[Epub] ↠ Eat the Document Author Dana Spiotta – Thomashillier.co.uk

Eat the Document An Ambitious And Powerful Story About Idealism, Passion, And Sacrifice, Eat The Documentshifts Between The Underground Movement Of The S And The Echoes And Consequences Of That Movement In The S A National Book Award Finalist, Eat The Document Is A Riveting Portrait Of Two Eras And One Of The Most Provocative And Compelling Novels Of Recent Years


10 thoughts on “Eat the Document

  1. says:

    If you garnered your notion of the USA solely from literature you d probably end up thinking anti establishment terrorism was a widespread phenomenon You might even feel Edgar Hoover wasn t such a nutjob as he appears The other novel I m currently reading City on Fire takes up this theme as have countless others I ve read books by DeLillo, Roth, Pynchon, Letham, Franzen spring immediately to mind In fact, there are probablynovels on this theme than deal with the infinitelyinflue If you garnered your notion of the USA solely from literature you d probably end up thinking anti establishment terrorism was a widespread phenomenon You might even feel Edgar Hoover wasn t such a nutjob as he appears The other novel I m currently reading City on Fire takes up this theme as have countless others I ve read books by DeLillo, Roth, Pynchon, Letham, Franzen spring immediately to mind In fact, there are probablynovels on this theme than deal with the infinitelyinfluential and important civil rights movement Perhaps because most American writers are white Anyway, this is just an observation Eat the Document introduces us to two young lovers who are sick and tired of the Vietnam war and the ineffectual protests They decide to take meaningful action by planting bombs in the homes of the various chairmen of culpable corporations There are four narrative threads The Mary thread provides the novel with its narrative drive and is the most successful After the bombings Mary and Bobby have to separate and change identity The Mary thread is a compelling dramatization of a woman forced to change her identity and live on the fringes of conventional society The Henry thread, there to provide an outlet for aobscure philosophising on the theme, for me was the least successful, but it doesn t occupy much space so can easily be forgiven Then there s the Jason thread which takes the form of the journal of an alienated teenager most of whose rebellion is expressed in the form of a wilfully obscure music taste The role popular music plays in revolt is a constant and edifying theme Finally, there s the Nash thread The link between Mary, Jason and Nash will be cleverly kept a mystery until late in the novel Lots to love and admire about this novel She s been compared to DeLillo and though her writing falls well short of his inspired prose there are similarities, most notably in its depictions of the extreme forms feelings of alienation can precipitate


  2. says:

    Eat the Document has an interesting premise Mary and Bobby, two sixties radicals, are forced to separate and go underground when their scheme to blow up the summer home of an executive whose company produces napalm and or Agent Orange goes awry, killing an innocent victim Thirty years later, both are living unbeknownst to one another in the Seattle area Mary, who now goes by the name Louise, is raising a 16 year old son, Jason Bobby, now known as Nash, runs an alternative book store Eat the Document has an interesting premise Mary and Bobby, two sixties radicals, are forced to separate and go underground when their scheme to blow up the summer home of an executive whose company produces napalm and or Agent Orange goes awry, killing an innocent victim Thirty years later, both are living unbeknownst to one another in the Seattle area Mary, who now goes by the name Louise, is raising a 16 year old son, Jason Bobby, now known as Nash, runs an alternative book store for his friend Henry, who is dying of cancer Mary has always intended to tell Jason the truth, and turn herself in, as soon as he is ready But Jason is a smart kid What if he figures things out for himself first Spiotta develops the story beautifully, essentially using it as a vehicle to explore questions of identity, as well as providing a fairly astute analysis of the 60s and 90s counter culture The novel is not as tightly constructed as it could have been a couple of story arcs Henry s deteriorating health and the glib explanation offered for it, the May December attraction between Miranda and Nash added little And while the main characters were believable and interesting, some of the minor characters Miranda s boyfriend Josh, Jason s loser geek neighbor Gage, Mary Caroline s travel companion Berry were just cartoons But these are occasional lapses for the most part, Spiotta tells the story with subtlety and skill Intentionally or not, it s the story of Mary and Jason that forms the emotional heart of the book Nash is not unsympathetic, but he s not very interesting either The book raises some very interesting questions, and Spiotta is an engaging and skillful writer For those who enjoy that kind of thing, there are regular doses of High Fidelity style geekishness, mainly centering on Jason s obsessive interest in The Beach Boys Spiotta delivers these with such brilliance that it s hard not to be beguiled the choice of the Beach Boys as the focus of Jason s obsession is inspired It also allows the hilarious scene in which, to Jason s mounting horror, a slightly buzzed Mary reminisces about the time she danced with Dennis Wilson in a grungy surfer bar in Venice Beach Despite its minor flaws, I really liked Eat the Document , for the skill with which Spiotta unfolds the story, for the pitch perfect portrayal of the relationship between Mary and Jason, for the acuteness of her examination of the counter culture of both generations, and for the interesting questions it raises about the construction of personal identity in the U.S Predictably enough, I wasn t particularly keen on the whole demonization of the big pharmaceutical company story arc, but I can t necessarily criticize it as coming out of left field When I was typing up this review in the horrible Microsoft Works word processor, it refused to allow me to type this word, changing it each time to deionization Is this some kind of new sinister automatic bowdlerization feature that is being included with Microsoft programs It was really creepy


  3. says:

    This is a perfectly mediocre book, reasonably entertaining, but absolutely wonderful for understanding today s literature Its successes and its flaws are all so widespread, it s as if I d found the Platonic form of the Contemporary Novel Which means this review got a little out of hand I periodically fall victim to an odd complex of ideas when choosing a book to read that because a novel is supposed to be about important themes, it will treat them as if they were important that a nove This is a perfectly mediocre book, reasonably entertaining, but absolutely wonderful for understanding today s literature Its successes and its flaws are all so widespread, it s as if I d found the Platonic form of the Contemporary Novel Which means this review got a little out of hand I periodically fall victim to an odd complex of ideas when choosing a book to read that because a novel is supposed to be about important themes, it will treat them as if they were important that a novel ostensibly about history will be about history that a novel about radicalism will take some risks that a novel ostensibly about ideas will beintelligent than the average novel EtheD seems to be well loved, but I can t at all work out why Like Jennifer Egan s Look at Me, it s a philosophical novel with all the philosophy taken out it raises very important questions here the history decline of political radicalism on the one hand, and the morality of revolution on the other , but can t stay in one place for long enough to tease out that idea in any interesting way The book s structure makes real thought impossible the main reveal there are others is just what our main characters did back in the 70s They blew up a house with a housemaid in it Was it worth doing Since we don t know what they did until the last twenty pages, there s not much time to think about it I suspect we re meant to be instinctively disgusted by this act The characters keep insisting that intentions matter , but ultimately they accept their guilt and go to prison Meanwhile, we re told that we have to see the complexities of the owners of the homes they blew up, i.e., sometimes you just have to make chemicals that cause cancer and sell them to people Sometimes you just have to make weapons and sell them and it s not up to you if others use them They re just so complex That s the truth I showed the truth The truth is complicated More complicated than we would like, Bobby said The novel s form also makes it hard to really think with As with so many contemporary books, we have a rotating point of view, one character per chapter, with only very, very occasional dips into adistant third person perspective In other words, the narrator does all s he can to efface itself The only perspectives we get are the characters But at heart the book doesn t want us to think about the morality of radicalism, because that question has already been answered Instead it wants us to think about the changes between the sixties and seventies and the 2000s Then, we had radicals who would fight for a cause and set out on their own adventures and try to live free Now, we have cynics who ll sell out as soon as is humanly possible Then, we had the Beach Boys Now, we fetishize the Beach Boys and the rest of 60s and 70s pop music , because instead of being good consumers, we re really bad consumers There is a lot to like about the book, too The sheer breadth of the themes destroy the limits of contemporary literature you just can t write a book about this stuff that is also just a love story so the love story is overwhelmed by the story about a chemical company and an adbuster There is a good depiction of the slide from Flower Power Hope and Smiling to internet cynicism and merely symbolic protest of the being sad is subversive or free yourself from your mind chains type There s good stuff about how nostalgia is merely personal, never political There s a hint that the main characters real crime wasn t accidentally killing a woman so much as it was giving birth to the idiocies of the late twentieth century But really all of this is overwhelmed by the love story EtheD is somehow sprawling so many strands so much jumping around in time and obsessively limited it s really about true love It s both perfectly historical seventies communes noughties vinyl collectors and entirely unrealistic It s perfectly formed the characters all have their own convincing PoV the reveals are spaced out and a complete mess the multiple reveals have nothing to do with each other It tries to write about group dynamics and historical change by focusing on individual identities and family relationships Spiotta tried to do the impossible here write a novel in a contemporary form that didn t stick to domestic romantic existential maunderings Since Stone Arabia is about rock music and siblings, I suspect she tried to do the same thing there Perhaps she pulled it off I ll give it a try That s not true, I know exactly why it s a perfectly generic novel about something cool and interesting There s a place for that More often than I will admit, I love novels that are about something in which I m interested, even if they re really mediocre in every other way


  4. says:

    1966Remember 1966 Neither does Dana Spiotta, though because it was the year she was born.It was the year the Beach Boys releasedPet Soundsand started theSmile Sessions. It was the year Bob Dylan undertook a second tour with an electric band, which was filmed in D A Pennebaker s documentaryEat the Document.I d probably recommend this novel to you if you had the boxset of thePet Sounds Sessionsor you d spent half a lifetime trying to get a bootleg of the Dylan doco or you d heard 1966Remember 1966 Neither does Dana Spiotta, though because it was the year she was born.It was the year the Beach Boys releasedPet Soundsand started theSmile Sessions. It was the year Bob Dylan undertook a second tour with an electric band, which was filmed in D A Pennebaker s documentaryEat the Document.I d probably recommend this novel to you if you had the boxset of thePet Sounds Sessionsor you d spent half a lifetime trying to get a bootleg of the Dylan doco or you d heard of Skip Spence s solo albumOaror you had both Love albums or you have two or three Richie Unterberger books especiallyUnknown Legends of Rock and RollIn other words, I d probably recommend it to Paul Bryant.I d probably recommend it to you if you were interested in alternative politics in the late 60 s and early 70 s, as well as the 90 s and 00 s, and how the two periods compared and contrasted.Juxtaposition Occupied by Two GenerationsMy chief reservation is how the book is structured and whether it works.It starts well with a woman, Mary, on the run in 1972 She had been politically active, and has done something with her partner that means the FBI is after them Despite their relationship, they decide that they have to split and go their separate ways.This is a fascinating premise, but by page 20, with no elaboration on what had happened to make her a fugitive, we re reading the journal of a 15 year old boy in 1998.This is the story of two quite different generations of alternative American culture.At first it seems as if they have just been jammed together Only in the last 20 pages or so are any connections made explicit If you ve been patient enough to last, the novel becomes quite poignant However, it s a big ask to make us wade and wait through the intervening narrative.This is a Post Modernist narrative style that I ve had to confront before, especially with respect to David Mitchell sCloud Atlas. I don t object to juxtaposition, but I do want to see connections or links emerge, sooner rather than later I m not used to waiting for 250 pages to see the light, although that might just reflect that I m not a seasoned crime reader, and therefore am not used to deferring pleasure to the end, when everything is revealed.Je Suis MaryTo be fair, the other reason I experienced difficulty getting into this novel was that I started reading it the day before the Charlie Hebdo killings.Little did I know that this book would explore comparable actions in the United States in 1972.It seemed strange to be reading a piece of fiction when live terrorism and its consequences were all over the TV.The day after the Paris sieges ended, I was able to resume reading the novel, and ironically I think this serendipity made for ainteresting read Most of the quotes in my updates reflect parallels that came to me, mainly because I was consuming Charlie Hebdo almost 24 hours a day.The difference between the two experiences is that, with Paris, it s inevitable that any white reader in a Western nation would look on the protagonists in the drama as terrorists who had no political cause Certainly, they wouldn t identify with them.I ve read many times that, if they hadn t chosen to kill the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, they would have chosen somebody else to kill This point is reinforced by the fact that the third killer attacked a kosher supermarket No matter what your views about the attack on Charlie Hebdo, the attack on the Jewish supermarket just seemed gratuitous and racist It made it even less credible to understand the attacks as politically motivated.On the other hand, I wonder how we would have reacted if the terrorists had been Chechnayans or Ukrainians, and the attack had been on Moscow Would we have beenprepared to consider claims of political motivation and legitimacy The 60 s GenerationJust as Islam is a broad church if that s not the wrong word to use with respect to their beliefs , the 60 s counter culture housed a lot of different movements Very few were intrinsically violent or motivated to achieve their goals by violent means.However, because the movements coincided with the Vietnam War, their target, the military industrial complex, was busy demonstrating just how violent and aggressive it could be It was easy for the counter culture to adopt an antagonistic stance towards both the government and mainstream, straight society.The novel deals with the aftermath of a politically motivated bombing of the private residences of executives of large American companies who supplied the tools of chemical warfare to the military.The protagonists have tried democratic and peaceful means to end the war and brutality However, all of their idealism has proved fruitlessWe wanted to do something There had been years of peaceful efforts Things escalated It was an act of desperation Suddenly, it seemed that the only way to achieve something was to embrace violenceThe question is, do we want to leave action to the brutes of the world I believe we must fight back, or we will feel shame all our lives We, the privileged, areobligated It is a moral duty to do something, however imperfectThese are citizens taking up arms against their government and the corporate interests they represent.The 90 s GenerationAlthough current personal politics seems to be riddled with libertarianism and anarchism view spoiler the latter of which, if it is to achieve something concrete for society at large, presumably has to resort to revolutionary methods, otherwise it seems to be confined to the studies of postgraduate bohemia hide spoiler , American politics seems to have come to a grinding halt.The two primary political parties might be quite different However, both accommodate some level of Left Right perspective that seems to have incapacitated any new initiative aimed at achieving anything but steady as she goes management of the economy on behalf of its post Global Financial Crisis stakeholders Either way, we seem to be stuck with the economic system that we ve got, as sick as it might be.Spiotta doesn t expressly endorse or condemn either generation of political activist or strategy.The 90 s generation, however, is prone to empty narcissism and social isolationWe exist because of suburbia Suburbia is a freak s dreamworld, a world..with no interference A place where you can listen to your LP s for hours on end You can live in your room, your own rent free corner of the universe, and create a world of pleasure and interest entirely centered on yourself and your interior aesthetic and logic Suburbia is where you can pursue your individualityEven the few some younger, some older people who are still politically active are sceptical about the efficacy of their own action groupsThe point isn t to win They ll never win, of course They just make persuasive and powerful the beauty of their oppositionThe result is almost solipsistic The government pretends to govern, and we pretend to protestIt is not so much that we do direct action to get a certain resultwe do an action for the action itself Our act is the end, the pointThere is no goal other than pointless activity.If You Can t Achieve Your Goal, You Can Still Go All the WayIn contrast, some of the previous generation felt compelled to take up armsThere was a moment, a very clear moment, when I knew not only that it might happen but that it would definitely happen And I was still willing to do it And not because I really believed we would change anything for the better I did it as a testament to my own certainty, as a test of my own conviction I needed to prove to myself I could go all the wayThere came a point when you had to test your faith Stop complaining and do something about it, even if you might fail In the end, they decided to act out of desperation They failed, but at least they acted, and having acted, they became fugitives They only stop running when they encountered the next generation view spoiler one to which, ironically, they had given birth hide spoiler , which respondsShe s a revolutionary She s a fugitive She s a liar She s a killerIn the end, even the Beach Boys cease to provide any satisfaction to either generationAstime goes by, I discover other things to fill that now vacated spaceother interests and thoughts, some even unrelated to vintage music, have settled in, even flourishedThis could be the Incandenza family fromInfinite Jest , had everybody turned on to politics and music instead of tennis and drugs.Same outcome though a book Not a bad one at that, but not a great one either.Meanwhile, across the globe, another generation needs to prove they can go all the way And we watch them on TV That s entertainment The Entertainment Ironically.SOUNDTRACK The Byrds Eight Miles High Columbia Records version Byrds Eight Miles High RCA Studios version better than the later Columbia Records version The Byrds Eight Miles High Live at Fill East on 9 23 1970 Educational Television taped a show at Fill East on September 23, 1970 for broadcast It featured The Byrds, Elvin Bishop Group, Albert King, Sha Na Na, Van Morrison, The Allman Brothers, and Joe s Lights The show, Welcome To Fill East was aired on WNDT channel 13 in NYC and simulcast on WNEW FM radio on October 10, 1970 at 10 00 PM in the NYC area A thirty minute clip from that show of the Allmans can be seen on YouTube.Husker Du Eight Miles High better than the Byrds versions, even if they hail from the 80 s


  5. says:

    This one crept up on me as I read it It starts simple, and then moves back and forth in time sketching out the narrative and the characters One of the best examples of show, don t tell that I ve ever come across Maybe my interest in the old 60 s romantic revolutionaries flavored my initial attraction, I don t know.But before I knew it, I was drawn in caring about the characters And it used just the right level of Mimento like flashes to pull you along without losing you in excessive co This one crept up on me as I read it It starts simple, and then moves back and forth in time sketching out the narrative and the characters One of the best examples of show, don t tell that I ve ever come across Maybe my interest in the old 60 s romantic revolutionaries flavored my initial attraction, I don t know.But before I knew it, I was drawn in caring about the characters And it used just the right level of Mimento like flashes to pull you along without losing you in excessive complexities of detail I would love to readby THIS author


  6. says:

    This book is worth it for the word unstoppingly God, that adverb made me cry it was so beautiful, its placement so perfect.


  7. says:

    I must be officially done with school because I am reading again Well, not quite, but I did read this surprising novel today.Although I was interested in reading Eat the Document, my expectations for it were not very high at the outset I suppose I was expecting mainly a character study of an ex radical and her teenage son Instead, I was surprised to find that this book grapples with the pervasive moral ambivalence of American culture Spiotta questions whether it is possible to oppose the sys I must be officially done with school because I am reading again Well, not quite, but I did read this surprising novel today.Although I was interested in reading Eat the Document, my expectations for it were not very high at the outset I suppose I was expecting mainly a character study of an ex radical and her teenage son Instead, I was surprised to find that this book grapples with the pervasive moral ambivalence of American culture Spiotta questions whether it is possible to oppose the system while existing within it If not, what is the alternative Her depictions of off the grid extremism the women s commune, the Black House squat are in the end unacceptable to the characters in the novel and to the reader Within the novel, even the notion of off the grid revolution is commodified and made kitschy which, of course, is just a heightened version of real life Che posters Also, the novel makes us question to what degree our objections to the current world order are merely aesthetic The brilliance of Nash s unperformed actions is that they allow those who participate in thinking about them to feel subversive without actually subverting anything, and this is the exact point at which a counterculture becomes simply a subculture Reading about Nash s ideas feels rewarding in a way that acting them out never would Creating Nash s installations would force you to confront the fact that maybe the best you can ever do is to feel subversive That suggestion relates back to Mary s assertion that intentions do matter because if you intend to revolutionize the world, maybe it doesn t matter that the revolution never happens.Spiotta s other major theme is identity I found a lot here to relate to my recent readings of Shakespeare because a lot of Shakespeare concerns identity as a mask that one wears, and the character of Mary Freya Caroline Louise is just mask upon mask The identity changes are synonymous with external changes, yet they seem to precipitate changes in the character s personality as well Spiotta s exploration of the degree to which the internal shifts to match the external for all the characters is fascinating Nash seems to be the sole character whose inner life remains the same and forces his exterior existence to conform to that through what he refers to as luck I m making this book sound like a novel of ideas, which it is, but it also has the virtue of being eminently readable Spiotta masterfully weaves the various narrators and plotlines, giving each section a unique voice I especially enjoyed young Jason s essayistic journal entries, in which he sounds like a DFW lite They also made me want to listen to Pet Sounds, even I ve never really gotten the whole Beach Boys as cult figure phenomenon I also kept admiring the seemingly endless correlations between the different stories, whether it was the recurrence of Bobby s rug in Nash s apartment or the similarities between Mary and Miranda


  8. says:

    This book could be intimidating, addressing the cultural division between the 60 s and the 90 s, the failures of leftist protest in America, cultural obsession, and a critique of an overly medicated and corporatized society A book handling that sounds bloated and unapproachable, but not in Spiotta s hands, her vision is almost clinical but somehow remains human She is despairing but understanding and her characters live and breathe and don t exist to provide punch lines Her understanding of r This book could be intimidating, addressing the cultural division between the 60 s and the 90 s, the failures of leftist protest in America, cultural obsession, and a critique of an overly medicated and corporatized society A book handling that sounds bloated and unapproachable, but not in Spiotta s hands, her vision is almost clinical but somehow remains human She is despairing but understanding and her characters live and breathe and don t exist to provide punch lines Her understanding of record geek obsession shows her has a true audiophile, I can recognize a music geek, her placement of Captain Beefheart, Skip Spence, Beach Boys, the cult band Love, and Funkadelic s beautiful and desolate Maggot Brain in the text in ways that arethan name dropping show her capability to critique and analyze our culture


  9. says:

    Finally had the chance to read this older novel by Spiotta It is fantastic I don t see much point regurgitating plot for you, that s everywhere I ll just say she hits on things that interest me like 60s 70s radicals, great music, bookstores, well drawn characters It s very difficult for me to express what it is that I find so compelling about Dana Spiotta s writing, but here s a try I love her characters internal dialogues, contemplative without being pretentious, or if pretentious, then i Finally had the chance to read this older novel by Spiotta It is fantastic I don t see much point regurgitating plot for you, that s everywhere I ll just say she hits on things that interest me like 60s 70s radicals, great music, bookstores, well drawn characters It s very difficult for me to express what it is that I find so compelling about Dana Spiotta s writing, but here s a try I love her characters internal dialogues, contemplative without being pretentious, or if pretentious, then intentionally and for literary effect The places L.A., Seattle, etc and ideas philosophical and questioning in which her characters find themselves immersed are always of interest to me As a person who has played music, or at least someone who has strong feelings about what trying to create music is like, I find her writing completely spot on and genuine She writes about artists musicians etc and lovers of serious consumers of art, music, etc impeccably I wish I could tell youarticulately why I like Dana Spiotta, all I can say is check her out


  10. says:

    A quick two day read predictable yet well done Nothing was wrong with the book decent characters, an interesting premise 60 s political activists gone underground after one of their protests turns deadly good headline stuff Nothing was exceptionally great either I read this in the airports, between planes and conferences It was good enough for me to want to go back to immediately during downtimes but not good enough that I would hesitate to close the book and proceed with my day I A quick two day read predictable yet well done Nothing was wrong with the book decent characters, an interesting premise 60 s political activists gone underground after one of their protests turns deadly good headline stuff Nothing was exceptionally great either I read this in the airports, between planes and conferences It was good enough for me to want to go back to immediately during downtimes but not good enough that I would hesitate to close the book and proceed with my day Is there such a thing as a utilitarian book


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