Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Books First - April 2007
I is for Innocent by Sue Grafton
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, read by Ethan Hawke
Dog Days by Ana Marie Cox
Schrödinger’s Ball by Adam Felber
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Since I already own at least one edition of every Vonnegut book, there was nothing I had to run out and buy in the aftermath of the very surprising outpouring after his death. I have had my eye on this unabridged reading of his most celebrated book for awhile, so I finally justified buying it to myself as a grief-reducing splurge.
Back in August, I read Washingtonienne, Jessica Cutler’s roman a clef about her exposure as a floozy working and sleeping on Capitol Hill, occasionally for money. An important character in breaking her story was Ana Marie Cox a/k/a Wonkette, the political gossip blogger. Naturally, Dog Days tells the story of a blogger with questionable morals. Rather than hew tightly to the Washingtonienne script, Cox instead comes up with a tale with a slightly more sympathetic character. Her heroine is working on a presidential campaign but sleeping with a married TV pundit. Her best friend talks her into creating a fictitious slutty blogger to shift the news cycle away from her personal life. Hilarity ensues. Or at least it should have. While the book has plenty of snarky caricatures, the story is a little flat. Perhaps the biggest problem is that the book pulls it’s punches a little in the name of verisimilitude. The characters are real and the inside baseball politics is large plausible. I just expected a little more chaos and a slightly sharper edge.
When I was browsing through the Kendall Square Coop, I ran across Schrödinger’s Ball which is Adam Felber’s mind bending tale loosely based on quantum physics. The book has at least five interlocking stories, one of which is told in the second person plural. When Johnny Felix Decaté kills himself in his grandmother’s basement he sets off a non-deterministic set of events that affect his remaining friends including the hypersexual Debbie and uber-geek Grant who secretly and not too discretely lusts after her. There is also a wacko separatist and a schizophrenic homeless lady. The tone and style is very heavy on the Tom Robbins with just a hint of Vonnegut thrown in. The book finally pulls all the threads together in a clever and satisfying way.
The last time I read a graphic novel, it was a redressed superhero epic. The graphic novel I read this month, Fun House, is way more Angela’s Ashes than Avengers. Alison Bechdel is the author of the long-running and very funny alternative comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. Fun House contrasts Alison’s sexual awakening with the discovery of her father’s long closeted homosexuality just before his accidental death. The titular house is the part-time funeral parlor her father runs when not working as an English teacher the local high school. These topics guarantee to be a barrel of laughs. Interspersed into the narrative are long allusions to the works of Proust and Joyce among others. What is most surprising about the book is the pacing. It had a structure and rhythm that added to the bittersweet story. The illustrations are detailed and revealing. She draws herself a little like Mo, my favorite of the DTWOF cast. Watch out for this book and read it if you get a chance.