making love to the minor poets of Chicago
By James Conrad
Thomas Dunne Books
Well frankly, with a title like that I expected a lot more. After all, I love "love", love poetry, and loathe all things Chicago; it made for an interestingly incongruous picture in my mind. But instead of being interesting, I just simply found the book boring. And weird. Actually more weird than boring.
So the basic story is this, a failed poet stumbles upon this opportunity to write a poem to save humanity from the nuclear waste stored beneath Yucca Mountain in Nevada. It seems that someone has been commissioned to paint a painting to be placed at the mountain to warn future generations for the next 10,000 years or so that it's going to take the nuclear waste to lose its dangerousness, and so this poet believes she can convince The Powers That Be that a poem should be called for as well.
So, maybe a slightly interesting premise, but the execution was severely lacking. First of all, the one who wanted to write the poem has to ask a colleague of hers to actually get in contact with The Powers That Be because, oh yes, the colleague's ex-husband is the painter who's been commissioned to do the painting. Since she has an "in", of course, they agree and you would think the story would move forward from here. Instead, it ended up being just a really discombobulated mess of minor storylines dropped in here and there that really had nothing to do with anything.
There was a seriously over-stereotyped group of gay characters linked to the poetry department at the local college. And I mean seriously stereotyped. I was even mildly offended by a scene in the book that is set in a gay bar where the author actually makes fun of the music playing "a groggy male vocalist was whining about someone having blue eyes, green eyes, and gray eyes" (which just happens to be from my very, very favorite New Order song ever!)
At the end of the book, two of the characters take off from Chicago and end up near Yucca Mountain (one of them even volunteering at the nuclear waste facility for a period of time for no apparent reason at all). And then that was the end of the book.
There were a few entertaining scenes written into the book, but really just not much substance or purpose to the story. The review on the back cover called it "the ultimate love story of the nuclear age" (Dale Peck). That one really left me scratching my head. Love story? There was no love story here.