Archive for June, 2012

Down to the library, picking the shelves, books I’ve never heard of, fresh off the press:

Attack of the Theater People by Marc Acito

So this is one type of humor that just doesn’t click with me, but which is very popular in the mass market.  Very straight-forward, trying to be bigger than it needs, to encompass everything flat out, instead of relying on the flavor.  It could have felt more 80s, instead of saying it was being 80s.  The flavor of the big city lost out to the suburban feel… lacking hecticity… and then it got up on the Statue of Liberty and it announced to the world, “I’m going to be important!  I’m going to encompass politics and insider trading and AIDS!  I’m going to give you the shallowness of 80s materialism! And I’m going to do it all with a character who isn’t good at much at all!”  But touching topics doesn’t necessarily mean saying anything new or interesting on them, or giving them new perspective.  More of a grocery list marked Decade than an actual immersion.

The MC was the type of character I saw a lot in my BFA classes.  Unassuming, meek, at one with failure.  Not my favorite type of character right now.  Right now I’m enamored with the underdog who finds out he excels at the most bizarre skill.  Think: Walter from the new movie “Muppets”: he has no skills, but he’s enthusiastic, and at the end, he is the bestest whistling Muppet ever.  Yaaaaayyyy!  A character who fails too much is hard to root for.  When he gives up, I give up on him.

Regardless, the good news is that I finished the book.  The bad news is, I was disappointed.  (Secretly hoping for a B-Movie farce where NYC was literally taken over, King Kong style?  Yeah… I was.)  Maybe if I’d read the first installment, I would have had more empathy for the characters.  Honestly, second books often lose that empathy because writers consider that it’s already been built. 

Re-readability: I wouldn’t go down that shiny walk of fame again.

Practical Jean by Trevor Cole

A brilliant premise with a mass market style.  I appreciated the fact that the MC was spectacularly good at creating things so breakable they almost never made it out of her ceramics shop.  I also appreciated the fact that she planned to give all her friends Death wrapped up in a shiny red bow.  But then, I didn’t appreciate the fact that the conclusion the MC came to, via the author, was that the only thing in the world that would make any of the women happy and satisfied on their Last Day was sex.  Such a shallow and physical satisfaction would have worked well for one of the women, maybe the final denouement in a Rule of Three, let Jean try her hardest to please a third friend, give her everything under the sun, try the intangible and the tangible, and then, surprise! the answer is sex.  But to start with such and then continue on that path for the second friend… well… it made it seem like any male author writing as a woman, this is how he sees them.  Not to be a rampant feminist, but the shallow female has been overdone, as has the super-feminista. 

Re-readability: I’d like to see someone else do this premise.  I really would.  I like the dark humor of the premise, and I’d love to see what someone could do that would be off the charts.

The Girl with the Glass Feet by Ali Shaw

This one was lovely.  I recommend it.  A modern world on St. Houda’s Island, cut off from the too-fast high-paced world, really gave the modern fairy tale a good base for the world.  Miniature flying cows, people turning into glass, hermits, people cut off from each other by the mud in the actual landscape.  The characters wrestled with the off-beat problems they were facing, and the fact that their worlds had been touched by this break in the Law of Nature.  A meek, quiet MC thrust into trying to be part of the world for once, and learning from a more out-going character.  It could have easily fallen back to that plot line, which has been done before, but the wondrous thing of the world Shaw created was that he never let it become staid.  Even the subplot with the MC’s stand-offish father was given new life.

Re-readability: not only that, but I would recommend the book, and I don’t do that often.

The Defenestration of Bob T. Hash III

Partly great, partly could have been better.  Imagine living in suburbia akin to Pleasantville, where pleasantness is regulated.  You’re the main editor of a language-learning book series, and every picture and scenario mirrors your own life (or does your life mirror the scenarios??).  The previous editors have all disappeared mysteriously after their book came out.  And then, in a twist of fate, you parrot is anthropomorphized into an exact copy of you, allowing you to escape.

The premise makes me giddy.  But after the first half the book, the parrot actually turns to completing the language book in earnest and fixing things the real Bob messed with before his disappearance.  Darn.  Although it was a clever take on what would be an insidiously fun learning tool (think: Zuiikin English, a Japanese aerobics tv program that teaches travel English with such exceedingly important messages as: “I’ve been robbed by two men” and “Take anything you want!” and “Spare me my life!” and the lovely “It’s your fault that this happened.”)  Bob T. Hash III, the non-parrot version, was doing this exact subversive tool.  He was going to send people to Mexico, knowing nothing of finding bread and water, and everything about losing their golf clubs.

As a parody of textbooks, it was interesting, but alas, the plot that was set up in the first half of the book was never followed through.  There could have been some serious doppleganger parrot/human fight-out moments!  Whee! 

Maybe next time…

Re-readability: Parts of it, yes.  Maybe it would be best to flip through to a random section on the second read and just enjoy the moment.

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