October 25, 2009



238 pages

9 x 8 x 0.7 inches

Binding: Paperback

Publication Date: 10/13/2009

ISBN 978-1-4165-9473-4

Purchase from amazon.com by clicking here.

If you were an alien from another galaxy needing a crash guide to the underpinnings of US pop culture, you couldn’t find a better guide then The Onion’s new book, Inventory. I have always enjoyed the A.V. Club reviews of music, movies and books in “America’s Finest News Source.” They may be hip and ironic but their analyses are always insightful. Now here is a catalog of that department’s occasional groupings. Enjoy such things as “6 Keanu Reeves movies somehow not ruined by Keanu Reeves,” “26 songs that works as short stories,” “15 Dr. Seuss characters that sound like sex toys, “5 essential books about film,” “25 sure signs that a sitcom is terrible,” etc. etc. Unless you are a big fan of movies about dancing or terminal illness, this book will send you to Netflix or your local DVD rental store without fail.

Plus it got me into the library site. Let’s face it, most bookstores have long forgotten Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book and Tom Robbins’s Even Cowgirls Get the Blues both adroitly featured here in “14 must-read books for aspiring young rebels.” And what about Kurt Vonnegut. He formed our lives. Inventory reminds us how he wrote in Mother Night, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” If nothing else this compilation shows us that we have not progressed as much as we like to think. We just conveniently forget the old contexts. The A.V. gang isn’t letting us. Some of their smart-ass gives way to the profound. Stop for a minute and think of books or movies that you think define the decades of the past, then take a look at their lists and the rationale for each. Here’s a snippet on Pulp Fiction, for example, “The twentysomethings who watched Pulp Fiction dozens of times over weren’t just looking for cool movie characters, they were returning repeatedly to a cinematic universe that imbued the detritus of their youth—the theme restaurants, the movie quotes, the meaningless banter about trivia—with meaning.”

Though there is depth, the scope of material is limited (to the media as high art and beautiful trash). I don’t see this as a shortcoming, but rather as a challenge to the rest of us to think and talk and write about our lives instead of being satisfied with the usual gloss. Inventory’s format is fun, assessable, and always stimulating. I like the “heaven” and “hell” listings across the top and bottom of very page contrasting “RSS feeds” with “pop-up ads”; “New Yorker cartoons” with “New York Post headlines”; “wood” vs. “particleboard.” This volume has an honored a well-deserved, permanent place in my bathroom. It’s too good not to go back to. There’s even a section titled “50 list ideas we rejected for this book.” I’m sure our interplanetary traveler would have enjoyed, “Hey, its Harvey Keitel’s penis: 5 films with uncomfortable nude scenes.”

One of my personal favorite pages is “8 more recently rediscovered Tennessee Williams plays” (the authenticity of which is suspect). Piggyfriend—a young invalid befriends a basketball-playing pig, and they go on to win the state championship. “In the final moments of the championship the invalid dies off screen. An unnamed character enters and tells the pig the news, but the pig doesn’t understand, because he is a pig. The pig also doesn’t understand that he’s just won the championship, for the same reason.”

φ φ φ φ (four roses out of five)        –  John Lehman


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: