Monday, June 13, 2005

Ancestor worship

Digging Up Donald by Steven Pirie Keith Pirie (Steve to his publisher) is one of those fellas you know is going to make it big some day. Oprah big. (Her book club! Jeez.) I suck up to him every chance I get so that, when that day comes, I'll be riding on his coattails. As in, "Hey, Doug. Here's a used tissue I found in Oprah's wastebasket. Think you can make something of it?" So you may be wondering why it has taken me so long to review his book. I dunno, it may have something to do with the fact that we're living down here in Crescent City and 95% of my books are in the money pit-cum-children's tuition charity fund for my contractor, i.e., the house in Harbor. Out of sight, out of mind. And, to continue the trite saws, better late than never. More to the point, I have a memory like a sieve. Not the kind of thing you want to hear from your doctor, right? To which I must say: That's what the chart is for, bucko. I have over 2000 active patients. Do you really want me to trust my memory, especially as regards your history of anaphlyactic shock with penicillin? Hmm? Anyway, I have been known to reread books three or four times and be surprised by the ending each time. Sometimes the old Warner Brothers cartoons knock me for a loop. What I'm trying to say is, I read Donald last October, and that's a really long time in Doug years. Without further ado, here's the review I posted in Amazon, with additional commentary in green.
Digging Up Donald was on my stack with Bruce Sterling's Distraction, China Mieville's King Rat, Robert Rankin's The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse, and Nathanael West's A Cool Million, yet it was Donald I kept coming back to. The comparison to Terry Pratchett is most apt, not only in the style of humor, but also in the manner in which both authors build up a nice "what the hell is going on here?" tension. Distraction: I never got past the first chapter. Boring. King Rat: This is one I really wanted to like. Mieville has talent. Trouble was, one hundred pages into it I realized I didn't give a damn about anyone, and there were other books I wanted to read more -- like Donald. Hollow Bunnies: Wonderful title, and the first chapter is a corker, but it fell down after that. I lost interest after about one hundred pages. A Cool Million: I finished it after I finished Donald. If I can make one recommendation to all the writers here: if you haven't read West, read him. Start with Miss Lonelyhearts, move on to The Day of the Locust. The Library of America collection is well worth the $. Donald: I would have finished it even if Keith wasn't a friend. Donald met my two most important criteria for a novel: I cared about the characters, and it was fun. (I shouldn't be too strident about the 'fun' part. I'm a Le Carre fan, but I cannot think of his novels as fun.) Back to my Amazon review: This book has a host of fine points: domineering matriarchs; a sex-crazed reverend with, shall we say, unwholesome intentions for the world; young love; not-quite-so-young lust; a bar fight in the land of the dead; high tea in hell . . . I'd say more, but a large part of the fun lies in figuring out Pirie's particular brand of mythology. That's for sure. Don't expect the usual thinly veiled warp of Greek or Norse mythology. Keith's universe is Keith's and no one else's. My favorite part of the book was the well-developed relationship between young Robert and the Reverend's daughter, Joan. These passages were surprisingly sensitive and insightful. All in all, a fine read! Good heavens. Is that the best I could do? What a lame ass review. Anyway: young love does it for me every time. I remember how it feels -- the intoxication, the madness of it. Clearly, Keith remembers, too. I was/am so taken with Robert and Joan that I will be tickled silly if Keith puts them center stage in the sequel; and, really, my main disappointment with Donald (almost a spoiler!) came towards the end, when I found myself wanting to see far more of both of them. Are you listening, Keith? (Keith apparently hates blogs.) More Joan and Robert! And move that WONDERFUL animation you have on your Writers BBS homepage over to your website -- now! D.


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