I have always been hesitant to annotate books. The clean lines of a printed page have always been more pleasing to me without hastily inked asides cluttering the margins. When classes required citations, I used neon colored flags to point to critical passages, opting to keep ink out of the equation.
Using the flags, I never had to choose whether my note was important enough to be immortalized in the margins. I never had to worry about making a comment I would later redact, about noting my malleable thoughts for others to see.
It always felt right to attempt to keep myself external from the work, about letting it wash over me without ever interacting with the page.
I can extract a work of fiction from the page, externalize it from its binding to turn over in my mind, to determine first what it means, and only secondarily what it means in relation to me. But with the best creative nonfiction, the mere act of reading mandates an interaction, demands participation from the reader. And that’s what On Immunity gets so very right.
In On Immunity, Biss weaves mythology, cultural observation, history and science in a conversation about immunity and vaccination. At the heart of On Immunity is the idea of inoculation as a community responsibility: that the impact of the decision to vaccinate one’s children (or not) goes beyond the nuclear family. Over and over Biss circles back to the idea of herd immunity, that the protection of vaccination not only protects the individual, but strengthens our community’s immunity as a whole.
Part of what makes On Immunity compelling is that Biss guides the conversation of inoculation in a way where the reader cannot avoid asking herself what she makes of the issue. She is forced to seek herself in the spectrum of opinions Biss lays forth.
When I read On Immunity, I found myself dog-earing page after page as a reminder to come back and add my own annotations. As a result, the perfect pairing for On Immunity is a recipe that demands an equal level of participation from its recipients: fondue.
Served with Sliced Apples, Sourdough Bread, & Pretzel Bread
- 1 garlic clove, halved
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/2 pound Emmental cheese, coarsely grated (2 cups)
- 1/2 pound Gruyère, coarsely grated (2 cups)
Rub inside of a 4-quart heavy pot with cut sides of garlic, then discard garlic. Add wine to pot and bring just to a simmer over moderate heat.
Stir together cornstarch and 1 tbsp water or wine in a cup.
Gradually add cheese to pot and cook, stirring constantly in a zigzag pattern (not a circular motion) to prevent cheese from balling up, until cheese is just melted and creamy (do not let boil). Stir cornstarch mixture again and stir into fondue. Bring fondue to a simmer and cook, stirring, until thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to fondue pot set over a flame.
Recipe via Gourmet