micro-review: The Nudist on the Late Shift

The Nudist on the Late Shift, Po Bronson
(Secker & Warburg, 1999)
ISBN: 0436204770

First, the confession: I didn’t finish the book. It sounds interesting, and the introduction is well written, witty and intriguing. But the book itself quickly turns into a series of self-congratulatory soundbites, that read half way between a screenplay for a straight-to-cable movie and a Women’s Weekly profile piece.

A couple of examples:

Thierry borrows someone’s cellphone to call the airline, trading his return ticket for one to SFO, where he arrives at Gate 22 of the South Terminal at 11:10 in the evening, one suitcase in hand. He’s wearing blue jeans and a green polo shirt…

Scott is a Human Resources’ wet dream. He’s a modern-day Hardy Boy; he wears jungle pants cut off at the knees and a yellow plaid Bermuda shirt, untucked…

Do I need to mention that none of these details are at all relevant to the story, other than as scene setting? And that this sort of prolix waffle is slathered over every single ‘character’? And then there’s the passage of purple prose that made me decide that life was way to short to waste on this book:

Silicon Valley today: get lean, get stripped down, live on nothing. Bare bones. Focus. Be a fighter. Stamina. Ration yourself to one Snickers bar, one jacking off, and one Dilbert cartoon daily.

Wow, what a man!

Yes, the stories themselves are interesting. But the fifty odd pages that I waded through were marred by the constant undertone of look at me! I’m cool, I’m hip, I can write funky stories about Silicon Valley! I’m important too! And the lit/pretentious pissing-on-trees attitude is something I have no desire to subject myself to. The pity is, he can actually write, and has obvious enthusiasm for this subject.

Mind you, there is a warning of his tendency to insert himself into the story in the introduction, when he claims that he is unimpressed by money, and tells us

I don’t go weird around money, and people get less weird around money when I’m there.

This sums his writing up quite well. Even if you’re prepared to accept the first statement (a stretch, but ok, I’ll go along with it), the second is pure ego-tripping. What a waste.

Borrow the book from the library if you like. But I wouldn’t bother to spend money on it.

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