CELEBRITY BOOK REVIEW: Edward Snowden on Holt, Nutting, and Wolitzer
If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, join our mailing list! We’ll send you the best of EL each week, and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming submissions periods and virtual events.
by Courtney Maum
Recent reports have informed you that I am “exhausted” but in a “safe location” and/or “sampling Georgian bread with cheese.” That might have been true three weeks ago, but as I’ve proven time and time again, the world cannot keep up with the Certified Ethical Hacker, a.k.a. The Boundless Informant, a.k.a Snowy D!
So, my “safe location” is the franchised Cinnabon® in Hartford’s Bradley Airport. Sarah Harrison of Wikileaks had a mad hookup: while on her gap year from University — which she spent skiing and downing fruity drinks — she slept with this chairlift operator who remains madly in love with her. Anyway, he works at the airport Cinnabon® now. His name is Dave.
I spend most of the day in the dry storage room with the vats of cream cheese icing, which don’t need to be refrigerated, interestingly enough. I tried to find out why, exactly, but the “nutrition” section of the Cinnabon® website blocked me with a 404 Service Error: just another example of the way America bars you from information that would do you good.
I’m basically subsisting on a diet of Minibons®, Peanut Butter Luna Bars®, and airline packs of pretzels, all three of which contribute to the relentless constipation which is both a hindrance and a boon in my current state. Although Dave has offered to supply me with the portable toilet from his stepfather’s party boat, I haven’t sunk that low yet and, for the time being, prefer to do my business between the hours of two a.m. and six a.m. when the airport’s closed.
Aside from Cinnabon’s® Tropical Blast Chillattas® that remind me of the exotic fruit platters I used to get at the Waipahu Costco back home, another pleasure of mine has been nighttime perusals of the Cover 2 Cover bookshop next door. Now, granted, their young adult sci-fi section is seriously out of date, and they don’t carry Wired, but you know, I get it. It’s Connecticut.
Accordingly, I’ve been spending a lot of time with O Mag — curiously addictive — and making my way through the summer blockbusters which were all written by girls. Or women, rather. This was a major complaint of my potentially ex-girlfriend Lindsay, the acrobatic pole dancer, that I called women over thirty “girls.” But listen: it’s hard to think of a woman who uploads semi-naked selfies with her head in a Forever 21 bag as anything but a girl.
So the first book I started with was You Are One of Them by Elliott Holt. As it deals with the neuroses and skepticism that the Cold War years have left the protagonist with, along with a Kafkaesque-like search for a long-lost best friend who might (or might not be) alive in Russia, this was obviously the first novel I devoured (ha!) in the storage closet of Cinnabon®.
Holt’s debut novel is filled with the are-they-or-aren’t-they questions that barb our twenty-first century lives. Where is the line between national security and our right to information privacy, on and offline? What is fact, and what is propaganda? Did those twenty-seven people really “like” the picture of my Cilantro Barbeque spare-ribs, or were they just being nice?
There’s a real sense of loneliness and loss that colors this tight novel, and I’ll admit that there were some afternoon bouts of weeping when I imagined the people and places I’ll never see again. (I think the extreme emotions I’ve been experiencing recently also have to do with the excessive processed sugar and carbohydrates in my current diet, but I’ll tip my steel frames to Holt: this book was really good.)
Next up, Tampa by Alissa Nutting. This book has a black felt cover, and, in the unrelenting solitude of this storage space, I spent a lot of time pretending it was a loving, purring cat.
And what a lot of loving and purring there was in this book! I’m glad that I was alone to read this because if anyone had glanced over my shoulder at the content, I’d be out of a lot more than a US passport. I mean, penning a whole novel from the POV of a female pedophile? Well, that puts the “nuts” in Nutting, ha ha ha. So I was really in to this but there was so much sex in it, it made me want to jack off which felt like a pretty inhospitable and unsanitary thing to do to Dave, who only just two minutes ago brought me an Odwalla® Green Monster smoothie for my aforementioned constipation. So, my advice to you if you want to read this is to kick it high-school style with the iPhone® flashlight app in bed.
The last book I’ve read here was The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. It’s a big book, so it took me a long time. Also — and I’m gonna guess that I’m not the first to make such a pun — but it wasn’t super interesting. Here’s the thing about a 468-page novel that deals chiefly with the emotions of envy and greed: you feel really shitty (and envious) by the end.
The novel covers the various trajectories of a group of friends who met as teenagers at a performing arts camp called Spirit in the Woods. As an alumni of the Brighter Future Computer Center of Pasquotank County®, I totally get the camp phenomenon, and the type of friendships formed that can last your entire life, but, like, these people really liked camp. I mean, the main character, Julie, ends up going back to camp when she can’t handle the financial and social pressures of her New York life. This, I can relate to: even on my computer technician salary of 200K, I couldn’t afford Manhattan. I mean, last time I checked, signature cocktails at the “Virtual Mixology” bar in the Brooklyn sector of Second Life® were L$ 27, and I just don’t have that kind of money (real or virtual) to spend on GIRLS.
So, now I’m kind of gloomy because the newest Stephen King book won’t hit the Cover 2 Cover shelves until September 24th and Dave said they’re out of mango syrup for my morning Chillatta® so it’s like, what does an exiled computer specialist dissident do with himself today? If Dave could procure me with a wig and maybe a mustache, I could get one of the $10 for 10 minute massages I saw when he wheeled me into the airport under a cart stacked with bleached flour, but I know this isn’t the time to take significant risks, even if they are in the service of my very tense and out-of-shape shoulders.
For now, I wait, penning postcards of Connecticut monuments to my probably ex-girlfriend that I’ll never get to send. I mean, how long can a girl wait without knowing where — or who — you are? It’s a shame, really. The one of the Birdcraft Sanctuary is particularly nice.