The Pizza Is Poisoned, and Other News


On the Shelf

A late sixties ad for Campbell’s Pizza.


  • I’ve buried some things in my day—contraband candy, late family pets, the truth. But game recognize game, and I have to salute Mario Fabbrini, a Michigan-based frozen-pizza entrepreneur who once buried thirty thousand family-sized mushroom-topped pies on a farm in Ossineke. A motorcade of pickup trucks dumped the pizzas into a mass grave; Fabbrini marked it with a flower garland, featuring “red gladioli for sauce, white carnations for cheese.” Cara Giaimo has the full story of the Great Michigan Pizza Funeral: “In January of 1973, employees at United Canning in Ohio were checking their inventory when they noticed some of their tins of mushrooms had swelled up … When he got the news about the mushroomsFabbrini stopped his shipments and submitted his mushroom pizzas to a crude contamination test: slices were fed to a couple of FDA lab mice, who promptly died. So Fabbrini recalled his ’shroom-topped pies, rounding them up from local restaurants and grocery stores. In order to get rid of them, he decided to throw a funeral—partly for the grand optics, but, one suspects, partly as a display of accountability, too.”
  • Literature loves a hoax—the Daily itself may have perpetrated one as recently as yesterday, though you didn’t hear it from me. Clifford Irving, who’s responsible for one of the great written ruses of the past fifty years, isn’t given the credit he deserves as a creative liar. Paul Elie tells his story: “Irving, while living in Ibiza in 1971, concocted a bogus autobiography of Howard Hughes, the reclusive billionaire tycoon. Irving, a Manhattan-born author of three novels that had sold poorly, saw it as a low-risk, high-adrenaline stunt, a kick at the pricks of New York literary society. It was the kind of thing a writer could try and hope to get away with in the days before the Internet laid all—or most—fraudsters bare. That ‘stunt’ turned Irving into the Leif Erikson of literary hoaxsters. (The forged Hitler Diaries would not appear until the 1980s.) Irving got advances upward of $750,000 from McGraw-Hill; fooled the publisher, handwriting experts, and Life magazine’s editors; and stirred the publicity-loathing Hughes to comment—all of which seems to surprise him even now. ‘I was a writer, not a hoaxer. As a writer, you are constantly pushing the envelope, testing what people will believe, and once you get going you say, They believed that; maybe they’ll believe this … ’ ”

  • It’s not just that the concept of Western civilization is bankrupt, racist bullshit … it’s that it’s much fresher bullshit than you might think. Kwame Anthony Appiah provides an excellent primer: “European and American debates today about whether Western culture is fundamentally Christian inherit a genealogy in which Christendom is replaced by Europe and then by the idea of the West … If the notion of Christendom was an artifact of a prolonged military struggle against Muslim forces, our modern concept of Western culture largely took its present shape during the Cold War. In the chill of battle, we forged a grand narrative about Athenian democracy, the Magna Carta, Copernican revolution, and so on. Plato to Nato. Western culture was, at its core, individualistic and democratic and liberty-minded and tolerant and progressive and rational and scientific. Never mind that premodern Europe was none of these things, and that until the past century democracy was the exception in Europe—something that few stalwarts of Western thought had anything good to say about. The idea that tolerance was constitutive of something called Western culture would have surprised Edward Burnett Tylor, who, as a Quaker, had been barred from attending England’s great universities. To be blunt: if Western culture were real, we wouldn’t spend so much time talking it up.”