Monday, September 3, 2012

These Books Will Change Your Life - Office Girl and The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno.

Travel. Read. Read more. Read Joe Meno. A lot of Meno. When we heard about the release of Office Girl and what Meno had to say about it, we got excited to read Meno which we hadn't done in awhile. In fact, The Boy Detective Fails had been sitting on the book shelf for some time. Now why it was sitting on the shelf had been somewhat of a mystery to us. But as we have thought about it, we think it has something to do with our moving to Chicago and wanting to write. Not knowing how to start. Then even when we started not knowing how it was going to work. And Joe Meno, who wasn't quite the Joe Meno he is now yet, all pre-Hairstyles of the Damned as he was, was everywhere. Writing for Punk Planet and THE2NDHAND. Doing readings. Interviews.  Approachable at parties. And all of it, the writing, how he talked about writing, it was all so interesting, and we really wanted to absorb some of this energy in some fashion, any of it. At some point we drifted though, still following him and still inspired by his output and curiosity, but less sycophantic and less desperate, we hope, and ultimately, maybe, needing to reject him in some fashion to move forward ourselves. Reading about Office Girl spoke to us though, which got us to pluck the Boy Detective from the shelf, and now both books were sitting there, and there was travel, and read, and here we are, so happy to have revisited Meno and his myriad gifts as a writer. The thing with Meno, is that there is always a layer of sadness that permeates his work, and loss, always loss, especially in these books, siblings, parents, relationships, and dreams. Dreams in particular have a way of being blown apart in his books, along with that of hope and possibility. You also encounter a longing to make sense of why all this is, how it happened, and where you might go next, even as all of this hangs on you and threatens to drag you down. There are also themes, or tropes, is that the right word, that repeat in both of these books anyway, the color pink, snow falling, people working on telephone sales, bicycles, and pharmaceuticals, and what these mean may not be entirely clear, but they certainly remind us that we are in Meno's world and that not unlike Wes Anderson you always know when you're in his world, the voice and storytelling are that unique. The books are different though as well. Office Girl is a sketch, a fleshed-out sketch mind you, but purposely small, and in terms of time, brief, almost fleeting, an effort to capture relationship as it happens when you are young, on the cusp of something, and crazy to be in something that is sure to implode. All endlessly confusing as these relationships are, full of madness and lust and hunger, this thing we have stumbled into is also full of possibility, because it all so new, and this could be something, something grand, life-changing, and maybe even world-changing, if we can just figure it all out. 
The Boy Detective Fails is something else, however. How life will let you down because it has to, because it is filled with pain, and loss, and the idea that most of what we want can't possibly happen, even when there is genius, and promise, not when so much disappointment and grief gets in the way. It is about more than that as well though, it is also about mental illness, or the idea of it, how debilitating it is, leaving those struggling with it on the outside of things, challenging them to try and makes things as normal as they can, but knowing it just might not happen. In this way we were reminded of Anderson's recent joint Moonrise Kingdom and the children at the center of that fable, they are full of all kinds promise, but seemingly on the verge of much greater struggles. And in this way, the sadness that permeates The Boy Detective Fails is heavier to deal with, and more overwhelming than that of Office Girl. None of which is to say that Meno, like Anderson, doesn't know how to balance all of this with humor and quirk, weirdness and beauty, knowing pop culture references and spot-on dialogue. Because all of this is rampant in all of his work. Something we were happy to be reminded of as we drifted back into Meno's world. And something we hope you will do as well, as it is certain to change your life too, if only briefly.      

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