I’ve only just started reading this book, but I already have had a few thoughts I wanted to note, so I thought I’d try a running review/commentary as I go.
July 7, 2004. I’ve read chapter one. The little boy, Dylan, though six years old at the start of the book, makes me think so much of Aidan. And it makes me sad, because Dylan’s life isn’t all that, and I so want my son to look back at his childhood and think of it fondly. I could just imagine Aidan writing about when he was six, and how he felt, and it just made me want to put the book down and stop reading. Not that Dylan has a bad life, I could separate Aidan’s future experience from anything obvious like being beat or hungry or whatnot. But Dylan is just sort of melancholy, sad, unsure. And I want Aidan to be happy and confident and loved. Good book so far.
July 16, 2004. Well into the book now, I am starting to be able to put in words how it makes me feel. Reading this book is like reading Umberto Eco, with bizarre, obscure, and extremely erudite references to arcane bits of cultural lore. Reading Foucault’s Pendulum required a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica in tow. But the references in this book are to my own cultural swamp, albeit a few years earlier than when I dwelled. The allusions are all to comic books and science fiction, to Boy Scouts and tracing breasts from cartoon characters. It is all stuff I recognize… and yet, I didn’t like Foucault’s Pendulum, never managed to finish it. And I’m on my way to not liking this book… I think because it is too much work. When one character tells Dylan to play his chess piece, “or Hulk Will Smash,” the author launches into several paragraphs about the inner anger of this kid, the allusion to the kid’s own inner Hulk, waiting, seething, ready to Smash. And that hurts my brain. It is too dense. Maybe that’s the point, maybe we feel for Dylan, not because his life sucks, but because his inner life sucks, too full of allusive introspection. Clearly, one of the themes of the book is that poor Dylan can’t just be a kid (or maybe that kids can’t just be Norman Rockwell kids, no matter how much we think they can) but do we blame his circumstance, or do we blame him. I go back to reading.
February 15, 2005. Yeah, well I finally finished this book. I actually finished it a week ago, but I needed a little time to digest it. In the end, I guess, it seems to have not been my cup of tea, though I am not sure why. I was very pleased with what I thought was the end of the book, until I realized I still had one chapter to go. And that one chapter just blew it for me. It took a pleasing wrap-up and left it strewn all over the highway. Which, I concede, was probably the point. But I could not help but feel betrayed.
This guy, Dylan, spent the entire book trying to be something. He always came back to the same central issues though, always keeping him back. Mingo, Robert, Abraham… always back to them. But when al lthat finally gets resolved, some of it in a very satisfying way… well it turns out his life sucks anyway.
It didn’t seem like the kind of book that was going to end that way. I mean, obviously it wasn’t going to end like a superhero comic (Main Theme of Book: Life is not like the comics), but it didn’t have to bite so thoroughly.
Anyway. It certainly kept my interest. For what that’s worth.