Only a certain kind of customer will fill out a handwritten comment card and mail it in to a faceless, multinational corporation. Most of those comment cards will be scribbled complaints—“barista had out-of-date mustache,” “vegan latte tasted burnt.” But the comedian and artist Christine Ferrera took the comment cards at Starbucks, which read “We’d love to hear your thoughts,” seriously and, in an “endurance art project,” she poured her soul onto a decade’s worth of mail-in comment cards, sending one card to the coffee giant every single day for 10 years.
Her new book, “Starbux Diary: My 10-Year Journey To Caffeinated Enlightenment,” collects these comment cards and a few of the responses she received. At first the responses were all generic and corporate (see next page). But eventually, individual employees began to write Ferrera back, encouraging her and offering support. She then turned the tables and responded in the conglomerate’s corporate language.
Whether her themes are light or heavy, Ferrera’s swooping and personable handwritten text makes us feel always a bit comfy, lyrical, and silly. With philosophical flights of fancy and meditations on the nature of art, creation, true love, forgiveness, the sacred, and the profane, this book is improbably profound, as if Ferrera impregnated a series of Starbucks comment cards as a joke, and somehow they gave birth to literature.
Vulnerable, earnest, and yet positive, it seems as if Ferrera must be either a Mormon, or joking. The corporate identity of Starbucks, the concept of the monolithic international corporate entity, is not a theme here (and neither is the recent attempt to foster discussions of race with its “Race Together” campaign). Startlingly, Starbucks almost becomes a person, or perhaps a kelly-green God to pray to, a richly scented chapel, replete with an analyst to reveal one’s fears to, a benevolent confessor entity.
“Starbux Diary” is appropriately decorated with poop jokes, but it also froths and foams, without resolution, on the “big questions”—what is the relationship between love, longing, and artwork? Must you be in a constant state of flux and chaos to truly create great art? Can you get your heart broken by the same person over and over again? What is the ultimate nature of love and existence? Will Starbucks ever offer coffee colonics? Why shouldn’t integrity get its teeth whitened? After all, I bet integrity drinks a shit-load of coffee.
“Starbux Diary” exposes Ferrera’s most unpalatable and vulnerable feelings to the reader, but only after she has exposed these things to Starbucks Corp.