Sunday, December 30, 2007

Mac's Best of 2007

So, here's a detailed list of some of my favorite things in 2007. Keep in mind that things in this list might not have premiered in 2007.

Favorite Book read in 2007: Will Self’s The Book of Dave

During the Summer, Idelber Avelar had mentioned meeting Will Self at a conference, and how much he had been impressed by him. After reading nothing but Latin-American Literature for the last 12 years, I was itching for something new. I researched Self’s work and decided that The Book of Dave sounded like the best-reviewed and most-fascinating of his works.

The novel alternates back and forth between a post-Deluge Ing (England) that has embraced Dävananity, the religion of Dave, taken from metal plates found buried in the Forbidden Zone on the isle of Ham (modern-day Hampstead Heath), and the horribly tragic life of Dave Rudman, a mentally-ill (at times) Cockney taxi driver blessed with a perfect recall of the Knowledge. To be a taxi driver in London, one must memorize the entire city; this information is called The Knowledge, and in his mental illness and anger against his lying, adulterous, and frigid wife, who lied-to-him-that-she-was-pregnant-with-his-child-after-a-one-night-stand-so-he-would-marry-her, he melds the Knowledge with his misogynistic rants into a new Gospel for a New London. He has the harangue engraved on silver plates and then buries them in his ex-wife’s backyard. At some unknown point in the future after a catastrophic flood, they are discovered, and a new religion emerges based on the cabby’s diatribe. The masters of this religion create a feudal society that strictly enforces the Doctrines and Covenants of Dave.

But what we have is a society set up around how a blue-collar Cockney divorced taxi driver thinks the world should be run (in the midst of his mental illness). The novel entertains the consequences of anyone imagining how you wish the world could be, engraving it on plates, burying it on high ground, and then some day it comes to pass. As I interpret it, it seems that the world today is just fine being run by societal consensus rather than a jaded and scorned mentally-ill individual. It's an attempt to constuct how the minimally-educated blue-collar chauvinistic man would run the world. I heard hundreds of varying iterations of this same idea in my five years of employment at McDonald's, and six at Pizza Hut.

There’s a key moment in the book when religious satire becomes clear. We are told that shortly after his divorce Dave starts going to a diner for food every day. He strikes up a friendship with a very devout Muslim. In talking about the Koran, Dave asks the Muslim man if he really takes seriously what “some bloke wrote a thousand years ago.” The man’s response shows Self’s satire of modern religion, because the man answers, coolly, “Not some bloke Dave, it was God,” ending the paragraph, the chapter, and the debate.

Self does some of the usual tricks you’d expect for a book about the future. There are different dialects of English: Arpee and Mokni (get it, mock Cockney?). The terms for everything are bits and pieces of late 20th/early 21st Century vernacular. Breakfast is “starbucks,” the Creation is the “MadeinChina,” and pigeons are “flying rats.” But, it’s not hokey. The accents are fun to read, and a glossary is provided to aid the uninitiated. I only wish I understood a bit more of British slang, because I often found myself not knowing what a word meant, and not finding it in the dictionary. Self’s prose is engaging and original. I was saddened whenever I had to put the book down to go to work or to sleep; it was that good.

That’s the gist of it. But, to summarize, Self’s book is a masterpiece of religious commentary and satire (it reminded me, on the same level, of Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses). He examines all the Religions of the Book, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, but especially skewers Mormonism. Being a Mormon, I see his point crystally-clear. However, my belief in the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with it being a really old book, rather, I believe it to be true because I have prayed about it. I could be totally wrong, but I don’t think that I am. Unlike many other Southern Christians, I enjoy it when I read something that questions what I believe about my religion.

This will not be the last time I read a book by Will Self. It was a pleasure.

Favorite Movie seen for the first time in 2007: Hot Fuzz

This is the funniest movie I've seen since Thank You for Smoking. I think it might even be funnier. It is a loving, sarcasm-free, spoof of every cop buddy movie ever made, especially Bad Boys and Point Break.

The direction was perfect, the writing--perfect. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. It strikes the same tone of teasing jokes that the Quixote does with the novels of knight errantry.

I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend seeing Hot Fuzz.

Favorite Movie Seen in 2007: Stalag 17

A classic movie from 1953 about some American POWs in Austria trying to figure out who the Nazi spy is in their midst.

Favorite Album of 2007: The Annuals Be He Me

This Annuals album was released in 2006, but I didn't hear it until Tim Boisvert played it for me when I was up visiting in Raleigh. Now "Carrying Around" and "Complete or Completing" are two of my most-played tracks in iTunes. It's like nothing I've ever heard...almost. It sounds like a lot of people, but I still find it unique. I recommend those two tracks as an introduction; you can find your own way to the rest of the album.

Favorite Own Blog Post of 2007: Katrina Two Years Later & Tyra Banks is Phat

Favorite Other Blog Post of 2007: Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed: A Cautionary Tale

Favorite New Food: Coke Zero Cherry
Favorite New Website:
Favorite TV Show: Battlestar Galactica/Project Runway/Rome
Favorite Newly Watched TV Show: Heroes
Favorite Memory: My dad surprising me to go fishing in Apalachicola


JC said...

I second "Hot Fuzz." That was a great movie. Better than Shaun of the Dead.

swampbaby said...

That book sounds really interesting. I may have to check it out.