In the September 24, 2007 issue of New York Magazine (which I typically thumb through while waiting for the kettle to boil or waiting for The Simpsons to come on), I came across a brief article that rather flipped my switch. Other dissertators I know have spoken of the eerie synchronicity that comes with deep involvement in a project--the sense that somehow everything is relevant, that everything everyone is talking about somehow relates to your own work. Those of you who know me well will know that I already thought everything was about me, dissertation notwithstanding. Nevertheless, even the most hardened amongst you will have to acknowledge the appropriateness of what follows.
Gum, apparently, is proliferating. I've been writing about organizational mechanisms arising subsequent to proliferation, and have even gone so far as to suggest that the rise of the novel is more intimately involved in this than has usually been stipulated. A reading audience with a taste for poems, plays, romances, epics, comedies, treatises, sermons, essays etc. can have their thirsts slaked by the super-enriched vitamin smoothie that the novel becomes over the course of the first half of the 18th century.
But back to the gum.
"It seems that new kinds of chewing gum proliferate daily," Ben Mathis-Lilley writes. "With bodega cash registers now besieged by both the classical brands and tortured-sounding variations thereon. We decided to determine the best of each genre--mint, fruit, and bubblegum--by doing a comprehensive taste test" (62).
If Fielding's comic epic in prose isn't a novelist's answer to Trident Minty Sweet Twist, I don't know what is. The "new" province of writing that he shaped into Tom Jones takes your classic brands (comedy, epic, mint) and combines them with new flavors (realism, moral ambiguity, Sweet Twist). But the point here is that as soon as there is proliferation, or the perception of proliferation (and I have to say I think it was "5" gum that put ME over the top), there follows a need or desire to establish a hierarchy of value. Some critic shows up to read/chew it all up and tell me what I can leave on the shelves with respect to book and gum alike. Wylie Dufresne and Alex Stupak, a chef-proprietor and pastry chef, inform me that in chew-wise the classics are actually the best. So your Iliad is Wrigley's Spearmint and your Margites (if we hadn't lost the thing) would undoubtedly be Bazooka Joe (valued by the critics here for its "classic" flavor).
Between them (both in flavor and on the actual magazine page) in the fruit category is Adams Sour Cherry, which I haven't tried, but which I am nonetheless confident would to an adept synaesthesiac taste like Tom Jones reads.
All other gums--and books--you can discard as being both literally and figuratively beneath your taste.