Belching Out the Devil: Global Adventures With Coca-Cola
by Mark Thomas
Nation Books, 384 pp.
Had I known anything about Mark Thomas or his new book, Belching Out the Devil: Global Adventures With Coca-Cola, I might not have accepted the opportunity to write this review with such alacrity. I have, you see, a strong historical and emotional attachment to the book's subject matter. For a half century, one member or another of the Coca-Cola family of sweet fizzy beverages--Coke, Diet Coke, Tab, Sprite, even Orange and Grape Fanta--have been a treasured staple in my diet. At every phase of my life, Coke has meant party, reward, relaxation, fun. Since high school, I have been a cheap Coca-Cola hophead who even now prefers to get his caffeine from a can of Diet Coke rather than a cup of Starbucks. Throughout my adulthood, I have been defiant about my palate's beverage preferences, a happy ignoramus who prefers Coke over any product from Napa Valley, a man content to sit mute during discussions of the comparative merits of single-malt scotches, but an authority on where in the tristate area the price of a two-liter bottle of Coke has fallen below ninety-nine cents. Somewhere in the bowels of Coke's global headquarters in Atlanta, there sits a bean counter who annually projects without a second thought a transfer of several hundred dollars from my coffers to Coke's.
Well, thanks to Mark Thomas's book, that bean counter is going to have another think coming.
Thomas, as those of you with a transatlantic pop cultural field of reference may know, is a British comedian who came to prominence as a reporter and presenter for the BBC. Edgy and often profane, Thomas has a decided pro-proletarian bias. (He is, after all, the son of a midwife and a self-employed builder.) He specializes in pulling off the audacious stunt that rudely undercuts a powerful person and places him on the defensive--think the English Michael Moore, although Thomas does not seem so unabashedly unkempt. It was Thomas, for example, who revealed how rich Britons were avoiding inheritance tax by declaring that the art, furniture, homes, and land they had been bequeathed were exempt from being taxed because they were available for public viewing. Thomas staked out Nicholas Soames, a Tory member of Parliament and the grandson of Winston Churchill, and pursued him relentlessly, asking to see the heirlooms kept in his home. Eventually Soames paid the tax, and the...