Someone Writes a Book, Someone Reads a Book

I can't say I understand the reasoning behind summer reading lists for grownups (do we have more time in the summer? Is it because people turn off the reruns on TV? I don't know) but there is no denying their existence. Time, the Times, the Post and about a million other publications are printing their lists of books you should read this summer. You know what I noticed? That reviewers like to divide books up. You've got your literature (very good!) and your popular fiction (shudder!). You've got your romance (historical, contemporary, Regency, inspirational) and your mysteries (thrillers, serial killers, hard boiled, procedural) and your sci fi (hard science, cyberpunk, space opera, romance) and your fantasy (sword and sorcery, here be dragons, supernatural, magical realism) and your chick lit (shoes, handbags, dresses!) and your graphic novels (superhero, historical, fantasy, pr0n) and so many little distinctions that you could pass the entire summer just reading lists of possible genres.

We here at Quality Time don't like to stick books in genre ghettos. We'll give books labels like fun, interesting, smart, witty, must read and swoony and, yes, every so often we will say we don't understand the appeal of a book and we'd really rather imagine you reading something else, but of course, the choice is always yours. We'll use a little bit of genre distinction from time to time (for instance I love to clearly label all InfernoKrusher, and, indeed, all possible InfernoKrusher) but mostly I'm going to say hey guys, here's a rollicking good read. And by all I hold dear, that's exactly what I had this week, a rollicking good read by Cory Doctorow, called Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town.

Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town is a perfect example of why we shouldn't be trying to stuff books into genres (although I will say this book is definitely InfernoKrusher). This wonderful, loopy, deep, moving story has a mystery, or maybe lots of mysteries (including the mystery of the human condition), there are a couple of romances, (not to mention the love of life and technology) and there are wonderful, intoxicating, flights of fantasy. Cory starts us off slow, with glimpses of a family that is decidedly peculiar, but he does it in such a way that I wondered if he was being metaphorical or literal. His lead, Alan (who has a name that never quite settles down and ranges from Adam to Adrian to Avi, etc.), has a father who is a mountain and a mother who is a washing machine. But does he mean it? I wasn't quite sure until I came to this desperately beautiful scene between Alan and his neighbor Mimi where she unveils her mysteries to him in an alley.

She had two stubby, leathery wings growing out of the middle of her back, just above the shoulder blades. They sat flush against her back, and as Alan watched, they unfolded and flexed, flapped a few times, and settled back into their position, nested among the soft roll of flesh that descended from her neck.

Involuntarily, he peered forward, examining the wings, which were covered in fine downy brown hairs, and their bases, roped with muscle and surrounded by a mess of ugly scars.

“You… sewed… these on?” Alan said, aghast.

She turned around, her eyes bright with tears. Her breasts swung free of her unhooked bra. “No, you ******* idiot. I sawed them off. Four times a year. They just grow back. If I don’t cut them, they grow down to my ankles.”

Wham, just like that we know that Alan's mother really is a washing machine, his father really is a mountain, girls have wings and mutilate themselves to try and be normal and anything goes. Be forewarned, even knowing that everything goes won't prepare you for the twists and turns and wonders you'll find in the pages of this book.

I read Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town in one long marvelous night. I downloaded it from the official site, fell into a strange yet familiar world and stayed up until I finished it. I kind of regret that I read it so quickly because it is funny and lyrical and scary and touching and deserves to be savored. I just wasn't ready to come out of that odd world when I came to the end of the file. I wish I had read it a little slower. When you read it, don't make that mistake. Make sure someone else is awake when you read it so when you get to a passage that you dearly love you can say "hey, listen to this, isn't this great?" because one of the best parts of reading something new and wonderful is sharing it with someone who will enjoy it just as much as you do.