Thursday, September 20, 2007

Quick Takes: Diablo Cody, Poppy Z Brite, Vernor Vinge

This is quite possibly the oddest lineup of books I’ve put together at one time...

Candy Girl, by Diablo Cody: Diablo Cody became known because of a popular Twin Cities blog she wrote while spending her year working her way through Minneapolis strip clubs. On the strength of her blog she was offered a book deal to write a memoir. The result was Candy Girl. Candy Girl is Diablo Cody’s account of the year she spent as a Minneapolis stripper and is marked by quirky and snarky turns of phrase. Cody takes us from her life as a good girl working in an office to walking in one night for Amateur Night. Cody was hooked and over the course of a year she works her way through various Minneapolis strip clubs (including Deja vu) to the peep show booths at Sex World. The oddest thing about this memoir is that Candy Girl is not in the least bit titillating. The descriptions of the clubs, Cody’s experience, the patrons, and the other girls are highly entertaining but there is no sense of voyeurism. Diablo Cody treats her subjects with a fair amount of respect, which I suppose only makes sense because she frequently mentions how much she enjoyed the work. The biggest flaw of Candy Girl is its brevity. Coming in at just over 200 pages Candy Girl does not delve too deeply into Cody’s motivations in becoming a stripper, except that it seemed like a good idea at the time and she enjoyed it. Maybe there is nothing more to the story. Besides not examining Cody’s motivations, I thought that Candy Girl could have touched more upon the other girls working at the clubs and more about the patrons, about the oddities she saw and about why some of the other girls were taking their clothes off for money. Instead most of the girls were complete enigmas, as is Cody herself. Around the time the book came out Diablo Cody was featured on quite a few local radio shows, but also garnered an appearance on Letterman. Candy Girl is a brief but fascinating look at the Minneapolis skin trade.

D*U*C*K, by Poppy Z. Brite: I believe D*U*C*K is related to her Liquor novels, but since I haven’t read any of them I couldn’t really say for sure. I know this is a slim novella (120 pages) from Subterranean Press and it features G-Man and Rickey, the owners of Liquor, a New Orleans restaurant which features alcohol in every item on the menu. It’s a slice in their life over the course of several days / weeks, I’m not sure. D*U*C*K is steeped in food and cooking and running a restaurant and it –feels- authentic, or as close to authentic as I can figure out from having read Kitchen Confidential...and for the average reader I think that’s good enough. I’ll trust that Brite did her research in getting the rest of the details and the feel right (I believe she is also married to a New Orleans chef). The flow of D*U*C*K is a bit choppy, a bit on and off in terms of hooking the reader and telling a story, but it’s a nice little story as Rickey and G-Man get a job to cater a dinner for a former New Orleans Saints star quarterback. Pleasant, yet profane. D*U*C*K is a good little story which is likely to be a real treat for fans of the Liquor novels.

Rainbows End, by Vernor Vinge: Rainbows End was awarded the Hugo for Best Novel in 2007 (for a novel published in 2006). The full text is available online and that’s how I read the novel. It’s....fine. Well thought out, Librarian Militias and all, but the best novel published in 2006? Not even close. I’ve read a handful of novels published in 2006 that I would easily place above Rainbows End (Blood and Iron, Dark Harvest, The Road, Crystal Rain, The Lies of Locke Lamora, Mistborn, The Jennifer Morgue, His Majesty’s Dragon, Starship: Pirate, The Android’s Dream, need I go on?). It’s not that Rainbows End is bad, because it isn’t. Not by any means. It’s just utterly unremarkable and not nearly as pleasing as anything I put on that above listing. There’s a global conspiracy, new technologies, the future of libraries, old people, kids, interfamily crisis, global crisis and...oh, Vernor Vinge has packed a good deal of information and ideas into Rainbows End, but it doesn’t amount to a truly compelling narrative.

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