Books Read in 2013 # 107-108 - Intoxication
And in that horrible self-recrimination of hindsight that comes when one is thinking about an incident WAY too much, I wondered if I didn't just come off like a sad fan boy but as an asshole for thinking that anecdotes of getting wasted on science fiction panels would impress a man whose father was very open about discussing his drinking problems. Probably not. I was most likely just one in a long line of people trying to talk to a guy who wanted to get the books signed so he could go home. But it is strange that there are some families that where you know them more than you know your own.
I was thinking of that when I read this installment in the unhappy saga of the family that has to deal with malevolent spirits and magic keys. This particular book moves away from the tension. Caravaggio is not as dominant as she/he is in the second book and much of this story involves the teenager learning to harness their own strength. However, the book ends of the series are a devastating picture of the mother who had to endure the trauma of seeing her husband killed before her (and probably rape) losing all support and just sinking into the alcoholism. Even as you sympathize with the woman you can see how her children are repulsed by her. One of the most devastating and true lines happens at the end where the son says that he really hopes that she doesn't make him hate her in the next six months before he leaves. The monsters are second to the damage that people do to themselves.
108. You Don't Know Me but You Don't Like Me by Nathan Rabin - Most of the time I am willing to read anything that Nathan Rabin writes and this book has enough great moments to justify its existence. Nathan Rabin can use devastating sarcasm and penetrating insight to eviscerate fatuous and pompous idiots (in this book Bashir's seemingly serious question about the Insane Clown Posse using "uranus" as a double entendre inspires the funniest takedown of these types who snort derisively and smirk through interviews) but he's also an anti-Holden Caulfield where ultimately he appreciates the seemingly dumb and stupid. Too often people mistake tearing shit down for criticism and finding new ways of saying "that sucks" for wit. As the Charles II character says in The Libertine "It's fun to be against things, but you have to be for something sometime" and Nathan Rabin is a writer that is game for eschewing against common knowledge. This worked especially well in My Year of Flops where they might have been some hilarious mocking of movies that deserved it (Kevin Costner in Waterworld being described as a pee-drinking man fish for example.) but also a willingness to open oneself up to new experiences and not rely on common knowledge concerning what is high art or low art (and his endorsement of Freddy Got Fingered is still a prime example of bucking the tide).
In this book, he initially follows Phish because his girlfriend loves them, but the book expands into an examination of hated subcultures in music. While there are points where it is conceivably cool to be a Goth or a fan of swing music (ok maybe not since 1997), it was never cool to be a Phish fan or a Juggalo. In fact, Juggalos are silly by design. So Rabin examining these groups from a sympathetic perspective is a definite novelty. The fact that he grows to love these subcultures and identify with them in many ways is pretty much what you expect out of Rabin.
Sadly, halfway through the book Rabin's personal issues take over. He is diagnosed as bipolar. He does way too much drugs with both subcultures (and the South Park joke of "there is a right time for everything and that time is college" repeated twice in the episode - first to the kids and then to Mr. Mackey - holds true as it's hard to read these passages and not think "damn, you gotta knock that crap out," mostly on the basis of how not cool drugs are after a certain age. Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse and Janis Joplin will die of their addictions in their 20s and they become rock star legends. Dee Dee Ramone dies at age 50 of a heroin overdose and it's just sad) and becomes too much of the subject. Most writers who set out to write non-fiction books and insert themselves into the narrative (that's not a memoir) are assholes. Nathan Rabin gets a pass because he's a funny and humane writer and it's hard not to like him. But I would be lying if I said that I enjoyed the second half when it becomes about Rabin's issues as I do the first half when it's about the bands. And the funny thing is that I enjoyed his memoir The Big Rewind immensely. But in that case, it was a memoir and it was supposed to be about Rabin. In this case, it was supposed to be about Phish Heads and Juggalos.