Sunday, February 14, 2010

Brittaney Recently Finished {Pharmakon}:

Now I am all fired up about writing, so I thought I would take a swing at my first review! Its kind of an unofficial book review for our club since we haven't come to a consensus on what to read first. Hopefully that will kick off in March. (See My Suggestions below) Nevertheless, I finished this novel over my breakfast of egg whites and green tea just this morning, so while it is still fresh, I wanted to dive in.

PHARMAKON {or the story of a happy family!} by Dirk Wittenborn {2008}

I think what struck me the most about this book was the opening. Authors work for years mastering the hook. What exactly will get a reader past the first 60 seconds of reading to the next 6 days of book munching?

Clearly a master at fiction, there can be no doubt that author Dirk Wittenborn {or his editor!} edited and reedited until he was able to capture this reader. Posing questions and only answering them with more questions, Wittenborn, like his protagonist plays mind games with his audience, luring them into a sense of security and familiarity, just like a good psychiatrist should. But is Dr. Will Friedrich a good psychiatrist? By the end of the novel it is clear that Friedrich is brilliant, & by all standards “good” at analyzing and studying his fellow human beings, but it’s what he does with his finding; how he manipulates and alters the fates of all those in his life that really must be examined.

In the first scene, we are made to immediately trust and like Friedrich. He is the underdog, carving out his own niche among the snob of Yale academia. Will is everyman: he is bright and fresh, ambitious, not ruthless. Yet, I think this is also a good metaphor for the first time setting of the novel: 1952.

I always think of the 50’s as a wholesome age. True Americana and national pride bursting from sea to shining sea. Hula hoops, doo-wop, ice cream floats, and poodle skirts. But what I forget, and what Wittenborn subtly reminds us all, is that 1950s America had seen two world wars, the most recent ending in the most devastating atomic assaults. America is not naive, we are just in shock. It would be years before post traumatic stress disorder is formally diagnosed, I think Wittenborn is alluding to this among the plethora of psychological jargon and disorders he illuminates in his book.

The book follows the Friedrich family as they transition through the decades facing all kinds of issues. Anyone who has ever complained about the head games their parents play will appreciate latter half of the novel. And by "everyone" I mean those who have been raised by passive aggressive Catholic parents, but also really everyone.

I totally recommend this book. I think it would also make a great movie or miniseries. This is probably due to the fact that Dirk is a writer for HBO.

Oh! Also, fun fact about the book, it is loosely based on Dirk’s life. So the adage is true: write what you know!

1 comment:

  1. B...This sounds so kooky, I can't wait to read it!


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