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Eat The Document – Book Review

Anyone can start a new life, even in a small town. Everyone moves so much these days. You get a divorce, you move and start over. Try it. See how little people ask about you. See how little people listen. Or, more precisely, think about how little you really know about the people you know. -From Eat The Document, page 198-

Dana Spiotta’s novel, Eat The Document, is an edgy expose` on the American countercultures of the early 70s and late 90s. The story revolves around Mary Whittiker and Bobby Desoto, two idealistic and passionate characters who get caught up in the radical Vietnam protests of their time. Told from multiple points of view and leaping back and forth in time from the heady days of the early 70s to the angst driven world of the late 90s, the novel uncovers Mary and Bobby’s rebellion gone awry and the reinvention of their lives as they go underground.

Spiotta excels in the development of her female characters and portraying the intricacies of relationships and how those complexities shape one’s decisions.

This was the power of a couple – their doubts occurred at different times and canceled each other out, making them much more fearless as a pair than they would ever be on their own. And that’s how a life changes – it could go either way, and then it just goes one way. -From Eat The Document, page 229-

I must admit to being somewhat impatient with Spiotta’s exploration of some of her male characters – especially Jason, who I found annoying and overwritten. Jason perhaps encapsulates the angst of youth, but his intellectualizing and preachiness reminded me he was a character in a story rather than bringing him to life on the page.

I am the center of the culture. I am genesis, herald, harbinger. The absolute germinal zero point – that’s me. I am the sun around which all the American else orbits. In fact, I am America. I exist more than other Americans. America is the center of the world, and I am the center of America. I am fifteen, white, middle class and male. -From Eat the Document, page 123-

Spiotta laces her novel with a subtle and sarcastic humor which saves it from becoming just another overly serious interpretation of the Vietnam years and the rebellion of America’s youth.

Miranda also began to notice things in the meetings Nash led (or “facilitated,” because naturally there were no leaders). They were held on Tuesday and Thursday nights under Nash’s highly mannered and hermetic nomenclature: SAP (Strategic Aggravation Players and/or Satyagraha by Antinomic Praxis); or the Neo Tea-Dumpers Front; or Re: the “Re” Words – Resist, Reclaim, and Rebel; or the “K” Nation (single-tactic group that merely inserted the letter k or removed the letter k – dislokations were what they called them – to cause psychic discomfort and disturbances. As in blac bloc instead of black block, or Amerika instead of America. They sent out ransom-note-style missives to unnerve their targets: Welkome, konsumers! you have been under attac. Better watch your bac, et cetera). -From Eat The Document, page 62-

Eat The Document is a smart, witty novel that falls just shy of being very good.

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