Tag Archives: book review

His Name Was Writ In Water

Here lies a poor bastard who died never finishing David Foster Wallace’s book Infinite Jest, though this bastard tried, so hard. Ahh, rest in peace, sucker.

Was entirely prepared to have that etched onto my gravestone. Oho, but what’s this? Behold, do not call me ‘moof’ anymore; I now answer only to the title “Lord of the Universe, Eater of Worlds’ because….

I finished it. I finished it.
I motherfucking finished it.
::dance dance dance dance dance dance dance::

I have been reading IJ, on and off, for what seems like at least half a year. ‘The truth will set you free, but not before it’s done with you,’ an addict old-timer says on an AA podium–he was talking about addiction; hah, he was talking about this book. He was talking about everything, I suspect.

Warning: Coherent review will not follow.

‘What is that book about?’ Legitimate question, as I am always lugging this enormous brick around. I mutter lamely. I make gestures…

‘There’s this virtuoso junior tennis player… who also happens to be a sort of weekend-genius… there are two spies, an American, and a Canadian paraplegic, talking in the desert… there is a half-way house of drug/alcohol addicts, their handlers, caretakers and overseers and their mysterious ways… there is a horribly addicted girl who covers her face with a veil… and a movie (what they call in this strangely North-Ameriparallel but not QUITE North American modern world ‘an entertainment’ of such supremely sublime pleasure value that one glimpse of it will leave you drooling and foaming for more more more until you die.’

Let me start over.

Infinite Jest is about addiction. Addiction to highs, natural, synthetic, emotional, psychological–addiction to excellence, to top performance, to weed, to horse, to tennis, to killing animals, to DILAUDID, to love, to work, to sex, to fame–addiction to lows, and when Foster Wallace goes low, he goes really low, like rip out your eyeballs low, like can you please remove that last five pages from my memory banks low, because you write so VIVID, it’s like I’m having a false memory now. Like I was there.

This is a book about entertainment, like ‘entertainments’–what is entertaining, why do humans crave to be entertained, stimulated, sometimes, at any physical and emotional cost; why, just on this book, you will find many reviews of readers, perhaps rightfully complaining, that a book so long winded, so unorganized, so hard-to-finish has no right–to what? Exist? Be lauded as a genius masterpiece creation? Does an entertainment fail when too many people don’t ‘get it’? And speaking of those annoying fucking air-quotes to let you all know I am too hip to use a phrase as pedestrian as ‘get it’, are we as a society getting strangled by our insistence of always being more clever, more jaded, more issue-laden, more washed-out, more fact-oriented and more cliche-conscious than the next guy? Is David Foster Wallace asking that question, or is he demonstrating, by shanghaiing me into reading 1000+ pages of codswollop, that that is, in fact, what is happening here? I will plow through this because I don’t want anybody to think I did not quote unquote get it??

Sometimes, this book is just one big joke and you, as in I, are the personal hairy butt of it. Because (and addicts often have this mentality too) I am at the center of the universe, correct? Well, my universe, at least.

I was offended by this book. So deeply. Multiple times, I said fuck it. I can only be jerked off for soooo long. Thank you David Foster Wallace for making my wiener bloody, thank you.

Sometimes, ‘Infinite Jest’ and I were on hiatus. But a book and our interface with one is a metaphor for many things, a relationship amongst others, book to reader, and then author to book to reader, and if I think of it that way, that David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest and I were engaged in an on-and-off metaphysical threeway for the last six months… well then I’d say it was totally worth it. ~_~

My advice is hang in there. Getting frustrated by the SAT vocab bombs? You were not alone… You’re starting to chaff after a 20+ page description of a tennis match? Grab lube, keep on. Getting queasy after the tenth page intimately describing a father nightly raping (or was she enjoying it?) his severely physically disabled daughter and her present adoptive sister’s reaction to it? Skip it. But try to hang in there. Haha, like at an AA meeting.

One day of sobriety at a time. Sometimes, I crawled along, eye-balls pulsing, one measly page at a time.

Absurd, uplifting, stinky, drug-ridden, ambitious, truthful, synthetic, flowing, nonsensical, earnest, disgustingly smart and often hilariously funny. You know, like life. Adored it and despised it and will remember it forever.

PS: bricolage, cachinnate, febrile, fuliginous, inutile, scopophilia, and tear-assing down a hill.

Freak Like Me

Almost Perfect – A (sort of) Book Review

I got this book ‘Almost Perfect’ in the mail today from German Amazon and the first thing I did was tear off the cardboard fur-coat and start tearing right into it. I’d ordered it for two reasons. 1. It has a beautiful cover. No, it’s like really, this cover was designed to catch MY eye– in my mouth-fixation stage, it is a female mouth–crisp, on white. smeared lipstick and reason 2.  the author of this book sounds like a real sweetheart <3 Superficial reasons, I know, but maybe apropos to a story about covers hiding more than meets the eye…

So I order, it arrives, and I had another session with W this afternoon. And there I was in his apartment, sitting naked on a piano stool in his room, lactating like a motherfucker, milk pooling on the ground while he painted me (long story about the lactation,  let’s skip it for now*), drinking bitter, good coffee out of a yellow cup and reading ‘Almost Perfect’. Some kind of jazz was on in the background and the book kept cracking me up. What’s so funny? W would ask. It was hard to explain.

I wanted to tell him, W, I’m really digging this book. I’m feeling it very much. And I was. I am. It’s about a snooze boy who’s world gets rocked when he finds out that the girl he’s set his heart on is actually packing heat. What’s a snooze boy? Oh, you know, one of those boys  from small, American towns, generally nice, into chasing a ball of some sort and you can’t imagine ever falling in love with one of them. They’re another species. No, from another planet. Exactly what’s fascinating for me about this book–it had the power to make me imagine  falling in love with a snooze boy.

Sage is a new girl at Logan’s school and I swear, the first time Logan describes her walking into his lab, I felt such a kinship for her. No, it was more. It was like, I was her. Big ego, yes? I’m sorry, that’s what I do when I read, I identify with the characters, and ‘Perfect’ only has two major ones, so I gotta be a him or a the girl who walks in the room looking crazy, talking a little too loud, being one of the guys. She’s not super pretty, but something about her gets under your skin and I thought Fuck, I wear fake fur! Torn jeans! Big boots! Crazy dresses! I have fantasized about cutting off my hateful tits too many times to count!

My ass was still on Ws piano stool getting a cramp when I got to the point where Logan kisses Sage for the first time. It’s a nice kiss. It’s a kiss he enjoys. And then, in a fit of guilt, she tells him why she’s been acting so strange around him, why her parents are so protective and secretive of her: Sage is a boy living as a girl. Or rather a girl who does not want to live as a boy. As soon as she is out from under her parents’ control, she will get a sex change operation and be a fully-functioning female.

Logan flips! He almost hits her! He lurches out into the streets! He vomits with disgust! His biggest fear is not ‘oh, how will it work with this girl I’ve fallen in love with… what now?’ His biggest and most immediate fear is… ‘holy cow, I kissed a boy and I liked it–even though she passes completely as, and considers herself, a girl. Even though nobody knows at school.. but if someone finds out… they’ll think I’m GAY!’

And when I read that part, I laughed out loud.

W: What are you laughing about?

This snoozey dude! I wanted to yell at W. I wanted to howl ‘What a freak!’ And the moment I thought that Logan was a freak, I realized ‘Perfect’ is great no matter what you are. If you’re a snooze boy. Or if you’re a freak. Because you will judge the other side and feel how it feels. I thought, what kind of backwards ass boy gives a shit about kissing another boy (especially if she looks completely like a girl?)… what are you living in? The sixties? On another planet? It made me think I’d never really met anyone like Logan before–I’d never been to the middle of the United States! I don’t mingle with people from super small towns. I have no idea what it’s like to be someone like him; to be afraid of these things because I am one of those degenerates Logan claims to have only seen on talk-shows before he met Sage.

But I like him still, that’s the perfection of ‘Perfect’. He’s considerate, he can be lovable. He’s a moody douche sometimes, but he cracks me up with his little one-liners.

“There she was, standing like a root-beer stand in the desert.”

“So you’re Logan,” he said eventually. He said it like being Logan was some sort of dark perversion.”

And this book makes me wonder. I wondered what is it like to be someone like Logan? To never consider your sex? To not consider it like you don’t consider the sky, or you don’t consider gravity? To just accept it? I guess it’s like being white, I never question that. But what can it feel like to feel at home in your body? To know this is who you are, and be comfortable with it? I wonder what it is like to be so terrified to kiss someone of your same sex? To not want to do it any more than you would want to taste shit?  I am thinking the opposite of everything he is thinking as he slowly comes to terms with why Sage needs to live the way she does, realizing that there are other ways to think and feel and be than himself. Like I need to keep peeking into these windows and remind myself of all those other ways to think and see and feel.

Heads. Tails. But the coin is the same.
(And don’t take my word, make up your own mind…. You can get this great book here!)

[*And now for a story about lactation. This section not for the faint of heart. I had my reading in Berlin last night (!!) and that meant one full day away from the baby Nazgul. By morning this morning, my rack was ready to burst. Of course that's when someone had to sneak a pipe-bomb on our plane or some such horseshit and there I was at Shithole Airport with increasingly aching, granite tits of death. 'Just milk yourself' J suggested helpfully on my phone. Sure! Milk yourself! Why not? Where to? The handicapped bathroom? Except there was always a line! What if someone got behind me and I spent ten minutes in there going fucking Heidi the milkmaid on myself? They'd want to lynch the non-handicapped girl when she got out, let's just say that. But the hurt was getting bad. I wondered if boobs can POP.  So I eased into one of the stalls in the fem. bathroom. Lots of females outside, tapping their toes, but I'll take my time here. Lift up my shirt and face the toilet, like a little kid about to whizz thinking

Why?

Why? Is this happening to me?

Do you think the milk was obedient and went into the toilet bowl? Fuck that. It went EVERYWHERE. It was streaming off the walls. It was pooling on the ground. It was getting on my shoes. It was getting on my nerves. Why me? In the middle of this, the loudspeaker squawks. They’ve finally removed whatever tero-item from our aircraft and it is boarding. Tout de suite! French for move your ass! Chop-chop! Right now! Two hour delays so we’ve got to step on it! I stuff my aching boobs into my shirt. I rip off paper and try, so impotently, to wipe down everything. Finally in desperation, I just toss an armful of toilet paper on the ground. I tear out of the stall, blushing like a teenager after a public WC wank gone horribly horribly wrong. Wash my hands. Women shaking their heads. Cluck. Cluck. Cluck. Just look at this stall.
Oh, suck me ladies.
Just catch your flight.
It’s done, all right, but
Boobs, man. Sometimes, they turn on you just like that.

Freedom – A book review

Freedom: A Novel By Jonathan Franzen

Review time!!!!

Honestly, when I was younger, I would’ve rather shoved a potato peeler up my ass than leave a book unfinished once I’d started it. Even if by page 400 it became readily apparent that it was written by a retarded Bonobo on LSD out to warp my immortal soul, no, by God, I would huff and puff through that mofo, cursing every word, but determined to make it to the bitter end, and I would, I always did….

Which means I have logged hundreds and hundreds of hours reading football-fields of prose that left me absolutely cold  and one turning older has taught me, oh this long decade, is?

That life is waaaay too fucking short. If a book is torturing you–don’t torture yourself back.

Put it down.

At 100 pages, give or take a few, I am putting J. Franzen’s ‘Freedom’ down.
I will not torture myself anymore.

Supposedly, the book received a lot of lit. hype. Supposedly, some people who know books claimed that this was a Tolstoyean epic of our time. I don’t read high-profile NYT book reviews, so I can neither confirm nor deny these allegations, all I know is that I’m past page 100 and I have yet to meet a single character who I don’t want to shoot point-blank in the face with a Kalashnikov.

The characters are every American you’ve ever met crushed under their bourgeoisie guilt and their baggage and their baggage and their sucky, sucky life. If an alien picks up this book in 1000 years to use as some window into the soul of our current society, they would conclude that life in America is nothing but a slow, steady march towards inevitable disillusionment and auto-destruction. A lifelong dog-paddle before inevitable drowning in a sea of douch-bags.

What I hate about it most is how Franzen forces you down that path–Neither you nor his characters are allowed respite.

It would be one thing if the characters he mutilates are at least interesting or sympathetic, but he hates them, which makes me hate them, and reading about these hateful people when I was not being forced to made me hate myself. I thought: Moof. You signed up for the Bataan Death March with some of the most banal and unpleasantest folk you ever had the pleasure of never contacting again after high school.

There is no joy in ‘Freedom’.
There is no beauty in ‘Freedom’.
There is no love in ‘Freedom.’
There are some pretty words and pretty sentences, but getting tazed is getting tazed, even if your torturer has access to a good thesaurus.

::runs screaming into the safe arms of Phillip Roth::