Thursday, September 10, 2009

More Books I've read in 2009

While I was wallowing in the overwrought romanticism of Four Letters of Love I told my wife Kim that I was probably going to have to watch an action-adventure movie to cleanse my palette. But of course things weren't actually that dire. All it took was a book of the "lad lit" (or more vulgarly "dick lit") which deals with emotions from a male perspective and of which Nick Hornby is probably the most well-known practitioner. I chose "The Book of Joe" cuz I read something somewhere about its author Jonathan Tropper, and the story about a writer returning for the first time to the old hometown he savaged in his first novel sounded interesting. And that turned out to be an excellent choice. I found this book compelling for several reasons. It's laugh out funny; the protagonist has no sense of self-preservation and cannot resist smarting off even when he knows it's going to result in an ass-cutting -- or maybe even death. But there was some depth there too, as it slowly dawns on Joe Goffman that, although he may have legitimate beefs with his family and classmates, they might be right in their opinion that he is an asshole. After all, he wasn't a great brother, friend or son either. Here he is after the funural of a friend. Dugan is the high school basketball coach in a town where high school basketball is the only thing that matters:

"I thought the book was a load of horseshit," Dugan continues without missing a beat. "The malicious work of one miserable son of a bitch looking for someone to blame."
I nod again. . . "You'll understand if I don't ask you for a blurb on my next book jacket."
"You're an asshole, Goffman."
"Well, it's always a pleasure to hear from one of my readers," I say. . .
"I'm an asshole too," Dugan says. . . "Nothing wrong with being an asshole as long as you do it responsibly."
"So I'm doing it wrong?"

Now that I think about it, that may be the theme of the novel: Joe learns how to be a responsible asshole.
P.S. One of the characters in this book makes the case that Bruce Springsteen's "Backstreets" is some sort of gay anthem, and I'd never thought of it that way, but looking over the lyrics it sure could be:

One soft infested summer me and terry became friends
Trying in vain to breathe the fire we was born in
Catching rides to the outskirts tying faith between our teeth
Sleeping in that old abandoned beach house getting wasted in the heat
And hiding on the backstreets, hiding on the backstreets
With a love so hard and filled with defeat
Running for our lives at night on them backstreets

Slow dancing in the dark on the beach at stocktons wing
Where desperate lovers park we sat with the last of the duke street kings
Huddled in our cars waiting for the bells that ring
In the deep heart of the night to set us loose from everything
To go running on the backstreets, running on the backstreets
We swore wed live forever on the backstreets we take it together

Endless juke joints and valentino drag where dancers scraped the tears
Up off the street dressed down in rags running into the darkness
Some hurt bad some really dying at night sometimes it seemed
You could hear the whole damn city crying blame it on the lies that killed us
Blame it on the truth that ran us down you can blame it all on me terry
It don't matter to me now when the breakdown hit at midnight
There was nothing left to say but I hated him and I hated you when you went

Laying here in the dark you're like an angel on my chest
Just another tramp of hearts crying tears of faithlessness
Remember all the movies, terry, wed go see
Trying to learn how to walk like heroes we thought we had to be
And after all this time to find were just like all the rest
Stranded in the park and forced to confess
To hiding on the backstreets, hiding on the backstreets
We swore forever friends on the backstreets until the end
Hiding on the backstreets, hiding on the backstreets

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