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Eat the Document: A Novel by Dana Spiotta

Eat the Document: A Novel (2006)

by Dana Spiotta

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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
It's been a long time since a book really touched me. I want to make a pun about bombing my heart, but Eat the Document is way too subtle for that. I am so glad I read Stone Arabia before this because Stone Arabia book feels like a little offshoot of this one. Eat the Document has much more scope and accomplishes so much more. It does kind of feel like Spiotta is purging herself of all her thoughts about the American left. But at its bombed out heart Eat the Document is a love story between Mary and Bobby. Where to go from here? Please take your time Dana and write something better than Dissident Gardens.

I listened to the audio and the big reveal would have been wonderful if I didn't already know the plot. Rachael Warren does a great job shifting between decades and voices--not an easy job for a reader.

And there is a bunch of music snob fandom BS thrown in too and I love that. ( )
  librarianbryan | May 17, 2015 |
I don't know why I thought this was so soulless, but it wasn't enjoyable or satisfying, and if there were some way I could re-gift it, I probably would, because my shelves don't have space for something I'm not going to take off them. So to speak. ( )
  cricketbats | Apr 18, 2013 |
Well worth the read even though I'm not ranking it as a classic or anything. What happens when underground 60's radicals meet wannabe poseur radicals in the 2000's? Lots of thoughts on what it means to protest. ( )
  periwinklejane | Mar 31, 2013 |
In 1972, a young woman called Mary (then Freya, then Caroline) goes on the run after involvement in bombing the houses of executives of companies involved in producing munitions for the Vietnam War. The novel alternates between her story and that of a group of people in the 1990s - three in their forties and the rest young people with varying degrees of alienation.

So, is this a book about the decline in activism since the 1970s? I can't make my mind up. On the surface, yes - there is some pretty heavy-handed satire on disaffected 1990s youth. But at the same time, the 1970s narrative effectively shows the wide range of approaches to the counter-culture, from the deeply committed and active to the people who were attracted for the lazing around and smoking drugs.

In fact, the 1970s storyline is much more interesting - both the way that Mary is affected by having to go on the run (having to discard her identity, and never sure that she has any future) and in the spectrum of how the counter-culture affected different groups of people. The 1990s story, as I said, is mostly heavy parody, but reading parody of something I know almost nothing about feels quite exclusionary!

There were a couple of interesting ideas - I liked a thread of conversation about why people choose to dress a certain way: "to remind you of who you want to be", because "you get treated in a certain way and it helps you become what you want to be", or so that "you control what people believe about you". But overall it didn't hang together.

Recommended for: someone who believes that kids today just appropriate radical imagery with no understanding of what it really means! ( )
1 vote wandering_star | Sep 5, 2009 |
My sister recommended this book, said it was different and interesting. I thought it had some redeeming qualities such as Mary's life on the run, but the passages about Henry made no sense and I really disliked the music and counter culture bookstore parts. I did not clearly understand the end so I will ponder this but not comment further so as not to spoil for other readers. ( )
  lindawwilson | Jun 14, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0743273001, Paperback)

Mary Whittaker and Bobby DeSoto have constructed lives for themselves like Popsicle-stick houses: brittle, unfurnished, painstakingly assembled but made to be snapped apart or abandoned in a moment. The main characters of Dana Spiotta's magnificent second novel, Eat the Document, they were once in love, but spend all but a few pages of the book intentionally distant and out of communication--fugitives after executing a political bombing in the '70s that went awry. Moving often, changing their names more than once, they had to cut off any friendship as soon as it blossomed emotionally and seemed to demand authenticity. Now, in the 1990s, Mary's 15-year-old son Jason (a '70s music buff) begins to uncover his mother's dangerous secret. "Incidentally, if you have never stalked someone close to you, I highly recommend it," he confides in his journal, "Check out how it transforms them. How other they become, and how infinitely necessary and justified the stalking becomes when you realize how little you know about them."

More than a portrait of life underground, Eat the Document derives its power from an implicit comparison of '70s radicalism to the pale protests of present-day consumer culture, somehow upholding the idealism and commitment of the earlier period without advocating its violent methods. Spiotta never lets the novel feel like a history lesson or a diatribe. Its social critique is enacted chiefly through Nash (the former Bobby), whose resistance has mellowed to amused observance of the radical Seattle youth who frequent the independent lefty bookstore he runs. Nash redefines the term "activist" by facilitating a number of brilliantly conceived groups that rarely execute their plans. The Radical Juxtaposeurs, for example, "rent films from Blockbuster and dub fake commercials onto the beginnings of the tapes to imply dislocated, ominous, disturbing things," while the Barcode Remixers "made fake bar code stickers that would replace ones. Everything rang up at five or ten cents. This was strictly for the chain, nonunion supermarkets."

Eat the Document moves back and forth in time, like a fishnet pulling through water, tantalizing the reader with glimpses of Mary and Bobby's past. There are plenty of surprises, not so much in the details of the bombing plot but in the shifting culpability of the actors. Above all, this is a grown-up novel about late adolescence, and about what we take with us‹and what we jettison--on the journey from passionate, reckless youth into seasoned (or soiled) middle age. --Regina Marler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:51 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Dana Spiotta has written a novel about a fugitive radical from the 1970s who has lived in hiding for twenty-five years. Eat the Document is a story of activism, sacrifice, and the cost of living a secret. In the heyday of the 1970s underground, Bobby DeSoto and Mary Whittaker - passionate, idealistic, and in love - design a series of radical protests against the Vietnam War. When one action goes wrong, the course of their lives is forever changed. The two must erase their past, forge new identities, and never see each other again." "Now it is the 1990s. Mary lives in the suburbs with her fifteen-year-old son, who spends hours immersed in the music of his mother's generation. She has no idea where Bobby is, whether he is alive or dead. Shifting between the protests in the 1970s and the consequences of those choices in the 1990s, Dana Spiotta explores the connection between the two eras - their language, technology, music, and activism. Eat the Document is an important and revelatory novel about the culture of rebellion, with particular resonance now."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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