Monday, January 18, 2016

Essays, only not boring: LUKE SKYWALKER CAN'T READ is a dessert case of deliciousness

Plume Books
$16.00 trade paper, available now

Rating: 3.5* of five

The Publisher Says: “Ryan Britt is . . . the Virgil you want to guide you through the inferno of geekery.” —Lev Grossman, author of the bestselling Magician's trilogy

Pop Culture and sci-fi guru Ryan Britt has never met a monster, alien, wizard, or superhero that didn’t need further analysis.

Essayist Ryan Britt got a sex education from dirty pictures of dinosaurs, made out with Jar-Jar Binks at midnight, and figured out how to kick depression with a Doctor Who Netflix-binge. Alternating between personal anecdote, hilarious insight, and smart analysis, Luke Skywalker Can’t Read contends that Barbarella is good for you, that monster movies are just romantic comedies with commitment issues, that Dracula and Sherlock Holmes are total hipsters, and, most shockingly, shows how virtually everyone in the Star Wars universe is functionally illiterate.

Romp through time and space, from the circus sideshows of 100 years ago to the Comic Cons of today, from darkest corners of the Galaxy to the comfort of your couch. For anyone who pretended their flashlight was a lightsaber, stood in line for a movie at midnight, or dreamed they were abducted by aliens, Luke Skywalker Can't Read is full of answers to questions you haven't thought to ask, and perfect for readers of Chuck Klosterman, Rob Sheffield, and Ernest Cline.

My Review: Well, that was fun. I live in a place where I am both the youngest and toothiest resident, so you can imagine what a pleasure it was to have someone to geek out with, even if his side of the conversation is on dead tree remains and my side (often shouted) scared the Wink Martindale out of the older and less dentally endowed residents.

Points where I agreed with Mr. Britt outnumbered the annoying points where he was so clearly *wrong* that my blood pressure spiked to most unsafe levels. On the sternly delivered advice of a medical professional, I will limit myself to mentioning the merest and mildest of these latter: STOP WITH THE FOOTNOTES ALREADY! WHEN YOU HAVE TO USE THE DOUBLE DAGGER AND THE BOOK IS NOT A LAW BOOK, YOU'VE GONE TOO FAR!!! *ahem* For the typographically challenged, look on p128 in the Doctor Who essay at the third footnote. Seriously now, Mr. Britt, The Mezzanine was published by Nicholson Baker in 1988. That was the last time heavily footnoted light reading was fun.

Oh well, I'm already purple, might as well: Back to the Future?! What the hell?! There are people with such, such, polite words fail me, bland tastes that they're fans of these extremely boring cinematic nap-fests? Assuming you're now nodding, Mr. Britt, brings me to the question, "SO WHAT?? Why waste 15pp on such, such, polite words fail me again, white-bread mouth-breathers' silly addiction?"

*ahem* So, with my ranting, I've proven the market for this book exists and is most broad indeed, if it includes my superannuated self. And as mentioned above, I mostly liked and agreed with his essays, especially "I Know It's Only Science Fiction, but I Like It." The mixed pleasure and pain of an adult idol making time for a personal private conversation...and then whipping out a unforgettable. That's a lesson that will stick.

Essays on Dracula-as-hipster, a metric fuck-ton of Star Wars chatter, not one single word about Firefly because he straight up admits (in one of those pernicious footnotes) that he doesn't like Firefly, encomia of a weird sort piled on the already overpowering piles of plaudits about Sherlock Holmes, Star Trek and Tolkien and comic-book's dizzying how many oars this one, uncloned man has in the waters of geekdom. (I'm certain he's not cloned because if he was the street cred it would give him would necessitate discussing it.) That he makes a living while wending his way through the thickets of prickly fandoms is amazing to me. I'm thrilled and delighted that it's possible to be an essayist whose topic is the entertainments of the hoi polloi. Way too much derivative, repetitive thinking, writing, and publishing has taken place on ever-smaller slices of Highbrow Kultur, and I cheer and clap for all the intelligent analysis finally being applied and celebrated these past two or so decades.

With any kind of justice, Professor Britt's class on the Skywalker clan and its deeper meanings will outpace the registration numbers of Philosophy 201: The Stoics five-to-one. Now all we need to do is get him that university job so he can publish while the moldy oldies perish.

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