Friday, February 16, 2007

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2006 - 2.0

Pirate Station by Rick Moody
The Kidney-Shaped Stone That Moves Every Day by Haruki Murakami
False Cognate by Jeff Parker
Love It or Leave It by David Rakoff
Trauma on Loan by Joe Sacco

Obviously my plan to fit all of my final comments into one post didn't work. I could have tried but I figured no one wanted to read a blog post three full web pages long. Naturally, I could try not to be so long winded but, what's the point in writing a journal if you can't be as long-winded as you like? Yes, yes, I know I'm the one always harping on concise writing but, hey, I'm not here to talk about me. I'm here to talk about TBA Nonrequired Reading 2006 and, if you don't mind, that's exactly what I'm going to do.

Now, "Pirate Station." There's a metaphor in there somewhere. I know there is but I'll be darned if I can find it. It could be I just didn't look very hard - a perfectly feasible supposition - since, although "Pirate Station" is funky and out-of-the-box, I never find pieces like this very interesting, even though I earnestly want to. It's the story of my life. A cool person would like a cool piece like this. I'm not cool so I just don't get it. Why is the pirate station anthropomorphized at the end of the story? Moody writes, "The pirate station goes off its medication. The pirate station quarrels frequently and is testy about things that never used to bother it." Huh? Isn't this the same pirate station that was broadcasting music a page before? Yes, I'm uncool, I don't get it and, now I'm moving on.

A bit of fatherly advice - "Among the women a man meets in his life, there are only three who have real meaning to him. No more, no less" - becomes the driving force behind a man's relationships in Murakami's "The Kidney-Shaped Stone that Moves Every Day." Despite how much I liked reading Junpei's story, I think I enjoyed the fictional story from which the title of this piece is derived. "The Kidney-Shaped Stone that Moves Every Day" is the title of the story Junpei is writing when he meets a woman with whom he falls in love. "She steps down into the dry stream bed and notices an odd stone...She realizes right away that it's shaped like a kidney...Every morning she finds the stone in a different place." Those are the kind of out-of-the-box stories that, nerd that I am, I like reading.

I have no thoughts on Jeff Parker's "False Cognate" whatsoever. It was one of those stories that, though the writing is exceptional and the story - an expat in Russia with no friends takes a bus ride into the country and narrowly escapes being blown up - is well told, I will forget as soon as put down the book. There was simply nothing remarkable I found about this story. I feel sorry for that but there it is.

I have David Rakoff's Fraud on my shelf. I've read half of it and I've done thatby skipping around. I hadn't decided whether I wanted to read the other half because I had slowly approached the conclusion that Rakoff was a less-funnier and less-talented version of David Sedaris. I still don't know if I'll ever finish Fraud but Rakoff has redeemed himself in my book with "Love It or Leave It", in which Rakoff, a former Canadian, confesses, "George W. Bush made me want to be an American." The description of his subsequent naturalization is funnier than anything he's written in Fraud. And if officially becoming an American so you can vote to get Bush out of office doesn't reflect good ole' American values, I don't know what does.

Joe Sacco's "Trauma on Loan", the last graphic piece in the anthology, is long way from Delisle's funny and deprecating "Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea." "Trauma on Loan" graphically illustrates a series of actual interviews Sacco has with two Iraqi men, Thahe Sabbar and Sherzad Khalid, who were held by American soldiers in an Iraqi prison. They have traveled to the States to be defendants a lawsuit against Donald Rumsfield which holds him responsible for the Abu-Gharib-like torture they endured while imprisoned. The story is well told but I didn't find the graphics necessary. Sacco's illustrations are nothing compared to the atrocities my imagination creates when I read these men's horrific stories.


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