Tag Archives: independent versus corporate

The Monday Book – 21 DOG YEARS: doing time @amazon.com by MIKE DAISEY

I picked this book up at my friend Tina’s independent bookstore in Neenah, Wisconsin (home of the late lamented and dearly loved Annaboo-Bookstore Kitty).Daisey

The book appealed to me on that same guilty pleasure level one feels when a high school friend e-mails that she has news of your ex: he’s fat and just lost his job and moved back in with his parents. That kind of thing.

21 Dog Years isn’t so much kiss and tell as kiss and punch. Daisey, a stand-up comic, leaves very little to the imagination on how weird it was to work for Amazon in the late 1990s. And how little respect he has for the company. So of course I loved it. :]

But beyond that, Daisey has a unique way of cramming too many words into a sentence; this makes you read them in a kind of fascinated concentration with the way he writes. His constructions are magnificent. Perhaps too magnificent, as the book (which is sold on Amazon – HA!) has been described as “truthy” at best. It’s a combination of monologue, wishful thinking, and things nobody says aloud. It’s not all factual, but oh so much of it is accurate.

His timing is a little strange, and that’s saying something for a stand-up comic, I suppose. You can’t always tell WHEN he is in his book, or sometimes what he’s talking about in specifics, but clearly coming through are the feelings of frustration and workaholic dedication for no reason to someone and something that isn’t dedicated to you. And you get some really, really funny vignettes. It’s easy to tell this book grew from a comedy show.

Then, in the last few chapters, all the vignettes and snarky comments and fun “take THAT ya bastard” humor hits its stride–like watching Stephen Colbert take down a pontificating guest so well, the guest doesn’t even know he’s being done. Daisey nails the twenty-first century work ethic, the Rise of Big Corporations, and a few other things about being a wage slave that just sing. He writes emails to Jeff Bezos (never sent) that ask such good questions, you long for a response. “What’s the line between irrational exuberance and fraud? (pg 170)” “Would it have been so hard to build a cool and quirky bookstore instead of a soulless virtual megamall? (pg 208)”

Those who like humor close to the white-hot fire of “Hey, that’s not funny” truthiness and sarcasm rapier-sharp–not to mention those of us sick to death of Bigger is Better B.S.–will enjoy Daisey’s take on life behind the walls of Corporatedotcom.

PS If you’re interested, here’s a rebuttal about Daisey: http://gawker.com/5894525/what-else-has-mike-daisey-lied-about


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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, post-apocalypse fiction, publishing, reading, Sarah Nelson, Uncategorized, writing


The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time

typo huntI picked up this book because a couple of years ago, some friends and I temporarily banded together in an organization called the Guerrilla Grammar Girls. It doesn’t really exist anymore as planned, but I figured the book would be fun.

It was actually a lot more thought-provoking than expected. Jeff Deck is a former magazine editor, his co-author Benjamin Herson a bookstore manager. They did a cross-country road trip looking for and correcting typos wherever they found them: on the beaches, in the stores, and during one encounter with lasting repercussions, at the Grand Canyon.

Deck began to notice, driving about with his companions (Herson for the most part, but his girlfriend rode shotgun for part of the trip) that the places where typos were most likely to occur were the places they most wanted to be, such as mom-n-pops and independent retailers–often in rural areas, but always off the beaten track.

(They must not have visited many Walmarts, I feel compelled to add, or that theory would have died, but never mind, back to the book.)

Their need to correct, uphold, and defend English grammar and spelling got a bit tangled with their wish to understand how mistakes happened in the first place–particularly those pesky apostrophes as possessives versus plurals–but it also got mixed into that afore-mentioned discussion about urban versus rural and corporate versus independent. Was cutting slack for “folksie” demeaning or appropriate? This never really resolved itself in their repeated and rapid-fire dialogues as they traversed the country eating cheap fast food and staying in Econolodges or KOA campgrounds.

What did happen was their correction of a Grand Canyon information sign that was in and of itself, a national monument. Mary Colter was a folk artist who painted the sign in 1932, using womens’ instead of women’s. Deck and Herson had a full-on correction kit, complete with markers, chalk, whiteout and a few stick-on items, which they carried with them into the Canyon. You can guess what happened to the sign. A few months later, they found themselves in court on criminal charges of defacing Colter’s work.

It does strike me as odd Deck and Herson never aligned the significance of folk art, protected heritage, and rural independence a la the Colter sign debacle to their discussion of how independent businesses and rural locations are more likely to produce typos, but there are plenty of other philosophy moments to chew on in this book.

The writing, I say at the risk of being judgmental, is sometimes a bit blowsy, striving for cuteness rather than clarity, yet endearing at points, and entertaining almost all the time. They’re good at capturing the attitudes and diverse reactions of the people they encountered on the trip. Just imagine what it would be like to walk up to people all over the States and say, “Excuse me, but there’s a typo on your sign. Want me to correct if for you?” Some of the responses are pure psychological study, while others are straight stand-up comedy.

If you’re the grammarian about whom mothers warn their children, you’ll enjoy The Great Typo Hunt.


Filed under book reviews, humor, Life reflections, publishing, Uncategorized