"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


Book Reports! An American Tragedy...and a Travesty

I have really been neglecting my reading lately until this past fall, when I applied some much needed eye drops to the ol' peepers and finally stretched out the cognitive functions in my brain once again.

First up was Philip Roth's newest book, Indignation. Roth is a highly-acclaimed American novelist famous for his exploration of the Jewish condition in 20th Century America and his recurring character Nathan Zuckerman.

I have read one other of his books, 2004's The Plot Against America, an historical "what-if" about the repercussions to Jewish Americans of real-life Nazi-sympathizer Charles Lindbergh winning the 1940 presidential election.

Indignation is a much shorter and considerably lighter entry of his favorite subject matter. Marcus Messner tells a first-person account of a Jewish boy from Roth's own home of Newark, New Jersey attending college in Christian, Midwestern Ohio, far from home and the annoying clutches of his overbearing, kosher-butcher father. A comedic-page turner to the tragic end, Roth captures the quintessential American experience from the 1950's while Messner fights for independence and self-confidence on an journey of sexual discovery. As with The Plot against America, Roth uncovers feelings that we've all hidden behind walls of silence or tough exteriors, while showing the younger of us that they are universal throughout past generations. Providing the older of us with a nostaligic and poignient look back on a country that was much larger and far more mysterious and open from the coasts to the heartland.


Eric Van Lustbader picked up the Jason Bourne saga from Robert Ludlum and has over 21 other novels that are international bestsellers, but First Daughter is the first book of his that I've ever read, and I'm dismayed, yet not surprised he has gotten as far as he has. Capitalizing on the backlash to the current president's faith-based administation, Lustbader weaves a somewhat intriguing thriller starring a goverment agent on the trail of the President-elect's kidnapped daughter.

Yet, while the prologue is a shocker, grabbing you by the lapels with the post-kidnapped daughter about to commit a terrorist act at her own father's inauguration, the entire story becomes bogged down by seemingly endless cliches and abysmal dialogue. The main character is - of course - named "Jack [Irish surname]," a loner who hides dark secrets and sees the world in a very different way - his "synapses" are contantly "firing". Every chapter, a main character is brought to their knees by emotional kvetching or unconsolable sobbing, or delivering heavy-handed soliliquies. Lustbader is trying to accomplish too much with these amaturish devices, to fill in needed information all at once that could should be spread out more subltly. Mistaking melodrama for literary weight.

Bad writing has never stopped anyone from making a living at it, howver. The entire novel reads like a screen-play starring James Kaan and Jennifer Aniston and it's plausible that's exactly what Lustbader had in mind. His Bourne novels have paid the bills for years apparently, although I'm not entirely sure he doesn't have Matt Damon to thank for that.

No comments: