Sunday, December 15, 2013

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? : a very short review

Maria Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette? is sort of the fiction equivalent of Beaujolais Noveau, Strawberries at Wimbledon, or a bouquet of roses: it is not meant to be placed on a shelf, stored for later enjoyment; it needs to be consumed and enjoyed now, or it will spoil.

This is not to say that Where'd You Go, Bernadette is an inferior pleasure. It is a comic delight, bubbly and energetic, vivid and captivating. It's just to note that a book which is so thoroughly stylish and au courant runs the risk of being simply baffling to readers just a few years later.

After all, Semple weaves references such as Daniel's Broiler, TED talks, the Microsoft Connector, the Tuba Man, and even Cliff Mass, the blogging weatherman into the book, which is told primarily as a series of emails, tweets, and blog posts.

But underneath all the pop culture references is an engaging story populated with a delightful cast of characters, told with a light touch, a wink, and a smile.

I suspect this story will particularly appeal to the bit jockeys of the world, those who can instantly appreciate a passage such as

Mr. Branch's administrator knocked and asked if Mr. Branch had reviewed a code fix. Mr. Branch looked at his cell phone and shuddered. Apparently, forty-five emails had come in while we were talking. He said, "If Bernadette doesn't kill me, Reply All will." He scrolled through the emails and barked some code talk about submitting a change list, which his administrator furiously copied down before dashing out.
But even if you've never submitted a change list in your life, I think you'll enjoy Where'd You Go, Bernadette?. The holidays are busy times for everyone, but if you have a bit of downtime, and you're looking for something to brighten up your afternoon, and drive away those winter grays, give Where'd You Go, Bernadette? a try.

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