Given all the hype this book got on Bookstagram, I thought it was going to be way better! But Bookstagram recs definitely been tossups for me, and it looks like this was another one of the disappointments. It wasn’t terrible, per se…just very underwhelming. I feel guilty for saying this, but the first thought I had after finishing was, “A decade of reporting and investigating for this?”
It’s impossible to love a book as filled with trauma, abuse, and violence as this one is, but nonetheless it was absolutely riveting. My jaw hit the floor over and over again as Westover kept revealing the next crazy scheme her father roped the family into, and I’m still coming to terms with the knowledge that there are still people out there who believe so strongly in fundamentalist survivalism that they refuse to go to hospitals and visit doctors, bury thousands of gallons of gasoline and other “supplies” underground for when the rapture comes, and think the government is out to get them at all costs, among other things. I mean, if you just faced a large, fiery explosion head-on and are suffering third-degree burns across your body and your face is literally melting off, go to the hospital! Don’t just wait for God and essential oils to work their magic on you!
Let’s just start off by saying, the fact that the front cover has a quote by Amy Chua of all people basically says what you need to know about this book and its author. That is, if the zebra-print pencil skirt and cheetah-print curtain and matching cheetah-print Loubs didn’t already give it away.
Anyway, this book is NUTS! Here’s the good and the bad:
I first heard about this book from an episode of the Ezra Klein show, but it wasn’t quite the book I expected going in – I thought it’d be more educational and that I’d learn more about how internet slang and memes and such developed, but it was more nostalgic and entertaining than anything else.
The book did a great job at putting into words things that an internet user already innately knows, but not so much at providing new information. For example, being a Full Internet Person, I already know the “anatomy” of a keysmash – usually starts with “a” or “asdf”, made up of the middle row of keys on a keyboard, doesn’t usually have the same letter repeated, if it doesn’t look genuine enough then people will often delete and do it again (that made me laugh, so real) – but I didn’t necessarily want to read about it. And the book is filled with instances like this. It was entertaining as a recap of things I totally do on the internet, but not as informative as hoped.
I devoured this a few weeks ago but am still reeling at just how corrupt Theranos was. Back around 2012-2014 I remember marveling at this new Elizabeth Holmes figure that every media outlet was mythologizing, and thinking how incredible it must be to be so brilliant and wishing I’d been born so talented too. When the truth came out, I was scandalized and shocked alongside everyone else, but it wasn’t until I read this book that I realized just how fraudulent the company really was.
Big yikes. I really wanted to like this book because some of my favorite book bloggers said it was one of their favorite books of the entire year, which is glowing praise, but I couldn’t get past the cultural insensitivity. Most of it wasn’t bad, but I got to one page that had a recipe for “spicy Chinese noodles” and I just couldn’t believe what I was reading. You’re telling me that Ruth Reichl – former NY Times food critic, former editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, and generally beloved food personality – is so culturally unaware as to call a Chinese noodle dish…literally “spicy Chinese noodles”?
This was my first David Sedaris and I liked it. His sense of humor is a strange mix of weird and goofy and British and dry as bone, with a tinge of creepy and “omg you did NOT just say that”. I just love how irreverent he is, and his chapters from the perspective of various homophobic/ultraconservative/paranoid people were really funny and original, even if he does tend to get rambly and sometimes even boring when writing about his own experiences.
This anthology also had the famous (to me) colonoscopy piece and having heard about it so much from others didn’t dilute the 5-minute pleasure of reading it for myself. I’ve heard this book is a far cry from his best writing – but if that’s the case, I look forward to reading more of his works.