Before I move on, a few last reviews are pleasantly stuck in my craw that simply must billow forth. Three reviews total. Jonathan Franzen's new novel, the film "The Social Network" and the generally undisturbed state of the State of Wisconsin. On some level I will do a great disservice to everything I've written here over the last nearly 6 years unless I offer something on how I experienced them all.
Franzen's novel "Freedom" has received more advance blather and inspired more critical backflips than any book in years. I can only imagine what sort of team of publicists his publisher employed on this roll out. No expense has been spared, no media placement seems too far afield, no advertising crossover will be neglected. Hello, Orpah. On steroids. Yet none of that means a damn thing when it comes to the book itself. I'd be wasting everyone's time if I tried to sum it up better than the masterful Michiko Kakutani did back a few months in the NYTimes. But I will offer my own rating - a larded and fried yet not especially fulfilling C. Skill counts for a lot. There should be no surprise in my concession that Franzen has skill up to and coming through every available orifice. Yet in the end, there's only one way to judge a book outside of all the out-sized praise and obligatory book club choice-worthy guilt applied in heaps. In effect, any reader must ask whether the book was a pleasure to read - no matter what form that pleasure might take. In that, "Freedom" is most certainly a disappointment. And given all the bunk piled on top of Franzen's efforts which I surely hope he did not ask for, I don't expect his work will do any good for the field from which novels spring. If anything, such poorly-paced, over-stuffed compendiums of properly topical references bore the snot out of readers and probably make it tougher for unnoticed writers to get traction in even a small way. Just imagine how many editors and assistants had a hand in this puppy. Not that I begrudge Franzen his stranglehold on the zeitgeist. I just hope people take the time for pleasures that don't require a front-page spread in "TIME" to break through. If you have limited time for reading, don't bother with this one. Oprah makes mistakes, too. Oh...am I still typing out loud?
"The Social Network" is equally everywhere, although in a totally different realm of exposure. The subject (Facebook, of course) and the world's obsession with it makes this film the least surprising hit since the invention of fried dough. I will concede that it is truly entertaining and paced with the sort of bracing mastery that movies just don't bring all that often. My rating is a snarky B-plus. The only cut against the grain of praise from me comes in the form of that moment when I realized how much of a trifle this whole Facebook obsession represents. Namely (spoiler alert, without details) when Justin Timberlake's character gets in trouble. If you haven't seen it, you won't be surprised in the least. But the point of my snark is that when the bloom comes off his rose, the whole doggone movie looks about as epic as a six-month dental cleaning. There's no denying that Facebook is a killer, ubiquitous app - worth bazillions and growing everyday. And somewhere out there right now, there's another complex prick working on a better next-biggish thing in his dorm room that will also become a verb in just a handful of years. That thing will be worth two-plus bazillions. The people behind it will do stupid crap. We'll be told that the mere existence of "it" says something about all of us. And on and on and on. I'll just bring it around and say that as far as popular entertainment goes, "The Social Network" is the full hoot. Harvard hasn't looked this sexy since the invention of beer. Still, the movie's the artistic equivalent of a full run through the tasting menu at a smoking hot new tapas bar along with a few pitchers of awesomely strong sangria. The next day, you can't stop talking about it while knocking back coffee after coffee with an unhealthy mix of Advils and vitamins. Then something comes up. Life goes on. And you forget what the big buzz was or even if you really remember what happened. Still, go see it. It's delicious.
Finally, some of you who've read what I've put up here over the years might care that I had a recent week-long spin through my homeland - the often time-capsule authentic seeming State of Wisconsin. I saw loads of good people, most of whom seemed surprised to see me looking leaner yet not at all meaner. I hung out in all sort of old haunts. In effect, I had a just-long-enough trip down memory lane without anything like a bucket list or totally killer mix tape personal soundtrack swelling in the background. It was just great to see Sconnie in the fall. So there's no better time for me to fully acknowledge that I'm moving on. This is truly it for andthefamilybuick. I've done what I wanted to do here. After today, you can continue to follow me in perpetuity at my website - don't laugh, there's not been much focus on the there there. Thus far, at least. Don't expect to see another blog from me. I've sometimes loved the gig. I've also sometimes hated the gig. But the gig is up. Thank you so so much for reading. The archives will stay up so long as there's a Blogger (thanks to them for all the hosting over the years!). So please search what I've done here before. I hope you'll look for what I do in the future. The books are coming, I promise. One last thing - please know that I do this for you. I'll always try to remember that. Come what may. Rock on.