Eat the Document – Dana Spiotta (2006)

Eat the Document

Eat the Document is the new second novel by Dana Spiotta, that deals with the interesting period of the early seventies and the underground war protest that got violent. The book switches between 1972 and 1998, looking a two young generations attempting to make some sense of the world. The portrayal of the modern teens is pretty interesting, as they are hyper-aware, cynical, and media-savvy, and alone.

This connects to something I heard on a podcast today, David Foster Wallace on the KCRW Bookworm show. Wallace ends by talking about how his students are no longer afraid of being known as obscene or perverse, things that used to be avoided at all costs. That today, the thing that they most want to avoid being seen as is sentimental. That these feelings have been so used and abused by corporations to sell things based on emotion, that it’s very difficult to talk about or write about what it feels like to, say, mourn the loss of a loved one.

Back to the book, as is evident from the dust jacket photo, there’s an undercurrent in the book on female body image and identity. In the acknowledgements, Spiotta thanks Don and Gordon, who I must assume are DeLillo and Lish. ‘Eat the Document’ is the name of a film that was made about Bob Dylan in 1966 during his world tour, a film that was never officially shown. Another current in the book deals with obsessive music collecting/listening, which seems to be a type of escape that some are able to grow out of.

There are linkages here going back to Pynchon’s Vineland, Susan Choi’s American Woman, and Chris Sorrentino’s Trance.

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