Bringing Down the House discussion

brining1Goodness gracious, I am behind!  In my defense, I wrote the post for March about Bringing Down the House, in full, the week after our meeting.  Sadly, tumblr ate it and I was so frustrated that I didn’t re-write it until now.  Lesson learned:  always do the post in word first!  I don’t know how many of our readers are writers too, but for those of you are, I’m sure you can relate with the frustration of knowing that you’ll never remember that perfect turn of phrase you used the first time around or that really funny anecdote that you brilliantly conveyed … so without further ado … here it is (though it’s not nearly as good as the first time around).

In March, Read It & Steep met to discuss Ben Mezrich’s Bringing Down the House.  The book was chosen by Kristin (the steeper who has initially chosen more titles than any other member).  Ever thoughtful, Kristin explained that her reasoning for choosing this title for our teapot was because she knew that Steeper Rachel prefers non-fiction and Kristin (who prefers fiction) thought this looked “mathy and fun.”  Please be aware that our Kristin is an engineer and that many of our other members have never and would never put the words “math” and “fun” into the same sentence.

Not everyone finished Bringing Down the House, but we all pretty much agreed that it never did read like non-fiction and we found that once you gave up on trying to believe everything Mezrich wrote was true, the book became much more enjoyable.  The majority of us had a hard time connecting or identifying with any of the characters, however.  In fact, many of us were just furious at the ambivalence the main character “Kevin” ends up having about money.  He drops 100 grand on two hands of blackjack and we’re supposed to feel sorry for him?  That would take care of my student loans, my car payments, and still take a healthy chunk out of my mortgage!  That being said, it must be incredibly difficult to be raised by an affluent, loving family, to be so brilliant you can practically breeze through MIT … yeah, that’s gotta suck.

The best part of the book for us became the discussion about the economy and our cross generational group enjoyed discussing the disparities of 1996 vs. now.  Those of us who were old enough to remember the affluence of when Silicon Valley really took off, found Mezrich’s story a bit easier to stomach, I think.  For those of us who weren’t really conscious of Money (only money, which was what we needed for trips to the mall to buy the new Ace of Base cassette single) in the mid 90s and only have an idea of Money in times of comparative recession, the excess of those involved didn’t inspire understanding or compassion.

Mezrich’s writing style also got to a few of our Steepers.  Many of us felt that the book read like fiction and that the author included scenes that were not pertinent to the story or even well researched.  There is a wealth of misinformation and blatant lies in Bringing Down the House.  Some of it was funny … for instance, my favorite part of the library book I borrowed was the previous borrowers adding corrections to the text.  Atlantic City is described as, “the ten-mile sandbar that housed the largest gambling center west of Nevada.”  To which a previous reader corrected that Atlantic City is in fact east of Nevada … unless you go the long way round.  Now that’s sloppy writing and poor editing!  There is a lap dance scene which neither progresses nor enhances the story.  It caused our Steeper Angela to cry out, “It’s not even like the lap dance was exceptionally well written!  I’ve read much better lap dances!”

So, I think that’s all that needs to be said about the book.

*Since this book discusses MIT in great detail, I do want to take a moment to remember MIT Officer Sean Collier and the other victims of that horrible week in Boston.  Boston is a wicked good city and we love it (even if we don’t like their sports teams).  Big up to Boston.
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