Saturday, July 29, 2006

Bill Fitzhugh: Pest Control

Bill Fitzhugh certainly has a flair for the ludicrous - and the hilarious. In Pest Control, his debut novel, Fitzhugh successfully creates a hybrid of thriller and comedy that is justthisclose to going over the edge from “that’s so crazy I can see it happening” to “I’m not willing to suspend disbelief on this level."

Our stalwart hero, Bob Dillon (pronounced the same but spelled differently), is a newly minted freelance exterminator who sees an opportunity to perfect his environmentally friendly pest control method – cross-bred assassin bugs. Events during a drunken night at a bar put Bob’s name on the list of international killers for hire, a career change that Bob remains blissfully unaware of. As Bob works towards perfecting his assassin bug strains and tries to keep his relationship with his wife Mary intact, he (unwittingly) becomes a major player in the shadowy world of international intrigue.

The supporting characters are fabulous, especially Klaus, the world’s top ranked assassin who suffers from bouts of existential despair. Bob’s family, the worlds best killers, a CIA agent who distrusts technology, and a surly landlord round out the regulars. All have quirks that are sure to make readers snicker at the very least.

This book, despite a few awkward phrases, is wonderful (It wouldn't be me if I didn't insert a touch of what I think of as "constructive criticism," would it?). I couldn’t even put it down to walk two blocks to the CVS. I had to bring it with me. It was hard to stop long enough to cross the street, even. I lost the greater part of a day I should have spent searching for jobs. I should also note that this is probably the fifth time I have read this book. It has lost none of its power to amuse and educate. This time around I identified with Bob a great deal due to his unemployment and dubious financial situation. I’d love to be able to pursue my dream as Bob did, except I’m not really sure what my dream is at this point.

This is highly recommended for those who are looking for a good read with plenty of laughs. The reader should come away from Pest Control feeling satisfied, with aching abdominal muscles, and with new knowledge of insect lore. I am totally serious about that last one, too. Fitzhugh should feel proud of this achievement. I hear a movie is in the works - I'll be all over that if it's true.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Joan Didion: The White Album

Here are a few things I learned from Joan Didion's collection of essays, The White Album:

1. The Sixties were cah-razy!

2. The Sixties were especially nuts in California.

3. Joan Didion gets migraines. Poor Joan Didion.

4. It sucks to go ALL THE WAY to a recording studio to watch The Doors record an album only to find out Jim Morrison is too stoned to sing. Man, doesn't that suck? I mean, HOW DISAPPOINTING!

5. I must not "get" Joan Didion. I don't find what's so appealing about a rich Californian drop names ("I was invited to a civil rights meeting over at Sammy Davis, Jr.'s house and I hear William Styron and Ossie Davis arguing..."), write boring essays about water-treatment plants, and discuss movies that no one remembers. Maybe I'm jaded and maybe I expected something as brilliant as The Year of Magical Thinking, but it didn't deliver, and I was really disappointed.


Thursday, July 27, 2006


I apologize for the unannounced hiatus. Multiple major events have occurred in the past few months, severely limiting my reading time (and leaving me with even less time to write). The good news is I'm halfway through a new book and plan to post about it by the end of the week.