Archive for January, 2012

January 17th, 2012

Taft 2012 by Jason Heller

by Gwen

Taft 2012


Taft 2012 by Jason Heller

  • Can you allow yourself to totally suspend disbelief?
  • Are you as tired of the Presidential Rat Race, I mean election, as I am?
  • Let’s go back to that suspending disbelief question, can you really let yourself go?
  • Do you enjoy alternative history or mash-ups?

If you are still with me, welcome to Taft 2012.

On March 4, 1913, when President Wilson was being inaugurated, outgoing President Taft just up and vanished without a trace. They never found him and he never was the Chief Justice of the  Supreme Court or anything. They ended up burying an empty casket and moving on.

Fast forward to the Fall of 2011 and the big man himself suddenly appears out of nowhere. What ensues is a light political satire that is enjoyable only if you totally let yourself go and have fun with it.

History is re-written, small barbs are thrown at real political figures and the media, real problems are treated in a light-hearted and often flippant way and a few classic movies are totally mangled in the process.

Yes folks, I finally learned that I do have a line in the sand when it comes to fiction and mash-up like books. You can mess with Pride and Prejudice by adding zombies, you can turn Kakfa into a kitten for all I care, but there is one little thing you can not do. You can not mess with Citizen Kane or Meet John Doe, two of the best movies ever made. That made me angry in an irrational way that is hard to admit and even harder to explain. So, I won’t try.

I like Taft 2012, or maybe I liked the idea of the book and where the author was trying to go. The problem was I had to constantly tell my brain to let go of each and every rational brain cell and I think that good satire can be made with creativity, not by stealing plot lines from old stories and movies. Yes, somebody said that every story has already been told, but that doesn’t mean you can just change the names and call it your own. You have to make it your own. (and FYI, this is where me calling it a mash-up comes in, the book is a mash-up of a lot of borrowed plot lines.)

So, for some light reading and to see what it might be like if a progressive Former President was to step up to the microphone today, read Taft 2012. If you can turn your brain off, it will be a short fun romp. If you can’t…you too can write a totally murky post about not messing with Gary Cooper, Orson Welles, and Frank Capra like I did. Taft came out as a good guy though and that’s nice. The poor man is often overlooked or put down when it comes to Presidents, when really he was just a victim to bad timing and the juggernaut of Teddy Roosevelt.

Disclosure: The moment I heard about this book, I started bugging Quirk Books to send me a copy. They did and I hope we can still be friends after my review.


January 1st, 2012

Finishing 2011 with The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

by Gwen

Sense of an Ending

Deciding to have some fun with my last read of 2011, I chose Julian Barnes’ Man Booker Prize winning The Sense of an Ending and it was more apt that I had even realized.

Memory is a tricky thing and looking back over the list of books I’ve read this year, some standout and many have already faded into obscurity. Tony, the main character, is finding much the same experience when he is forced to look back on his college years some forty years after the fact.

We remember the first kiss, that professor who shocked us or made us laugh with his disheveled appearance, and we still feel a touch of the pain when other’s slighted us. However… how well do we remember when we hurt others? Sure the biggies are there, for me, like the first breakup I instigated, but what about the times when we lashed out and then promptly moved on with our lives? Were those people able to move on as easily as we were, or did it follow them, haunting them, seeming to linger over their future like the dark hand of a curse?

Memory is a tricky thing, filtered by each individual’s experience. We don’t know, what we don’t know, and sometimes there are things that we just can’t know. The past is a really big mess when you sit down and ponder it for a bit. Tony realizes this in The Sense of an Ending and bless him, he wants to try and not only understand what he missed, but undo some of the crap that made him look bad in the eyes of others. Closure is what many shrinks say that we need to have in order to move on in life, but that isn’t always possible. Sometimes we are unable to close the door and are stuck with what we’ve got, the sense that it is over and there is nothing we can do to make it better.

Now I feel like Tony when I look over the list of books read in 2011. Did I focus too much on quantity over quality? Did I waste too much time devouring the entire 39 Clues series? Did my nonfiction reading really teach me anything or did it just leave me more convinced that there is no hope and that history does indeed repeat itself?

How has my reading changed me? How has your reading changed you?

Enough of the navel gazing, let’s just make a pact to have a better year than last year, ‘kay? That isn’t saying that last year was bad, just hoping that 2012 will be the teeniest tinniest better.

P.S. In case you hadn’t noticed, I really enjoyed The Sense of an Ending. What started out as a pun, ended up being a much deeper experience.