It has been a really long time since I blogged about a book; don’t worry, I haven’t turned into a retard who doesn’t crack a book. I’ve just been lazy is all.
When I was a kid, we didn’t read unabridged literature. We read these abridged “pocket books” with illustrations, and my ultimate absolute favorite was always Dumas’ wonderful work of loss, hope, faith, triumph and pure unadulterated vengeance.
So it was fortunate that I came across a copy of Monte Cristo while walking around Borders Palo Alto and decided to plunge into the unabridged version of the tale.
While the book in and of itself is nothing short of fantastic, it is set in France in the early nineteenth century. Consequently, there are some cultural artifacts that I simply dont understand:
- Why the hell would you challenge a dude to a duel, then bow to him respectfully before taking his leave? When you threaten to kill someone, shouldn’t you spare the social niceties? I mean, if modern culture tells us anything, it tells us that the French ain’t the most polite people in the world to begin with!
- Why do husbands and wives sleep in different rooms? There are several instances in the book when the husband says to the wife something to the order of, “Let me meet you in your room in ten minutes” or “I am retiring to my room since you are being a querulous bitch”.
- I haven’t read up on the tradition of the duel, but why would you throw a glove at someone to challenge them? Is it me, or is that the most effeminate method of trash talk of all time?
All in all, well worth the 500+ pages!
Boomsday’s characters live in the near future and inhabit an America brought to the breaking point by six overseas wars and a crippling economic deficit. The “youth” of the nation is eminently pissed at Congress for passing backbreaking taxation against people under 30 – all for the express purpose of paying out Social Security to the 77 million retiring Boomer fat cats. When a 29 year old hottie encourages her blog readers to “take action” against Boomer retirement communities, all hell breaks loose (or as book jacket writers like to say: sets off a chain reaction).
Buckley is a pretty funny guy who can make jokes of the disabled (a central character wears a prosthetic leg) and get away with it, the book suffers from trying hard to sound, for lack of a better phrase, new media-ish. The book abounds with references to Google, web spiders, blogging, enterprise software and consumer web. However, anyone borderline tech savvy will recognize most of these references as complete nonsense.
Case in point: A major character in the book has designed a piece of software called “Spider Repellent”, which finds and erases web pages that correspond to a certain set of keywords. In short, this is stupid and irritating to read.
Another ding: The whole book is premised around the popularity of Cassandra Devine’s blog, but there is no explanation of why she became popular in the first place or why the hell she of all people gives a rat’s ass about Social Security reform.
If you are willing to suspend disbelief in these cases, though, it’s a quick, fun beach read. I give it 3 stars.
Cruising through Borders in Palo Alto, I recently came across a fantastic little book named “Crossing California”. If you get a chance, read this gem. It’s about a bunch of Jewish teens growing up in West Rogers Park in good ol’ Chi-town. To me, the book is about teenage angst, about the culture of a city at a particular point of time framed against the backdrop of the Iranian hostage crisis.
The title “Crossing California” refers to California Ave which sounds like a 70s, bourgeousie version of infamous 8 Mile Road of Detroit. People on the eastern side of California live in walk-ups, are poor and aspire to “cross” California. Conversely, people living west of the street look down upon their less fortunate neighbors.
The author himself confesses to feeling, as a child growing up in those parts, that everything would be alright once he crossed California. Being non-white myself, I was particularly intrigued by the racist statements made by the Jews in the book. While this sounds counterintuitive, it struck a chord with me, particularly since I’ve heard Indos make some particularly egregious, racist statements over the years (sometimes only jocularly, other times not so much). Racist statements about “Chinamen” and the neighborhood changing “shades” (that is, becoming predominantly Korean) uttered by Jewish grandmothers point to the foolishness of men and the risks of putting down groups – did they forget the persecution of the Jews after they started their new life in America?
The book is also a fun read about high school in the 70s and all the other hijinks that follow therefrom. I highly recommend it.