"The book I'm looking for,' says the blurred figure, who holds out a volume similar to yours, 'is the one that gives the sense of the world after the end of the world, the sense that the world is the end of everything that there is in the world, that the only thing there is in the world is the end of the world."
- Italo Calvino, If on a winter's night a traveler

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Love is Not Constantly Wondering If You are Making the Biggest Mistake of Your Life by Anonymous

I'm kind of a books snob. Sorry! And so, even though the idea of independent books is pretty OK with me conceptually, I wasn't sure I'd ever really need to read one. I mean, I don't have enough time for all the regular books that already exist.

But I liked the concept for this book so much, that I read and am reviewing it anyway.

Love is Not Constantly Wondering If You are Making the Biggest Mistake if Your Life is structured like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" novel. At the bottom of each page or series of pages is a little choice: "If you help the cavemen fight against the ants, turn to page whatever. If you don't want to get involved and chose to flee back through the time vortex, turn to this other page." These are the only references to the B-movie adventure story plot about an alien planet of AntPeople. The actual text of the book is a straight up Realist story about a co-dependent, unhealthy relationship between you and an alcoholic named Anne. Instead of chapters, the book is separated into dates sort of like a journal. It covers four years.

Despite the options to flip between passages, a note at the beginning essentially admits that there's no advantage to this. The book isn't really written that way, and unlike the genre on which it is based, there is only one ending. You just read it start to finish.

And it's good! Not fantastic, not incredible, but good enough! I don't know that it has anything fantastically interesting to say about unhealthy relationships, but it captures the guilt and shame of their reality pretty well.

I tried to read it like a real "Choose Your Own Adventure" novel, where you jump from scene to scene--in this case, entirely out of order. There was some kind of sense to doing it this way. It reflects the idea that when you have something really difficult happen to you and you live in it in a really get-under-your-skin kind of way... time doesn't seem quite linear. It can be more like a bike wheel, events radiating out of that center hub like spokes, referring to and revolving around that one thing.

But I'm pretty sure that was more a half-realized, happy accident than anything else. If the book had really made use of the structure it could have been phenomenal.

I also read Train Dreams by Dennis Johnson, which is too good for me to say anything smart about it. I need to read it again. But it's beautiful. I read A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, which is about walking the Appalachian Trail. It's funny and smart and really makes me want to get out and do a long-term hiking thing.And I read The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, which is a 19th century proto-detective story. It's fine! I wasn't really paying attention while I read it.

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