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Eat the Document

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  1,469 ratings  ·  246 reviews
Dana Spiotta, whom Michiko Kakutani called "wonderfully observant and wonderfully gifted...with an uncanny feel for the absurdities and sadness of contemporary life" (The New York Times), has written a bold and moving novel about a fugitive radical from the 1970s who has lived in hiding for twenty-five years. Eat the Document is a hugely compelling story of activism, sacri ...more
Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published (first published 2006)
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"Eat the Document" has an interesting premise -- Mary and Bobby, two sixties radicals, are forced to separate and go underground when their scheme to blow up the summer home of an executive whose company produces napalm (and/or Agent Orange) goes awry, killing an innocent victim. Thirty years later, both are living (unbeknownst to one another) in the Seattle area. Mary, who now goes by the name Louise, is raising a 16-year old son, Jason. Bobby, now known as Nash, runs an alternative book store ...more
Brien Palmer
This one crept up on me as I read it. It starts simple, and then moves back and forth in time sketching out the narrative and the characters. One of the best examples of "show, don't tell" that I've ever come across. Maybe my interest in the old 60's romantic revolutionaries flavored my initial attraction, I don't know....But before I knew it, I was drawn in--caring about the characters. And it used just the right level of Mimento-like flashes to pull you along without losing you in excessive co ...more
Justin Evans
This is a perfectly mediocre book, reasonably entertaining, but absolutely wonderful for understanding today's literature. Its successes and its flaws are all so widespread, it's as if I'd found the Platonic form of the Contemporary Novel. Which means this review got a little out of hand.


I periodically fall victim to an odd complex of ideas when choosing a book to read:

* that because a novel is supposed to be about important themes, it will treat them as if they were important.
* that a nove
Ian Cantankeroo-Gazan

Remember 1966? Neither does Dana Spiotta, though/because it was the year she was born.

It was the year the Beach Boys released "Pet Sounds" and started the "Smile Sessions". It was the year Bob Dylan undertook a second tour with an electric band, which was filmed in D. A. Pennebaker's documentary "Eat the Document".

I'd probably recommend this novel to you if you had the boxset of the "Pet Sounds Sessions" or you'd spent half a lifetime trying to get a bootleg of the Dylan doco or you'd heard
May 13, 2008 Christy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: failed revolutionaries?
I must be officially done with school because I am reading again! Well, not quite, but I did read this surprising novel today.

Although I was interested in reading Eat the Document, my expectations for it were not very high at the outset. I suppose I was expecting mainly a character study of an ex-radical and her teenage son. Instead, I was surprised to find that this book grapples with the pervasive moral ambivalence of American culture. Spiotta questions whether it is possible to oppose the sys
This book could be intimidating, addressing the cultural division between the 60’s and the 90’s, the failures of leftist protest in America, cultural obsession, and a critique of an overly medicated and corporatized society. A book handling that sounds bloated and unapproachable, but not in Spiotta’s hands, her vision is almost clinical but somehow remains human. She is despairing but understanding and her characters live and breathe and don’t exist to provide punch lines. Her understanding of r ...more
Steev Hise
This novel is really fun and enjoyable to read, but also quite moving and full of important questions of our time about society, rebellion, identity, commodification of subcultures, and more. I think Dana Spiotta should be considered right up there amongst the pantheon that includes such notables as Franzen, Lethem, Lipsyte, Foer, etc. You know, those dudes. Maybe it's because she's not a dude that she's not considered up there. At any rate every time I read something by those dudes, and many ot ...more
A quick two-day read; predictable yet well done. Nothing was wrong with the book: decent characters, an interesting premise (60's political activists gone underground after one of their protests turns deadly... good headline stuff!)Nothing was exceptionally great either... I read this in the airports, between planes and conferences... It was good enough for me to want to go back to immediately during downtimes but not good enough that I would hesitate to close the book and proceed with my day. I ...more
The 1970s were a pivotal time for those in my generation, so I was drawn to "Eat the Document: A Novel." I participated in my share of protests against the Vietnam War and the tragedy of Kent State.

From the synopsis, we learn: "In the heyday of the 1970s underground, Bobby DeSoto and Mary Whittaker -- passionate, idealistic, and in love -- design a series of radical protests against the Vietnam War. When one action goes wrong, the course of their lives is forever changed. The two must erase thei
Victoria Savanh (Editorial Intern, Tin House Magazine): I fell hard and fast for Dana Spiotta’s Eat the Document, a novel filled with radicalism, counterculture, pop music, identity, and self-invention, spanning the 1970s through late 90s. With its energetic execution, passages seem to vibrate, beautifully written yet precise. All the theoretical ideas aside, the characters are real. There’s this mess of lives intertwined, consequences, loss. The narrators alternate, but the most satisfying stor ...more
This book is worth it for the word "unstoppingly"--God, that adverb made me cry it was so beautiful, its placement so perfect.
I bought a copy of Eat The Document after finishing Stone Arabia, also by Dana Spiotta. I guess now, I'll have to buy her other book, Lightning Fields, because they are both pretty excellent. Eat The Document is primarily the story of Mary Whittaker, alias Caroline, alias Louise Barrot, who turns into a fugitive after an act of protest against the violence of the Vietnam war ends badly. Starting with her love for Bobby, another tester, and chronicling her journey to eventually become a completel ...more
this is a solid look at radical politics and counter-culture as they relate to pop music, exotic collecting habits, fashion and general contemporary geekiness. the book works best as an obsessive's look at history. i loved the parallels between mary - the weather underground-ish activist turned melancholic quasi-soccer mom - and jason, her precocious, beach-boys-obsessed son. spiotta does a nice job of documenting (no pun intended) the way the 60's have been archived in people's memories - as an ...more
Melissa Mcdonald
Dec 03, 2012 Melissa Mcdonald marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Mary Whittaker and Bobby DeSoto have constructed lives for themselves like Popsicle-stick houses: brittle, unfurnished, painstakingly assembled but made to be snapped apart or abandoned in a moment. The main characters of Dana Spiotta's magnificent second novel, Eat the Document, they were once in love, but spend all but a few pages of the book intentionally distant and out of communication--fugitives after executing a political bombing in the '70s that went awry. Now, in the 1990s, Mary's 15-ye ...more
this was actually great. lots of interesting explorations of sincerity vs. irony/appropriation, certainty vs. uncertainty, authenticity vs. mediated experience, nostalgia vs. forgetting, etc etc etc. often actually through the narrative rather than just in conversation which is a plus -- I mean that's why you read novels rather than essays right? not quite often enough to bump it up to five stars but pretty damn often. but yes, some of the characters did sound a little bit too much like cultural ...more
I bought this for a pound from Oxfam. It is about what happens to two radicals after they take direct action against the Vietnam War and go into hiding, changing their identities on the way.

It's a very melancholy book, but the writing is full of zest. It reminded me of Douglas Coupland, but the characters were the story, not just vehicles for ideas.

In the book there is a moment where a piece of art made by one of the radicals makes us consider one of their enemies as a sad and crumpled victim.
This is a fabulous novel that compares youth culture and activism now versus the late 1960's when war raged in Vietnam. There is a wealth of observations I found accurate and revealing. Spiotta is a gifted writer who is skilled at revealing truths in poetic language. She uses her ability as a novelist to impart important American history, the continuing (one hopes) struggle against corporate hegemony, through the life experiences of characters we care deeply about. As she did in the more recent ...more
John Norman
Perhaps this novel was written just for me! I have read widely in recollections of the 1960s and in a lot of primary documents, and Spiotta skillfully weaves the enthusiasms and heartbreaks of the era. It's a better novel than her most recent one, Stone Arabia. Many obvious references are made (such as the title of the novel) but there are some more subtle ones, such as the title of an underground bookstore in our present, which is named Prairie Fire. The book is filled with allusions to pop mus ...more
I borrowed this book from my roommate, and she told me that while it was really good, it wasn't as good as it could be. I enjoyed it and found the pace especially to be fascinating. But, by the time I got to the end, my roommate was right. A really good book, but there was a small something missing. It does, however, keep coming back on me, popping up at random moments, which is always a good sign.
Allan MacDonell
Dana Spiotta’s Eat the Document delves into a world deeply traveled by Joan Didion and Robert Stone and Don DeLillo, a place where moral imperatives drive young idealists to commit haunting atrocities in resistance to what they perceive as a vast, institutionalized evil. And why not revisit that world? I for one am ever willing to go back to a time when the Vietnam War and the shifty government waging it were a blight on my sense of place, especially if I’m transported there in an artful way. Sp ...more
I picked this up at the bargain shelf after reading the blurbs and reviews on the book jacket and was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed the tale of young idealism gone amok, of the results of one fateful decision that can change a life forever, and how the same decision can affect different people in different ways. This was a fun book to read, except that I think I keep choosing these books written by these authors who feel the need to write eternally "cool" characters who listen to "important" m ...more
DNF Although there was a very promising start, I was lost and unengaged as you enter these characters unrelated to the original plot.
Natalie Bakopoulos
Jun 21, 2007 Natalie Bakopoulos added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Gus!
Shelves: recentlyread
Oh boy, I swallowed this book whole, in just about one sitting. Loved it. Such smart, smart writing.

And, what a cover, no?
I was very excited to read Dana Spiotta's 'EAT THE DOCUMENT' not only because the premise sounded great but also because of all the praise it had generated. Unfortunately this novel did not live up to my expectations at all. The first three fourths of the book was, in my opinion, nothing more than words on a page. It did not set the stage for the heart of the story nor was it very interesting. So many times I considered putting the book down never to pick it up again, however, an unfinished book ...more
Rewind back to the late '60s & early '70s while Nixon was President and prosecuting quite a brutal war in Vietnam (and secretly in Laos & Cambodia). Unlike now, there were many young adults seriously upset about our nation's military imperialism and the awful deaths of innocent people entailed thereby. Upset enough to actually DO something -- like bomb the homes of CEOs & executives at the companies making napalm, etc. This novel is about one such young woman who, when plans go awry, ...more
This terrific book centers on a pair of 1970's Weather Underground radicals (Merry Whittaker and Bobby DeSotto) who have been on the lamb for 20 years after commiting a terrorist bombing. You of course get a feel for what it would be like to have to assume false identities and fear the law catching up to you at any moment. But what I really liked about this book was meeting the young 1990's Gen-Xers that the two main charactors lives now revolve around. Marys teenage son, Jason, is obessed with ...more
Really dissapointed by this book. It sounds like a great premise for a novel. The story of a political activist from the late 60's/early 70's having to go on the run change her identity and cope with a quiet suburban life. Plus the activism of young people today including her son protesting at the politics/economics of their country.
Sadly this didnt live up to the premise, it read like Douglas Coupland-lite. Lots of pop-culture references especially the son who has an obsession with The Beach Bo
I finished this book and my first thought was "What the hell?" I even flicked over the page thinking maybe I had missed some final paragraph of illumination. Nope, still bewildered!

I'm tempted to consign this book to my 'intellectual experiment' folder, but that would be an injustice. I cannot deny that Dana Spiotta can write and her mind must be a very interesting place to be! Her writing style is quite masculine, but I mean that in the sense that more men that women write in her style, and not
Book fortyseven/fiftytwo;
This was one book of many choices we had to choose from to do our last literature assignment(not wtih counting the poetry essay) and since I wrote a semi-elaborate book review for it I will paste that, and maybe add some extra comments.
Dana Spiotta’s second book Eat the Document gives a great view into the culture of a protesters way of thinking, living, and their lives in upcoming 25 years. There is a shift of time in the book, that lets you compa
I loved this. It makes a great companion to Russel Bank's The Darling, and Phillip Roth's American Pastoral about yet another female sixties radical who inadvertently kills an innocent bystander.

But this one's the best of the bunch.

Spiotta really connects the dots here. She follows her radicals to the present day, like Roth, but provides context. Her characters struggle to maintain some semblance of their former politics, and therefore preserve their integrity.

She is also a brilliant music writ
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Scribner published Dana Spiotta’s first novel, Lightning Field, in 2001. The New York Times called it “the debut of a wonderfully gifted writer with an uncanny feel for the absurdities and sadnesses of contemporary life, and an unerring ear for how people talk and try to cope today.” It was a New York Times Notable Book of the year, and a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the West.

Her second novel, E
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“I wondered if my life was going to be one immersion after another, a great march of shallow, unpopular popular culture infatuations that don't really last and don't really mean anything. Sometimes I even think maybe my deepest obsessions are just random manifestations of my loneliness or isolation. Maybe I infuse ordinary experience with a kind of sacred aura to mitigate the spiritual vapidity of my, it is beautiful to be enraptured. To be enthralled by something, anything. And it isn't random. It speaks to you for a reason. If you wanted to, you could look at it that way, and you might find you aren't wasting your life. You are discovering things about yourself and the world, even if it is just what you find beautiful, right now, this second.” 7 likes
“Incidentally, if you have never stalked someone close to you, I highly recommend it. Check out how it tranforms them. How other they become, and how infinitely necessary and justified the stalking becomes when you realize how little you know about them, how mysterious every aspect of them seems with an at a distance but close examiniation.” 5 likes
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