The Lost Symbol – Dan Brown 3/5
Let’s get this out of the way. This is big dumb weird book that is far up its own ass and pompous and pretentious and also big and dumb. Also, I love it.
There’s a version of me, you’ve probably met him….for me, he was a senior in college and he carved his entire existence out of resisting mass culture….except you know…the right kind of mass culture….and loved jokes that the Family Guy mad about Dan Brown. But here’s the weird thing. Dan Brown is just doing Dan Brown…and the world is better off for it. Dan Brown isn’t arrogant really (I am talking as a narrative voice, I don’t know the guy) and so when the country lost their mind over Da Vinci Code when I was in college I lurched HARD against it.
Then, I dunno, I read it…last year….after a lot of resistance….and it was really fun. So was this one.
It feels like he’s never been to DC or very much never lived in DC. DC is a weird town….it’s actually a bunch of different towns…it’s a very Black town that most white people don’t get to see…..it’s a really fun town that full of young lawyers and teachers and staffers and non-profit workers and other things….and it’s a politico town….and it’s a government worker town and lastly it’s a tourist town.
I feel like Dan Brown has only ever been to the tourist town DC. There’s more to it than government processes and I wish more people would spend time with it.
But this is about some fun bullshit Masons shit.
Noggin – John Corey Whaley 3/5
This is a fun book too. The narrator dies of cancer…well almost, and he decides that in his last days he should sell his head to science for cryogenetics and then he wakes up. Well, five years have passed and every one in his life has moved on without him and he’s still 16. Also he has a new body and it’s in better shape and it’s better looking and all the kids who were like in middle school and elementary school are his peers now and his peers are now much older.
But of course, the most of the book is devoted to him trying to get his girlfriend back who is now engaged. I think this would be a more interesting book if in fact it had been ten years instead of five so the lines are more clearly drawn and so I don’t have to feel weird that a 21 year old is getting married.
So the best parts of this book are with him dealing with the changes in his life and his body, and because it’s far-fetched but not too far-fetched it all becomes a kind of stand-in for illness, leaving and coming back, or going to college or amnesia. All of this adds up to a weird, mostly funny, well-written book that dwells way too much on the whiny feelings of a teenage boy.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – Jesse Andrews 2/5
This book is pretty…..fine….but the main character is kind of an asshole and not a good person. But also, the voice is kind of funny. But the real problem is that is about boy knowing a dying girl and not about a dying girl. Her story is kind of there, but it’s all about a boy’s feelings on her death, how her death is a burden for him, and he keeps getting annoyed at being asked by his mother to get to know her and hang out with her. But she inspires him!
And of course that’s all that ever matters in books like this. Noggin at least had the temerity to let the boy going through a transformative change in his life to be the one who has to suffer from cancer and not just know someone and have to hang out with someone who’s dying.
It’s not the worst kind of book like this but it’s frustrating because there isn’t the charm of other books….there’s some not particularly well thought out attempts to understand Black poverty in Pittsburgh and Earl is cartoonish and not realized. So yeah….I get why this isn’t universally loved. So it goes.