Jonathan Miles, Want Not

want not book cover

Nutritionists tell us that when we go to a buffet, we eat more than if we order a single dish a la carte. This is because when we go to a buffet we are able to alternate between different foods with different flavors (bacon, french toast, eggs, muffin, etc.) Presented with all of that variety means that we are less easily satiated than when we sit down with a single bowl of plain oatmeal.

That’s the way reading Jonathan Miles’ Want Not felt. Like a buffet table I couldn’t leave. Miles weaves several very different characters and scenarios together but doesn’t cinch them closed until the very last moment in the book.

It makes for compelling reading. A story that seems to be about all the traces of ourselves —trash and otherwise — that we leave behind on this planet. In the end, I’m not quite sure what Miles’ point is about what we leave behind and whether it has any real applicable guidance to how we live our lives, but it does get you marinating about the comet trail of debris we leave in our wake as we burn our way through our lives.

Also, that much of it takes place in NJ means that the characters, the scenes, the scenarios – from the dumpster diving freegans to the McMansion-dwelling weirdos to the small university academic types — are all easy to imagine.

David Eggers’ review in the NYTIMES is what originally put me on the book.

For my tastes, the book is a bit too now, too temporal. I mostly enjoy books that feel universal, timeless — books that while I’m reading, i could imagine myself reading again in ten years and enjoying and extracting more from because of how I’ve changed, not because of how the world changed. Selfish/solipsistic reading is my bag, I suppose.

Anyway, very hard to put this book down. Totally worth a read if you need a break from the classics or non-fiction (as i did).