Wednesday, July 22, 2015

B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal Review

B & Me:A True Story of Literary Arousal
By: J.C. Hallman

Nearly twenty-five years ago, Nicholson Baker published U and I, the fretful and handwringing—but also groundbreaking—tale of his literary relationship with John Updike. U and I inspired a whole sub-genre of engaging, entertaining writing about reading, but what no story of this type has ever done is tell its tale from the moment of conception, that moment when you realize that there is a writer out there in the world that you must read—so you read them. B & Me is that story, the story of J.C. Hallman discovering and reading Nicholson Baker, and discovering himself in the process.

Our relationship to books in the digital age, the role of art in an increasingly commodified world, the power great writing has to change us, these are at the core of Hallman's investigation of Baker—questions he's grappled with, values he's come to doubt. But in reading Baker's work, Hallman discovers the key to overcoming the malaise that has been plaguing him, through the books themselves and what he finds and contemplates in his attempts to understand them and their enigmatic author: sex, book jackets, an old bed and breakfast, love, Monica Lewinsky, Paris, marriage, more sex, the logistics of libraries.

In the spirit of Geoff Dyer's Out of Sheer Rage and Elif Batuman's The PossessedB & Me is literary self-archaeology: a funny, irreverent, incisive story of one reader's desperate quest to restore passion to literature, and all the things he learns along the way.

My Review:
4 stars

I’ll admit, this book wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I was under the impression this would be thought-provoking, yet humorous. And while there is humor in the book, it’s a much more introspective, think-about-it kind of book. For one, I did not know who Nicholas Baker was. Once I looked him up, I wanted to see the literary journey the author was going to take me on, using Baker’s works. Plus, the title alone drew me in.

However, I’m still not really sure how to review this book. While I enjoyed how the author used his discovery and exploration of Baker’s work to show how he grew as a person, it wasn’t really my kind of read. I found it interesting on a psychological and informative level, but it’s not the kind of book I would return to read “just for fun”. I still enjoyed the book, it was just a different kind of enjoyment.

So while I may not re-read this for a while, I will keep the book on my bookshelf instead of giving it away, as I think it is an invaluable read. I also highly recommend giving this book a try, if nothing else then to learn how you SHOULD write in this genre, because Hallman’s writing is a great example.

*I received this product in exchange for an honest review.*

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