Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fast food

Do you ever read a book just because you can? You know it's not going to be particularly enjoyable, or have literary merit, or even be an engrossing story in a rubbernecker kind of way...but something about it says, "Read me!" Maybe it's the cover--that sharp simple yet inviting single graphic on a wide-open white or pink expanse. Maybe it's the type, so affably wide-set, with spaces between the chapters. Maybe it's a sort of love-hate thing: you see the book written by the literary pseudo-ingenue who could maybe be you, if only you were a few years older, a bit drunker, and more attuned to celebrity gossip.

I am currently whizzing through one of these. Since I'm not exactly being complimentary here, I won't name it (taking a page from the Believer's policy of positive reviews, I suppose), but it is exactly that sort of "confessional" book. I picked it up for free (and hey, "free" is also a key component in this kind of guilty-pleasure-esque read) on Sunday, in a situation in fact related to the estimable publication just mentioned. And something about me couldn't wait to read it, can't wait to go back to reading it now. I have work and I have a guest over and all manner of things going on, but still have found time to clip through 90 pages since yesterday evening. It's not a terrible book, by any stretch, though it certainly doesn't say anything profound. There's just something so easy-to-digest about it. It's a bit like the night I got home a couple of weeks ago all hopped up on caffeine and I just neededneededneeded something to eat. All I had in the fridge was the remains of a tub of Turkish Nutella-style spread that I had been working through slowly. And I decimated the remains in my espresso haze. I'd dip into a spoonful, think, this isn't that great, and then, one lickety-clean spoon later, find myself reaching in again. The chapters of this book are like that. I'd better get back to it.

But first, if you want a read that is delicious and nutritious, check out Adam Haslett's Union Atlantic. The very talented Haslett (graduate of my esteemed institution!) wrote this novel that foreshadows many of the country's financial woes--I say "foreshadows" because he embarked upon the book long before the current problems came to pass. It's set in the Middle East, in New York, and in ye olde country clubbe Massachussetts, and charts the interactions of a military man turned finance bigwig, an aging woman struggling to preserve her family's land from development, her brother the head of the New York Federal Reserve, and a high school senior whose presence has an ultimately pretty disastrous impact on them all. It's a serious book with flashes of humor; you ache for the characters even if you don't sympathize with some of them. As usual, my paragraphical-summary won't do it justice, so go out and get yourself a copy. It's a quick read (though not as quick as my guilt o' the day) and you will thank yourself for it.


  1. "if only you were a few years older, a bit drunker, and more attuned to celebrity gossip"

    Well, there's still time dear.
    Point the first: my way of doing that with books that look enticing but no good (like Ho Hos) is to stand there in the bookstore and read snippets all the way through to the end. Then I know what happens! Kinda like my love for watching trailers for films that I suspect will be no good.
    Point the second: he's an alum?! But, but, I saw that book in a real bookstore! Okay, now I really have to read that, too.

  2. I employ that Ho Hos strategy a lot, mostly in Strand. This time I just wound up carrying the book out since it was free.

    You do! It's much quicker than Fortress.