Saturday, July 14, 2007

Reader's Diary #267- David Mitchell: Black Swan Green (up to "Bridle Path")

This is from the opening paragraph to David Mitchell's Black Swan Green;

Dad's got an answering machine like James Garner's in The Rockford Files with big reels of tape. But he's stopped leaving it switched on recently. Thirty rings, the phone got to. Julia couldn't hear it up in her converted attic 'cause "Don't You Want Me?" by Human League was thumping out dead loud.

This is the transcript to a sketch that aired on Saturday Night Live this past season, starring Andy Samberg, and entitled, "A Moment With The Out of Breath Jogger From 1982;"

Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh, man! This recession is the worst, huh? Ohhhh! Whooooooo! Gorbachev really has Reagan against the ropes! Oh, man! Uhhhhhhh... uhhhhhhh... I'm so tired! I feel like the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals must have felt... right after they won the World Series this year! Uhhhhhh... oh, man! Pet rock! Ohhhhhhhhhh... Can't get wait... can't wait to get... one of those new Ataris... and play... 1982! WHOOOOOO!!!

Ignoring the grunts and moans, do you notice a similarity?

Perhaps it's because I've heard so many positive reviews of David Mitchell's books that I'm trying to give him the benefit of a doubt. Then again, maybe that's also the reason I'm being so critical in the first place.

Perhaps the constant attempts to convince us that yes, by golly, this is 1982, are more than that. Maybe it's a commentary on that decade itself: that we were all preoccupied with pop-culture back then (have we changed?). I've read a lot of books lately without clearly defined time settings, maybe the time stamping isn't really as bad as it seems, maybe it's a matter of me readjusting. I understand and feel that some of it is necessary. It's a coming-of-age story and to deny that popular culture doesn't have an impact on our lives- for good or for bad- simply rings untrue, especially when we're at those crucial personality defining ages. When I think back to the 80s, certainly a lot of my memories revolve around popular t.v. shows and music.

Still, it's hard not to feel that it's more than a little forced when 1982 makes an appearance in every other paragraph. Any thoughts?

Incidentally, 1982 was the year I first started this blog...


Stephanie said...

I just picked this up from the library on Friday!! I haven't had a chance to start it, but I've been looking forward to it.

I hope you end up liking it! As you've said, it's been giving some really good reviews.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Well they had me at Jim Rockford's answering machine, but that only lasted for a sentence or two. It does seem rather like a 1982 grocery shopping list, and a bit of an annoying one at that.

I'd love to see some of the blog posts you have on that awesome Commodore 64.

Dale said...

I'm thinking of dating all my blog posts 1982 just so I can remember it. I'm terrible with dates. Was it written just for me?

I saw some photos of The White Stripes up in your neck of the woods. Just sayin'.

John Mutford said...

Stephanie: Not to worry, I'm enjoying other aspects. Looking forward to your thoughts when you start it.

Barbara: Maybe I'll post them sometime. I took a nasty swipe out of a Berestein Bears book if I remember.

Dale: Quite possibly yes, it was written specifically for you. As was this White Stripes post.

Dale said...

Nice review and pics and you made me snort (such a pleasant sound).

Kelly said...

I saw this at Borders on Saturday.