Monday, September 03, 2012

The Fallback Plan

Gack.  So, I've been reading a lot more books on my iPad Kindle app, and mostly I like it, but what really drives me balls is the notes and comments issue.  And also, formatting.  (And also, random text that seems to pop up.  And font irregularities. And, some other stuff too.)  I borrowed The Fallback Plan, by Leigh Stein, from the library, which is a major pain in the ass.  I understand all the weird issues that libraries are trying to iron out with publishers and whatnot, but each time I've borrowed an ebook from the library it's been such a massive P.i.t.A. that it's almost not worth it.  Firstly, for no obvious reason, you inevitably have to wait 2 months for the book to be "available".   I apply quotations merely to illustrate the obvious point that the normal library policies are nothing more than constructs when applied to ebooks, as everyone knows - whatever, I'll play that little game, but I'll also think it's stupid while I'm playing it.  Secondly, none of your notes are saved.  Why? Those are MY notes.  I received an annoying note that if I BUY the book, my notes will be returned?  BUY IT?  After I went to all the damn trouble in the first place of BORROWING it?  No.

Anyway, I highlighted a bunch of stuff and put in some notes, but now that my loan period is over the book has disappeared off my reader and all my notes are gone.  I didn't quite realize that would happen, or else I would have kept my notes elsewhere.  *frowny face*  I'm just annoyed because I don't have my NOTES!  Point of this long story: I'm not done with real books yet.

The Fallback Plan reminded me a lot of Treasure Island!!!, a hilarious book by Sara Levine about a young, well-educated, mostly unemployed woman.  Esther is a directionless recent Northwestern graduate, which was quite amusing to me for various reasons.  It's funny like this:
   "Dad, can I borrow the car tonight?"   "If you put on some pants," he said.   I looked at my legs. I was only wearing the t-shirt I had worn to be the night before. On the front, it had a picture of a gray wolf, standing on a cliff, howling at a full moon. The moon was surrounded by silvery clouds coming out of a ghostlike woman's mouth. This was my so-ugly-it's-awesome shift, but my parents didn't appreciate that, even after I explained it to them.
Eventually Esther gets a baby-sitting gig for a little girl who's parents are experiencing some emotional trauma and it continues to be pretty amusing despite the fact that written dialogue of children is the Most Boring Thing In The World. Ever.  And, eventually, the book becomes slightly more than just about an aimless midwestern college graduate navigating a horrible economy, however... does this all remind you of anything?  It's a lot like Lorrie Moore's absolutely brilliant 2009 A Gate At the Stairs, which is also partly about a directionless recent college grad who's babysitting for an emotionally traumatized family. Where Moore greatly exceeds Levine is in how her story explodes into this meta-narrative about family, race, midwestern-ism and eventually nothing less than Time & Space.  God help me if I'm not a sucker for stories that don't examine our very existence.  

Which is not to say that Stein's book isn't worth your time - I think it is - it's so rare to find a book that actually makes you laugh out loud; I did, several times.  Also, she's only frigging 27 years old, so it's not really fair to compare her to the highly accomplished Lorrie Moore (but, seriously, if you haven't read A Gate at the Stairs, do.)

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