Chuck Klosterman's "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs," and Nnedi Okorafor's "Binti"

The above image has nothing to do with the post, even obliquely, I just thought it was cool. I love maps. 

Recently, my friends have offered some intriguing suggests as to what I should read next. My friends seem to have highly specialized tastes as none of my local book stores carry any of the three books they suggested*. So, last week, I picked up a copy of Chuck Klosterman's "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs." It's a collection of clever essays on pop culture. When he's on, I absolutely love Klosterman's ability to take a single goofy idea and flesh it out into a monster of snark. 

When he's not at the top of his game, he can get a little cringe-worthy. Pop culture criticism, unless it is the finest example of the genre, has an expiration date. What was edgy and provocative looks silly and obtuse in the rear-view mirror, especially when some of it has a whiff of sexism. Remember the Seinfeld episode where Kramer ticked off his produce vendor and Jerry had to guy and buy those weird, exotic foods like mangoes and plantains? Some of it reads like that, or even like an old blog post by a guy like, um, me, only slightly less embarrassing.

What was most intriguing to me was the essay on journalism. The change in tone when Klosterman went from writing about things he'd seen and started in on things he done was easily the highlight of the book. I'd love to read an entire book on subjects Klosterman can write about with that level of authority, but alas, this one wasn't it.

I finally found a copy of Nnedi Okorafor's Hugo award winning "Binti" on Tuesday and, an hour later, I was looking forward to the sequel because I'd finished it. I'm a big fan of novellas, but I wish "Binti" had been just a little longer. 

That's about the only complaint I can think of.

Okorafor's a fine storyteller, and if the arc of "Binti" is pretty familiar, it's well-told and the pages fly by. Her prose is tight, her pacing is brisk without being rushed, and the characters have a life of their own. However, what sets this story above other YA space operas is the imaginative, world-building. This is not yet another universe where everyone is a white American painted with a slightly different skin color or given names to suggest a diversity where none really exists.

I love it.  I picked up the sequel today and I expect to tear through it almost as quickly. 


* "Principato" by Tom McHale, George Alec Effinger's "When Gravity Fails," and "Wake Up, Sir!" by Jonathan Ames. McHale is so obscure that I had to buy from an Amazon affiliate in England. I love how easy that is now. BTW, my book-buying method, in case you're interested, is:

1. If the author is no longer with us, I'll start at a local used book store.

2. If the author is still around, or if the book isn't at the used store, I'll go to a local indie bookseller.

3. If all else fails, it's Amazon.