Sunday, June 1, 2014

Five Stars, One Star

Let's Pretend this Never Happened
(a mostly true memoir)
by Jenny Lawson
2012
*****
5 stars - brilliant

ALR Green - plenty of animals, some of them dead, but nothing horrible (well, unless, of course, you'd be too freaked out by reading about Dad eviscerating a dead squirrel and using it as a hand puppet to entertain the kids, then you might want to take a pass, but the squirrel was totally dead already and I have to admit that the whole "dead squirrel as hand puppet" is kind of clever and cool when you think about it).



I'm going to start with a totally random quote (yes, I just closed my eye, jiggled the book, and let it open up).

When Hannah was a kid she'd had this Betsy Wetsy doll that she carried around everywhere. You were supposed to feed her with a bottle and then she'd pee, but Hannah would always just pry off Betsy's head and fill her up to her neck with the garden hose. She also decided to skip the whole diaper thing and would simply squeeze Betsy's distended midsection, and a half-gallon of faux pee would squirt out of Betsy's rudimentary plastic urinary tract onto the neighbor's bushes. "She takes after her father," Hannah would explain. "Runs right through her." Eventually Betsy's neck hole became stretched out from her head being pulled off so much, and the body was lost, but Hannah held on the Betsy's head, possibly as a reminder that she probably shouldn't have children.

I'm trying to figure out how to describe this book without flattening the impact or providing spoilers. 

What we have here, is a life story full of both fantastic and pedestrian events, good and bad. The writing style is extraordinary (and makes me bristle that gifted authors who write amusing books are rarely granted writing awards). Ms. Lawson has some issues. Yup. Primarily anxiety and paranoia. Big deal. She copes. 

In the book, she lays out her life thus far. She just tells it like it is. Some of the stories are bizarre, some are ordinary, but viewed through a bizarre lens. I don't know. Whenever I try to write about this book I feel like I'm setting you up to expect some light writing with deep undertones. That's kind of what it is, but the undertones are so subtle, that it isn't until I barreled through to the end that I really thought about it. And the writing isn't light. Yeah, it's humorous, but with an amazing flair for language and pacing.

You know what? Just read it, because I don't know what else to say except that I totally give it five stars. 

Victor and I were still poor college students at the time, so we rented a tiny one-bedroom apartment in the worst part of town, and it was surprisingly wonderful. Except that the guy next door to us was some sort of mentally ill hermit who never left his apartment, but would wave to me from his window occasionally wearing pants. I'm not sure where the comma goes in that last sentence, since "occasionally" modifies both "waving" and "pants." As in, he waved to me occasionally, and (on those occasions when he waved) he was occasionally wearing pants. But he seemed to do it with less of a lurid "Look-at-my-penis" motivation, and more of a sad "I'm-simply-too-unstable-to-know-how-pants-work-today" sort of way.






Capacity
by Tony Ballantyne
2005
*
1 star - remind me to avoid science fiction, please



I'm not even sure what prompted me to put this in my queue, because 99% of the time I'm no fan of science fiction novels. Sure enough, this had the two things that frustrate me, a great premise with icky writing. I'm not saying the guy is a bad writer, just that the style of science fiction isn't to my taste. So if you like science fiction in general, this would be a pretty good read.

The book takes place in 2252 where "personality constructs" co-exist with "atomic beings" and one can have multiple copies floating around at once, some of whom are real, some of whom are digital, and all of whom are having very real experiences.

Cool, right? And the author does a pretty good job with the different realities, but, as I said, just not my thing (bailed out after just over 100 pages).

3 comments:

  1. hello mango mama its dennis the vizsla dog hay hmm atomic beeings??? persunality konstrukts??? multiple kopeez??? sownds like the battlestar galactica show wot dada is stil subjekting mama to!!! watch owt for the cylons!!! ok bye

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  2. I'm no fan of sci-fi either, whether books or movies. The other book sounds like it's populated by realistic, off the wall, normal folk.

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  3. I like sci-fi, but I haven't been impressed with a lot of the 'new' stuff I've read lately. I find myself going back to Bradbury and Asimov and Philip K. Dick and the other 'classics' - dated (well, some more than others) but enjoyable (seriously, 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep' is still AMAZING).

    Dr. Liz, who likes dystopian futures, but wishes they weren't all written for teenagers these days

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