (Insecure humans, not pets.)

You know, if you all just stop buying this crap, Canfield just might stop writing it. And licensing it.

[Post-publication addendum (April 15): For another critical take on Chicken Soup for This or That, see "Chicken Soup for the Wallet," by John Carroll, San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 11, 1999. (Thanks to a reader for the link.)]

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