AB: So I was watching Firefly, and that girl... River Phoenix? She's awesome.
me: Her name is definitely not River Phoenix.
JL: Her name is River on the show.
me: But not River Phoenix, who was a guy, and who OD'd when he was really young. You know, Joaquin Phoenix, River Phoenix?
JL: Wait, Joaquin Phoenix is related to this River guy?
me: (in my head) I'm a fossil.
AB: Oh, I know, her name is Summer Phoenix.
me: Still wrong.
Later, while playing Taboo:
JL: So, this is a really bad romance movie.
me: The Notebook (and it was the right answer).
But then, I read some great news about Daniel Alarcon getting an award for Lost City Radio. I started reading that novel shortly after quitting my job, and embarking on over a month of tooling around the East Coast and Europe. I finished off the book while I was in Madrid. I would get engrossed in a chapter, and then go to the Reina Sofia, and sort of lost my mind. I stared at Picasso's Guernica, and at a photography exhibit to do with an uprising. There were all these themes of violence and war, and Alarcon's words rattled around my brain as if exclaiming, "See!?!"
What is fascinating about Lost CIty Radio is that it's not about a specific war. It's not even about a specific place. Alarcon took some inspiration from Peru, clearly, but when it gets right to it, it's purposefully blurred, generalized. So much about it is murky. Alarcon purposefully doesn't pick one side as right or wrong. It is war boiled down to its essence, and it is actually most interested in the impact of war, of instability.
There are little quibbles. It's quite obvious what will happen. But it almost doesn't matter, because Alarcon has this way, to me, of getting his world and his characters seeped into you. He does not write with the zany edginess of Junot Diaz. But I think that works for him, because he's not interested in tricking you into getting involved. His style of writing just involves you.
I know I am writing for crap about this. All I can say is that you should give Alarcon a try. And reading about him winning the award cured me of this horrible run I've had of reading and watching mindless garbage. Knowing books like Lost City Radio are out there makes me realize that I should not waste time on trash.
Also, I may be the only medical student on earth that prefers the kidney to the lungs. That is all.