Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bits Of Me Are Falling Apart by William Leith

If Calvin were an adult, this would be the book he'd write.

This is one of the weirder books I’ve ever read. If the cartoon character, Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes fame,  were to write a memoir, this is what it would look like. In real-time it is just one day in the author William Leith’s life, but it is so riddled with asides and tangents and introspections that this is what makes up the bulk of the book. And like Calvin picturing his body as a machine run by tiny versions of himself at the controls, Leith compares what goes on inside his body, in this case aging, to something random but more tangible like say, newspapers.
“In the human body, DNA is designed in strands, with spare bits at the end of each strand. These spare bits are known as telomeres. But they don’t last forever. It’s as if you have a reservoir of ink to print your newspaper with. One day, the ink looks faint. Another day, it runs out.
Think of the telomeres as ink. Eventually, the telomeres get used up.
When this happens, your manuscript is corrupted. The instructions for repairing your cells start to look different. They get denser and thicker, and less elastic.
Your daily newspaper becomes brasher and more vulgar. You become a tabloid version of yourself. Your elegant leader columns are replaced with pages of knee-jerk opinions, recycled old wives’ tales, horoscopes, celebrity bitching, xenophobia, lists of trivia, and gross pictures of Britney Spear’s bottom.” p68
I am looking to find the humor in aging - even (or especially) dark humor. I picked up this book because it looked appropriately quirky; it reads like an attention deficient twelve-year-old with a nervous twitch. Actually, Leith sounds a lot like me when I have a deadline: he’s all over the map, turning over proverbial stones, gazing out the window at the gathering rain clouds, pondering the  mysteries of Easter Island, and contemplating . . . well, contemplating  anything but the task at hand.
It’s quite funny and he makes it so you can’t not read, even if to just find out where his mind has wandered off to now.

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