Man Bookering: Hystopia by David Means

hystopiaTitle: Hystopia

Author: David Means

Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Pages: 336

Summary (from inside flap): At the bitter end of the 1960s, after surviving multiple assassination attempts, President John F. Kennedy is entering his third term in office. The Vietnam War rages on, and the president has created a vast federal agency, the Psych Corps, dedicated to maintaining the nation’s mental hygiene by any means necessary. Soldiers returning from the war have their battlefield traumas “enfolded” – wiped from their memories through drugs and therapy – while veterans too damaged to be enfolded roam at will in Michigan, evading the government and reenacting atrocities on civilians. This destabilized version of American history is the vision of twenty-two-year-old Eugene Allen, who has returned from Vietnam to write the book-within-a-book at the center of Hystopia. In conversation with some of the greatest war narratives, from Homer’s Iliad to the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” David Means channels the voice of Allen, the young veteran out to write a novel that can bring honor to those he fought with in Vietnam while also capturing the tragic history of his own family.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am currently attempting to read the entire Man Booker 2016 long list before October 25th, when the winner will be announced. So far I have read two of the thirteen, both of which I have written full reviews of – The North Water by Ian McGuire and My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth StroutHystopia by David Means is my third Man Booker read. I’ve decided to take a little break and read some other books before continuing with the long list, so this may be my last Man Booker post for a week or two.

“When I start to feel the urge to recite poetry, I know we’re about done for the day. And I feel that urge. In that war you had a superabundance of highly educated men in the trenches carrying a working knowledge of Greek and Latin, reading Hardy and Dickens, filled with a desire to capture in words the way a sunrise or sunset looked from the bottom of the trench, or the way it felt to do a stand-to at dusk or twilight. All we’re getting from this war is the desire to write rock-and-roll lyrics.”

Continue reading “Man Bookering: Hystopia by David Means”

Sex, Drugs, and Show Business: The 50th Anniversary of ‘Valley of the Dolls’

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Title: Valley of the Dolls

Author: Jacqueline Susann

Publisher: Virago Press

Pages: 417

Summary (from first page): Dolls -red or black; capsules or tablets; washed down with vodka or swallowed straight. For Anne, Neely and Jennifer it doesn’t matter, as long as the pill bottle is within easy reach. These three beautiful women become best friends when they are young and in New York, struggling to make their names in the entertainment industry. Only when they reach the peak of their careers do they find there’s nowhere left to go but down – to the Valley of the Dolls.

Valley of the Dolls is one of those books that I’ve known about for a while but I’ve never felt motivated to pick up and read. Truth be told, until a few months ago I didn’t actually know what Valley of the Dolls was about. I knew it was supposed to be quite scandalous, that it had a pink cover, and that I was 95% sure it was made into movie. It wasn’t until I discovered that this year, 2016, is the 50th anniversary of Valley of the Dolls (it was originally published in 1966), however, that I finally took the plunge and decided to buy a copy for myself and check it out (it does help that it came in the gorgeous Virago Modern Classics edition you see above.) Continue reading “Sex, Drugs, and Show Business: The 50th Anniversary of ‘Valley of the Dolls’”