Spend the Rest Of My life Quietly

Oh look – the anthem of my teenage idealism and small town despair!

Terrible book. People will buy anything.

In retrospect, I had every reason to be desperate to leave the tiny hometown. That is a function of youthful hysteria. It is also the reason I know this is – despite what pretty much everyone else with a keyboard and a net connection has said – a terrible book. This book suffers from a very typical, avoidable problem: it was written by a grad student in the Humanities. If this book had simply picked a different author, perhaps it would have stood a chance.

If you have not lived in a college town, shared an apartment with a grad student or made the terrible mistake of marrying one, consider yourself warned. They are not regular people like you and me. You watch ESPN. I watch Jacques Pepin on PBS. Grad students are desperately broke and drink Olympia beer in cans. If you go to a party where grad students are drinking Olympia beer in cans, you will see them discuss nationalism and geography until the coolers and fridges are empty and the grad students fall over sideways, but by dinnertime, Olympia beer in cans will be floating in the coolers and hiding in the fridge again and no one will know why or how. This illustrates the principle difficulty of living near a grad student in the Humanities: they’re not going anywhere until they’ve carefully picked every fiber, every thread, every bit of lint and every smidge of dust out of a topic other grad students have been picking apart for decades. These people strain for a single original thought and if they have one write thousands of pages about it in which nobody learns anything truly useful. Your best bet is to seal the house where they live and toss in a comic book – but it better be a good one.

The mistake the book makes is assuming that a fourteen year old could have the same brain chemistry, the same field of vision and the same calm and tempered fluidity with the language as its author. I say the book makes it because the book should know better, but you see the same horseshit with the Twilight books, which REALLY should have found an author who didn’t have I WANT MY VIRGINITY BACK on the brain. We can talk about that some other time, because we’re talking about teenagers here: they’re stupid. Even the smart teenagers are stupid. Their brains do not work like your brain, even when you do something stupid. No, the premise of this stupid book is entirely backward. The stupid adult writes about a teenager smarter than she is and the book-reading, English-speaking world offers a movie deal.

Well, in some quarters that might qualify as pretty smart. As a business move, maybe it was. The book, however, is not good art and its elevation provides a window into the soul of a society eternally wishing it died young, pretty and stupid.

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