Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Twitchy With Anticipation: Orange County by Gustavo Arellano

Within a matter of days, Gustavo Arellano's new book, Orange County: A Personal History will be on sale, but that's little comfort to me because I want to read it now.

Fortunately, I have been able to tide myself over with the first chapter. Unfortunately, it's so good that it only makes the waiting worse.

Now, in nearly every case, I'm very skeptical of (and not very polite about) anyone under the age of 40 who writes a memoir. But Arellano has my blessing because, based on what I've read about the book, there isn't going to be a lot of navel-gazing in this personal history. It's a history of Arellano's family (who started sneaking across the border to work thankless jobs for meager wages in 1918), and a history of Orange County, a region of the country that will terrify and amaze you, no matter which side of the culture wars you're on.

And if you read Arellano's weekly syndicated column, Ask A Mexican!, then you know he is occasionally crass, frequently hilarious, and nearly always the smartest guy in the room.

Sometimes he writes passages like this one:

There's no real reason why what you just read and anything that follows relating to my personal life should ever have been published (reviewers: there's a pull quote for ustedes if ever there was one!). The immigrant saga, the coming-of-age rebel yell, the portrait of the artist as a young hombre -- the memoir portion of this book uses those clich├ęs of American letters to tell its tale. But the sad beauty of this country is that we forget. We forget that dumb ethnics assimilate, that they share the goals and dreams of any Mayflower descendant. It takes a snot-nosed, presumptuous minority to kick the United States in its amnesiac britches every couple of years -- consider this your ass boot.

And then mixes them with stuff like this:

Meanwhile, American historians have long dismissed [Orange County] as America's fundamentalist wild, reviled as the place that spawned Nixon, ridiculed for the perfection that drew so many to find lives of leisure. We're historical ether -- invisible but dangerous.

And I am so, so, so excited to read more.

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