Once in a great while, the resonance of a book takes you by the collar and shakes you like a dog with a sock. This is one of those for me. Maybe it woOnce in a great while, the resonance of a book takes you by the collar and shakes you like a dog with a sock. This is one of those for me. Maybe it wouldn't have been this way a year ago or a month from now or if I had eaten differently this past week, but I just finished this book and I'm a wreck. It's hilarious. It's sad. And hardest of all for me right now, it's a mirror.
This business of the importance of who you are at the moment you read something (or see a movie, or listen to a song) interests me. But it's not just your mood—part of the job of the artist is to set that mood, after all, even though it's an imperfect craft—it's also bigger, as in, your time of life. I got a lot more out of reading Moby-Dick in my thirties than when it was assigned in my teens; and I think I got gobsmacked by this book partly because I'm over 50 and I'm a father. I bet if I'd read this right after the Melville, I'd have given it only four stars.
I'm also amazed by the craft of this thing. McMurtry's Duane is a good man, deeply introspective (though unused to it), acting at maximum capacity. How the author keeps these plates spinning is a thing of beauty. It should not be that interesting to be inside the head of a 60+ uneducated Texas oil-man who is trying to find himself, but I was breathless with wonder throughout. Maybe it's my own existential angst, but that can't be all of it. The guy can write the hell out of a character.
The blurb: One day Duane Moore decides he's tired of riding in his pickup and that he'll start walking. Everywhere. And the citizens of Thalia, Texas, especially his wife Karla, think he's off his rocker. You can get more of an idea of the book reading other reviews; what I haven't seen but thought as I read it is that this is a funnier, deeper, Texas revisiting of some of the themes of Rabbit Run and related to the escaping-mom novels of Anne Tyler. ...more
This book has great shelf appeal. It's got a gazillion illustrations ostensibly by our first-person narrator, a 12-year-old cartographer and technicalThis book has great shelf appeal. It's got a gazillion illustrations ostensibly by our first-person narrator, a 12-year-old cartographer and technical illustrator from Montana—in bygone days he would be a naturalist—living with an entomologist mom, a bronco-busting dad, a sister older than her years, and the memory of a dead brother. The prose reveals a quirky character and rewards slow going.
But here's the problem: I'm only a couple dozen pages in and there are mistakes. It could be the problems of producing a complicated book. But if the nature of our protagonist is to be meticulous, and we have every reason to believe that it is, you gotta get the first chapter cold, I don't care how many sets of galleys.
The other, delicious possibility is that Reif Larsen is setting us up with an unreliable narrator. Ooooh, that would be great. But I worry. So let me list the ones I find here:
Page 4, Geometry.
I had once tried lining maps on the south wall of my room, but in my excitement to organize, I briefly forgot that this was where the entrance to my room was located...
The thing is, the door is on the north wall of the room. Not a big problem except that we spend half of page 3—the first page in the book—orienting the room, including drawing a map of it, on which we see the locations of his various colors of notebooks.
Note! August 2011, 2 years later: I saw a paperback edition of this book on a shelf in a bookstore, and, thinking about this problem, checked out the opening. Now it says the maps were on the north side of the room! So somebody cared enough to fix the mistake. Well done!
Page 11: forte
Gracie was a misunderstood actress sharpening her forté...
Hmmm. If this kid is pedantic, he'll spell it without the accent, because it's originally pronounced fort. It's French, the stiff part of a foil, not Italian for loud. This is not so egregious as
Page 11: Pirates We hear that Gracie was "probably miraculous as the pirate's wife" in her high-school production of Pirates of Penzance. Well. There is no "pirate's wife." There are wards in chancery, of which Mabel is the star, and of course Ruth, the "piratical maid of all-work."
So again: did Larsen leave these in because the 12-year-old would not get them right, or did he screw up and not do his homework? I hope it's the former!
(Now, having finished) I'd say the book largely lives up to its promise, but (a) the unreliable-narrator problems mentioned here don't get resolved and (b) the last, oh, quarter of the book fails us, becoming too black-and-white and losing its focus on TS's amazing voice. It's kind of like the arc of Nicholas Cage's movie career. ...more
Northern California, Oregon, and Washington secede from the US. What's not to like? Five stars for imagination, given that this was written back in thNorthern California, Oregon, and Washington secede from the US. What's not to like? Five stars for imagination, given that this was written back in the 70s. This is a flawed masterpiece, an original vision that sticks to the inside of your head (OK my head) for decades. Callenbach shows us an alternative to the corporate- and profit-dominated world we live in now. Having read the book, I can't hear pundits talk about rising GDP and the need to increase our standard of living without wondering whether all economic hocus-pocus is hooey. And that's a good thing.
That said, other reviewers have rightly said that the book is sexist, racist, and naive. I imagine it is, and I hate to think what influence it may have had on my adolescent mind back then. On the other hand, millions of us boomers survived the animated Peter Pan only to shudder in horror when showing it to our children. ...more
The first half blew me away at first reading. A coherent, exuberantly detailed vision of nanotechnology in the new-Victorian age. This is one of thoseThe first half blew me away at first reading. A coherent, exuberantly detailed vision of nanotechnology in the new-Victorian age. This is one of those books whose ideas and images will always be with me: the Primer, matter compilers, dirigibles filled with vacuum. ...more
What boomer geek has not thrilled to the saga of Hari Seldon and Psychohistory, the Mule, and the scope of Asimov's tale? Predestination, free will, tWhat boomer geek has not thrilled to the saga of Hari Seldon and Psychohistory, the Mule, and the scope of Asimov's tale? Predestination, free will, the power and hopelessness of science, heroism, stupidity, and vision: big impact on a little kid....more