Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Completed: The Book of Vice

Dear Jenny,

I struggled to finish this book, and I am struggling to write a review of it. I am loathe to write anything remotely negative about the author of this book, as he is also the host of a news quiz that is near and dear to our hearts.

Hence, my struggle.

The photo to the left is of a nice little illustration that appeared throughout the book -- one thing that you don't get in Kindle books is little dingbats like this one, which appeared at the top right of every recto page and the lower left of every verso page. Click through to see it in more detail -- it's a pretty little thing and I enjoyed it throughout the book.

And that, my friend, is the most positive thing I can say about this book. Read on for less joy...

The subtitle of this book is: "Naughty Things and How to Do Them," but should have been: "Naughty Things and How to Observe and Judge Them." Ooof. What could have been a fascinating read devolved into the author peering into the lives of a wide variety of people with his hand dramatically covering his mouth, which was arranged prissily into the shape of an O.

For instance, he and his wife go to a swingers' club just to observe. That is, not swing. You know, hang out, maybe ask some questions, take a look around and just check the place out. He writes: "I looked at Beth; she at me. And we realized, as we gazed into each other's familiar faces, in this unfamiliar place, with its exotic promises of sexual excess being fulfilled in thin-walled rooms all around us, not only that were we the most boring people in the club, we were the most bored." [42] You know, he could have ended the sentence at "club." The last part just made me want to smack him -- ya know why you were bored at a swingers' club, dude? Cause, ah... you weren't swinging!

And on and on it goes like this, through gambling, lying, gluttony, strippers, and porn. The stripper chapter takes an especially nasty turn when he tries to "educate" strippers at the end of it on how to make things work for the customers -- you know, advice on how to really improve their acts and make the fans go wild. It just smacked of condescension. I can't even type it here, because it just made me angry re-reading it.

When I am reading books that I am going to review, I like to make notes -- either dog-ear the pages (sorry!) or use little Post-its. Early on in this book, I found myself marking a few particularly funny places (especially the foot-notes, some of which made me laugh out loud). Increasingly, I found myself marking all of the places where I thought, "Wow. What a douche." I am not actually going to share every one of those passages with you. I will let the photograph to the right speak for itself.

I am glad I finished this book, although I really did want to hurl it against the wall several times. In the afterward, he almost admits to his judgmental douchery, which almost redeems some of the earlier BS. But, you know, it could have come in a lot sooner.

I am going to choose to imagine that the author of this book is not the same person as the host of the much beloved news quiz because I don't want to have to stop listening to it.

In fact, I really didn't hear much of his "voice" while reading this book at all, which I had expected. I have been actually listening to his voice for over a decade, so it's strange to me that it didn't come through here. Maybe he has an evil twin? Let's just go with that and be done with it.

On to November's book! (Only a few weeks late, but... who's counting?)



  1. After I wrote this, I realized... October was a Bad Book Month for both of us! You with Seeing and me with this load of jackassery.

    Bummer it was your birthday month. :(

    Fortunately, things greatly improved in November (I am *loving* the Gorey book! LOVING. IT.) Here's hoping it will finish with awesomeness in December!

  2. K,

    The image of the book filled with post-it notes is hilarious. Even the idea of you furiously labeling parts that annoyed you Hah. Interestingly, I will annotate books that I am writing about, usually in pencil. I have come to realize that if I'm writing about something, it's a lot easier to mark it up. I've come a long way in my ability to defile books.

    SO this book sounds awful. I mean, that's hard-core douchebaggery right there. However, and I know this a controversial statement, in the course of the past year, I've found it easier to write about books I disliked rather than books I liked. There's so much more to talk about with a genuinely bad book. In fact, this book sounds so awful...that I kind of want to read it. Is there some sort of way to read it on a meta-level? That is, he purposefully wrote it in an insufferable tone to show yet another type of vice?

    It is really depressing to hate a book you thought you'd love.

    By the way, I had completely forgotten the deal with Shriver praising her own books at the end of her article, but your comments brought it all back. It would have been better if she'd just come clean at the beginning, explaining that she was writing it as a defense of her own books.


  3. K,

    Forgot to tell you that I did look at the close up of your photo and presume it must have been a page about Burning Man. Which, I'll admit, is one of those things I find to be completely confounding. Because, in many ways, I am the most boring person in the room.

    See? No judgment. Just a statement.

    (Actually I really can't imagine attending Burning Man because of the camping more than anything else. If there was a nice hotel nearby that I could decamp to, I'd be totally stoked to burn down a 100 foot man. Seriously.)


  4. Oh, and all of the naked people.

    That seems like it would be awkward.

  5. As for your earlier non-burningman comments... yes, it probably *is* easier to write about a book you don't like. Just like it's easier to complain than compliment, right?

    Not many people walk around saying, "Yeah! What a great day!" but if they're having a shitty one, you *know* they've got plenty of words for that. It's just... easier to rant.

    When you're here next weekend, you can flip through Book of Vice -- despite me taking 2 months to review it, it really is a fast read. I just didn't like it, so it was tough to keep picking it up.

    I wish I could believe that this was some sort of "meta" plan, but so many of the passages just seem like it was being so... earnest? I don't know. I think it was genuine. Genuine douchebag.

    Meanwhile, I *loved* the Gorey book and I'm dying to talk about it! :) Maybe tomorrow -- I'm outta gas tonight.

  6. K,

    Do you know the phrase "shirtcocking"? Apparently, there are people who try to get away with going naked on the bottom half while covering up the fat belly with a shirt. This practice has now been banned at Burning Man, but that's a hilarious phrase. Hah!

    I agree. Dust. Naked People. Awkward.


  7. And when it's a chick, it's called "Daisy ducking."


    I don't *get* it -- it's a-okay to go completely nude at BM, but if you put a shirt on, no way? Weird.

  8. I mean, I sort of get it. What's the point of going to a modern day bacchanal and being okay with showing your *ahem* nether-regions but not your gut? Go hard or go home, right?

    Hee-hee. You said BM.


  9. Except... I can't deal with this: People preaching acceptance/non-judgment, unless it's not what *they* think is "right."

    "Don't judge me because I'm 'weird!'
    Oh, but I'll judge *you* because you're leaving your shirt on."

    A chick going topless or a dude going bottomless seems the same to me. (I don't really want to see either!)

    Hee hee. You said "hard." ;)

  10. Oh, and I think we are now completely and successfully off topic at this point.

    See you TOMORROW!!