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Friday, September 18, 2009

LibraryThing Early Review

by Chuck Palahniuk

This book is not unfunny, but I mean to damn it with faint praise.

As soon as I started reading it I wondered if it would have been published before the success of Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, which already richly covered the ground of fractured English.

Then I thought of the Simpsons episode with the foreign exchange student. I looked it up on It was episode 111, from 1990: "...the Simpson family takes in Adil, a student from Albania, who's actually a spy stealing the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant's secrets." The very cover summary of this book could be applied to the TV show "...this cunning, double-edged satire of a xenophobia that might, in fact, be completely justified...For Pygmy and his fellow operatives are cooking up something big...that will bring this big, dumb country and its fat, dumb inhabitants to their knees." Hello Homer.

I guess Palahniuk has a kind of trademark violence and vulgarity that has made him a cult figure. It shows in this book. THAT makes me think of Matthew Collings, the art critic, saying something like :...when everyone is transgressing, then it is no longer transgression." In other words, boring.

This experience won't stop me from giving Fight Club a try, if it falls into my hands, or any book of Palahniuk's that a friend might recommend, but this book is slight, derivative and formulaic.

On further thought, I have to mention that the one really interesting idea is that the Deity has made us in his image, and He plans to kill many of us by cancer or war etc, and thus we are obliged to both imitate Him and deserve His treatment of us. It is the justification internalized by the spy Pygmy for the havoc he is meant to wreak. It is a clever inversion of a kind of received truth, that requires faith in God, rather than understanding of his mysterious ways.

There. I've given you the best part. I recommend you pass.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Re-reading books

I am a passionate user of and advocate for LibraryThing. (See sidebar for hot link). I love cataloging my books, or rather my reading experiences, and I love to rummage around for recommendations and ideas and to follow trails through reading lists.

Some of the things that have come out of it for me is that I have a mental library of about 1100 books. This includes not only books I own, but also books I have read but given away, books I have borrowed from friends or the library and books I own but have not yet read (there are about 200 of those - woo-hoo!) (Actually I am hoarding books and wine against the day that all world currencies collapse. I figure I'll be in good shape to enjoy life, and possibly be able to trade for necessities.)

A very surprising statistic that came through is that I have only re-read about 10 books. Ever. That started me asking around a bit among my friends. Not only which books have you re-read, but why. The first answer I got was so charming - it was a fellow biblio-adept - who re-read a book as an adult that he read as a teenager enjoying his first passionate relationship with a girl.

Now I plan to write up the stories here in a nice long post. Please send me your lists. Those of you who know me can pass along suggestions in any form of communication.

The marigold is left wondering nervously if the library in question is also "mental"?