Saturday, October 29, 2011


Wow. I had been really looking forward to this one, another member of our small press collection at work. Coffee House Press put this one out and also recently donated twenty books to the collection. They do awesome stuff.

I had not read Rikki Ducornet that I was aware of but I knew she was a contributor to another of our small press books, Fantastic Women, that Tin House Books put out which I am excited to read (even though I'm backlogged again so it might be a while).

Having read This is probably the most artistic writing I've read since Vendela Vida's Let The Northern Lights Erase Your Name. Let me explain what I mean by that. You have your great writers: T.C. Boyle and Michael Chabon, for example. They have a mastery of the language that is just amazing. They leave me running for the dictionary some times because they have such a vast vocabulary and can find the word they want every time. There's a sort of precision to it. If they were painters, they would be Rembrandt. Highly detailed, every shadow and edge of lighting just right. They are artists in their own way. But although I can appreciate Rembrandt's skill, I don't like his paintings. I like Chabon and Boyle. It's not a direct comparison, OK?

In terms of art, I love Impressionism. My favorite painter is Camille Pissarro. I like Impressionistic paintings for their lack of detail. There's still tons of skill involved, perhaps even more so than someone like Rembrandt in that the image and purpose of the painting have to come through but without making sure every detail is captured. And that is what Netsuke felt like to me.

It surprised me to feel that way because there is a lot crudity in Netsuke. The book is 120 odd pages of sex. The main character is an older psychiatrist, on his third marriage, who abuses his role as a therapist to have sex with his patients. He also has sex with women he encounters when he's out jogging. He has sex with his male patients. He has sex with patients who are confused about their own gender. He doesn't care. He cares about his wife, to an extent. He worries about how being discovered would pain her. Yet he drops clues all the time.

It's a short novel and a very quick read. The chapters are a couple of pages long each. The writing is such that it's a one-sit read. Once you start you won't want to put it down.

However, unlike Boyle and Chabon, who are also great storytellers in addition to being wordsmiths, I thought Netsuke was lacking in substance. There's not a lot of plot. The characters aren't particularly developed. It has flaws. Still well worth reading and I'm looking forward to reading more by Duchornet.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Geography of Bliss

All right, Goodreads. Maybe you've got a good statistician up your sleeve after all. First The Dart League King and now The Geography of Bliss. Maybe you do have a little sense in your recommendations.

Of the plethora of recommendations that Goodreads gives, I opted for this one because I thought is was great that it was chosen for me because I read Eat, Pray, Love and The Sex Lives of Cannibals. I wouldn't have normally made that connection and am surprised that others read that pair of books to come up with this recommendation.

It's not entirely surprising. All three books are travelogues. And the subtitle of Geography of Bliss - one grump's search for the happiest places in the world - does have a bit of similarity to Elizabeth Gilbert's quest. She may not have been a grump but she was looking for happiness.

In Eric Weiner's book, he starts off by going to the Netherlands to meet with a happiness researcher. This fellow has been collecting data on the happiness of people around the world and Weiner decides to use the fellows database to explore what common traits these countries might have. He visits some of the happiest countries in the world as well as some on the bottom of the list for contrast purposes.

In the end, he finds that there aren't a lot of similarities and that every country also has it's downsides. If anything, Weiner realizes that happiness is largely relative and that there are a few things that bring happiness regardless of where you are in the world such as a network of friends and family.

That being said, I'm still a believer that place can at least enhance, if not provide, happiness. That's why Barn in New England and City of Your Final Destination are such favorites of mine. Of the countries that Weiner visits, Iceland, Bhutan and the Netherlands all sounded appealing to me and I have been to the Netherlands and it did feel very much like some place I could call home.

As far as Weiner goes, I thought he was a riot. I laughed out loud several times just in the opening few pages. He has great turns of phrases. He finds the right balance of being a journalist and reporting about the places he's visiting but bringing himself in, usually in a self-deprecating sort of way, to keep it entertaining and not turn it into a documentary.

I loved it, can see myself re-reading it, and it will likely find it's way into my top ten of the year. Better than Eat, Pray, Love? Hard to say. Very different perspectives. Very different styles. I think in a head-to-head matchup, I would give the nod to Gilbert, though.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


For all of the dark subject material I've been reading about as of late - suicides, drug use, depression, soccer - you probably wouldn't expect the most depressing book I've read in a while to be about a script rewriter. Especially given that the cover of the book contains a page from the script of one of my all time favorite movies, the uplifting Breaking Away. Nonetheless, this book was one big book of defeatism.

Karoo was another book from the small press collection at my library, this one published by Open City Books. The author, Steve Tesich, actually did write the screenplay to Breaking Away as well as The World According to Garp. Karoo is far closer to the latter than the former.

Saul Karoo is a guy Hollywood execs hire to fix scripts. Saul doesn't think much of his work and feels that he does more harm than good to the scripts on which he works. Even though artistically the revised movies may be lacking, once he fixes a script, the revisions tend to have box office success.

Saul is going through an incredibly amicable divorce with his wife, so much so that the proceedings have been going on for years, with occasional dinners out together to iron out details. Saul has a son in his twenties that he and his wife adopted as a newborn. Makes good coin, has a family, well-respected in his field...what does Saul have to be unhappy about?

Everything. He avoids his son like the plague. He's gained a ton of weight and can't quite land the caliber of girl that he feels he should, especially when trying to show off for Hollywood execs. The dude has no self-respect and doesn't care much for others either. He's middle aged and definitely feeling the crisis coming from his sense of meaninglessness.

He finds meaning when he's brought in to rework a movie done by a legendary movie writer. Saul watches it, realizes it is an artistic masterpiece, and proceeds to deconstruct it into a romantic comedy. During the process, a waitress with a bit part in the original movie laughs and Saul recognizes it from a phone call over two decades before. It is the laugh of his son's biological mother, a woman Saul got to talk to on the phone after she delivered her baby which Saul and his wife adopted.

Saul tracks her down, uses the cut footage of the film to make her the star of the revised script, and creates a new family of himself, his son, and his son's biological mother. He doesn't tell either of the other two the truth about their relationship, hoping to spring the news on them at the premiere of the movie.

Even though Saul has created this movie script life for himself, he still isn't happy. When things turn sour, the book goes even further downhill.

The book seriously put me into a funk for days. Tesich writes well and the book is long because it's almost entirely in Karoo's head. Every single thought process, it seems, is covered. It's more coherent than a simple stream of consciousness but there's a lot of noise surrounding the story's signal. It's just sad. At least I think so.

Reflecting on the book, I was reminded of the movie Oscar and Lucinda, a movie that I first watched when I was going through a tough time in my life and that I thought was the saddest movie I had ever seen. Years later I re-watched it and couldn't believe I had thought it was so sad. The second time through the movie I thought Ralph Fiennes overacted so much as to make the movie right near unwatchable. So I might be unduly influenced by my own recent thought processes when it comes to Karoo.

And for all the gloom, it's still a good, well-written book. Once again, it's not a book for everybody but I think it is one that has enough merits to make it worth reading.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How Soccer Explains the World

Many months ago I was browsing a library book sale and I saw this book. "Wait a minute....FRANKLIN Foer?" I knew it had to be a relative of Jonathan and Joshua. Sure enough, it's their older brother. How much freakin' writing talent can you have in one family? I mean, when the least notorious of the lot is the editor of The New Republic. Good googly moogly.

Franklin is just as good as Jonathan and Joshua. Well, maybe not as I'm only giving this book one star. It might be the topic matter more than Franklin's talent. The book is ten chapters on soccer in various countries of the world and how the game of soccer has impacted race, religion, economics, politics and culture in those countries.

It's quite a fascinating book. I had no idea how long soccer had been around and the impact it has had in other countries. Sometimes I think Foer might be stretching the connections a bit - similar to Marty Lindstrom's brain stuff - and making the impact of soccer greater than it actually is. There's enough truth apparent, though, to realize that there is an effect, even if it isn't as great as it's made out to be.

Surprisingly, too, this book made me a little disappointed in baseball. Even the most intense baseball fan seems to have nothing on the soccer fans of the world. And baseball and politics? Religion? I finished Foer's book feeling like baseball was a little flat. It doesn't help that between this book and Brilliant Orange, I've probably read as many good books about a sport I don't like as I have a sport I love. OK, that's an exaggeration but not by much.

Maybe it has something to do with the games. Baseball definitely seems to me to be more cerebral, more quantified. It's those damn sabrmagicians, ruining the game with their numbers! Soccer is definitely more global and as such, has it's own different cultural styles. Baseball in Chicago is played the same way as it is in Amish country. You don't have Chicago-style ball (and really, when has there ever been any baseball stylized by a region? Baltimore in the 1890's, maybe. You can't argue for McGraw's New York teams since Brooklyn and the Highlanders weren't showing the same style. It was McGraw and not New York. Oakland and Moneyball? I don't think that had to do with anything with the city of Oakland). See what I mean? Baseball's sort of simple.

That's probably why I'm giving this book one star. Foer shatters my belief in the greatness of America's Pastime and for that I curse him. Seriously, though, it was a good book. And baseball is still a great game. I wish a Foer would write about it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Darkness Visible

I was browsing the new book shelf one night at work and saw a large biography about William Styron's daughter. I've heard of Styron before but had never read him and I knew that he had written a book about his depression. This book is often cited as being a good one for people without depression to read so that they may understand the illness better. As someone who suffered from depression in the past, I was interested in seeing at how well Styron was able to put depression into words so I requested the book.

Coming in at only 84 pages, it didn't take long to read. Styron reiterates a good deal, too, which means the book is probably longer than it needs to be. I thought Styron did a pretty good job of explaining his own feelings and symptoms, at least as best as possible well after the fact. Of course, doing so while suffering from depression is well nigh impossible.

The big problem with depression (as well as other illnesses, both mental and otherwise (see lupus)) is that the illness manifests itself differently in different individuals. If you look at the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, you'll see that there are a checklist of possible symptoms. If so many are met, the patient probably suffers from depression. So one person might have 1,4,5 and 9. Someone else might have 2,3,4 and 5. Both are depressed. Totally different behaviors and symptoms.

It's because of this that treatment is still haphazard. Styron went through a number of pharmacological options, one which he believes made him more suicidal, until he found something that worked (good lord, I just read another book on drugs. I didn't even realize it). He talks about the importance of cognitive therapy, which is how I overcame my depression, and which surprised me given the age of the book.

Styron does a nice job. I did find it hard to believe at times that he had ever been depressed as he didn't seem to have a lot of self-esteem issues. The tone rubbed me the wrong way sometimes. It was a good read and one I definitely recommend for those who have a loved one suffering from depression and are having a hard time grasping the condition.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Gentlemen's Hour

One of the best things about working at a library is when shipments of new books come in. It's like Christmas. We recently got a batch of books and while I do have input on what the library acquires, I usually feel that my reading interests don't align with many of our patrons. Given tight budgets and all, I'll not pick out some obscure book I want to read and have us order it. I'll hope a larger library with more bucks gets it and I'll read it in six months when it comes off the new book shelf. I'm never wanting for something to read. There's a lot out there.

It came as a surprise, then, when I opened the newest crate of books and got excited about a trio of books, two of which I signed out immediately. This was the first. The name Don Winslow might be familiar to you because it wasn't too long ago that I reviewed Savages. I was surprised he had a new book out already. Turns out he doesn't. This book was published in 2009. I'm not sure why we bought it but I was glad.

This was quite a bit different from Savages is tone and content. Yes, there was still drugs involved (I know, shocking, right?). Yes, it was still fast-paced with short chapters. Still jumped around from character to character although the focus was really on one. This time, though, very few profanities. I enjoyed it and while Winslow isn't a creator of great literature, he writes entertaining stories. I definitely recommend him for those looking for lighter "beach reads".

Beach read is appropriate for The Gentlemen's Hour in that the book takes place on the coast of sunny San Diego. The main character, Boone Daniels, is a noted surfer and somewhat lackadaisical private investigator in his forties. He and his buddies are always up bright and early to surf and their group is known as the Dawn Patrol. His buddies all have Guy Ritchieesque ironic nicknames. The gigantic Samoan is known as High Tide because the waters rise when he gets in. There's Hang Twelve who has six toes on each foot. Johnny Bonzai is an Asian cop. There used to be a waitress named Sunny who surfed with them but then she turned pro. The waitress who replaced her came to be known as Not Sunny. Sort of goofy and charming all in one.

Boone has been dating this hot lawyer with violet eyes (have you ever met anyone with violet eyes? I haven't. Maybe it's a California thing) but his buddies think it won't last because of the socio-economic differences. You have to have a love interest, though. It's in the PI novel handbook, I think.

The Gentlemen's Hour is when the group of surfers after the Dawn Patrol surf. That group is composed of older wealthy guys; guys with nowhere else to be because the golf course isn't really them. One of the members of The Gentlemen's Hour hires Boone to follow the guy's wife to see if she is being unfaithful.

Meanwhile, one of the most popular surfers around gets killed outside a bar by a bunch of punk kids. Boone's girlfriend is hired to represent the one kid being charged with the murder and she enlists Boone's help. Boone's friends turn on him for this breach in surfing brotherhood.

The cases get all twisty and involved. There's drugs, including a Mexican cartel. There's a Naziesque skinhead organization, there's insurance fraud. There's a fellow who Boone got arrested years ago who has his Mutt and Jeff henchman alternately rough Boone up and take care of him. It really gets out of hand and nonsensical at times.

It's exciting, though. I blew through the book. Didn't want to put it down. Winslow is a former PI and you sort of get a sense he is a former/current surfer and has gone through/is going through a mid-life crisis. What I mean is, the story has the details right. Maybe Winslow just does good research but the surfer lingo and PI methodologies seem really smooth and natural.

A fun read, definitely more accessible than Savages, with characters you can actually root for. The cockamamie plot twists take a bit away from it but it's not nutty enough to make it completely unbelievable.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Over the course of this past year, I've grown enamored with the magician Derren Brown. Not so much his magic as his work with the subconscious and subliminal messages. Check out some of his stuff on Youtube and you'll see what I mean.

I came across an article that mentioned Brown's work and that of the author of this book, Martin Lindstrom. Brown's books are hard to find in the United States but the library system had this book by Lindstrom. Thought I'd give it a shot.

If subliminal messages work, Lindstrom needs to put some in his book because I really didn't care for it. Much of the book is self-congratulatory nonsense about a study he did using brain scans and tying it into advertising. If a section of the brain lit up when a subject viewed an advertisement, Lindstrom made the leap that the ad must have some connection to what that part of the brain normally does. For instance, a certain part of the brain is supposed to be in charge of cravings. In some of the subjects, that part of the brain lit up on viewing ads with a Marlboro red color. Therefore, Lindstrom concludes, the red in and of itself is enough of a stimulant to trigger the craving. Never mind that that part of the brain might be involved with a dozen other activities. Never mind that Marlboro is hardly even recognizable anymore because of the shutdown of tobacco advertising. If A, then B.

Lindstrom spends part of every chapter talking about how exciting his research is and then the remarkable finds. He hardly provides any details whatsoever about the studies. Given that this is to be some remarkable research, you'd sort of expect there to be a decent amount of citations, letting the reader know what has been done before in this area. At the very least, providing some sense that the results are scientifically valid. No such luck. While the book is chock full of citations, they're all websites, most to newspaper links, and the few that have any sort of connection to the scientific community are mainstream sites like Scientific American.

While I have an interest in the topic matter, I really didn't get a lot out of this book and hated Lindstrom's tone. I'm sure there must be other books out there on this subject and hopefully I'll come across them. I don't think this one is worth reading.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Night Circus

Can you believe it? No drugs!

At first I was looking forward to reading this book. The author, Erin Morgenstern, first conceived of the idea for this book when taking part in Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) back in 2004. When she was done writing it, though, she had a hard time finding anyone interested in it. Thirty literary agents rejected it before someone finally took it on. In the end she received a six figure advance for the book and the number thirty is now the number of foreign publishers that have agreed to publish the book as well.

But then the hype started. "The next Harry Potter!". Ugh. Seriously? I hate the next anything. Why can't thinks be appreciated on their own merits? Why must there always be comparisons? Saw one review call it the next Harry Potter with a Twilightesque forbidden love. Double ugh.

Add in the fact that I am oversaturating myself with books and I really didn't need to be reading this. Then we got it into the library and there weren't any holds on it....well, what the heck.

I liked it. The author blurb on the dustjacket cites Morganstern's love of fairy tales and that's what this feels like. Two magicians place a wager with one another on who can teach a student to do magic best. The one magician uses his daughter as his student, the other grabs a young man from an orphanage. And we're talking "real" magic here, not pick-a-card-sleight-of-hand hijinks. The field of competition is the Le Cirque des Reves, a mystical circus that is only open at night.

The two students, Celia and Marco, don't know initially that they are in competition with each other yet they know that they are in competition. They fall in love with one another before they realize that they should be vying against one another.

The chapters are very short and very dreamlike. Morganstern does a wonderful job creating a fairy tale atmosphere and she makes the reader long for the reality of the circus. If there was really a Night Circus, I would definitely go and perhaps even try and run off with it. Or at least become it's archivist and librarian.

Where Morganstern is lacking, though, is in plot and character development. The chapters jump back and forth through time which, in some places, creates a nice sense of tension, but in most just makes things confusing. A more linear timeline I think would have improved the story.

Celia and Marco's "love" for one another seems very superficial. The whole reason behind the battle between magicians is unclear, especially since the two teachers have fought this duel before. There is a subplot of a young lad falling for another circus performer and running off with the circus which leads to what I felt was as unsatisfyingly tidy ending.

Really, the whole time I read this, I was thinking "Young Adult" book. That's not necessarily a bad thing. I just felt the book lacked depth. It never felt like there was any sort of tension or conflict that would be resolved. You just had the sense that things would work out. Maybe it was the fairy tale aspect.

Ultimately, it's the fairy tale aspect that made me like this book as a not young adult. The Night Circus was a wonderful literary escape that let me forget about bills and weeds and dirty floors and dream about a happily ever after. Plus, no drugs!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Dart League King

I did it again! Another book involving drugs. At least this one was suicide-free. I'm making some progress.

Between my co-worker and the woman who runs The Next Best Book Blog, I became convinced I should sign up for Goodreads. I'm not entirely sure it's worthwhile but it doesn't take a whole lot of effort and it makes it easy to see all the books I've read over the years.

Goodreads also has a recommendation engine which looks to be as primitive and inaccurate as Amazon's. I used to do statistical modeling for a living and it continues to baffle me how poorly some of these places do in predicting what their customers will like. But that's another story. Goodreads' recommendations at least have the benefit of not being confounded by miscellaneous items. Amazon, for example, takes into accounts purchases I might make as gifts for other people in terms of recommendations. This won't help me find something new to read.

Despite my complaints, Goodreads did have some recommendations that looked good. This book, published by Tin House Press, one of the small presses included in the new collection at the library, was one of them. An interesting looking book published by a small press? Sure, I'll check it out.

Good choice, Goodreads. The book has a nice ensemble cast of small-town misfits. It takes place in Garnet Lake, Idaho, where there is little to do. The "hero" of the story, Russell, is in his early twenties, works for a logging company where his lack of skills makes him a danger to others and a disappointment to himself. He lives for his dart league, which he started and has dominated until recently.

That's because Brice Halberstam has moved into town. Brice took over a local convenience store and was once a professional dart player. Brice has a couple of secrets, though. One, he's not really a convenience store owner. He's an undercover Drug Enforcement Agency officer. Two, he's married to a woman suffering from many maladies, most of which might be imagined, who has yet to make love to him even after decades of marriage.

Drugs? In Idaho? Well, yes. There's a good deal of marijuana coming in over the Canadian border (which I also read about in Border Song. I AM beginning to think all novels involve drugs). Brice has discovered that main character number three, Vince Thompson, supplies drugs locally and is probably part of a larger cartel.

Vince is my favorite character. He deals drugs while at the same time is really concerned about the environment. The cartel would love for him to step up and increase his business but Vince is pretty happy right where he is, being a small-time guy and just making a living and saving up his money. Vince has a lot of anger issues, mostly due to his father, and he sets out to kill Russell who stopped buying drugs from Vince because he owes him too much money.

There has to be a love interest and that is Kelly. Kelly longs for something more than small-town Idaho. She has a child (Russell's) who everyone thinks belongs to another guy who long vanished from the area. She's interested in this intellectual guy, Tristan, who she went to high school with. She thinks Tristan might be her ticket out of Podunkville but Tristan has a dark secret of his own which he needs to share with someone and he has picked Kelly.

The entire book covers just one evening in town; the night of the biggest dart match of the year, where both the team and individual championships may be settled. But while the match is going on there are all these undercurrents going on - will Vince kill Russell? Will Brice arrest Vince? What's Kelly doing with that guy? Will she tell Russell the truth about her child? What's Tristan's secret? What's the deal with Brice's wife? For such a short period of time, there's a lot going on.

I enjoyed Morris's writing. It was fast-paced and he moves from character to character very nicely. Despite the flaws of everyone, my interest was kept in the characters. Russell is a bit of a doofus and my like of Vince is probably not universal. His paradoxical behavior is a bit unreal. As is Brice's marriage and Tristan's secret. Add that to an ending that can be viewed as filled with creepiness or redemption, and you get an entertaining yet flawed book.

For a Goodreads recommendation, though, I am quite happy.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Financial Aid Handbook

Hard to believe (at least it is to me) I have a son who is a senior in high school. Unlike his ol' pops who knew exactly what he wanted from a college (Had to be in Pittsburgh. That was my one criteria. Not surprisingly I transferred to a tiny school in North Carolina a year later.), he isn't sure where he wants to go or what he wants to study.

That's where this book comes in. The authors, two former (current?) college admission counselors, think that with the cost of tuition nowadays and the fairly minimal differences in the quality of education once you get out of the top thirty schools or so (which are virtually all Ivy League and engineering schools), the college-bound student should be focused on getting their college education as cheaply as possible. Who wants to graduate college with six figures worth of debt?

The authors go into how to look at the differences between what schools say tuition is and what students tend to actually pay out of pocket. They liken it to when you buy a car. There's the manufacturer's recommended price versus what you actually pay once you get to the dealership.

So a situation like mine where your potential college attendee is unsure what he or she wants to be when they're all growns up can be a good thing. Find what schools might be willing to give financial assistance to your kid and select your colleges based on that criteria. Makes a lot of sense.

The book is supposed to be written for the student, primarily, with the parents as an after thought. The authors believe that they are "hip" in their writing style but I would be astounded if any kids actually enjoy reading this. My son thumbed through it. He's an avid reader, too, and was not captivated by the book in the least.

Given that the book has a very limited target audience, the authors don't hit their target audience well and that there is a lot of extraneous fluff to fill out what is really a small book, I'm not giving the book any stars. If you are a parent whose kid is uncertain about his or her college prospects, give it a look-see. It's worth it for you.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Stone Arabia

I'm still trying to figure out this book. Two characters, pretty much; a brother and a sister. Close to no plot. I'm beginning to think there's either too many books about drugs or I'm just reading them all. The brother, Nik Kranis, is approaching his 50th birthday. He's never really amounted to much in the typical societal sense. He drinks. He does drugs. Perpetually broke and bumming money off his sister.

On the other hand, decades ago, he developed an alter ego, Nik Worth, who was/is a musician. He had a band that had some minor success. When the band dissolved, Nick continued on but in a bit of a make-believe sense. He put out albums with limited edition covers that he gave to friends and family and (ex)girlfriends. He wrote fake reviews and interviews and pasted them into scrapbooks he called the Chronicles. He even creates fake bootleg albums of fake concerts.

In this sense I was reminded of a work of baseball fiction I always have liked, The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop., which is about a fellow who creates a baseball dice game and gets too involved with his fantasy players. In both cases, you have guys whose lives aren't fulfilling enough and so they create this fictitious world that provides them with more enjoyment.

The characters in both books also rely on meticulous record-keeping. Waugh records every play of every game as well as writing newspaper articles about the games and creating backstories for the players.

From the standpoint of characters being concerned with preserving history, even fictitious ones, I enjoyed both books. There's a bit of existential concern there. Without Nik's Chronicles, what is Nik? Most would label him a failure. Once his life ended, what would there be to show for it? But he created something that would outlast him, even if it wasn't exactly "real".

That's really the story, though. The sister is a personal assistant for a real estate developer and takes care of Nik financially as best she can, despite being three years younger. She has a daughter who wants to make a documentary about Nik which is interesting in itself. Can you make a documentary about something that isn't factual? Well, of course you can. See This Is Spinal Tap and Best in Show (I've only seen the latter). But what exactly does that mean?

Getting back to the sister, she is hyperemotional and far less interesting than Nik. She's always fretting about something and the novel ends with her traveling to a little Amish town to express concern about a missing little girl.

Most other reviews of this book wring far more meaning out of it than I did. Perhaps there is more to be gained from reading Stone Arabia than I was able to glean. Being as I read fiction to be entertained, though, I'm bothered more from the lack of an interesting story than I am that maybe I didn't "get it". Perhaps if the story were better, I would have grasped the authors intent better.