Going Bananas

America’s going bananas, with two books on the subject out recently with almost, but not quite, identical titles: Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World by Dan Koeppel and Bananas!: How The United Fruit Company Shaped the World by Peter Chapman.

I ought not to opine without having read Koeppel’s work, but the interview I heard with him on the radio hinted at a key difference between the two books, one that appears in titles. Dan Koeppel appears to care a little more about the taste and fate of the banana, with a narrative that portrays everyone’s yellow source of potassium as the real victim of industrial monoculture.

Peter Chapman (whose book I have read, and can heartily recommend) is ready to see that the greatest victims of the banana monoculture aren’t the bananas so much as the people whose countries were taken over in order to grow them.

The New York Times review of Peter Chapman’s book closes with an apposite line from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s characters: “Look at the mess we’ve got ourselves into just because we invited a gringo to eat some bananas.”