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Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

A Visit from the Goon Squad

Driving to pick up his son, Bennie alternated between the Sleepers and the Dead Kennedys, San Francisco bands he'd grown up with. He listened for muddiness, the sense of musicians playing actual instruments in an actual room. Nowadays that quality (if it existed at all) was usually an effect of analogue signaling rather than bona fide tape -- everything was an effect in the bloodless constructions Bennie and his peers were churning out.
I finally picked up Jennifer Egan's new book today -- am finding the first few chapters pleasant and stimulating without them exactly grabbing me the way The Keep and Look at Me did. Definitely interesting enough to keep me reading.

...And, by the end of Chapter 4 I realize I am completely hooked in. A glorious, hypnotic read.

posted evening of July 20th, 2010: Respond
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Saturday, July 31st, 2010

A couple of reactions

I'm eating up Super Sad True Love Story.... A couple of reactions to it, but first a brief passage that I think illustrates what a great rush reading this book is. (i.e. if you don't like this, don't bother with the book, and vice versa.)

My äppärät pinged.

CrisisNet: DOLLAR LOSES OVER 3% IN LONDON TRADING TO FINISH AT HISTORIC LOW OF 1€ = $8.64 IN ADVANCE OF CHINESE CENTRAL BANKER ARRIVAL U.S.; LIBOR RATE FALLS 57 BASIS POINTS; DOLLAR LOWER BY 2.3% AGAINST YUAN AT 1¥* = $4.90

I really needed to figure out what this LIBOR thing was and why it was falling by fifty-seven basis points. But, honestly, how little I cared about all these difficult economic details! How desperately I wanted to forsake these facts, to open a smelly book or to go down on a pretty young girl instead. Why couldn't I have been born to a better world?

I can honestly see how I could go either way about this -- it could seem self-indulgent and silly; but instead I'm feeling for Lenny, caring about his histrionic soliloquies. Rayyan Al-Shawaf at The Millions complains that Shteyngart's broad satire produces one-dimensional, artificial characters -- but to be honest that's sort of what I'm expecting from Shteyngart based on Absurdistan and The Russian Debutante's Handbook -- it's a feature, not a bug.

Possibly of interest in this connection, I'm seeing some points of connection between this book and A Visit From the Goon Squad -- a hugely different book, and one comparatively much more concerned with drawing characters than with biting social satire. It's possible I'm making this up -- but there seems to be a common theme between the two of them. In both books authentic communication is dying, its place being taken over by superficial, thoughtlessly immediate texting.

* (No explanation at this point in the text, why ¥ is being used as a symbol for Yuan instead of 元. Perhaps just sloppy copy-editing...)

posted evening of July 31st, 2010: Respond
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