M. Sarki's Reviews > Vanishing Point: Not a Memoir

Vanishing Point by Ander Monson
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's review
Apr 21, 2012

really liked it
Recommended to M. by: goodreaders
Recommended for: goodreaders
Read from April 27 to May 07, 2012 — I own a copy , read count: 1


It is easy to discount the troubles, and even the successes of others, but you won't find any of that here, or even sparks coming from off the blazing speed of my typewriter. I, too, like Ander, could type 55 words per minute in Mr. Sventko's typing class, and I probably could have done even better had he not been the feared football coach he was. My stupid spelling mistakes were what bothered me and made me have to slow down. His daughter Marcia consistently kicked my ass in typing and it gave her a superiority over me she probably needed in order to get through her routinely boring days. The recreational drugs that others of us engaged in made for a high school education a little bit more adventurous than the typical high school cheerleader like Marcia. Try taking mescaline and attending a Paul Butterfield trigonometry class. Or be a student teacher working under the tutelage of the school's golf coach in a special education classroom. Once I even dropped a hit of blotter acid too late in the day and had to play a qualifying round for placement seed in our following day's school-sponsored golf match. There was no possible way to keep track of where my new golf balls were flying off to after striking them so hard with the intensity of a rapidly blooming acid trip. Thank goodness I was playing with a young square geek who would go on after college to become the county's prosecuting attorney. Back then he had a proficiency for cheating on the golf course, so me offering him the freedom to blatantly adjust his own score if he would allow my reentry, without penalty, of a new golf ball in place of the lost one still flying around somewhere out there in the cosmos seemed like a very good deal for both of us. Neither one of us ever spoke of that day together on the golf course again, and we were both lucky not to have been found cheating on our scorecards. I am sort of a heel for bringing this subject up now but I wanted to make the point of how a born cheater can naturally years later slip into the county prosecutor's seat and seem to do a pretty good job of keeping accurate the public score against its own criminals.

Ander Monson wrote some pretty good pieces collected here in Vanishing Point. Were they perfect and without blemish? I think not. There were fits of brilliance to be found here and there, and the first essay titled Voir Dire was fantastic. Voir Dire is an essay about Ander Monson's work as a juror in an important trial. In his essay Mr. Monson related many other side stories and notations, one of which was the absolute necessity for factual truth in nonfiction which by the way both he and I believe is completely impossible. The problem is, however, that magazines such as The Believer stationed out in San Francisco itself demands facticity if you want them to publish your nonfiction. Voir Dire was accepted for publication in The Believer and the magazine insisted on getting their hands on certain documents and that additional contacts be made concerning some of the statements quoted in the essay by Monson in order for the magazine's fact checkers to confirm the accuracy of his piece. Monson did go along with their demands and his piece was eventually published even though in this same essay Monson admits that things are not really as accurate as they seem.

What I liked about Monson's Voir Dire was his flitting away and into other topics related in ways to himself or the defendant in the case he was chosen to be a juror for. He eventually told us all we needed to know about the case and in the process explained about his colonoscopy he had at the age of thirty-two, a colonoscopy that he didn't need based on wrong information he had about his mother's own early death at the very same age of thirty-two from colon cancer. What interested me most about this was not the error over the actual cause of her death, or the insurance company's confusion over who was responsible to pay for this mistake, or even that Ander had the awful colonoscopy procedure done at such an early age, but that I myself had just had my fourth routine colonoscopy the day before reading his essay. My arse was still sore from all the emptying and wiping, the disgusting four hour lemon-lime liquid prep, the drugs they put me under that permitted me to say such terrible things reported back to me afterwards. And in addition to all that, the (I think) normal flirting with the nurses that one must expect came from being drugged and a not-so-deeper part of my consciousness.

It was even more uncanny to me that the beginning of this essay was another shared experience with Ander of me also being a juror. A few years ago I was committed myself to jury duty and was picked as one of twelve to decide a criminal case of the alleged defendant's excessive violence against a customer while in the performance of his job as a bouncer at a local strip club. After listening to the testimony of all the witnesses and viewing pictures of the completely pummeled man who ended up in the hospital and would probably never be the same it was obvious to all that the bouncer was definitely guilty and certainly without any sliver of a doubt. None of the jurors ever got to decide the case or even talk about it as the defendant's lawyer knew his client would be found guilty and opted to plea bargain instead of handing his client's fate over to a jury sure to convict him. I felt robbed as I had fairly listened intently to both sides, I had taken good notes and was prepared to argue for a guilty verdict if need be, but we never got the chance to take even an anonymous vote. Monson, on the other hand, took notes too and at least was elected foreman of the juried clan. Besides getting an essay out of his time spent deciding his case in court he also had the honor of standing up and announcing to the judge the jury's decision of guilty. The Voir Dire essay says a lot in a roundabout way about Ander Monson's screed against nonfiction, and the juror story was simply a vehicle for him to say what it was he really wanted to say.

He also wrote of the Gerald R. Ford memorial funeral service and procession held in Grand Rapids as well as a lengthy, and quite interesting piece on the money brand of snack chips, Doritos. I did not much like the Dungeons & Dragons essay, but I am not born of that time period and have never played a Play Station type Game Boy slash computer game in my life. And for the record, I will state that Ander Monson is not David Foster Wallace, and in addition he is no Hunter S. Thompson. But I will say he is loads better than Jonathan Franzen and the other wannabes out there writing essays today. To have him compared to an inconsequential writer the likes of Tao Lin I do find more than a bit disconcerting. There is a whole lot of upside to Ander Monson and I think, almost snidely and certainly happily, that already Tao Lin has had his fifteen minutes of fame, and for what, I clearly am not sure of. Another fairly new writer I am currently involved in reading goes by the name of John Jeremiah Sullivan and he is not too shabby, and his best work is surely ahead of him too. Look also for a fellow by the name of Lee Klein. His star is definitely rising. But I certainly do recommend this book to anyone wanting a new experience in the form of an essay. Monson is fresh, and like myself, was fortunate to be born in northern Michigan, and in his case, the Upper Peninsula in a cold and lonely town named Houghton.
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message 1: by Anittah (new) - added it

Anittah So I popped over to GR to make sure I'd added this book to my "To Read" pile because of this thread https://twitter.com/matthewharrison/s... and then as I was reading your review I was like "ok ok ok acid trig etc.; I totally get why Husband digs this M. Sarki dude" and then imagine my surprise when I see you actually list Husband by name. That is some crazy shit right there. Maybe not as crazy as mescaline and math. But still. Rather improbable. If I must type (faster than 55wpm) so myself.

message 2: by M. (new) - rated it 4 stars

M. Sarki Anittah wrote: "So I popped over to GR to make sure I'd added this book to my "To Read" pile because of this thread https://twitter.com/matthewharrison/s... and then as I was reading your revi..."

I hope "husband" is one of the good ones I mentioned and not, you know, one of the other ones I wasn't so nice about. Thanks for reading. But if he "likes" me, my bet he is one of the good ones. Just saying.

message 4: by M. (new) - rated it 4 stars

M. Sarki Anittah wrote: "Husband = https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... :)"

Thanks. Very big fan of "husband". One thing I love about that dude is his obvious love for his family. And then his quick wit.

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