perpetual reading machine

I was going to say something about how much I enjoyed Foreign Babes in Beijing with its shrewd, clever description of Chinese characters as pieces of Lego you can click together in different shapes, and how harrowing Persian Girls is when the author Nahid Rachlin is stolen away from the aunt who has raised her as her own. But then I picked up Jonathan Raban’s Surveillance which is just ridiculously good, Hari Kunzru’s Transmission by way of Dean Gray’s American Edit.

Have you ever seen the INS jail down by Union Station? They’ve got hundreds of Hispanics locked up in there. You see them standing at the bars like animals in cages, crying, yelling out messages to friends and relatives. Every time I go past, my blood ices up. I hate the INS. I hate the INS more than I hate Lee, even more than I hate the fucking FBI. For pure, cold, bureaucratic cruelty, I’d give the INS a perfect ten.

As lots of people have pointed out, this novel captures life in America right now so precisely that there are little shocks of recognition on every page. I got the same narcissistic pleasure from Nick Hornby’s Polysyllabic Spree, which Jamey forced into my hands the other day and which reads just like one of these book-posts only wittier, and about books I personally haven’t already read :)

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