September 21, 2022: Catcher

I like to wait to review a book I’ve read. I can usually give you some impressions right after I’m done, but for a review, I need to chew on it for a few days. I’m glad I took a few days to chew on The Catcher in the Rye, because from impressions to review, the gap was monumental.

At first, I wasn’t sure why this book was such a big deal. Holden Caulfield is every angsty 16-year-old boy railing against the world, and he has a unique voice that carries the entire novel. I commented that I was confused by the book because I kept expecting THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL it has become, but it wasn’t until I put myself in the mindset of someone reading this in the 50s. Holden is the original angsty teenage boy, the genesis of the trope; once I got that, the novel clicked for me.

The novel would’ve probably resonated more with me if I’d read it in high school or in my early 20s, when I was also an angsty teenage boy. Reading it now in my 40s (late 40s at that), Holden made me sad. He’s deep in the throes of depression, and spends all his time judging and hating others for not being who he thinks they should be (the irony being that he’s also not being who he thinks he should be). Then again, with an older brother who creates art yet is selling out in Hollywood, and a younger almost perfect brother who died, Holden doesn’t really have anyone to anchor him except for his little sister, the one ray of hope Holden holds on to.

The writing is excellent; Holden’s voice as he narrates what would otherwise be an absolutely mundane couple of days in New York City is raw and real, full of cursing and observations about a world he’s not quite sure how it works, yet suffers the full effects of. I can understand why people had a tizzy over the language in the book, although it’s terribly tame by our modern standards.

I’m glad I read it and stuck with it when I felt myself faltering, because I ended up really enjoying it.

September 16, 2022: Wyld

I finished reading Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames, and man, what a fun novel that was! This isn’t so much a review as my impressions.

KotW is about as good a D&D-ish novel can be. I don’t mean fantasy in general; even though it is nowhere acknowledged, if you know Dungeons & Dragons, you will see it all over these pages, and love it more for it. This novel is what D&D games tend to be like, what they wish they could be like, and I mean that in the best way possible.

The world of KotW is one of mercenary bands, adventuring parties, that are treated like we treat rock bands. They have names, gimmicks, frontmen/women, go on tours, and have fan bases. It takes the D&D adventuring party trope and goes all in, and it works beautifully.

The characters, a bunch of 40-something retired adventurers coming back together for one last gig, are relatable, especially for me as a 40-something reader with some of the same aches and pains. They talk and behave like the old friends they are, with problems and issues born out of a lifetime working together, without going into the in-fighting trope that plagues so many other stories.

The book does some other things really well, things I want to address individually later on, but as an overall read, even with some minor problems here and there, it is a great read in the genre with a unique twist that makes it stand out as its own thing. I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in The Band series from Eames.

September 04, 2022: Champions

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I recently finished reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. It’s the first Vonnegut book I’ve read, and I read it based on the recommendation of Van Neistat, but also because it’s generally acknowledged as a classic of American literature.

I… did not like it.

I like weird. I like strange. I like odd. But this was… bizarre in a literary kind of way? I don’t know how to express myself. The book had lots of very clever observations about American society (which is what the book is celebrated for, based on some reviews I read after finishing the book), but the story is, I dunno, flimsy to say the least? And by the point that the writer injects themself into the story, a detail I enjoyed as I’m fond of that kind of meta-fiction, I was just reading to finish it.

I’m glad I read it to say I did, though, but I don’t know that I’d go back for another Vonnegut book any time soon. (Although if you have a recommendation, I’m happy to listen.)