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07.02.03 - 6:05 p.m.

Literary Roundup

Good lord I miss the BLINK tag. I'd be BLINKin muthafuckas left and right if I could only get my hands on that BLINK tag.

Good evening, and welcome to the show. In this edition of literary roundup we will discuss the first meeting of the Violent book club. We will also talk about other books read by Amar, so that you can rush out immediately and purchase them to show your cult-like devotion.

But first, the Violent book club. In attendance last Sunday were me, Jenny, Elio and David. The book we read was Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. Major talking points:

1. Why did this book suck so bad
2. What were we supposed to get out of it
3. How come the dwarf scenes weren't funnier (this line of inquiry came mainly from me)

Wasp Factory is a "controversial" (according to the jacket blurb, and maybe some 80 year old dowager in Nebraska) novel about this crazy kid who lives with his dad in a remote house on this bleak island in Scotland. The kid had some violent episodes in his past (killed 3 of his nephews and cousins) but now is mostly content to mess about with slingshots and weird rituals he's developed.

Kid also has a brother, however, and this brother is even crazier. Locked up in a mental instution for a long time, the brother eventually escapes and threatens to make it back home (burning dogs along the way). The suspense in Wasp Factory comes primarily from the looming threat of the crazy dog-abusing brother getting closer and closer to the island.

There is a surprise twist at the end.

But you probably won't care that much.

VERDICT: Wasp Factory was a poor beginning to our club. It was not nearly bloody enough. I mean come on! One of the murders features a girl getting tied to a kite and blown out to sea. This is both implausible and... uh, implausible. And not that much fun to read about.

Our book club concluded with a pledge to read Jenny's choice, Problem From Hell. Unlikely to be a laugh riot.

Moving on to less violent literary fare:

The Lone Surfer of Montana and Other Stories, by Davey from Found Magazine

I wasn't expecting much out of this. I only bought it because I like Davey and he was selling books at the last Found Magazine party, and the back cover features a blurb from noted literary heavyweight Chris Webber. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that Davey can actually tell a pretty good tale! The titular story is about this kid found by a road tripping couple while they're driving cross country. He's surfing in the middle of nowhere, on land, perched on a real surfboard but with no water in sight. Another story is in ALL CAPS AND IS ABOUT THIS KID IN PRISON. Actually a lot of these stories (three of four I think) feature characters who operate on the seedier side of life. They seem real enough to make you wonder who Davey's been hanging out with the last few years.

Bee Season

did you see that movie Spellbound? Did it leave you with the firm conviction that spelling bees are fucking rad?! Who knew they were on ESPN? Where are the professional leagues? Anyway as is usually the case when I see a good documentary, I left the theatre mildly fixated on all things related to the topic. So when our office intern Moneta offered to lend me a novel about this girl who enters spelling bees, I snatched it out of her hands without so much as a "how'd you do".

It's a pretty good book. Main story focuses on this Jewish girl who's neglected (somewhat) by her busy parents and her dutiful rabbi-in-training brother, until she turns out to have amazing spelling abilities. She wins spelling bee after spelling bee, advancing all the way to the Nationals, and meanwhile her dad decides she's got a mystical gift and he starts teaching her the ways of Kabbalah. And her mom has a mysterious secret life that culminates in a shocking arrest and discovery. Bee Season deftly weaves these different threads together, and actually led to me having a dream in which I was a Jewish mystic, which was a first.

Hungry Gene

I'm fascinated by fat, mostly because I'm scared of becoming fat and my unconscious perceptual slant towards slender=beauty. It seems like everybody in America is fat these days (at least if you judge by talk shows, and this is clearly the most scientifically accurate method we have available today.) Fast Food Nation and other books have talked about the social stratification of obesity-- poor people tend to eat shitty food and not go to yoga, so it makes sense that more of them would be heavy. But anybody who's ever struggled to lose wait knows that it's facile to merely chalk up extra pounds to a failure of willpower. Clearly there are genetic and biochemical factors involved as well. This is where Hungry Gene comes in. The subtitle is "The Science of Fat and the Future of Thin".

There is lot of talk of gruesome laboratory experiments involving rats, hormone regulation, pills and drugs that can help regulate appetite, etc. etc. (When you see "etc" it means I'm getting tired of writing and I want to get the hell outta here.) The book suggests that someday there will be a pharmaceutical 'cure for fatness'. (oh i've heard of that, it's called COCAINE! it's like the author had never heard of the model diet.)

So, to conclude, clearly we can see that reading is not just enjoyable, it's essential and patriotic. Any questions? No? Then thank you and god bless.

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