Greg's Reviews > Scattershot

Scattershot by Richard  Goodwin
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really liked it
bookshelves: fiction

I started writing this review on paper, with a pen about a week ago when I was having a lot of trouble with my laptop. What I wrote in the hour I was on break was mostly about my experiences reading this book on the Nook touch, the third generation device put out by the company that gives me my paycheck each week. I was borrowing one of these for a couple of days, and I borrowed it expressly so I could read Scattershot, which the kind people at Seedpod emailed to me so I could review it.

Does anyone really care to hear my semi-luddite ramblings about electronic devices you read on? I didn't think so. I will say that I had some awesome points in the rough draft that had to do with the misuse of our language in the marketing of these devices to the public. Those glorious and not so profound points though will die in my notebook, or maybe pop up somewhere else but for now they aren't important.

I felt it was a disservice to this book, the author and the publisher to use the review as yet another platform for me to rant about 'e-readers' (I seriously hate that term, anytime you see the word device you can think Nook, Kindle or whatever other brand of thingey's one would use to read a book without paper).

This is the very first book I read on a device. I could have read it on my computer but after reading the first twenty pages or so I realized that I wasn't enjoying the experience very much. I will admit I enjoyed reading on a device more than I enjoy reading for an extended period of time in front of my temperamental laptop. For now I will just comment that this is all slightly relevant because this is only available as an e-book. We'll come back to that later though.

The book itself. I had a lot of fun reading this. I think if twenty-two year old Greg had read this he would have wet himself over it, but nearing middle-age Greg enjoyed it too, just not as much as my younger self would have. The book falls into the same category that I'd place Bukowski, John Fante (and quite possibly Dan Fante, who I haven't read but I think would fit here), or The Motel Life by Willy Vlautin or Joseph Mattson's Empty the Sun, which I don't know exactly how to sum up nicely but as pretty straight forward, 'muscular' / masculine, anti-hero / loser stories. One thing that separated Scattershot from most of these other books is it didn't end up glorifying the chemical abuse aspect. There was some drugging and some drinking but there wasn't much of a romanticism put on it.

The premise of the book is so outlandish and borderline stupid that as soon as you hear it you want to groan for the poor fictional character who would actually go through with doing something like this. But, I've known more than one person who has thought up dumber ideas than this and tried to act on them in the real world, that I could picture some friends from my younger days doing something like this that I found it quite believable. Wicker, the main character, is a twenty something year old loser who has a talent in beer bongs (I'm not sure if this talent extends to making them or just doing them, but he does state this as his main skill at one point) who doesn't like to work and has the stunningly awesome aspiration of growing his hair long enough so he can put it in a pony tail, because he thinks it would look good and and easy to care for. All his belongings he's put into a storage unit, he's no longer able to pay the rent on the storage unit and his mom's ashes are in the unit. In order to pay the back rent and get his mom's ashes along with the rest of his junk out of storage he needs money and he figures the easiest way to get money is to goto Las Vegas and win one of the jackpots playing the slots. Armed with a book telling you how to beat the slots he's off hitchhiking to Sin City to make his money.

What a stupid idea. To play slot machines to make serious money. If I hadn't gotten almost suicidally depressed once in Vegas while watching rows of white-trash rednecks playing the slots and video poker with the look of desperation and at the speed of people playing not to have fun but to try to pay their rent at Sam's Town once I might think that this isn't an idea someone would normally have. But with some of my experiences watching friends make similarly stupid decisions to bail themselves out of money trouble and witnessing one of the most depressing things I've ever watched in Vegas I know that Wicker isn't an absurd creation or anomaly, but someone that could very well be sitting his ass down in The Tropicana right now to with dreams of hitting the right combination that will alleviate all his woes.

To get to Vegas he gets a ride with a scatterbrained elderly woman suffering from mild dementia who he convinces to drive him from Los Angeles. She's an endearing character with a strange grasp on reality and as the novel goes on becomes attached to Wicker and the unravelling of his original plans. A third major character is the elderly woman's son, a sad-sack dentist who likes looking at some sort of weird porn on the computer and who also heads to Vegas trying to track down his mother and bring her safely home. In his own ways he's as much of a fuck-up as Wicker and his own life starts to unravel as his life gets shifted off of it's mundane middle-class tracks because of Wicker and his plans to make good with the one armed bandit.

There are some great scenes in this book and I'd talk about them some but I think it would give away too much plot and I don't want to do that because I'd like you to read this one. Hearing that this book is an e-book only release and that it is Bukowski-esque could be a big flag that one should avoid this at all costs, neither of those two things usually bode well for a very enjoyable reading experience but this novel is well-written and well-edited. It doesn't feel like an e-book (which in my head I always think of as being one step below the horrors that descend upon readers in the form of self-published / vanity books) and it doesn't get stuck in the muck of the 'look how fucked up I am' frat-boy-ishness that followers of Bukowski can easily fall into. No. This is a good book!

When I finished reading it my one major gripe was that it was only an ebook and that I couldn't order it into the store, I couldn't bring it down to the daily show-and-tell meetings at the store, that it couldn't one day sit on one of Karen's tables, and that I couldn't possibly buy a copy and let it live on my shelves. I thought, what a shame it's not a 'real' book, but then I said, 'bad, Greg' this is a real book. It's a very good and real book even if it's only available in processed zeros and ones. And also it's a pretty cool thing that Seedpod is doing, they are releasing a small number of well edited, nicely formatted books in the electronic format and are able to sell them for a relatively low price with little of the risk normally involved by traditional publishers. I think that's a pretty cool DIY / independent sort of thing to do, even if it makes me feel a little uncomfortable because I'll need to either invest in one of these device things or train myself to read books on my computer. I sort of feel like I'm being left out of the cool possibilities publishers have by my own prejudices but for everyone out there who doesn't hate devices like I do I'd recommend checking this book and publisher out. It's good to see some quality stuff being produced exclusively for this new medium.
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Reading Progress

July 8, 2011 – Started Reading
July 8, 2011 – Shelved
July 9, 2011 – Finished Reading
July 10, 2011 – Shelved as: fiction

Comments Showing 1-15 of 15 (15 new)

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message 1: by karen (new)

karen you can just do like connor and just keep borrowing a nook once a week. we are going to read game of thrones together this weekend.

Greg Wow, you, Connor and Sam Harris.

message 3: by Bill (new)

Bill karen, are you going to read game of thrones as an e-book?!!!!

message 4: by karen (new)

karen no, as a regular book. i didn't want to borrow a nook and have it go screwy on me over the weekend and have nothing to read. the ones we get to borrow are on an account that clears itself out if you wander into a wifi zone - i don't understand it...

message 5: by Courtney (new)

Courtney that's what happened to me. boo. I am going to give it back and read my real books.

message 6: by karen (new)

karen you can put it into airplane mode and that usually does the trick. when mine went nutty it was because i let some dude fiddle with it.

that always seems to be my mistake.

message 7: by karen (new)

karen no doubt. but i figured he had to be better than me at it. this stuff doesn't happen with the regular nook, i feel compelled to defend despite my own antipathy - just the jacked-up ones we get to borrow where everything we put on it is free.

Greg Turning off the wi-fi is easy, but I'd never heard that having borrowed or lent books can get screwed up with connecting to a any wi-fi. I think this is only an issue for employees borrowing nooks and using the store's account.

message 9: by Lori (new)

Lori Well, this is a shame, I don't do electronic books I like hard copy, so I hope this isn't the future - that some books will only be available on devices.

message 10: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine courtney if you redownload the book the nook will know where you left off.

message 11: by Courtney (new)

Courtney i keep leaving the thing at home. so I will just return it monday. I have no patience for technology right now.

message 12: by Jen (new)

Jen I'm going to have to check into Seedpod. I'm reading Mykle Hansen's HELP! on kindle right now, and I wish I had bought it for the cover.

message 13: by karen (new)

karen you have a nook now

message 14: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg I do!

message 15: by karen (new)

karen take back this review!

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