Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Here it is, folks: The long-awaited book-by-book review of every book in the Vancouver Boys Book Club.  (2016-2017.) I made the mistake of asking the other boys in the club to contribute to this, so it's kind of long, but I'm splitting it into parts and my editing skills get better every day. The Club is about to disband, as soon as we finish reading ANNA KARENINA, but hopfully its vibes will live on through this.

Rules of Vancouver Boys Book Club
-Every book must be under 300 pages.
-If you want to pick a non-fiction book, you have to get the other members to vote for it.
- The person picking the book must genuinely think that the other memebers of the club will enjoy his pick.

Rating System
: Every book is rated on a scale from 0 to 1. A rating of 0 means you don't recommend it, and a 1 means you do.

Overview of the Club Members, with commentary from the other club members:

Glasses Brandon. (His picks will be in this "dog shit" color.)

Glasses Brandon:
I picked books that I love. Books that I have always wanted to share with good friends. I guess it was my mistake to assume that Jesse and JJ were good friends. Haruki Murakami and Colum McCann are two authors that I truly love, and it hurt to see them ridiculed by two barely-functioning washouts, but I guess that's what I get for sharing my passions. As for the reoccuring accusation that I only like books about mental illness: I have a mental illness so it is understandable that i would identify with that. And out of 4 books about that, Jesse the ringmaster himself (what the hell is that supposed to mean? -ed.) liked 2 of them. I stand by my picks, all of them. It's a good thing I don't desperately crave external validation like Jesse does.

If Glassses Brandon was in a suicidal 14-year-old girls book club,
he'd be the Bell(a!) of the Ball, but unfortunately he's in Boys Book Club, with a coupla super-alphas, and his books always got the worst scores. Once, when he got fed up with our bad reviews, he said "I'm starting to think you guys just don't like literature," and JJ and I got so offended we started sputtering. I guess it's not literature if nobody wants to kill themselves! I guess there has to be a scene in which the lead character goes to a party and experiences ennui, like in every fiction section of The dang New Yorker! (Plus, let's never forget, I've read INFINITE JEST.) But of course, here I go painting Glasses Brandon with a broad brush, just like he painted me and JJ. In the end, he actually had the most fire pick of the whole book club. (Monica Drake's CLOWN GIRL.)
JJ: Glasses Brandon enjoys reading A LOT, so he will make fun of you for doing other things like enjoying life. (Or sitting around smoking pot and watching THE WEST WING. -ed.)  His picks are the type of novel I’m always on the fence about reading, but in Boys Book Club you try to read all the novels, and more often than not I’m glad I did.


As you'll be able to tell by me getting the most points (although that doesn't even do me justice, because look at all the PERFECT 3/3 scores I racked up, too) (also, I was the only member who read every book AND had perfect attendance), my picks were the best picks. One valid criticism you could make is that I picked books by white, male authors every time, but that's only because Bleeding Heart Glasses Brandon kept picking foreigners and women. Take that shit back to The Anarchist State College, freak-o!!! For far right, literature-hating guys like me and JJ, there's only so much spice we can take in our auth broth without crying. Other characteristics shared by my excellent picks were that they were funny and written in the first person.

JJ: Jesse’s literary ego would make Harlan Ellison blush. (As punishment for trying to sound smart here, I'm not going to copyedit anything you wrote. -ed) A man who quips with infomercial-like speed, which really showcase the insecurity and fear that encompass his whole life. A man hanging on to the fringes of his character, Jesse is not quite a lost person, but one who never fully arrived. a half-baked space cadet who reads mostly in the bathroom (because of his Colitis). But we loved his energetic spirit, one that kept persisting, even after everyone stopped caring.

Glasses Brandon
: Jesse is deeply uncomfortable with emotions. Most especially sadness, grief, suffering and other negative emotions he typically describes as corny or cornball or other dismissive words that do more to signal his insecurity than hide it. He is obsessed with everyone's scores, reading too much into my easy ones and not enough into his near-immediate zeros. Jesse likes jokes and will prioritize humor over plot almost every time. He also seems to favor protagonists with moral aloofness or sociopathic tendencies. Hill William was his best pick and Nog his second best. It just goes to show that you can find something to like in even the most diametrically opposed taste. Jesse makes a big deal about how he picked all white males because I "kept picking foreigners and women," but Murakami and McCann were the only non americans I picked and McCann has lived in NY for decades. Womanly speaking, I chose Margaret Malone and Monica Drake's books as my last two picks, so he doesn't really have an arguement there either. In conclusion, I believe his male privilege picks were self-made. Take responsibility for yourself sir! Still, I loved two of his books and enjoyed many others. 


: I’m regarded as the muse of the of book club, a lot like heroin is to musical talent. Being the only real man in this club, I give balance to this would-be impotent group of guys. During book meetings after Brandon & Jesse were done massaging every inch of each other’s literary egos, they would inevitably look to me for questions to pose during the book discussions. I was the spontaneous, womanizing, cigar smoking athlete who put these guys on my back and carried them to the in-zone (HA! -ed.) that is the finale of this book club.

JJ's picks were "wild cards," I'd say, which is not to say he didn't pick all white male authors too. Since JJ only learned to read chapter books very recently, his brain lacked an archive of books to recommend, so when it came time for him to pick he had to "judge a book by its cover" and hope for the best. (This lead to a fun discussion in book club about the physical aspects of books, and whether or not they should be mentioned in book reviews.)  But like the ditzy office secretary who fills out a surprisingly good March Madness bracket, infuriating the Glasses Brandon-y statistics nerd who works next to her, JJ reminded us of the superficiality of ficiality. And he had the second most fire pick. (Jim Thompson's POP 1280.)

Glasses Brandon
: JJ picked some surprisingly good books. It is a shame that he didn't finish so many of them. JJ is just beginning to grow his literary ego and a few centimeters is really not that bad. JJ always chose the best covers, so the books look beautiful on the shelf. He has many insights into book covers and paper type, and cooked us several delicious dinners. Also, it was nice to have someone asking what happened over and over again, because it made the rest of us have to prove that we actually read the books. Seriously though, he had some great picks and it was fun to read with friends(?) for the last 9(?) months. JJ is definitely not going to finish Anna Karenina.

NORWEGIAN WOOD by Haruki Murakami

JJ: 0/1
JESSE: 0/1

Jesse: This book is about a depressed college student who fucks a lot, and as a former opposite of that I found it offensive.
JJ: Norwegian Wood felt like what I imagine wondering through someone else's dream feels like. I felt sorry for the main character but couldn’t tell why. Overall I’m glad I read it, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The book has a very depressing tone, which spoke to Glasses Brandon’s state of mind more than anything.
Glasses Brandon: As can be gleaned by Jesse's strong and reductive reaction to the emotional storytelling, the book is a moving and sincere rendition of grief in the face of suicide at a young age. While I may be faulted in this "vaulted" company of book "readers" (nice try, but that's not how you use the word "vaulted," dumbass -ed.) for my choice of "bleak, romantic books in which somebody has a mental illness," I counter that suicide is a powerful force in society, and one that is important to write about. It has taken the lives of 3 people I have personally known, 3 more that I have known of in extended circles, and my fathers boss, which effected my father in a way that could rightly be called Murakami-esque. This is one of the best and emotionally true books I have ever read. They just can't see what I see. Maybe they need glasses?

TRUE GRIT by Charles Portis

JJ: 1/1
JESSE: 1/1

You could make a pretty good case that this is the best book of all time, because the style is "inimitible" and everyone loves it. In that sense, it's kind of a lame pick. 
Glasses Brandon: True Grit is a great book. The young no-nonsense female narrator exhibits grit that is truly admirable in her pursuit of her father's killer. She shows wisdom beyond her years and endures a harshness of life that leaves out the romanticist notions that flood many western novels. The diction and style fit with the story and the brutality can be felt in many scenes, especially as they pushed the horse, Lil Blackie (RIP Lil Blackie!!! -ed.) to the limits of exhaustion.  
JJ: This was a great read. I was surprised at how competent little Mattie Ross was. We watched the Coen Brothers movie after this book club and were relieved to see how true to the source material they kept the film. I also noticed a crazy resemblance between Jesse and Harold “Chicken Man” Parmalee.


JJ: 0/1 (Didn't finish)  
JESSE: 0/1

JJ: I’ve always wanted to read fantasy, and after not reading my own pick, I still need to scratch that itch. It could be the book with the worst Title.
Jesse: I read AMERICAN GODS when I was 20 and loved it, but the Neil Gaiman books I've read since then have made me cringe so hard that the back of my neck actually gets sucked into my asshole--literally!--and this book was one of those. It's full of precious British "subtlety" that makes 11-year old girls feel smart, but isn't actually anything. Look at this:

 She shrugged. "Once you've been around for  a bit, you get to know stuff."
I kicked a stone. "By ' a bit' do you mean 'a really long time'?"
She nodded."How old are you, really?" I asked.
I thought for a bit. Then I asked, "How long have you been eleven for?"
She smiled at me.

Blecchh. It's probably "unhealthy" to get this worked up about a book that actually is for 11-year-old girls, but I know you feel it, too. And the problem with Neal Gaiman is that unlike, say, R.L. Stine, adults treat his books like they're serious books, for adults. Look at this excerpt from The New York Times Book Review that they put on the back cover:

"Gaiman's mind is a dark and fathomless ocean, and every time I sink into it, this world fades, replaced by one far more terrible and beautiful in which I will happily drown."

This is the type of nambypancin' that makes cool kids hate books!!! Worst book of book club.

Glasses Brandon: Neil Gaiman is a good writer. He's given too much credit at times by gushing and goofy reviewers who come across as 12 year old girls glancing admiringly at their not-actually-very cool english teacher, but like that english teacher, Gaiman knows his subject. (English? -ed.)

I liked the ambiguity of the world. And the darkness. There is a scene in which the narrators father attempts to drown him. The character justifies his father's terrifying abuse in a way that a young boy probably would. I also identify with the powerlessness that he felt when confronted with the monstrous babysitter, and how no one in his family believed him. (That's because he was a DIRTY LITTLE LIAR, like Brandon. -ed.) And I liked that there were real stakes. That made it less "fruity," you might say.

It was an entertaining book and it definitely has a younger audience in mind. But Harry Potter did, too, and i liked the shit out of that.

To be continued, tomorrow....

1 comment:

  1. This is cool! I like getting all your perspectives. I felt the same about The Ocean... American Gods was great when I was also great for me when I was 20, but don't know if it would have staying power for me. I haven't been that impressed with Gaiman's work since then, though the poem The Faerie Reel is one of my favorites.