Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Book Not Worth Reading

OK, for Erica, a book I should not have wasted my time with. In her comment a while back, Erica mentioned books that, after reading the back cover, already frustrate. I would not, however, have been frustrated after reading the back of this book. The info there includes such deeply insightful descriptions as "wonderful," "rollicking, righteous," "offbeat, hilarious," "gross, quirky,"...Not alot of information. I guess it is in keeping with the minimalist design of the front cover, which is what originally caught my eye.

But I had not read very many pages before figuring out that Hoot, by author Carl Hiaasen, is a "save the owls" lecture under the guise of a light-hearted and satiric story.

The main character seems to have a normal life and family. Mainstream and well-adjusted. But everyone else is either very strange or totally inept. The book is filled with" 'cameo appearances" of characters fitting common stereotypes such as the drunken hunter driving a snowmobile. Anyone who is mean enough to hunt is also dumb enough to drive a snowmobile while intoxicated, right?

And we meet the frightened construction foreman who investigates a noise in his bathroom with his .38 special drawn and ends up shooting his toilet when a little mouse runs out. I guess anyone who owns a gun is obviously a stupid moron who keeps keep his finger dangerously on the trigger.

The book is riddled with this kind of humor. Sometimes it is mildly funny. But as you continue through the book it gets old. The president of the pancake house corporation is corrupt; the school counselor is naive, and biased against the good guy; the former football star is married to the former lounge waitress and they scream at each other all day- if they happen to be on speaking terms; the construction foreman's wife and mother-in-law are always shopping at the outlet mall...blah, blah, blah.

The only character that seems to not fit this stereotypical world is the father of the normal, well-adjusted family. He works for the US government as a justice department investigator. That seems a little off. Most of the people I have come across who hold dear the stereotypes that fill this book would also assume that any government worker is either corrupt or a simpleton.

I did finish the book. I kept thinking it would get better. It did have redeeming qualities. It compellingly tells a story. The plot is well spun. Really well spun. Lots of twists and turns and just the right amount of ambiguity to keep the reader turning the pages and thinking ahead trying to figure out how everything is going to tie together. It is a shame the characters are so one-dimensional. A reader might then be able to overlook the underlying message that everyone is out to get the poor little owls and we are all driven by greed and selfishness.

Did I mention that Hoot was awarded a Newberry honor?

Apparently the book is well-received; I notice there is a study guide available for classroom use. Oh, and it has also been made into a movie. Must have been a winner. I remember hearing lots about it. Uh, I guess not.

For more of the same see Flush, also by Carl Hiaasen, in which he addresses "illegal dumping of raw sewage from a floating casino."

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