Category Archives: Still Available

Cornucopia: The Hunger Games and Catching Fire

One copy each of “The Hunger Games” and “Catching Fire” are now in my possession. They could be yours, if the odds are in your favor. My thoughts on each below.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Read if you liked The Running Man and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
Status: Yours if you want it.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

IN A PREVIOUS ERA, a popular young adult character was assured that “Life is a game,” to which he replied: “Game, my ass.  Some game.  If you get on the side where all the hot-shots are, then it’s a game, all right – I’ll admit that.  But if you get on the other side, where there aren’t any hot-shots, then what’s a game about it?  Nothing.  No game.”  Given the chance, Katniss Everdeen, the sixteen year-old heroine of “The Hunger Games,” might have identified with Holden Caulfield’s thinking, though in a considerably more literal way.  As it is, there is no indication that any copies of “The Catcher in the Rye” exist in her district of Panem, “the country that rose up out of the ashes of a place that was once called North America.”  Panem is your standard dystopia: distant future; post-war society; impoverished districts held under the thumb of a shiny, sophisticated and paranoid government.  Suzanne Collins, however, adds some interesting tweaks, most notably (for me anyway) that instead of a bleak post-nuclear landscape, Panem is a grim post-climate change world where instability and scarcity have led to massive bloodshed.

Read the full review.

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Catching Fire by Suzanne CollinsCatching Fire by Suzanne Collins
It’s a deep burn, so deep.
Status: Available

“CATCHING FIRE” IS A CLASSIC second entry in the sci-fi, fight-the-power-trilogy tradition. Whereas in the first round people must begin to resist and reluctant, unlikely heroes must come into their roles, the second must show the battle essentially started, with sides chosen and things at their most grim. The full might and cruelty of the bad guys must be demonstrated and the good guys must realize and be daunted by how hard it is to chew what they have bitten off. In the model of “The Empire Strikes Back,” the middle entry is usually also the best of the three.

“Catching Fire” meets most, if not all of these criteria.

Read the full review.

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Still Available: A Visit From the Goon Squad

Slate’s Audio Book Club has posted an interesting discussion on Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit from the Goon Squad.” In addition to pointing out that Egan was inspired by The Sopranos and Marcel Proust, the reviewers wonder if “Goon Squad” is somehow structured like a Facebook page.

If you want to find out for yourself, the book is still available at Trade Paperbacks. 

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A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer EganA Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Jackie is a punk. Judy is runt. They both got disillusioned by the Information Ay-age.
Status: Hey ho, let’s go.

JENNIFER EGAN’S “GOON SQUAD” TRIED TO SOUR ME with opening chapters about a young New York neurotic and an aging record producer whose primary function seemed to be to reminisce about, i.e. name drop, old punk bands. I’m glad I persevered, though, because “Goon Squad” is an exceptional book about aging, identity and remembering. In subtext, the story is about much of what Proust wrote about (Egan quotes him at the opening of the book). In actual text, “Goon Squad” is loosely about music, which is so effective as a vehicle because 1) it is so readily nostalgic for so many people and 2) because it is the form of media that has gone through the most revolutionary and resisted changes as a result of digital technology, a struggle repeated by many of the people in the novel. Egan weaves together the colliding chronologies of a constellation of characters (can you tell the rum is working?) in different chapters, each written in their own distinct style. This is, at times, as obnoxious as it sounds; but for the most part it’s riveting and expertly crafted. Egan even managed to overcome my strong reluctance to predicted technologies of the near future. In a few of the chapters that spin her narrative forward into years that haven’t happened yet, she draws some not so unreasonable logical conclusions from today’s cutting edge gadgets, and doesn’t push the envelope too far in most of her imaginings. A Nine-Inch-Nails song from some uncertain year ahead is called “Ga Ga” in order to appeal to toddlers and infants who can now download songs with the push of  button; this feels a little extreme. Yet, a chapter from the perspective of an adolescent girl in the 2020s is written in some variation of power point slides. Her mother, who we have met before, complains about this kind of writing, and that seems just about right.

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