Lately, it seems like every time I go out to eat, or head to a concert I’m out of my depth. Sure I know more about interest rates and federal tax codes and might even sound adult, but I still feel like I should sit at the kids’ table while my grandparents (or at least people who look like my grandparents) run the place.
That’s how I felt reading Albert Brooks’ 2030, the 2010 book from the Academy award nominated wit who chose to make his first ever novel into a light-hearted dystopia where the boomers are the single greatest problem facing America.
To be sure there’s a lot of potential for Brooks’ perceived dystopia. A world where the eradication of cancer leads to an overwhelming surfeit of baby boomers, clogging the social security system and burdening the younger generation for decades on end. While there’s a good chance that such an event would actually occur, it doesn’t exactly engender amusement. While I freely admit that not every dystopian novel needs to be funny (most great ones–including Fahrenheit 451 and 1984–aren’t), it’s a little disappointing that such a humorous author could not find a greater array of comedy to present in his debut novel.
Unfortunately, that’s not the biggest challenge with 2030. The bigger issue is that Brooks is clearly still finding his stride as a novelist. 2030 is littered with the kinds of heavy handed exposition orgies that anyone in a creative writing class knows to avoid (I can practically hear my professors in Ghana shouting show don’t tell!!) But there’s also a degree of awkwardness that surrounds Brooks’ moralizing on behalf of a younger generation. He abhors the entitlement and self-importance of the baby-boomers and writes passionately about how younger people (Gen Xers and Millenials in particular) respond to that. And yet, Brooks is a baby boomer, so why should his voice stand in for my own? Why should he create a clarion call to the newly mature generation of Americans who will foot the bill for his?
While the concept behind Brooks’ novel is compelling, the execution fails to convert the concept into an excellent novel. In the process, he sounds every bit as self-important as the generation he dismisses, leaving the Xers/Millenials reading to feel like they’re sitting at the kids table, yet again.
This book was a bit of an experiment for me. I enjoy memoirs and essays from female authors (Ali in Wonderland, Bossypants, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?), and have read them imagining them narrated by the authors themselves, hearing Tina Fey in my mind. I run for exercise, so I figured I’d take on the audiobook option as part of this Cannonball Read and find some fun memoirs to get me through my workouts.
My first purchase (via audible.com) was Samantha Bee’s cleverly titled I Know I Am, But What Are You? In it she chronicles her life, sharing some interesting stories, some funny stories, and some tragically funny stories.
Born to teenage parents, she spent time living with her mother, her dad and step-mom and her grandmother. As a child she was an introvert, an animal lover, and obsessed with Jesus. Not so much in a religion sort of way, but in an ‘I’m going to wash his feet and marry him” sort of way. That story was easily my favorite of the book, although her treatise on gift-giving and -receiving is a close second.
She definitely has some interesting stories to tell, but I only found myself laughing out loud a couple of times. I’m not sure if that was even her goal. But I think I would have preferred to read this as opposed to listen to her reading of it. She reads it pretty much exactly as she narrates her segments on “The Daily Show,” and while that works in four-minute Republican take-downs, it can sometimes be a bit much in book form.
I’d say this would probably be best as a library book or a sale book loaded onto your e-reader for reading on a flight or on vacation.
As I have (excitedly) recommitted to trying to read 52 books again this year, I have a lot of great books picked out, and I find it somewhat Ironic this is the first that I read. This wasn’t on my list, as I didn’t even know it existed until today, but I think it has gotten my 2013 goal off to a hilarious start.
This book is “written” by Archer, the fictional character of the FX television show of the same name. This show is equal parts hilarious, irreverent, graphic, and definitely only suited for an adult audience. It is one of the few shows I currently watch that keeps me laughing every episode. If you love the show, you’ll love the book. If you don’t love the show, you will most definitely not like this book, and probably find it highly offensive, and we probably would not have a lot to talk about.
It is written as Archer’s guide to being the “best spy ever” and includes a forward by his mother, and anecdotes about his life, grooming, drinking, and of course womanizing. It is impossible to read this book without hearing the character (as voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) and it will keep you chuckling. I highly recommend it as a quick read in the presence of other Archer fans, who will humor you reading it out loud to them as you go.