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Nick Mamatas

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Problem Solving [Jul. 17th, 2006|06:44 pm]
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The ultimate problem: Terrorist by Updike is so boring that if it were not for the author's name, the novel likely would have only been published by iUniverse.

The proximate problem: I have to read and review this title for Spex, but I've nodded off three times so far.

The proximate solution: I put the book in the bathroom and read a few pages each time I'm in there. It's a short book.

The secondary problem: I don't go to the bathroom that often, except for

The tertiary problem: It's really hot out.

The tertiary solution: I've been hydrating all day, increasing the number of trips to the bathroom, and am now fairly zooming through the book.


Yet...the book isn't getting any better. This just goes to show that you can solve the minor problems, but that doing so may not have any impact on the big problem.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: slit
2006-07-17 10:52 pm (UTC)

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Did you read Christopher Hitchens' review of it?
[User Picture]From: tjcrowley
2006-07-17 10:54 pm (UTC)

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Watch out that you don't fall asleep on the toilet.
[User Picture]From: docbrite
2006-07-17 10:55 pm (UTC)

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You could just write about his stiffened nether member.
[User Picture]From: nihilistic_kid
2006-07-17 10:59 pm (UTC)

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I'm sure it's wilted by now.
From: spimby
2006-07-17 10:59 pm (UTC)

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I've never finished anything by John Updike. I'm sure you're a few up on me in that regard.

Jesus, I wish John Cheever had eaten him and survived.
[User Picture]From: nihilistic_kid
2006-07-17 11:08 pm (UTC)

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Yeah, well. Whatever abilty Updike once had to breath life into exposition via the telling detail is now lost. Instead, we're treated to a casting call for a Trapper Keeper commercial:

"Other Central High students are crowding around, there in the hall, the cheerleader types and the computer nerds, the Rastas and Goths, the wallflowers and the do-nothings, waiting for something interesting to happen."

Updike likes "Goths":

"Ahmad's astonished, gulping expression makes the watching schoolmates laugh, including the chalk-faced Goths, minority whites at Central who pride themselves on showing no emotion, like thier nihilistic punk-rock heroes."


He's on no firmer ground when trying to plumb the depths (or is it the shallows?) of a middle-aged Jewish guidance counselor a dozen pages later.
From: spimby
2006-07-17 11:21 pm (UTC)

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He's an old man who hit his height in the sixties and hasn't got much more in him but to try to repeat that. I wouldn't even try to get through his impression of high school today. I'm sorry you have to review it.

Are there still actual Goths in high school, BTW, or are they all on LJ talking about how much high school sucked for them? I wouldn't know.
[User Picture]From: nihilistic_kid
2006-07-17 11:24 pm (UTC)

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In a semi-urban NJ high school, if the one I loved across from for a couple of years is any guide, there certainly aren't enough Goths in any HS to have more than one per hallway at any given time.

Oh, and the fight between the mean guy (big, black, football player) and the Muslim kid (who constantly thinks everyone is a devil) was only a little shoving because the bell was about to ring and nobody wanted to be late for class.
From: spimby
2006-07-17 11:32 pm (UTC)

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How Peyton Place, except the Muslim kid isn't gay.

Is he?
[User Picture]From: nihilistic_kid
2006-07-17 11:34 pm (UTC)

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Well, he does later revel in his dun-colored skin, by way of worrying that the bully, named Tylenol Jones, may bruise it though it is opposed to the will of Allah to have too much pride in one's appearance.
From: spimby
2006-07-17 11:40 pm (UTC)

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"named Tylenol Jones"

Yeah, I saw that when I went and looked at the book at Amazon. Ha-hahahahaha! Niggers give their kids such stupid names!
From: oblomova
2006-07-18 12:24 am (UTC)

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The one you loved across? Um, Nick, is there some registry you're on that you're not telling us about?

Re: Updike. I read his short story "The A&P" several years ago and liked it, but his novels are just...I don't give a shit about male midlife crisis. I'm sorry, but I just don't.
[User Picture]From: nihilistic_kid
2006-07-18 12:37 am (UTC)

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Lived...but I did do some loving while there.
From: oblomova
2006-07-18 01:03 am (UTC)

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As long as the loving wasn't with the high school kids.

Unless they were totally hot, of course.

Updike wrote the introduction to the collection of Kafka stories I have in my library. I just noticed this weekend. I have no idea why the publishers thought he would be the natural choice for that.
[User Picture]From: tsenft
2006-07-17 11:25 pm (UTC)

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Seriously, if you are that out of touch with The Kids, why not go with timeless categories:

1. Dirtbags
2. Farmers
3. Drama club members
[User Picture]From: nihilistic_kid
2006-07-17 11:29 pm (UTC)

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But what about glee club members and their well-pressed blouses and skirts? Those tedious slide rule-toting grinds? The greasers and their hot rods and surnames that end in vowels? Or the returning college heroes with their straw hats, giant muskrat coats, and ever-present ukeleles? GO STATE!
[User Picture]From: tsenft
2006-07-17 11:32 pm (UTC)

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4. The homos
From: spimby
2006-07-17 11:36 pm (UTC)

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You've forgotten the Catholic/Jewish girls who play virgin whilst hiding their sexies under their dreidels.
[User Picture]From: tsenft
2006-07-17 11:37 pm (UTC)

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6. Religious sluts
From: spimby
2006-07-17 11:35 pm (UTC)

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Even better, why not write about something else, or nothing at all? Rabbit's Grandson Goes To Pakistan is just plain silly
[User Picture]From: docbrite
2006-07-18 03:17 am (UTC)

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I still get occasional fan mail from teenagers who put bat stickers on the envelopes, dead rose petals inside, portraits of Nothing done in pastel crayons that rub off on my fingers, etc. I can't swear that they are Goths because they rarely send me pictures of themselves, but their letters sure do convincing Goth drag.

They all want to be writers, and they're generally very sweet. Some of them even hasten to reassure me that they like my new books too (I love the "too").
[User Picture]From: nihilistic_kid
2006-07-18 03:21 am (UTC)

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You got my letter!


*squeeeeeee*
[User Picture]From: nomissnewo
2006-07-17 11:31 pm (UTC)

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You should just turn this journal post in as your review.
[User Picture]From: nihilistic_kid
2006-07-17 11:32 pm (UTC)

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Horrors! Spex pays by the word.
[User Picture]From: tsenft
2006-07-17 11:34 pm (UTC)

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5. Journalism club dorks
From: sclerotic_rings
2006-07-18 01:19 am (UTC)

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6. Wannabes to the journalism club who'd join if they knew that they'd be given unfettered control over their own content, and that they'd gain more coolness points by joining than by telling everyone "I'd write for the paper, but then the principal would have to expel me." Strangely, these are the ones who jump with the most glee when they get invitations to their class reunions, if only because they couldn't get invited to shovel viscera in a slaughterhouse under any other circumstances.
[User Picture]From: rrhexis
2006-07-17 11:54 pm (UTC)

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Lasix.
From: sclerotic_rings
2006-07-18 01:15 am (UTC)

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I understand: I had the same exact problem with Harry Harrison's last West of Eden book. Of course, I had a choice in that I could either suffer a burst bladder from trying to avoid the book, or I'd die of an aneurysm from repeated and uncontrollable screaming from bucking up and finishing the damn thing. Of course, since it didn't kill me, it made me stronger: compared to that series, I could watch a marathon of The Starlost with little to no pain, because I didn't have enough brain tissue left to register that pain.
From: panghule
2006-07-18 01:56 am (UTC)

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When you're wishing for a tract infection, diabetes, or an enlarged prostate to give you the impetus to finish a book, then it must be really fucking boring.
[User Picture]From: davidbain
2006-07-18 03:39 am (UTC)

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What would Bech say?
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[User Picture]From: nihilistic_kid
2006-07-18 01:19 pm (UTC)

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Even with the heat, I can walk down to the libes in the time I'd be standing in the sun to wait for the Moover.

Plus with all the other, better, books in the library are too tempting (as are, indeed, the books in my living room).
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: nihilistic_kid
2006-07-18 06:06 pm (UTC)

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It tends to run a bit late. And sometimes early. The Bee Line does anyway, not the Moover.

At any rate, I masochistically walked all the way to Greek Priest Pizza this morning for lunch, and back :). It was fine, thanks to the hankies to dab the sweat from my eyes.
[User Picture]From: dark_towhead
2006-07-18 02:37 pm (UTC)

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I'm not surprised to hear this response to Updike's (ahem) thriller.

I had the (mis)fortune to see an interview with JU on Good Morning America (or a similar show) about a month ago, where he was trying to generate some buzz for this book. Alas, he presented himself as an 'author of literature' codescending to write a book in the thriller genre. When asked if he would tackle the thriller again, he replied that he was not interested in ever writing another example of 'formulaic genre fiction.' Why write formulaic fiction in the first place (genre or otherwise)?

Thank you for affirming my suspicions that this book turned out to be drivel.

-- Daniel
[User Picture]From: bev_vincent
2006-07-21 04:14 pm (UTC)

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Disappointing book. He never convincingly explains how a young man raised by an Irish-American mother with scant access to the Muslim community during his early formative years becomes so zealous and anti-American. It's like his mother had no influence on him whatsoever.

Plus the short thread connecting the guidance counsellor and the Department of Homeland Ministry, providing him with a moment-by-moment update on the security level, seemed a tad convenient.
[User Picture]From: nihilistic_kid
2006-07-21 04:19 pm (UTC)

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Yes, the kid is entirely unrealistic. From his affected dialogue ("decamp", then an explanation of him reading Henry Miller), to his attending the church after the altercation with Tylenol, he makes little sense. And I'm only in the first hundred pages!

Of course, almost all the other characters are as nonsensical as well.