Month: January 2012

2012 Book #3: The Hobbit

I’m generally not one to reread books unless I have to. They’re mostly school-related, and they include White Noise (the only DeLillo novel I still really like), The Sun Also Rises, The Great Gatsby (I reread that one on my own), and my thesis novels. Those are the only ones I can think of, but I’m sure there are a few more. And there was Lisa, Bright and Dark when I was 12 or 13, but we won’t talk about that.

And, now, there’s The Hobbit. I discovered Tolkien late: I read The Hobbit sometime around 2003 or 2004. I think I’d passed them up when I was younger because I thought they were so long. Except they’re not. When I was ten or twelve, I bought a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring, but I didn’t get very far into it. I’m not sure why I bought it – I guess one of my friends read it – but I remember being at the Waldenbooks in Pierre Bossier Mall and pulling it off the shelf, marveling at how long and adultish it looked.

I didn’t read The Lord of the Rings until a few years after I’d completed The Hobbit, and the first movie, or so, was out. It took me about three months to get through them, though I really loved them. I got a nice hardbound set from the Thrifty Peanut the other day, only to discover that they’re moldy. Good thing I work in a library and know how to deal with moldy books. Denatured alcohol and sunlight, in case you’re wondering.

Anyway, I’m not going to rehash the plot of The Hobbit because you’ve probably already read it. If you haven’t, and you’re thinking, tl;dr, check out the Rankin/Bass animated version (they also did The Last Unicorn, which I love and which made me unable to watch a movie with Mia Farrow in it without thinking the unicorn was talking). Turns out you can watch the whole thing on Youtube. Here’s the first part:

At some point in the near future, I’m probably read The Lord of the Rings again. It’s one of my favorite books. Here, of course, I’d count it as three because it’s really long, and I have 50 books to read. If you haven’t read it, you should. If you have kids around 10 or 12 (or older!), you should introduce them, too. I wish I had caught on earlier.

2012 Book #2: Ready Player One

I only need one word to describe Ready Player One: overkill. Seriously. This novel is like the Treme[1. Treme is an hour-long list of Things You Can Find in New Orleans.] of 80s references:  it’s basically a list of all of the Things about the Eighties Ernest Cline could come up with. It’s also juvenile: In the past, I’ve said that several YA books should be put in the Adult section (most notably the Hunger Games trilogy). Ready Player One is just the opposite: it’s a kid’s book. The only problem is that kids wouldn’t understand any of the 80s references.

Ready Player One is set in 2045, after we’ve used up most of our fossil fuel, and the world is a pretty miserable place. The protagonist, Wade, lives in the stacks, a literal pile of trailers. He spends most of his time playing a game that’s a mix between Second Life and Warcraft, called OASIS, as does everyone else in the world. The creator of OASIS, a very wealthy man, has just died. He didn’t have any heirs, so he created a contest within the game for his company and his money. It’s an easter egg hidden behind three gates that have to be opened with three keys within the game. Obviously, everyone wants to win, and there are thousands of players after that key. They call themselves gunters. There’s also a huge corporation, IOI, after the prize, but they want to take over OASIS for monetary gain. And they’re evil. Anyway, five years pass after the game begins, and lots of gunters have begun to lose interest, thinking that the easter egg is too well hidden for anyone to find. Then Wade finds the first key, and the race begins to find the egg. There’s also a stupid love story subplot.

The general plot is good: it’s the details that annoy me. Halliday, the creator of Oasis, was obsessed with the 1980s, and to understand the clues to where the keys are hidden, one would have to know everything about Halliday. And it’s all 80s references. If it’s pop culture, and it happened in the 80s, Cline worked it in somewhere. It just doesn’t end. At one point early in the novel, Wade has to supply the dialogue for all of the movie WarGames, and we hear too much of it. Later, he has to survive an entire videogame. We hear too much about that, too. By the time I was halfway through the novel, I was downright angry.

It also didn’t help that Ready Player One invaded my dreams. I hate it when novels do that, even if they’re really good. I spent one night in a sort of twilight state calculating how to get those keys, and the next night, last night, I could hardly sleep at all. What I learned from this experience: no scifi novels at bedtime. Not that I read many scifi novels, anyway.

Other than the 80s overload, Ready Player One is a decent novel – if you like pop fiction (I don’t) and if you really like the 1980s. I still think it belongs in the YA section.

2012 Book #1: Great Jones Street

201201032113.jpgI’ve read Great Jones Street three times – and only once because I wanted to. It’s the topic of the second chapter of my thesis on How Don DeLillo Writes the Same Novel Over and Over Again. Okay, that’s not my official topic, but it’s what my Thesis Monster is really about. Translated: I read through this novel really, really quickly so I can read what I want to read. Which is not Don DeLillo.

That said, I’m not saying the novel is bad or that DeLillo isn’t a fantastic writer. Because it’s not, and he is. Great Jones Street is the “least interesting and most plotted of DeLillo’s Novels,” according to Michael Oriard. I’m not sure that I agree. Surprisingly, I generally enjoyed Great Jones Street this time around.

It’s about a jaded rock star, Bucky Wonderlick (supposedly modeled after Bob Dylan). As with most of DeLillo’s protagonists, he’s surrounded by media, which is imposing an identity on him. In this case, he’s supposed to commit rock star suicide. Instead, he holes up in his girlfriend’s apartment, trying to escape the music industry and his fans. But he can’t really escape, and he becomes involved with a superdrug, and he’s swept up into chaos again.

It’s really not a bad novel, but one read was enough. The vast majority of DeLillo novels (I’ve read most of them) follow a general formula, and they all sound the same. I hear all of his novels like Michael Douglas is reading them to me. All of the characters follow the same speech patterns, which isn’t terrible: my favorite thing about DeLillo is his writing style. It’s beautiful. Here’s the first paragraph of the novel:

Fame requires every kind of excess. I mean true fame, a devouring neon, not the somber renown of waning statesmen or chinless kings. I mean long journeys across gray space. I mean danger, the edge of every void, the circumstance of one man imparting an erotic terror to the dreams of the republic. Understand the man who must inhabit these extreme regions, monstrous and vulval, damp with memories of violation. Even if half-mad he is absorbed into the public’s total madness; even if fully rational, a bureaucrat in hell, a secret genius of survival, he is sure to be destroyed by the public’s contempt for survivors. Fame, this special kind, feeds itself on outrage, on what the counselors of lesser men would consider bad publicity–hysteria in limousines, knife fights in the audience, bizarre litigation, treachery, pandemonium and drugs. Perhaps the only natural law attaching to true fame is that the famous man is compelled, eventually, to commit suicide.

Michael Douglas read it in your head, too, didn’t he.

What having read this book yet again means to me is that I have to start on chapter two of my thesis tomorrow. Meh.

If Great Jones Street seems interesting to you, give it a try. If DeLillo sounds interesting, read White Noise first. It’s so much better.

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