Smackdown Books 2017

Arlene's smackdown17 book montage

The Memory of Things
Hour of the Bees
The Gospel Truth
Ultraman, Vol. 1
The Bunker Diary
Trouble Is a Friend of Mine
Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy
The Hired Girl
An Ember in the Ashes
The Porcupine of Truth
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans
Goodbye Stranger
Beautiful Blue World
The Blackthorn Key
All American Boys

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Nazi Hunters vs. Ultra: Battle of the M’ehs

Well, if you can’t say something nice…be brief.

Needless to say, neither of these books were terrific reads.  Ultra has its charms, to be sure, but reads like a YA book that your Mom ordered from Scholastic circa 1981 because a distant relative (that you just met) noted at a family function that he was going to run a marathon, and you feigned 11-year old interest.  And then your Mom thought that this would be a great book for you to read having read the one sentence plot encapsulation.

It is periodically innocuously charming.  There’s the wacky sidekick best friend (named Kneecap, of course, because why wouldn't she be?).  A few mysteries/secrets that you figure out a few pages in, and then wait 150 pages for the shoe to drop.  I thought the structure (the talk-show interspersed with the actual narrative events, with an occasional hallucination thrown in) was an interesting choice, but I wish it was used with a little more intentionality and purpose.  All and all, methodically purposeful, predictable, and…okay.  I guess.

The Nazi Hunters?  Well, I was expecting to love it.  But I found it…sort of tedious, actually.  Neal Bascomb has an (undesirable) gift for glossing over what would appear to be the most interesting or morally ambiguous situations in his account, while ponderously belaboring others.  And I’m beginning to tire of all these ostensibly non-fiction YA books that read like fiction.  You know, where the author blends imagined events (and they could ONLY be imagined) into historical, third person objective writing or quotations that are a matter of public record.  So, side by side with Eichmann detailing plans to a town’s leaders, a matter of public record, we get fictionalized moments such as this:

At last, in early December, Himmler himself summoned Eichmann to his headquarters in the Black Forest of Germany. “If until now you have killed Jews,” he told Eichmann, in a tone laced with anger, “from now on, I order you, you must be a fosterer of Jews.”

What happens is, of course, that the vestigial verisimilitude from the historical part bleeds into the fictionalized portion, so we are meant to consider the fiction actual reality, and we get this worrisome hybrid where I lose faith in the author’s veracity.  And in elements of the narrative. 

I blame Common Core.

Is it just me who finds this a little bit questionable?

Begrudgingly, Ultra moves on.  Although I’m shocked that it will be in the quarter finals…

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