BY SEAN CLARK
Author: Lawrence Shainberg
The Two Dollar Radio Movement, 2008
Best eBook Deal: Not Available
Right off the bat, I’ll tell you that the eponymous crust are boogers. This book is mostly concerned with snots and all things nosepicking. Nonetheless, Crust is a cleverly written satire, so while the topic at hand is nosepickery, the novel lampoons many more salient topics in an intelligent and at times hilarious manner.
The book is a work of metafiction presented as the newest academic work by one of the world’s most prolific writers. After writing end-all authoritative books on just about every subject under the sun Walker Linchuk is so besieged by writer’s block that his literary career has deteriorated to rambling blog posts, which he writes while idly picking his nose. Walker has an epiphanic moment during one such pick: he realizes his normally churning mind clears of everything, allowing him to achieve a zen space-out he finds euphoric (the state will even prove orgasmic for some). He decides this nirvana may be the apex of intellectuality, and thanks to the response he gets after blogging his thoughts, soon finds he is not the first to come to this conclusion. He quickly finds himself with more reading material about nosepicking than even a super scholar like he can handle. Beginning with the heavy hitters Nasalism and Anitnasalism, he dives into study and writes this dissertation on crusts.
Shainberg portrays nosepicking (and the associated doofus imagery of someone with a finger up their schnoz) as the height of human intellectual achievement and in doing so digs at modern academia and erudition in the internet age. The book is portrayed as written about a decade from now, when most written word is accessible online and the blogosphere allows people to compare thoughts and ideas about things instantly, as soon as they are available to be commented upon. The whole book cross refrences iself against a fictionalized bibliography, and takes quotes from and compares ideas against books and blog posts and articles and YouTube uploads supposedly not yet created, in some cases by true-life people (such as Norman Mailer and John Updike).
There is a lot of subtextual humor buried in the footnotes and woven into the ironies of the plotting, but along with this is some outright funny stuff that even casual readers will chuckle at. For instance, Walker’s best friend since they roomed together in college is George W. Bush, who’s been recupperating from depression in a clinic since the end of his presidency. They keep up through comedically terse IM chats, mostly discussing blog postings and nosepicking and beer.
For anyone who enjoys this type of book, Crust will please as both a clever read and a subtly hilarious satire. The same will go for readers more interested in more academic books and academics who do a lot of research on the internet rather than the stacks. Other readers might find the book tedious, but they’d do will to give it a try.