Saturday, September 19, 2009


I'm writing this on the printer's and flyleaves of a novel someone left at work (though am transposing it here at a later now). That someone was doubtless a teacher, since a) the book was in the teachers' lounge and b) only teachers use the lounge. Two things may be gleaned from this: 1) I am a teacher, and 2) at least one teacher takes things another teacher has left lying around. I have no qualms about this. Let me assure you here that all teachers do this, this being acquiring things that another doesn't own or is not likely to miss. The very fact that an item is left out in a teacher's lounge means that said item has either not yet been acquired or, more probably, has been dis-acquired by another teacher and is, therefore, fair game.

Teachers are a hoarding lot, but they're also usually fairly generous, so it's assumed that any teacher will hang onto what they may conceivably need now or at some future time and leave anything else for some other teacher to procure. That way everyone builds up a huge mass of stuff and nothing gets thrown away. Ever. Certainly ecological, but a system not with out flaws. Namely, no teacher will willing relinquish space, say a classroom or office, unless the alternative is better from every discernible angle (administrators are a cunning pack). This is not because we are whores for a bigger window or room nearer the elevator, though we are, but because classrooms, offices, lunchrooms, lounges, labs, etc. are sacred spaces to teachers. The major thing that physically binds us to our trade are the place wherein we ply it. The blind hope that a mind might be reached may be the furtive god of us heathen, but the real worship is of our spaces. No church can compare to a well located and appointed classroom or a good rack of bookshelves.

In the meantime, I acquired the book I'm still writing in, but I need to assure you that no thievery was involved. I feel compelled to put your mind at ease on this moral point and also make it clear that I am not attempting a thin, droll rant that sets up a cheap jibe because the name of the book is The Book Thief.

But whatever its title, its not a very good book. Of course, Elle and Woman and Home Magazines disagree with me as reported in the Acclaim for The Book Thief pages. USA Today adds that it should be on a shelf with The Diary of Anne Frank--"set to become a classic." Who am I to argue with USA Today? They're in full color! Talk about scraping the review barrel. To be fair, I guess the 50 pages or so I slogged through weren't awful (If you want awful, try The Pornographer's Poem. You'll be wanting to puke in your mouth and then explode that vomit in a fountain of incredulous laughter. I can't say enough bad about that steaming sheaf of monkey dung. It is neither edgy or important. It is tripe.), but The Book Thief has a number of problems I just couldn't get past. 1) The interspersed interjections of mantras, asides, images and other texturizers lumbering in centered, bold type throughout are annoying and make the book look like a pre-teen fantasy; 2) the story is told by a whimsically philosophical Grim Reaper who gets emotionally caught up in a jewish kid's struggle to survive Nazi Germany and the omniscient, though cloyingly sentimental, narrator bit is jejune and tired (in this way it reminds me of Lovely Bones, but not quite as bad); 3) it's written in Australian (I can just hear the audio book: 'ee maibee deed!); 4) the text is blatantly self-reflexive and consciously genre bending while at the same time being poorly crafted in both style and delivery (there is no atoning inelegance in a published text [just so were clear, online publishing is not publishing, except in a peer refereed academic journal that no one will read anyway. Let's not kid ourselves]).

In short, don't bother. Reread Anne Frank instead.

And get preached at by some random blog, while you're at it.


Anonymous said...

I liked The Book Theif. We read it for a book club. How predictable!?!? But I could not abide Lovely Bones in the slightest! Is that at all redeeming? - Lane

Between the worms and God said...

Read Anne Frank instead? The Book Thief a comedy?

I keed! I keed! I will, on the strength of your review avoid it like the plague (or a Stephanie Meyer novel).

Loren said...

Lane-Here's a book club suggestion: The Master and Margarita.

Between t.w.a.g.-Oh, it's funny alright.