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Eat the Document: A Novel Paperback – November 28, 2006
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More than a portrait of life underground, Eat the Document derives its power from an implicit comparison of '70s radicalism to the pale protests of present-day consumer culture, somehow upholding the idealism and commitment of the earlier period without advocating its violent methods. Spiotta never lets the novel feel like a history lesson or a diatribe. Its social critique is enacted chiefly through Nash (the former Bobby), whose resistance has mellowed to amused observance of the radical Seattle youth who frequent the independent lefty bookstore he runs. Nash redefines the term "activist" by facilitating a number of brilliantly conceived groups that rarely execute their plans. The Radical Juxtaposeurs, for example, "rent films from Blockbuster and dub fake commercials onto the beginnings of the tapes to imply dislocated, ominous, disturbing things," while the Barcode Remixers "made fake bar code stickers that would replace ones. Everything rang up at five or ten cents. This was strictly for the chain, nonunion supermarkets."
Eat the Document moves back and forth in time, like a fishnet pulling through water, tantalizing the reader with glimpses of Mary and Bobby's past. There are plenty of surprises, not so much in the details of the bombing plot but in the shifting culpability of the actors. Above all, this is a grown-up novel about late adolescence, and about what we take with usand what we jettison--on the journey from passionate, reckless youth into seasoned (or soiled) middle age. --Regina Marler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Here's how it works: We see the stories of two generations of resistance culture, both the '60s and '70's hippies and the more punkish subculture of the late '90s. Spiotta, from my vantage, depicts both of these periods spot on, tho' Jason, the son of the fugitive Mary, might be a little more articulate than most any fifteen-year-old I've ever met. Regardless, his obsession with the music of his mother's generation rings true for a mid-adolescent intellectual. His paeans to the Beach Boys are especially compelling. Any fanatic will identify instantly with Jason's reverence for his heroes.
It is not only Jason who is too smart for his own good, it is the entire cast of teenagers who hang around Nash Davis's Prairie Fire bookstore, another delightfully-drawn aspect of _Eat the Document_. Miranda, a punker in her late teens who falls for the middle-aged radical Nash, is painted with true emotional depth, perhaps the best portrait of a countercultural woman of the '90s that I've read. She ends up being torn between Nash and the more conventional Josh, someone who is her own age, but who ends up co-opting his more radical impulses to work for "the man." Nash, on the other hand, never gives into the man.Read more ›
We meet Mary and her son Jason in late 90's Seattle. He's obsessed with the music of the Beach Boys and cyber-protest activities against the new new order (meet the new boss, same as the old boss?) while Mary drinks heavily and sleepwalks through an empty life. Of course her old radical lover Bobby will re-emerge and Jason's aching to fill in the gaps in his Mom's backstory will bear fruit, but it's the landscape of the characters' inner lives that propels "Eat the Document" forward.
Can music mean as much to today's adolescents as it did to us? When music, politics and altering one's consciousness were intertwined like vines atacking the flagpole of state. I think Ms. Spiotta understands that and Jason's Beach Boys obsession rather than the more obvious Seattle bands like Nirvana or Pearl Jam is well-placed irony as fewer bands seemed less interested in the tumult of their era than the Beach Boys.
The writing is lyrical and knowing and the obscure details of popular culture, such as the book's title reference to a little remembered unreleased Dylan film, resonate throughout. The whole thing drew me in from the start. It helped me to have been there, but read it no matter whether you lived through some of these times or not and you'll be glad you did.
Mary Whitaker finds herself on the run and alone in the early 70s, separated forever from her love, Bobby Desoto, after the two plan a protest in what was supposed to be an empty house. Forced to change her name and her appearance, we follow Mary as she becomes someone else, a person who can never go home again, nor settle for long in one place. As the story unfolds, we meet her fifteen year old son, Jason, who is able to begin to piece together the mystery of his mother's life. Additionally, we follow the story of Nash, who runs a comic book store, and the neo-protestors of the 1990s; all of these plots come together until Mary is forced to make a decision about her life today.
Spiotta's tale is well thought out but sometimes a little too "out there" to feel realistic. While the events could happen as she suggests, the characters don't always make sense in some of their actions, and the dialogue is stilted at times. But overall this is a well-done novel, and thought-provoking to say the least. Overall I enjoyed this one, but I can't help but feel that something was missing; probably much the same feeling Mary experienced about her own life.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting throwback to the protestors of the Late 60's & 70's, realistically captures the lifestyle, communes, idealism & high prices paid. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Rhonna
This is the story of two early ‘70s radicals (Mary Whittaker and Bobby DeSoto), their lives in hiding for 18 years, and Mary’s son (Jason) in his late teen years as he searches for... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Gretchen Tremoulet
SO hard to find fiction with politically progressive characters - really appreciated the authors sensibilities. Great book!Published 3 months ago by PVJ
A few weeks ago I was reading the Sunday NY Times magazine and read a piece on the author, who is coming out with a new novel in a few months. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Melissa G
Not that taken with it. I sometimes enjoy detailed descriptions but here I found the amount of detail about music and semi-political groups went far beyond my interest. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Marc R. Inver
Each of the many characters in Eat the Document is introduced at a point in time and developed carefully, richly, slowly, and mysteriously. Read morePublished 7 months ago by tomh
The 1970s were a pivotal time for those in my generation, so I was drawn to Eat the Document: A Novel. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Laurel-Rain Snow
The author has a very strange sentance structure that is sometimes hard to follow. Also, in terms of content, the novel has no real excitement.Published 15 months ago by Michel Y. Rachid