I always look for book recommendations. I have terrible follow through on actually reading many of these books. I also like to browse book stores for interesting titles though I find most books to be a bit too expensive for my pocket. This is where a used book shop tends to be the idea situation. The problem is, in Springfield, Illinois, the closest thing I can get is a Goodwill store and the selection tends to be 90% “trashy romance novels”.
When i finally get to go to a real “metropolitan style” book store with plenty of kooky atmosphere and more books than I could read if I had a lifetime of nothing but reading, it’s not surprising that I actually came away with a few things to read.
Ok, most of that probably didn’t make much sense. I should probably scrap it and start over but that’s not really my style.
Anyway, one book that caught my attention was one called simply “Geeks’” by one, Jon Katz. A bit of later research shows that Jon Katz seems to mostly write about dogs these days. The book itself as well as this research suggests that he once wrote for Rolling Stone and Slashdot, though I am not familiar with his work. Truth be told, i thought this book was written by the guy who did that cartoon a few years ago.
The book’s tag line, and plot in a nutshell is “How Two Lost Boys Rode the Internet out of Idaho”. This is in fact, more or less the entirety of the book’s plot. Surprisingly, the book is based on real life and is, surely with the usual writer’s twist, a true story. After completing the book I actually looked up the protagonists in Google and found Facebook pages for both of them as well as a few articles.
Plot aside, this book is more a bit of a look into the idea of Geeks and what makes a Geek. Or more accurately, a Geek in the late 90s. Today’s Geeks are more akin to the ones predicted by the book, which just goes to show how accurate the geeks of the past really were. I personally loved this book immensely, save one little bit I’ll touch on later.
The biggest draw, for myself, is that I am highly sympathetic to the character of Jessie. Not so much as some downtrodden rural geek trekking out for adventure, but more the common interests around the same time period as well as the whole concept and evolution of being an “enlightened geek”. that is to say, someone who is a geek, with the interests and quirks of being a geek, who had taken it upon themselves to escape from the prison that many geeks put themselves in.
Anyway, it also probably helps with my connection to the main character that, as near as i can tell, he’s more or less the same age as I am. So a shared mindset with a fairly even keep push of the same levels of technology certainly makes for someone i can relate to. I mostly put this out there for the point of, your mileage may vary. Like I said, this is more about the Geeks of yesterday than today. Geeks of today are much more “out there” and “acceptable” what with all the Twitters and iPhones and Facebooks.
My one main complaint about this book can actually be easily avoided. I admittedly, skipped half to a third of the preachy Chapter 10. This chapter takes a total tangent from the rest of the story to preach about the “persecution” of geeks after the Littleton Colorado school shooting. It’s mostly letter after whiney letter. This sort of Emo crap drives me nuts with it’s hypocrisy and cry babyness. I mentioned about sharing much with Jessie and being able to strongly identify with lot of his thought and background. Being in school slightly ahead of the Colombine shooting probably does alter my perspective a bit as well. Here’s the issue though I’ve always had with the kind of people who have their letters in this book. When you cry about how dumb the “jocks and preps” are with their rituals like “football and prom” and go on about how you are so different and so much smarter than them and how you just want to do blah blah blah because it makes you different, you’re being a hypocrite.
You’re applying the same sorts of labels being applied to you with negative connotations. You’re judging people completely based on stereotypes. That was one thing as a “geek” in High School I made sure was better. A short bit of background, I was on the whole whiney outcast path in Middle School. I got beat up by the bullies etc. Between 8th and 9th grade, my family moved a state away. I took this opportunity to “reinvent” myself a bit. The end result was that I was friends with pretty much everyone on some level while still retaining my geekyness. By the time I had a job at 16 I was already shoveling tons of money at plastic crap and each paycheck my best friend and I would go blow our cash on video games and Star Wars CCG cards. Did I mention my best friend was Center on a football team that played in the Hosier Dome at State one year?
Anyway, the entire Columbine chapter doesn’t fit at all with the story itself, in fact, jumping from chapter 9 to 11 doesn’t feel as if anything even remotely has been left out. It was clearly shoved in as an after thought. It’s also a shame that the event has somewhat spoiled the book as without it we may have gotten to go a bit farther along in Jessie’s exploits and life.
On the other hand, is an autobiography of a mostly nobody 20 something Geek in college any interest to anyone besides another (at the time period of the book, IE year 2000) 20 something geek in college?