I didn’t read a ton of books this year. I had cancer.
I was diagnosed in late July, and I didn’t crack a book until June. So for the first half of the year, I was simply lazy slash busy getting married slash I wasn’t really all that busy but that’s what grooms say even when brides do all the planning although there were various outings and meetings I did go to but not so many that it’s really an excuse not to read. I guess I was resting my eyes.
Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
So I finally kicked off my 2011 reading adventure at the airport, waiting for our first flight of our honeymoon. Nothing says, “Let’s start off this union with an adventure,” like the details of America’s first serial killer and his spree surrounding the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. You probably know this is a fine book, because normal people read it closer to its publication date in 2004, while some of us waited until they could borrow a coffee-stained copy from their friends’ bookshelf. If you’re unfamiliar, you should certainly read it. It’s a great example of what a nightmare life used to be, even moreso than the current nightmare in which we now reside. I mean, this guy faked his doctor credentials, failed to pay for most of his purchases - including work people did to build his huge house/business/murder castle, dispatched handfuls up fresh-faced young women, and it was pretty easy! You could do that sort of thing back then, just ride the rails from city to city and make shit up and be awful and it didn’t matter, because there was always another city that didn’t know you and policework was a joke. Yikes! The other half of the book, how the World’s Fair was organized and built, is understandingly less captivating than the guy who collected and murdered his prey, but it’s still pretty cool. And sad, considering the great buildings they describe didn’t survive (save for the Museum of Science and Industry), and I’m pretty sure much of the old fairgrounds are part of the scenery you experience on the world’s saddest bus ride from Hyde Park to Midway Airport.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Among the piles and piles of books I was given to occupy my cancer time, I only read one. New diagnosis, same laziness, I guess. I chose to read this one because two of my friends considered it among their favorite books EVER. Now, you may recall this idea I had a few years back, where I decide to poll my friends and read their favorite books - an idea that was permanently derailed after spending a few weeks with Adrienne’s pick, “The Brothers Karamazov”. It’s a prank that gets funnier and funnier with each passing year. Touche, Adrienne! You’ve made wormsmeat of me.
So in any case, here I was, nearing the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and reading a 9/11 novel. The film version of the book would be released soon, starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock.* A perfect storm of circumstances, right?
Again, I feel silly telling you about this book you read eight years ago, but this boy’s dad dies in 9/11, and then he finds a key in his dad’s closet that has a note attached to it - it says “Black”. The boy decides Black is the last name of the person who the key belongs to, and starts meet everyone in the phone book with that surname. And it turns out that it really was the last name of the person the key belonged to. I’m not sure if I groaned louder when the kid started his ill-conceived journey, or when his plan turned out to be precisely conceived. I may have actually started a groan that didn’t end until I completed the novel.
*Uh, and if you’re casting this movie, how do you pick out Hanks and Bullock as the parents? Nothing screams New York Jews like those two. Seesh. Who would you cast instead? Is Harvey Keitel too old? How about Ben Stiller? How about Adrien Brody? Julianna Margulies? Jennifer Connelly? I could maybe think of better actors but I don't want to do any work beyond googling "imdb jewish actors".