Thursday, March 09, 2006

Critical Care

You know what's weird? When you read a book written by someone you know.

And no, it's not because of the naughty language and the adult situations. Shee-oot, I knew about all that from the first time I met Jon and Diablo, the skinny white Oprah, queen of all media. Heck, we've had lengthy discussions at our little suburban All-Drunken Round Table about deviant sex among Muppets, and cutting out half the White Album. We've drawn some cartoons on napkins that on reflection I really hope we did not leave behind. No, it's weird because for a long time it was a project, the kind of thing you ask about, and then on Xmas morning the thing's a damn book.

But you know what's weirder? Trying to be a critic, and explain in writing why you liked it so much. And consequently having to admit that you're essentially biased as all hell. So I'm going to wuss out on my intended 250-word review, and just summarize: books ain't blogs; this is a fine example of an important evolutionary step; it's a damn fine read; and as always, Diablo rules. There just happens to be a small dead-tree corner of the ruleage now, and yay for that.

That's the short version. If you're looking for the short version, off with you, then. The rest is expansion.

A couple weeks ago, I was procrastinating some work by doing some other work: I was attempting to write clearly about "Candy Girl," hoping to provide something more substantial to my karaoke bud than just props and congrats. I mean, I do fully intend to drink the booze and fall off the stripper pole in the refurbished basement of the Cody-Cave, once I return home this summer. I wanted to give back, y'know? Anyway, my housemate the poet surprised me when he said he does that too; it's good writing practice to play critic. I'll have to keep doing it, but I'm recusing myself from this one. It just can't come together, because I'm not objective. However, I got some nice little runs bult up there, and I'm loath to just trash them. So here are a few of the better crit-niblets for ya:

...a book is simply not a blog. I'd take that idea farther, and say that both the strengths and weaknesses of Cody's book derive from this fresh stylistic angle; events that are most vivid and engaging in the book are those that are related in the loose, chatty, candid, snarky, insightful manner that is her key strength in the blog. Her writing persona is juvenile, horny, and hopes to shock -- adolescent, in a word -- but it's also quietly wise and disarmingly insightful.

(...blah blah literati, coffee, deep chairs, retail, yadda yadda, selling not books or writing but the experience of reading...)

...but the blogger's advantage turns against her at times. Being unwilling to submit to the traditional book-to-reader dynamic, with its implications of authority and passivity -- or hoping to rise above it -- can backfire. When things in this particular blog-turned-book don't work, it's largely because the same looseness and immediacy that gives Diablo's blog its chatty intimacy can defy or undermine a compelling narrative sweep, and in the place we're trained to expect a narrator to be, we find there's more or less a reporter instead.

Then again, we play along far too willingly with memiors that are surely edited with the ruthlessness and artifice of season's worth of reality TV. So good on Cody for just telling her damn story, and risking a titillating topic becoming a day job. Good on her for doing this project for her own reasons, and not just to entertain or elicit some response from us. That's quite possibly the point, anyway.

Yeah, well, so I'm no NYT Sunday Magazine. But I'm ready to adopt the proper Pussketeer attitude and declare reviews of "the book" to be, like, so February already. So now that we're all Codyfied, I'll end here. Back to medical crap soon, most likely.

IN: Email exchanges with DC, which lead to a picture of Hobbes peeing on something, for a change

OUT: lurking at MNspeak, feeling pride because you ain't made it 'til you have haters

FIVE MINUTES AGO: mentioning casually that "...oh yeah? Cool. I know that author. So what did your internship boss at the publisher think of it?"

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