Monday, February 2, 2009


(100 books in 2009 update) (9 for January)
Two more to the pile. I almost got a third one in for this week, but it just wasn't meant to be.

I Smile Back: Amy Koppelman -This is best described, I think, as Brett Easton Ellis lite. Laney is the original desperate housewife. While the kids are in school and her husband is busy ignoring her doing his boring (and slightly unsavory) career as a successful insurance agent, Laney drinks, does drugs and fucks whatever comes her way, including her best friend's husband and a small, stuffed Winnie the Pooh that belongs to her daughter.

It all sounds normal (the Pooh bear thing is a little weird), except the reason why is apparently Laney is purposely debasing herself over nebulous issues concerning her childhood. When she was a kid, her father left her and this was at least part of the trauma that makes her the way she is. Of course, debasement is sort of a relative term. For Koppelman and Laney, this eventually means anal sex. Getting poked in the ass is the fine line that indicates she's really disconnecting from herself.

Eh... if you say so. It must be a stay-at-home Mom thing.

While the book is pretty well-written, flows very nicely and the dialogue works, I never bought into believing the author knew much about drugs or sex. She mentions eight balls, but I never got the impression the author had ever taken one, but maybe had cribbed it from somewhere else to get a little street cred. Maybe it came up at a PTA meeting she attended and it sounded cool. The sodomy thing... I don't know. It seems to me, if you're looking to really debase yourself sexually, you could go a lot further than ass sex. The Japanese alone have come up with some really innovative stuff involving tentacles, rayguns and people in diapers. Maybe a little more research was warranted or at least a working internet connection.

I just wasn't shocked.

I love shocking books. I love books that change the ph balance of my conscience and challenge my comfort level. Cormac McCarthy did that to me with "The Road." The whole description of the boy discovering the cannibals preparing a newborn like a roast deeply disturbed me, but also spoke of how traumatic it is to lose innocence regardless of the means. I chafed over John Irving's "Cider House Rules" and the very likable abortionist, who was trying to stem the flow of tragedy and be of some use in a very flawed world. Given that I tend to fall on the pro-life side of things, it was, at times, a difficult read for me, but it challenged some of my perceptions in an intelligent way.

I Smile Back just didn't have the jolt required to make the jump over interesting, but forgettable to meaningful. Not bad, just not great either.

Upgrade Me: Brian Clegg -This falls in with my accidental study of genetics. I am also currently reading a book on evolution and another my Temple Grandin, who speaks extensively about natural selection.

The basis for the book is the argument that man is not approaching "Singularity," the moment when technology hits the point when it can make vast changes. This has been mentioned in popular media in movies like The Matrix and Terminator, where the computers become so much smarter then man, they can be used to make sweeping changes to our species. We would become Human 2.0.

Clegg's argument is that we're already past 2.0. We have been for centuries. We've already been tampering with our evolution through everything from creating clothes to launching ourselves into space. Most of what he says, I think, is a little bit of an oversimplification. Part of being human is we use tools -few species do that (apes, some birds and possibly dolphins also use tools to accomplish tasks). Clothes and space flight are simply extensions of tool making, but also sort of speak to our basic natures. Our nature is to not be natural.

Clegg also gives an overview of technologies that have emerged that could alter us, what is likely to happen and what is unlikely to happen. Unlikely to happen? Well, tinkering with our genetic make-up to add new abilities is pretty unlikely and probably dangerous. So, we're not going to be the X-men. Likely to happen? Electronic devices that restore sight, introducing genes into the general populace that could reduce certain kinds of disease, life extensions that mean something beyond tacking on years during the decline of health.

It was a pretty comfortable read without meandering into dull. I got a better impression of what is possible and what the future might hold for people.


Buzzardbilly said...

Bill, not to hijack your bookfest, blog, or career, but it appears from the commercials that this week's (Saturday night episode) of My Big Redneck Wedding is about a West Virginia couple. I blogged that much because it's all I can find. Perhaps a newsman such as yourself could find out more from CMT, maybe even get a feature in the paper. Good luck if you choose to try.

primalscreamx said...

I'll check on it.