Saturday, June 23, 2007

Eat the Document a disappointing effort; Everyman is Roth's meditation on mortality

I'm tardy posting. Work took me to Iowa for the entire week. That did furnish me with an opportunity to visit Prairie Lights, the Iowa City independent bookstore that clearly warrants its reputation as one of the best in the country. Three levels: children’s books in the basement, new fiction and non-fiction on the main floor, travel and graphic novels and science fiction and an array of genres on the second floor along with a very nice cafĂ©.

Books now read in ’07: 58
Title: Eat the Document
Author: Dana Spiotta
Genre: Fiction
Date Completed: 6-20
Pages: 290

Coincidence plays too great a role in this implausible novel of sixties radicals on the run by Dana Spiotta. Eat the Document was among the books short-listed for the 2006 National Book Award.

The novel alternates between the past and the present. In the past, we follow a young woman on the lam from the law after a misconceived protest goes horribly wrong. In the present, she’s a mom living in suburban Seattle. Coincidentally, her former lover and fellow radical has also settled in Seattle. And coincidentally, her son is acquainted with her former lover and fellow radical, who now runs a bookstore that appeals to – surprise – present day radicals, malcontents and the like.

Naturally, the son discovers the truth about both their past lives effecting a brief reunion. If this unlikely narrative weren’t objectionable enough, in present day, a few characters talk in a near incomprehensible gibberish apparently reflective of a kind of self-referential, radical rap.

It’s a disappointing book on multiple levels.

Books now read in ’07: 59
Title: Everyman
Author: Philip Roth
Genre: Fiction
Date Completed: 6-21
Pages: 182

Everyman is Philip Roth’s meditation on mortality. It begins with the funeral of his narrator and ends with his death. In between, he ponders the inevitability of that long slide into oblivion. It’s an interesting read, although far from Roth’s best work. This gloomy narrative is best tackled on a sunny day when you're a very, very good mood.

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