Eat the Document

Eat the Document➽ [Reading] ➿ Eat the Document By Dana Spiotta ➲ – An ambitious and powerful story about idealism passion and sacrifice Eat the Document shifts between the underground movement of the 1970s and the echoes and conseuences of that movement in the 1990s An ambitious and powerful story about idealism passion and sacrifice Eat the Document shifts between the underground movement of the s Eat the PDF/EPUB or and the echoes and conseuences 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. 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 probably novels on this theme than deal with the infinitely influential 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 a obscure 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 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 andor 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 uestions 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 MaryCaroline’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 uestions 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 uestions it raises about the construction of personal identity in the US 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 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 be intelligent 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 uestions here the historydecline 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 ie 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 complexThat'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 a distant third person perspective In other words the narrator does all she 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 uestion 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 domesticromanticexistential 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 1966Remember 1966? Neither does Dana Spiotta thoughbecause it was the year she was bornIt was the year the Beach Boys released Pet Sounds and started the Smile Sessions It was the year Bob Dylan undertook a second tour with an electric band which was filmed in D A Pennebaker's documentary Eat the DocumentI'd probably recommend this novel to you if you had the boxset of the Pet Sounds Sessions or you'd spent half a lifetime trying to get a bootleg of the Dylan doco or you'd heard of Skip Spence's solo album Oar or you had both Love albums or you have two or three Richie Unterberger books especially Unknown Legends of Rock and Roll In other words I'd probably recommend it to Paul BryantI'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 contrastedJuxtaposition Occupied by Two GenerationsMy chief reservation is how the book is structured and whether it worksIt 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 waysThis 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 1998This is the story of two uite different generations of alternative American cultureAt 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 uite poignant However it's a big ask to make us wade and wait through the intervening narrativeThis is a Post Modernist narrative style that I've had to confront before especially with respect to David Mitchell's Cloud 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 revealedJe 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 killingsLittle did I know that this book would explore comparable actions in the United States in 1972It seemed strange to be reading a piece of fiction when live terrorism and its conseuences were all over the TVThe day after the Paris sieges ended I was able to resume reading the novel and ironically I think this serendipity made for a interesting read Most of the uotes in my updates reflect parallels that came to me mainly because I was consuming Charlie Hebdo almost 24 hours a dayThe 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 themI'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 motivatedOn 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 been prepared 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 meansHowever 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 societyThe 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 militaryThe protagonists have tried democratic and peaceful means to end the war and brutality However all of their idealism has proved fruitless We wanted to do something There had been years of peaceful efforts Things escalated It was an act of desperationSuddenly it seemed that the only way to achieve something was to embrace violence The uestion 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 are obligated It is a moral duty to do something however imperfect These are citizens taking up arms against their government and the corporate interests they representThe 90's GenerationAlthough current personal politics seems to be riddled with libertarianism and anarchism view spoilerthe 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 This book is worth it for the word unstoppingly God that adverb made me cry it was so beautiful its placement so perfect 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 knowBut 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 read by THIS author I must be officially done with school because I am reading again Well not uite but I did read this surprising novel todayAlthough 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 uestions 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 suat 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 uestion 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 happensSpiotta'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 MaryFreyaCarolineLouise 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 luckI'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 uniue 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 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 critiue 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 are than name dropping show her capability to critiue and analyze our culture 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 60s70s 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 LA Seattle etc and ideas philosophical and uestioning 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 artistsmusiciansetc and lovers ofserious consumers of art music etc impeccably I wish I could tell you articulately why I like Dana Spiotta all I can say is check her out A uick 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 stuffNothing 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?

Eat the Document PDF/EPUB Á Eat the  PDF/EPUB or
  • Paperback
  • 290 pages
  • Eat the Document
  • Dana Spiotta
  • English
  • 13 October 2016
  • 9780743273008