Sunday, May 13, 2007

Dana Spiotta, Eat the Document: A Novel (N.Y.: Scribner, 2006) derives its title from a bootleg film about Bob Dylan's 1966 tour (D. A. Pennebaker's re-edited version is reportedly called Something Is Happening). My friend Joe McGeary recommended this, and as I already had it in a stack to read, I went ahead and read it yesterday in one sitting. As Joe and others have noted, it has the feel of a Don DeLillo novel.

Eat the Document is about a lot of things, starting with the radical anti-Establishment movement(s) of the 1960s and 1970s. It is about identity, and secrets, and capitalism. Vietnam is in there, and the market trick of absorbing radical ideas into the mainstream.

The structure is cut up into chapters from several points of view, reminding me at times of Faulkner (ex., his Vardaman's "My mother is a fish"). Near the end, some chapters are as brief as a short paragraph.

Mary Whittaker is the primary character. After a botched bombing in 1972 by her little group (akin to the Weather Underground), she must truly disappear, changing her name and identity again. From "Freya," Mary becomes Caroline Sherman. Later, she changes again, assuming the identity of Louise Barrot, a girl who died in infancy. Bobby DeSoto, a co-conspirator, also goes underground, becoming Nash. He befriends a guy who may or may not have been a Vietnam Vet poisoned by Agent Orange. The novel seemingly ends before 9/11/2001, with everything plausibly tied together.

Music and advertising are peppered throughout the novel, things ranging from the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, the band Love, and even, near the end, the Kinks. The bands and albums discussed are real, even the bootlegs. Some corporations and their lethal products are real; some are, apparently, made up. By the end, the internet has become a major facet of the younger characters' lives. There's a lot to ruminate about. My head is still spinning.

Today's Rune: The Blank Rune.

Birthdays: Maria Theresa (Mária Terézia, Queen of Bohemia and Hungary, Archduchess of Austria), Zebulon Baird Vance, Georges Braque, Georgios N. Papanikolaou, Daphne du Maurier, Gil Evans (b. Ian Ernest Gilmore Green), Jim Jones, Harvey Keitel, Mary Wells (of Detroit), Armistead Maupin (UNC-Chapel Hill grad.), Stevie Wonder (b. Stevland Hardaway Judkins, Saginaw, Mich.), Alan Ball, Stephen Colbert.

Do we really need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows?

Happy Mother's Day!


the walking man said...

I lived through those days on both sides of the fence first a a young radical spouting the beliefs of my older siblings and their friends like a parrot. Then on the other side in the military by the time Saigon fell in '75. Never saw much sense in protesting for peace with bombs and guns and never saw much sense in losing 57000 American kids to a war we didn't start, just so the Russians wouldn't have a base or toe hold in SE Asia. Hell we had Subic bay and there was nowhere big enough in Viet Nam to build a base as big as that. But I guess the twenty years the French fought wasn't enough. But then we could have allied with Ho chi Min and avoided that whole debacle.

I have the utmost respect for the veterans of that era and all veterans, but especially the combat veterans.

Dang Erik you must read two hundred words a minute!

Cheri said...

This book sounds good- I now have it on my wish list. =D

It's mother's day and my grammas boyfriend has Godfather:Part I on so loud that I can hear Sonny Corelone being shot and killed four rooms away. What an appropriate setting for a family event.

Johnny Yen said...

Thanks for the recommendation.

I was saddened when Love's Arthur Lee died a year or so ago. He was a troubled genius. I found it absurd that he ended up spending four years in prison.

Danny Tagalog said...

Wow! Lots to think about. I gotta see this.

".. the market trick of absorbing radical ideas into the mainstream."

There's lots of mileage in this. Neutering desirable change via a drenching by corporation fodder?