Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Eat The Document” as Want to Read:
Eat The Document
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Eat The Document

by
3.62  ·  Rating details ·  2,240 ratings  ·  346 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, s ...more
Hardcover, 290 pages
Published February 7th 2006 by Scribner Book Company (first published 2006)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Eat The Document, please sign up.
Recent Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.62  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,240 ratings  ·  346 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Violet wells
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 21st-century
If you garnered your notion of the USA solely from literature you'd probably end up thinking anti-establishment terrorism was a widespread phenomenon. You might even feel Edgar Hoover wasn't such a nutjob as he appears. The other novel I'm currently reading City on Fire takes up this theme as have countless others I've read - books by DeLillo, Roth, Pynchon, Letham, Franzen spring immediately to mind. In fact, there are probably more novels on this theme than deal with the infinitely more influe ...more
David
Aug 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
"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
Justin Evans
Dec 01, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
...more
Ian "Marvin" Graye
1966

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
...more
Brien Palmer
May 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Edan
Sep 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is worth it for the word "unstoppingly"--God, that adverb made me cry it was so beautiful, its placement so perfect.
Christy
Jan 06, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  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
...more
Adam
Jul 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Brad
May 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finally had the chance to read this older novel by Spiotta. It is fantastic. I don't see much point regurgitating plot for you, that's everywhere. I'll just say she hits on things that interest me like 60s/70s radicals, great music, bookstores, well drawn characters. It's very difficult for me to express what it is that I find so compelling about Dana Spiotta's writing, but here's a try. I love her characters' internal dialogues, contemplative without being pretentious, or if pretentious, then i ...more
Isabelle
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
Michelle
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
Steev Hise
Aug 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, fun, politics
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
Abigail Tarttelin
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just love Dana Spiotta. I preferred Innocents & Others, but this was still good. Recommend reading in one sitting.
TinHouseBooks
Jan 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-we-love
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
Dave
Jan 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I mulled over rating Eat the Document for a while. The story of a 1970s radical, Mary, who has to go underground, it bounces between her past and the late 90s where she lives as a single mom to a musiciphile son. The other major thread follows activists in Seattle in the 90s and how they shadow and mimic the movements of the 60s and 70s. I found the 90s sections less gripping than Mary's flight and struggles with what she had done and how she had to live as a result. But, Spiotta brings everythi ...more
Charles
Apr 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Engagingly written, interesting tale of two radicals forced to separate and go underground after a bombing kills an innocent person.
Sian Jaimi
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
New favourite author. This book is so perfect.
Evelyn
Got this from the library so I couldn't write in it, which is frustrating-- will be on lookout for my own copy. What I did do, and will have to un-do, is un-turn all the corners on pages I turned down while reading it. This is my weird habit of marking places that move me, often for the language or the feeling. For instance, I wanted to mark this passage:

My friends--what few friends I have--are the kinds of guys who argue about whether the RCA single version of "Eight Miles High" is superior to
...more
Grace
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps because I read so much about this exact subject in college, or perhaps because this subject matter just seems kind of "en vogue" at the moment, I found this book a little boring. It was clear that the big reveal was coming at the end -- and it fell so flat. And the story of the woman who went underground? Superficial and uninteresting.
Laurel-Rain
May 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Dan
Jan 07, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
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
Robert Blumenthal
This is my first experience with this author, and it was a positive one throughout. An intriguing story that has been done before (radical left wing revolutionaries plant bombs and have to go on the run), but it was original and fresh enough to satisfy. Mary and Bobby have taken part in an operation that sets off bombs in the homes of CEOs responsible for the manufacture of explosives during the Vietnam War. The books opens with Mary changing her name and deciding where to go to create a new lif ...more
John
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
Melissa Mcdonald
Dec 03, 2012 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
Liz
Jun 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Edmole
Mar 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
...more
Lemar
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
Brian
Sep 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-books
I appreciate the effort the author puts into her characters in all of her works. This story in particular pulls in themes of resistance and materialism, of war and protest, and of identity and relationships, all of which I find thoroughly engaging. I don't have words this how much I enjoyed this book, but at one point while reading, I remember having thought that my bones were reaching to attach to the book so that I would be physically unable to put it down. I don't remember wanting and choosin ...more
Adam Hinterthuer
Dec 29, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
There is an old adage in writing programs: "show, don't tell." Spiotta's book just tells and tells and tells, primarily through characters' dialogue, as they use language straight out of the GRE's verbal section and advance the big picture ideas of the book through their words. I don't know a single person who talks like this, but every character in this book does. As a result none of them seem believable to me and, as a result of that, it's difficult to develop any sort of attachment to anyone. ...more
Shiri
Aug 13, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Trance
  • The Last of Her Kind
  • American Woman
  • Holy Skirts: A Novel of a Flamboyant Woman Who Risked All for Art
  • Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction
  • Florida
  • Parasites Like Us
  • Dance with Snakes
  • David's Story
  • Beyond the Hoax: Science, Philosophy and Culture
  • Pussy
  • A Saint on Death Row: The Story of Dominique Green
  • A Disorder Peculiar to the Country
  • The  Uncomfortable Dead
  • Walking to Hollywood
  • Twilight of the Superheroes
  • Our Kind
  • Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children's Literature
See similar books…
243 followers
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
...more
“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 life....no, 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.” 10 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
More quotes…