Big 21st  century question: Do people still read books?

The Big 21st century answer:  They do in Jail.

I read a lot of books in Visa Jail.

Visa Jail

It’s either that, or gambling away what little money I

had or watching J-TV and slowly dying out due to the ocular bleeding induced by watching idiots look enraptured because a bowl of soup is warm.

So I read some books.  Off and on for the next month or so I’ll tell you about these books two at a time.  I have  a habit of being sadly long winded, so two at a time is the rule on the book reviews.

Let me make it clearly: one of these books is good, the other is the physical personification of a brain fart.

Black Virgin Mountain

Black Virgin Mountain: A Return to Vietnamis a Larry Heineman joint and is a very good book. As someone who has read a fair amount of literature from Vietnam, and other wars since, I almost without exception trust the word of an enlisted man over that of the officers.

This isn’t because officers are “bad guys” or something equally ridiculous, but because in my experience, they seem to have more invested in protecting the system they are a component in.  Enlisted men, particularly those doing only one enlistment generally don’t give a shit about the reputation of the organization they are leaving behind, and although this can result in unnecessary trash talking, it can also be the window into what things are/were actually like “on the ground” or “in the trenches”.

Heineman was just that: an enlisted man with mechanized infantry in the 25th Infantry Division from 1967-1968. This is the same division both Ice-T and Oliver Stone were also in.  Stone actually was in Vietnam with the 25th at the same time as Heineman and in case you live under a rock, or in France, he made a little movie loosely based on those events called Platoon

Don’t know, maybe you’ve heard of it? (Yosomono has heard of it I’m sure; he still has my collectors edition DVD. I’m scowling; watch me scowl.)

Heinenman pulls no punches what-so-ever in this, his first non-fiction, work.  It’s his reflections on Vietnam from an enlisted mans point of view, tied in with his trip back to that place in 1992 are intense and raw.  His politics are scathing and his condemnation of the U.S. command at the time of the war total.

He is a very entertaining author to read. Slightly unorthodox and highly visceral.

The blessings of your life sought; discovered;stumbled upon; given to you as if pushed into your hand. Beginning with the simple fact of your life; any soldier will tell you that. (pg 243)

That was the Good. Now…for the bad and ugly.

The Mephisto Club

This book is a sloppy, embarrassing pile of shit.

Tess Gerritsen is apparently an internationally well-known author, and that makes me want to jump out of a window. I would have to WORK HARD to write something as formulaic, dull, totally lacking in genuine character or original plot devices as “The Mephisto Club”. I’d have to work really hard, and forget anything I’ve ever learned about what constitutes a good book,  or writing that isn’t fueled by ones utter contempt and hatred for your own audience.

Every character is a horrid cliché. “Jane” is a stupid, boring, judgmental cop. She is married to what has become the new template: a handsome, quietly confident husband who can cook, helps with the kids and confidently subordinates his career to his dominant pig wife. Absolute tedium. Her parents are portrayed as complete degenerates, relics from an era the author herself clearly has no respect for and are themselves pathetic distractions and sad attempts to develop some character in a landscape of expansive cardboard cut outs holding signs with slogans like “But Samantha, I AM your father!“.

Oh and her dad is having an affair. DRAMA! PLOT TWIST! With a younger woman! DRAMA! PLOT TWIST!

“Maura” is pathetic and again: dull. A female forensic examiner, she is nothing more than an over the hill drama queen polishing her boring crown of sexually deprived self imprisonment. Dull. Oh and who does she seduce? None other than a priest. DRAMA! PLOT TWIST! She rails against god, the church, Del Taco! DRAMA! PLOT TWIST!

The larger story indicates that Gerritsen has been watching too much Harry Potter back to back with old CSI:Miami re-runs. It’s beyond moronic and insanely confusing. Are the murders super natural or is it a complex plan executed by a mastermind? Actually you never really know because the final conclusions are so purposefully mush-mouthed, you finish the book with far more questions and much less over all happiness than when you started it.

Oh and… an ancient order descended from a corrupt part of the church or a hardened Homicide detective; who will crack the case?! DRAMA! PLOT TWIST!

It’s all just shallow, clichéd puppets being halfheartedly dragged around a hollow stage until someone seems to have gotten tired of it all and finally had the cop shoot some people. Something that was painfully easy to see coming. Just a stupid book.

I felt embarrassed to read it, but it was either that or gamble away my coffee money with the Filipino mafia next door.

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