Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Early Summer Reading: Girl Crazy by Russell Smith, In Search Of Captain Zero by Allan C. Weisbecker

Poor Justin, sliding uncomfortably into his 30s and their manifold disconsolations. He has a former girlfriend who’s “moved on” but keeps calling at inopportune moments, he’s an academic teaching a blow-off course, and he’s ensconced in a crappy, sweltering apartment. He registers the beautiful women available to everybody but himself, the supercilious boss pulling in some sort of action on the side, but these are indecipherable mysteries he can’t quite break into. At least not until he meets Jenna, a 20-year-old stripper who crash-lands in Justin’s life, pulling a trainload of contraband and violence behind her.

As improbable as this platform sounds, it launches the tautly strung thriller that is Girl Crazy (A). Russell Smith’s blurb-buddy Barbara Gowdy invokes Elmore Leonard (and Nabokov), but I was put more in mind of Tapping The Source (w), by Leonard protégé Kem Nunn, in which a naif figures out the way things work by blundering heedlessly into a very bad scene. As with Tapping, Smith’s book rests on a sturdy architecture of artful intrigue. And yes, dear Canadian readers, there is some sex: not the perfumed meditations of Nabokov or even Updike, but the horny-porny variety. Readers discomfited by or inured to such pulpy pleasures should stay away; the rest of us can enjoy Smith’s mash-up of pulp-slash-satire-slash-psychological-thriller.

Speaking (tangentially) of surfing books, Allan C. Weisbecker’s memoir In Search Of Captain Zero: A Surfer's Road Trip Beyond The End Of The World (A) is the latest addition to my surfer’s library. For reasons that didn’t become clear to me until the very end of the book, Weisbecker is keen, almost desperate, to relocate an old friend and former drug-running partner who’s disappeared in South America. Weisbecker throws his surfboards into a camper, calls his dog and drives down the west coast right into Costa Rica looking for his friend, catching more than a few bitchin' waves en route.

The bald facts of the journey make for compelling reading, but while Weisbecker’s capital-A “Alpha” male bona fides provide the impetus for the trip (and the book), they too frequently conjure a seriously blinkered point of view. Any noob who spends a little time amongst drunks, druggies, religious fanatics and/or surfers will come away telling you the conversation cycles back to the arcane again and again, and that any insight discernible to outsiders is gleaned with great difficulty. Weisbecker does get to the insight, but for this reader, who has neither surfed nor run drugs, there was quite a swamp of arcana to wade through. I rank Captain Zero well above Daniel Duane’s Caught Inside (A), but decidedly below Thad Ziolkowski's On A Wave (A, w), which is, for me, the star to shoot for.

Decide for yourself, of course. Weisbecker's site is here. "Out-gonzoing Hunter S. Thompson" is no small claim, but if anyone comes close to it, Weisbecker does.

Speed reading quotient: Girl Crazy, 12%, Captain Zero 65%.


yahmdallah said...

It begins to astound me when you can't get something internationally. I see MP3 albums on the site I want all the time. If Amazon has it, even in Canada, why can't I get it?

The media companies of the world need to work this $#!+ out, man.

DarkoV said...

A tangential inquiry here, working off of the Cafe Rhythm link.
1)Sir, what is the Cameron Street Worker's Co-Op?
2) Were you the organizer of this non-violent worker's takeover?
3) Are all employees, sorry, Co-oped members required to wear bandadas and, if so, are the colours of individual choice or of a group decision?
4) Were the Cafe Rhythm owners buried in a caffeine daze in the excavation work around your house (I though I noticed a hand sticking out of that waste water hole)?

More news to follow (hopefully) of the Bean Uprising north of the border....

Whisky Prajer said...

Y-man - it gets very odd indeed, when it comes to Amazon. Up here we don't even get the mp3 option. I mostly don't mind, 'cos HMV pretty much covers what Amazon *ought* to offer in that department. Books and CD discrepancies frequently mystify, however. And eMusic's discrepancies are often downright bizarre. But that's another story.

DV - looks like it's time to update my template. The Cafe made the transition to co-op for a number of reasons, chiefly at the behest of the building's owners and a not-so-silent partner who's been doing the bulk of the bankrolling. Since local anarchy isn't likely to appear on the event horizon anytime soon, a worker's co-operative will have to suffice. Do-rags (that's what we hippie-types call "bandannas") are optional.

DarkoV said...

Hippies?! Ha!
One of the Ever-Loving Wife's class kids just got back from a visit/vacation with her parents who were down in Hinduras visiting an old school bud who started up some organic farm. (Let me call her..) Charlotte was recounting tales of Central America when at one point, she shouted.."and then a hippie kissed me on the cheek!" She seemed thrilled; the other kids in class seemed stunned.
"What's a Hippie?", ventured one kid, seemingly expecting a description of some tree-crawling snakish marsupial that jumped from tree to tree kissing small kids.
"Oh!", Charlotte shouted, eyes wide open, "Hippies are dirty and smelly....but rather nice".
The ELW said the kids seemed satisfied with that answer. I wish some kid had pushed the topic and asked, ...and what did you feed these hippies???, suggesting fruits or kibblebits as possible items.

Hiipies, indeed.

Whisky Prajer said...

"But rather nice" might apply to me after a few espressos. "Dirty and smelly" is a given. As for feeding, only hummus made from free-range garbanzo beans will suffice.