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Another fine mess

Reader fan critic teacher reader fan.

Currently reading

Ottessa Moshfegh
Knife Fight and Other Struggles
David Nickle
Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity
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James McBride
Ancillary Justice
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Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More (New Edition)
Derek Bok
Dissident Gardens
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The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood
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Complete Novels
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The Financial Lives of the Poets - Jess Walter When my back is against the wall, when events have grain by grain aggregated into an avalanche of shit raining down on my head and I'm looking for that one perfect plot to escape doom, do NOT:

a) bet it all on black 37;
b) go all-in with Joe Mantegna;
c) seduce a drifter to kill my significant other;
d) get seduced into killing someone's significant other;
e) start dealing drugs;
f) start taking the drugs I shouldn't be dealing;
g) refinance;
h) rat out my brother Michael to the feds;
i) go fishing after I foolishly ratted out my brother to the feds;
j) build a time machine;
k) go back in time, whether I built the damn machine or not, to win a big sports event or kill Hitler or any of that shit;
l) mess around with Jim;
m) pretend to be invisible;
n) become invisible, even if the potion/cloaking device/transformation machine seems foolproof;
o) wear a dress all the time hoping for a Section 8;
p) claim that I thought that tapping foot simply signalled a lack of toilet paper;
q) quit my job as governor, even if I have Alaskans' best interests in my heart;
r) enter an illicit cross-country driving competition, no matter how much dang fun it looks to be driving with Dom DeLuise;
s) get hair plugs;
t) bank on the arrival of a hapless guardian angel if I jump in the ice-rimed river;
u) punch Mike Tyson;
v) use the phrase "dip my wick," 'cause even going down I don't want to look like a douche;
w) plagiarize.*

Walter's book mashes up a noir narrative set-up with a smart-ass satire of American capitalist & journalistic failings with a first-person character study of the-guy-doing-all-the-wrong-things-on-a-path-to-oblivion with an empathetic account of that guy-doing-a-t-w-t-o-a-p-t-o as a synecdochal everyman (and not just a schmoe). Oh, and some poetry. It is a fast, entertaining, even on occasion moving read, and Walter's got a great eye for the fast, nasty observational aside and a good ear for dialogue and a keen sense of plot & structure. And yet, and yet -- minor quibbles, for a book so entertaining: it might very well have been a lot more. Tougher-minded, tougher, or conversely (or simultaneously?) more nuanced and thoughtful, or.... Unlike his rather brilliant The Zero, which was equally ambitious in satirizing 9/11 in the guise of an amnesiac/paranoid thriller, the many juggled elements without ever tumbling to the ground also seem never quite to fly -- you never lose sight of the guy sweating his ass off, trying to keep them from hitting the ground. Walter's book reminded me of a great, relatively less-heralded antiheroic plunge in David Gates' Jernigan, which probably cut into my appreciation of Walter just a bit.

Still, recommended.

*This list is not inclusive. For further advice, see any good history of Western Civilization.