books and reading


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One of my all-time favorite books isĀ The Instructions. Published 10 years ago, it’s a little-known book with only 2000 reviews on Goodreads. But it’s also one I recommend to everyone. So, when I heard that the author had a new book coming out, it was a no-brainer that I was going to buy it. Even better, I was going to do a group reading with the friends that I read The Instructions 10 years ago. And while I think The Instructions is a book a lot of people will enjoy, Bubblegum is just strange enough to be off-putting to the majority of people. I thought it was fantastic, though.

The story follows Belt Magnet (yes, his real name) as he goes through life with voices in his head, struggling with life, and with his beloved Curio named Blank. Uh, what? Belt lives in a version of our world that has no internet, but instead, has flesh-and-blood robots. These Curios serve various purposes- pets, sport, entertainment, drugs, just about anything you can imagine. And they are adorable. As they were described, I kept imagining a hybrid of a hamster, a mogwai, and a fingerling. Belt struggles in various ways to simply be a functioning adult, and even though he is a bit of a sad case, I found myself hoping he would get past all his issues and make something of himself.

As I said, this book won’t appeal to the masses. It’s almost 800 pages, a huge book, and not just Belt’s story. You also read manuals, transcripts, autobiographies of other people, monologues, and thesis papers. I’m not a person who enjoys Infinite Jest, but I am convinced that if people like that book, they’ll love this one. It’s along the same lines, minus the footnotes. Also, the cover is scratch and sniff.



books and reading

The Instructions

Back in 2010, I was a member of The Rumpus Book Club. We were a small group of close-knit people who had a love of books in common. We had never met but formed lasting friendships over our shared interest. I still keep in touch with many of them via social media. Many of us have moved on from the book club (time and money prevented me from staying) but the book club still exists. For $27/month you get a book sent to you every month. You get to read the book together, discuss via a message board, and interact with the author in a Q&A. And the books they select are fantastic. I was one of the first people to read Wild by Cheryl Strayed because of the book club. Fun fact: Strayed was Dear Sugar on for quite some time. Here’s a link to the Book Club if you are interested.

We were warned by our book club editor, Isaac Fitzgerald, (now the Buzzfeed books editor) that we were going to receive a monster book for one of our selections. Shipping was taking longer than usual because the book was gigantic. The only buzz we knew about the book, other than its size, was that it was published by McSweeneys, and involved pennyguns. Intriguing, right? Little did we know the epic we were about to encounter.

The story covers 4 days in the life of Gurion Maccabee, a 10 year old in a Cage program in a Chicago middle school. Gurion may or may not be the messiah, by the way. He is in the Cage program because he has been expelled from other schools and is viewed to be a danger to himself and others. He immediately makes friends with the other Cagers and this is where the story picks up. In these four days, Gurion falls in love with Eliza June Watermark, destroys school property, breaks the heart of another girl, breaks up various fights between friends, starts fights with other friends, loses a best friend, regains a best friend, and aquires a following of Scholars.

Gurion is an Israelite. The religion in the book is woven through in a variety of ways. Not only is Gurion deeply religious, so are many of his followers, especially in the belief that Gurion is the messiah. Gurion never actually states that he is, but he never dismisses it either. And then comes the 11/17 Miracle. This book is over 1000 pages. And, because of the binding and the thickness of the paper, it’s also the biggest book I own. And you spend 800+ pages before getting to 11/17.

The story is written in a unique way. The author, Adam Levin, doesn’t always use quotation marks, so this takes some getting used to. But once you do, the book becomes easier to manage. Over the course of the four days, you get to know Gurion (1st person narrator) well. You learn his wants, needs, passions, and brilliance. To say Gurion is a genius is a mixed bag. He certainly is, but he also causes so much disturbance and emotional trauma to those around him, that he is hard to sympathize with.

There’s no way for me to explain how much I love this book. Even the second time around, the book holds up. There is something lost knowing what the 11/17 Miracle is before you even start the book, but you also go into it loving the characters already. If anyone knows how to contact Adam Levin, please tell him how much I love this book. Gurion is such a rich character. I used to teach gifted and talented kids so Gurion spoke to me on a level that few characters ever do. So, thank you, Mr. Levin, for bringing Gurion to life. WE DAMAGE WE