Grasshopper & ant,
otter, immortal, Rupture.
I dislike them all.
This was May's pick for Eleven-Books Club &...nope. I tend to be leery of "literary darlings" anyhow, generally finding them to be the middlebrow equivalent of Two & a Half Men-- "oh, the problems of young white straight men!"-- & while I'm sometimes, often even, surprised by what I find (the whole point of a book club!), this wasn't one of those occasions. In a nutshell: you never meet a character who isn't described a a hodgepodge of racial stereotypes. The topic of gender is addressed thus: ardent, pathetic men & neurotic, gold digging women. "But wait," you say, "those are just the loathsome protagonists!" Well, I don't buy it-- it is tough to argue authorial distance when one protagonist is a thinly veiled author insertion-- and either way, the voice of the book seems to want me to condemn the characters for the wrong things. Even if I wanted to cut some slack & grant the axioms, this dude who pushes a victim of domestic abuse into triggering situations because he only likes her when she's vulnerable? Yeah, I don't want to read a book about him. As for the portrait of the future...nope. It has all the nuance of a Fox News scare-teaser. "Is your kid huffing fermented farts...TO DEATH? Tune in at eleven!" Actually, I think it was Liz who said that it reminded her of a guy writing about youth culture based solely on moral panics about lipstick parties.
Seriously, you know the Socrates quote:"Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders & love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food & tyrannize their teachers." Just that old chestnut, but you know, kids these days with the cyber-sexting & the chat abbreviations! Shteyngart posits that kids will be sub-literate & speak in Lolcat...but also will refer to everything by it's full corporate conglomerate name, Saeder-KruppLittleDebbieRenrakuCorp or whatever. Some of the elements of economic decay were alright but they weren't particularly prescient, nor did I find them clever; basically take the general fear of the Chinese, add in a dash of IMF & WTO as left-wing canards for the sort of UN, Agenda 21 right-wing conspiracy theories, put a veneer of anti-Republicanism in, & then...that's enough, right? Or books. I don't believe the axiom that print is dead-- the numbers don't support it-- but all of that aside, let's grant his axiom. Let's say books are obsolete, no longer existing. You know who the last people who'd still like them would be? Rich old people for whom they remained a symbol of nostalgia & conspicuous consumption. Maybe that is all me, all my own brand of putting geeky stuff out there are cool, but I think the rich old people who wanted to live forever would probably make good clients for Lenny.
The meeting was a lot of fun. May, littlewashu & Rasheem all liked it; me, Jennifer, Liz, fordmadoxfraud & fatbutts didn't. carmyarmyofme didn't either; every fourth book club or so Carmen & I synch up our opinions, & this was one of those times; everything she said was right. Terra was quiet on the Hangout, since her bouncing baby boy Mal was up, & Beatrice didn't make it. Those of us who didn't like it didn't like it for the same reasoning, hating the characters, finding parts lacking verisimilitude, that sort of thing; some conceded that pieces of the writing were nice. Those who liked it dismissed the complaints by saying they were loathsome characters & that the haters are judging it wrongly, to which we replied that a thinly veiled author insertion character compromises any authorial objectivity, & Carmen said that she found the authorial voice identical in Absurdistan. There was wine & beer a-flowing-- Kerry brought a cooler from a party she just had-- & a log of Oreo ice cream. Not too shabby! We were pretty loud & boisterous & oh, it was Rasheem's first time! Welcome, welcome, stick around. Departures came in waves; Liz had things to get up to & was first out, but despite the trickling exodus, things went on for a while, & were pretty book club themed even. In that I started reading The Left Hand of Darkness & thus wanted to talk more about The Dispossessed, because it is in the same science-fiction cycle & I always want to talk about The Dispossessed now. Also, Kerry is reading The Silmarillion, so we got to talk about Lúthien Tinúviel, too!