Zombie Spaceship Wasteland written and narrated by Patton Oswalt
I don’t know what I expected from this book, but it sure was fun. Oswalt’s book is part memoir, part humor pieces, and part nonfiction narrative. He has a strong, writerly voice with well-crafted sentences and a good sense for storytelling. I enjoyed both the humor pieces and the memoir pieces, particularly his story about working at a suburban movie theater and the chapter about his first headlining gig, at a bad comedy club outside Vancouver. A few more thoughts:
- I really like the role literature seems to play in Oswalt’s life. He’s constantly comparing the situations around him to fiction. My favorite reference, offhand, is his envy of 1984‘s Winston Smith, who never had to decide what he was going to wear. “The same pair of overalls every day? Sign me up!”
- Each chapter has a “full disclosure” clause at the end detailing things Oswalt did while writing the chapter. These sections don’t work very well. They’re sometimes funny, but usually not.
- An early section is built around an R.E.M. album, and Michael Stipe appears to read lyrics from songs off that album. Oswalt apologizes for the contrast between his nasally voice and Stipe’s velvety one.
- The anthropological analysis of lyrics to Hobo songs from the 20s is hilarious. The phrase oatmeal pants is tattoo-worthy, I think.
- The title of the book refers to Oswalt’s theory that high school geeks fall into one of three categories, each with its own attitude about the future and what that means for the present and their approach to the world around them. “Anything we create has to involve simplifying, leaving, or destroying the world we’re living in.” He’s a Wasteland, apparently.
I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. Oswalt’s tight writing and solid use of metaphor push it beyond the average book written by a comedian. I’m going to have to seek out some more of his stand-up, I think.