Alright, so I'm not the best Sunday Saloner. I'm downright crappy, when it comes down to it, and that's a shame. I should be using this time to remind myself what I'm reading as well as share that with others, necause my normal reading style involves picking up whatever's near, no matter how many books I already have going. That's my ADD at work.
And then, no matter how much I'm reading, I have to toss everything else aside when a book for review publication comes in, because some of those pay actual cash money, the kind you spend at stores. Bookstores, mainly, because you can wear the same clothes and shoes forever, right, and get invited to the homes of others for meals. So what does that leave? Books! Right-o!
I never had the slightest desire to read this novel until the publisher sent me a 20th anniversary edition for review. My assumption, based on nothing actually, was this was a novel of the surreal/postmodern genre I've never had much luck with. And how wrong I was.
This is my gym read, the one I prop on the elliptical machine to help the time pass. Anything that grips me while I'm working and sweating must be pretty good.
It's about the rise of the dot com bubble 1990s, when everything was good and people were starting to make money like mad. When the potential for failure seemed impossible.
The main character, Patrick Bateman, is a wealthy 20-something man who works for a major investment firm. He spends his time divided between: working out, tanning, buying $ 600 boxer shorts, eating (barely), drinking (plentifully), doing drugs (moderately), and having sex with his friends' girlfriends. He goes to work every day, though who knows what he actually does. All we hear about are lunches and dinners out, his biased opinions of everyone and everything, and how cruel he and his friends are to the homeless: pretending to hand them a dollar then snatching it away at the last minute. Happens a lot when he's out with his friends, actually.
Bateman is obsessed with what people are wearing, what gym they go to, if they're "hardbodies" or not, etc. He mentally undresses others, and by that I mean he observes the designer who made everything they're wearing from top to bottom. That gets old after a little while, hearing, "He wore a plaid jacket from Ralph Lauren, a silk tie from Polo, a shirt from…" wherever, all the way down to a man's shoes. But it certainly gets the point across. Patrick Bateman is a man obsessed with style, status and outward appearances.
He also has a fascination for true crime stories of murder, the more brutal the better. At the same time he's enjoying his success, his mind is starting to overload, his anxiety shooting through the roof. He pops valium like candy, just to get through the day. And he carries a knife in his jacket pocket. Did I mention the knife in his pocket?
A bit intriguing?
As the Doctor would say: Oh, yessssssssss!
Fascinating stuff that makes you grateful you didn't live through this part of history. It deserves every bit of the National Book Award and then some.
Egan takes us through the early settlement of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, the westward expansion and land grab. What begins as grazing land for animals is converted to farmland, plowing up the native grasses that had kept the dirt at bay, setting up what will turn out to be the greatest natural disaster in the history of the United States.
It's riveting and heartbreaking. It also makes the reader very angry such a thing was allowed to happen, especially after the northern parts of the Great Plains experienced the same problem and no one connected the dots, realizing the potential for disaster.
I love history, but even if the thought of the Dust Bowl bores you, I expect if you like very well written nonfiction you may enjoy it, as well. Egan will make you care.
I'm reading this via my iPhone's Kindle app, mostly at bedtime. And it keeps me up late every, single night.
Because I need to leave in 15 minutes, here's a really quick recap of some other things I'm reading:
Astral by Kate Christensen
Assistive Technologies in the Library by Barbara T. Mates
I Married You for Happiness by Lily Tuck
Open City by Teju Cole
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Leche by R. Zamora Linmark
Among the Wonderful by Stacy Carlson
The Double Life of Alfred Buber by David Schmahmann
Candide by Voltaire (Classics Group at the library)
And oh so, so much more.