The last update on the BRLP (Brian Re-Literacy Project) appeared on June 23rd, or three weeks ago. For a summer reading plan in which I intended to read a book each week, this should signal bad news. It's probably important to note that June 23rd's post was somewhat hubristically titled "I Am Unstoppable." So Perspectaclus, the ancient Greek god of science fiction and eyeglasses, struck me down mid-way through American-Made.
I can't fault the book itself(*), which is just as much a page-turner as a book about 75-year-old employment policies could possibly be. In fact, there's a lot to understand from the WPA programs and their solutions to a ecomomic situation increasingly similar to our own, a situation which came about from the first and second-worst presidents we've had. The case studies included -- short chapters about people at work in the WPA-supported jobs -- are pretty compelling; someone (ahem) could make a pretty good historical novel about the librarians-on-horseback of 1930's Kentucky.
So I struggled not so much with the book but with getting to it. It's summer, and the weird documentaries are coming fast and furious in Netflix envelopes, and it's finally nice enough for the zoo or the park, or just sort of slumming around like a teenager. (And then this week, I've been watching this clip of Feist on next season's Sesame Street over and over and over -- you'll want to watch it over and over too, I bet.) Ultimately, I had to let the library re-claim American-Made, and picked up The Savage Detectives by Roberto Belano, an author who comes highly recommended by Bayard.
The Savage Detectives looks to be a complicated and compelling book, and I don't want to say too much more about it before I finish it, but I will say the first 100-or-so pages creates a world of mid-1970's Mexico City poetry-minded bohemian-ness that you really take to and don't want to end, kind of like a textual massage. And then, just like a massage, it ends, and you have to go on to other stuff that you worry may not be as fantastic as that massage. (I've only had three massages in my life, but I thought this would be a more widely-understood simile for something one wouldn't want to end than the things I personally wish were ever-lasting, like Deadwood, Ernest Ranglin's "Minuit," or James Robinson's Starman.)
I'm sure I'll have more to report in a week. Or two.
* Note: It does sort of bother me that the full title of the book -- American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA: When FDR Put the Nation to Work -- has two colons in it. As I think I've said before, titles -- like people -- should only have one colon. (I do like titles with options, so I would have gladly accepted American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA Or When FDR Put the Nation to Work. Titles that offer possible alternative titles (ie, Nabokov's Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle) remind me fondly of the Bullwinkle cartoon.