Saturday, June 14, 2008

Wait, just one more page...

If you're keeping track - and thusly I poke you, saying "Look over to your left!" - you'll notice that I finished two books in the past two days. That is not a typo. I know, I'm totally awesome. You don't have to remind me.

My point, though, is not to talk up my own reading skills (428 pages! 5 hours! I am the word master!). I'm here today to talk about the joys of reading a book cover to cover without getting up.

There are two categories when it comes to marathon reading: there is the Life-Changing Book, and there is the Fantastic Plot Book. Obviously the first category has elements of the second, but they are distinct.

The first Life-Changing Book I can remember reading cover to cover was Catcher in the Rye. All through college I'd read it about once a month, because I was a Salingerhead. That happens to a certain kind of angsty white guy who never really got into Dashboard Confessional because Chris Carraba never fell in love with anyone who was "roller-skate skinny." I even searched online for his uncollected stories, which I found at a website whose main page was entirely blank, except for these words:

"If you're here, you know what you're looking for. Click here to download them." Spooky, and awesome, and for the most part, kind of a letdown.

There have been others, but the most recent Life-Changing Book - not just a short story, but an entire book - was A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I read it at Krazy's apartment, not once getting up from his fantastic leather chair. It is hilarious and sad. Also playful, messing with form and the fourth wall. It was my first encounter with experimental writing, and I was hooked.

This book also fit with my demographic at the time, i.e. "white guys 18-34 who like to think they're smart funny and dark in a secretly awesome way." Eggers, who has created an entire army of insufferable snarky pricks with his writing and the literary journal he founded, McSweeneys (name-checked in Juno, natch). I'm a little bit proud to be one of those assholes, hence the self-aggrandizing post. And blog. And so on.

So last night I started and finished The Raw Shark Texts, by Steven Hall. It's gotten amazing reviews, and I think it's already been optioned to be turned into a film. I'm not surprised. It's a Fantastic Plot Book. These works keep turning up in reviews: Moby Dick, Jaws, The Matrix. The last one is not the best recommendation - at least the last two parts of the trilogy - but overall it was enough to sucker me in to buying it.

It read like a screenplay, smooth and lean. The story is suspenseful, has a great love story, and has a fuck-with-your-head ending. It played with ideas and language in an interesting way, and I don't think I'm giving anything away by saying that the Beast is a shark made up of words, and eats memories. If I'd read Moby Dick I could say that The Raw Shark Texts is very similar in that it's not really about a fish. Great set pieces, snappy dialog, and a little bit of "Whoa." I was hooked.

So go out and buy the book. Instead of watching 8 straight episodes of Lost try reading The Raw Shark Texts. It'll knock you out.


Arica said...

While you were reading your 2 books I was only reading one(I am a mere mortal) and I thought of you since the term Fancy Pants was in the book. You may enjoy this book(and not just because it uses the words Fancy Pants), it is called The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon. It would fit in the good plot category.

Pants Wearer said...


indeed, it is a fantastic book. I really enjoyed it, and wore a cape the entire time I read it.

I wouldn't recommend wearing your underwear over your tights, though.