Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Book of Daniel

What's the opposite of a beach read?  Mountaintop read? Glacier in Greenland read? Sometimes "important" authors make things hard.  The Book of Daniel is a historical novel based on the Rosenburgs' life, trial and execution, told from their son's point of view (mostly).  It's ok that I struggled (almost not worth it), this is a topic I wanted to know more about anyway.  While fictionalized, the book provides a narrative set during the Red Scare, which for the modern reader, is becoming a distant memory.  Doctorow blends real people and real events with his fictionalized "Isaacsons."  Oddly, Isaacson is my mother-in-law's maiden name, she isn't Jewish, it's just that her Grandfather's Finnish name was too insane for Ellis Island.  Trust me, some Finnish names are insane.  The real name sounds like a pharmaceutical pain reliever. 

The topic is not what makes this book hard, actually, it is what made me keep reading.  What makes it hard is the that the whiplash narrative is told from first person narrative to third person, the timeline is mixed up, the first person narrative is told from multiple characters, it mixes memoir, standard narrative, political satire and analysis.  It makes the reader need a Finnish pain reliever.  This book is a bit of a slog-fest, espeically at the end.  Written in 1971, this style was either trendy or innovative at the time.  That's what "important" writers do. This was Doctorow's first real book after he quit his day job, which is a really bold move when you think about it.  Like, really bold.  Luckily, it was considered a masterpiece and was a finalist for the National Book Award.  Whew.  And like other important writers like Murakami, it has some of the creepiest least sexy sex scenes I have ever read.    

Accused of beign a Russian Spy in the 50's?  You should drink with a Moscow Mule: 2 ounces vodka, 1 ounce lime juice, ginger beer to taste.  Pour the vodka and lime over ice in either a copper mug (traditional) or highball glass.  Top with ginger beer and garnish with a lime wedge. 

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