Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book Life 22: Never Drink Your Rich Roommate's Champagne, or Rural Boy Goes Ivy League, A Semi-Tragedy (Plus One Awesome Chunk of News)

As a book geek of massive proportions, I have been suffering a deep blue funk over the closing of Borders. While I try to shop my local used bookstores for the most part, sometimes you gotta hit up the big shiny bookstore, you know? And Borders was the best of the ones I'm familiar with. I found the book I'm blogging on there in the bargain section slashed another 50% because my beloved Borders is going under. I'm glad to be able to afford a few books I've been wanting because they are so cheap, but I hate the reasons for it. But I digress...

Lost in the Meritocracy: The Undereducation of an Overacheiver by Walter Kirn

If you are at all familiar with this blog, you know that I am from a low SES rural background (and continue to be) and have had some difficulties adjusting to life in a town seemingly stuffed with entitled, pretentious people. (My previous rantings on the subject can be found listed under the "poverty" tag in the cloud to your right.) So when I saw this book, I snatched it up immediately, thinking I'd found some wonderful if distant authorial soul mate. Eh, not really.

Though I enjoyed the read, I found myself constantly searching for the thing the title and blurb promised. I understand why he included early memories, because after all, it is a memoir. However, most of it didn't seem to click with the expectations an initial glance gives you. Once he arrived at Princeton, it appears with his first roommates, a snobby group of over-privileged people I wanted to smack and other classmates wandering about in the background of the narrative. It falls away again shortly thereafter only to resurface here and there in the second half of the book, in between drug addled hazes and what looks to be an exhaustion-based disconnection with reality. As I've said about many a memoir I have read, I was not there and can make no claims about what did and did not happen and how it affected the author. But in many places, it seemed less to be the overwhelming nature of being thrown into the company of a class he was unfamiliar with than his own preexisting issues.

Knowledge is a reckoning...a way to assess your location, your true position, not a strategy for improving your position. (p.23)

Having said that, I did find a few places in which I was nodding in agreement. It isn't that it was a bad or poorly conceived book. (I think more people from rural, low income areas/backgrounds need to express these things, hence the reason I am always ranting on about them and reading this book.) I simply think that if he wanted to write a memoir about his discombobulation and how he dealt with the upper class twilight zone he ended up in, he could have done a much better job. I wanted more of the actual conflict and how he proposed to combat it. I don't mean to give anything away, but at the end when he finds himself deeper in an upper class arena than before, he makes no mention of it. It's presented as a moment of "whoo hoo! I got this!" rather than what could prove to be a shove into an even more pretentious pit of vipers. I know he couldn't conceivably go on forever; a book must end somewhere, after all. I just wish he could have acknowledged the depth of the issue and the effects it would have on him in the future or even how it has affected him now that he's all grown up and distanced from the actual events.

In the end, if you're looking for a more eloquent and extensive discussion of the problems I ramble on about on occasion, this isn't exactly it, but read it anyway. It does have its moments.

And now for something you'll really like...

In other book related news, it pays to follow authors you like on Facebook. Why is that, you ask? Because sometimes they post interesting and awesome things. Take yesterday for example. Chuck Palahniuk posted an opportunity for bloggers: all you had to do was email Double Day with your blog and physical address for a chance to read and review his new book Damned before it hits shelves in October. As you may have surmised, I will be one of the lucky ones. It isn't as if I've become entitled to an exclusive audience with the book, but it is pretty darn cool nonetheless. I have no idea when it may arrive, but rest assured you will know when it does. Stay tuned.

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