Monday, January 2, 2012

Review: Dirk Danger Loves Life

Disclaimer: This review contains some personal insights that are less than "typical" of other book reviews. I apologize if anyone is offended by the opinions contained in this review.

Rating: 5/5

Read from December 29-Jan 1

This book is absolutely amazing. I got it as an ARC win from a Goodreads Giveaway. The giveaway was in July and I haven't read this until now, for who knows what reason. All I can say is that I really wish that I had gotten to it a lot sooner. This author is new to me, and as far as I know, this is his first novel. It is hilarious, and yet still serious. It had me laughing, and pondering, all within a few pages. Any book that makes you laugh and yet still manages to make you think is excellent.

The first line of the novel is "I suck at life." Doesn't that just grab at you? It made me laugh, and yet at the same time I found myself thinking, "I know that feeling."

It opens on the main character, later to be named Cheeseball who's down on his luck. He happens to call a number he sees on a flyer 555-CHUB and from there he becomes  entangled with Dirk Danger. Dirk Danger is quite the eccentric guy, who at first seems quirky and maybe slightly off, but he grows on you. He sets Cheeseball straight, teaches him a few life lessons and sends him on his way.

At first you may  think that Dirk is just there for comic relief, but there are a lot of layers to Dirk that make him a wonderfully well rounded character. Throughout the novel I found myself wishing that I had a Dirk Danger in my life to help me sort things out.
There are lots of layers to Cheeseball as well and it's fun to see them explored and to watch his growth.

This novel is full of fun word play. One of my favorite examples is that of the menu selections on pages 64-67. The name of the restaurant is Dave's Heavy Artillery and Bakery: Because War is as Common as Sliced Bread

The menu selections all sound delicious and fun at the same time. Just for fun, I'll put together a meal I would have if I were to go there.

First I'd have a salad, the Tossed Greenpeace [We take a traditional green salad and add a violent explosion of fruit flavor! We tossed in some field berries to freak the establishment a little.]Then I'd have the Donair Strike, because donairs are delicious! [Tender, spiced donair meat and vegetables drizzled with tzatziki sauce and wrapped in a thick pita. We recommend the Achilles Heel Salad as a side] although I'd have the Nobel Peace Fries as my side.  And to drink, I'd have a coke.

And finally, for dessert, I'd have the Lenin Meringue Pie [Our revolutionary signature dessert with our patented meringue recipe! Each piece is crafted to perfection and drizzled with a bright Red strawberry sauce]

Doesn't that just sound delicious?

This novel is also  full of awesome metaphor and simile examples.  It also made me think about wordplay in a way that I hadn't before. You'll see what I mean when you get to chapter 10.
Plus , there are conversations with eggs, and cigarettes. Those were probably some of my favorite sections.

In addition to the humor and wordplay this made me think about a variety of issues, that many of us ponder, like making our mark on the world, and how we can keep life interesting.

There were also very interesting comparisons between Canadian and US culture that were very relevant to me personally as I have lived in both the US and Canada.The passage below struck a chord for me and got me thinking about my personal experiences over the last year and a half.This passage illustrates these comparisons really well.

                      "We get so much of our media from the States that we don't really know, or aren't really able to discern, what info is coming from where. When the Tragically Hip are played next to some American rock band on Much Music we assume that they must get the same stuff down there that we do up here. Totally not the case. The Americans keep the foreign influence out, but they send whatever they can of themselves. We take things in, send little out,  and become confused as to what it really means to be Canadian when we realize that after so much has been let in, Canadian culture is something of a chameleon. We're like one great shrug."

There are parts of this that I agree with and parts that I don't wholly agree with, but that's just me.

As an American, I sometimes  found myself somewhat lacking in "culture." But  it can be hard to pinpoint your own culture when you live there, you know? When people would ask, What do you think is culturally "American?" I wouldn't be able to answer. But now I realize that Rothe has a good point. American culture is contained (in my opinion) in what America sends out. In sitcoms, and music, and other media. And in lots of other things too, but I don't want to list them all.

In regards  to the authors view on Canadian culture, Canada does take a lot in, but that's one of the things I love most about Canada. They are very diverse, and accepting. It may seem to some like they are one big shrug, as Rothe describes it, but there are cultural elements that people don't get to see unless they've been here that are genuinely "Canadian" The one thing I disagree with in the passage is that Canadians are confused about what it means to be Canadian. Far from it.

Canadians are distinct and unique. They have a proud sense of themselves, and their nation. They are uniquely patriotic.  They are accepting and diverse, and really polite! (I have to admit the degree of politeness took some getting used to!)

Please note , my views on Canada aren't exclusive. I know that people in the US are all these same things, polite, patriotic etc. There are just subtle nuances between the two that I can't quite put into words. I love the US and Canada, both. I was born  in the U.S. and that will always be my home no matter where I am in the world, but Canada is like a second home to me, and both countries hold a special place in my heart.

I did not intend for this review to stray so much, and I do apologize if anyone was offended by my views,  but it's just a sign of how much this book resonated with me.

There's so much I could say about this book. It's a great read and hilariously funny, and I can't wait to see what comes next from Chris Rothe.

The best thing it made me wonder has to be, why don't I ever get good ideas for stories when I'm doing the dishes?

*Important note: As my copy was an Advanced Review Copy I did check with the publisher to make sure the passages I quoted were accurate  and that it was permissible for me to use them.

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