July 28, 2010

Your micro-review roundup: 28 July 2010

(Because I make my way through so many books and movies for CCLaP, I regularly come across projects that are interesting enough unto themselves but that I simply don't have much to say about, or at least not enough to warrant an entire entry. I thought, then, that on occasional weekends I would gather up such "micro-reviews" and post them all in one large entry; they can also be found on CCLaP's main book and main movie archive pages.)

The 4-Hour Workweek, by Timothy Ferriss

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
By Timothy Ferriss
Crown Publishers

If I was in the mood to be deliberately cruel, I suppose I could sum up the four main steps of the insanely popular "lifestyle management" guide The 4-Hour Work Week thusly: "Step 1: Stop reading the news! That whole pesky 'being an informed citizen' thing is just getting in the way of you becoming one of the New Rich! Step 2: Outsource an Indian secretary! It only costs pennies per hour and it makes you feel like a big man! Step 3: Vacation in third-world countries! Your American 'F-ck You Money' goes a lot farther, and they don't arrest you just for having sex with 14-year-olds! Step 4: Come up with some stupid piece of crap that no one ever really needed in the first place, then relentlessly deluge your sheeplike customer base through informercials and spam lists! And by the way, did I mention to BUY MY NEW BOOK 'THE 4-HOUR WORKWEEK' YET? B-a-a-a-h, sheep! B-A-A-A-A-AA-HHHHHH!!!!!!"

But then, this isn't exactly fair to a book that actually does have some legitimately smart advice to impart, even if it is wrapped mostly around the kind of Bushist late-capitalism U!S!A! assh-le rah-rah horsesh-t that makes the rest of the world hate us (it's no surprise, for example, that this first came out exactly one year before the Financial Meltdown of 2008); for example, the whole reason I read this in the first place is because it was passionately recommended to me by a vagabond internet pen-pal of mine, a perpetually broke hippie-style constant world traveler who's about as far away from a Naperville soccer mom as you get, yet intensely loves this book just as much as that soccer mom does. And like I said, that's because this how-to guide from motivational speaker and martial-arts champion (!) Timothy Ferriss actually does contain some quite great common-sense advice about life and how to live it better, if that is you can separate it from the Randomly Capitalized Buzz Terms (TM) that choke this manuscript like the plague: for one example, he rightly argues that the very concept of "rich" is by definition a relative term, a word that many middle-classers automatically equate with "freedom," "security" and "excitement" when in fact these are all separate concepts, and that you don't necessarily have to be a millionaire to have such "rich person" experiences as hiring private planes to take you to your vacation in a homey bungalow on a tropical island, as long as you're not too picky about the size of that plane and the location of that island. Combine this then with such other practical advice as setting up automated revenue streams in your life as much as possible (which like I said can be interpreted pessimistically if you want, but could also mean something as innocent and creative as iPhone apps and Etsy stores), and it's easy to see why this has become the big hot book in the last couple of years among the perpetual millions who dream of "Zero Management (TM)," "Income Autopilot (TM)," "Mini-Retirement (TM)" lives. Often silly but at least a brisk read, this is one of those titles to check out of the library and quickly scan through on a rainy weekend (or even better, just read its Wikipedia entry and be done with it).

Out of 10: 7.5

Roadside Bodhisattva, by Paul Di Filippo

Roadside Bodhisattva
By Paul Di Filippo
PS Publishing

Based both on the way it starts and on the reputation of its publisher, I kept eagerly waiting during the first half of Paul Di Filippo's Roadside Bodhisattva for the book to reveal itself as the bitter, witty parody of terrible undergraduate-quality Jack Kerouac ripoffs that I thought it was; but then as the book kept continuing and continuing, I sadly came to realize that it's not a parody at all, but rather actually is a terrible undergraduate-quality Jack Kerouac ripoff, almost not worth describing because of its cliche-ridden storyline being fairly easily guessed on your own. (Young dissatisfied vagabond teams up with wizened road hippie; the two end up at a small-town diner where their manual labor and interactions with the members of White Trash Central Casting teach them lessons about life more valuable than anything the "squares" could "grok" from their "button-down Madison Avenue lives, maaaaannn." Seriously, that's it; that's the entire story, told without even the slightest hint of self-aware irony.) Thoroughly not recommended, and a real disappointment from the usually great PS Publishing.

Out of 10: 2.6

The Spanish Prisoner and The Winslow Boy, by David Mamet

The Spanish Prisoner and The Winslow Boy: Two Screenplays
By David Mamet
Vintage / Random House

As I mentioned last week, I've finally gotten my Sony eBook Reader to start playing nice with the website of the Chicago Public Library, which now allows me to partake of the futuristic activity of checking out digital library books (a clever system run by Adobe in which loaned books literally erase themselves off your device after three weeks); and since the CPL's current collection of around three thousand electronic titles is so bizarre and random right now, I've decided to use it to catch up on bizarre and random picks myself, for example like Vintage's bound 1999 collection of two David Mamet screenplays, 1997's The Spanish Prisoner and 1998's The Winslow Boy. Both screenplays are great, although couldn't be more different from each other, and in fact I suspect were only collected together in the first place as a simple promotional project, in that the films themselves were released only a year apart: The Spanish Prisoner is a modern thriller concerning an ultra-complicated con game, memorably starring Steve Martin in a non-comedic role as the actual con man; The Winslow Boy, on the other hand, is a slow-moving Edwardian drama about the ways that honor and reputation used to be so important even from a practical aspect in British aristocratic society. Both are fine reads, although if you're not checking them out of the library randomly yourself, you'd probably be better off simply renting the actual films.

Out of 10: 8.4

Filed by Jason Pettus at 9:17 AM, July 28, 2010. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Literature:Nonfiction | Reviews |