Lake Success

Lake Success: A Novel

I almost cried when this book ended. I was sitting in an Air Canada 777, staring straight ahead, unable to move, never mind start reading something else.

Reading was my first love, before baseball, before skiing, before music.

I loved the library. I’d take out seven books at a time. The librarians would always be wary, but when I showed up a few days later for a new stack of books, they began to understand I was a reader.

I remember driving to see my mother’s parents, lying in the wayback of the station wagon, reading “Shortstop On Wheels.” I couldn’t put a book down.

But then my interest shifted to periodicals. And when I discovered “Rolling Stone”…

This was before they broke the Patty Hearst story, before they sent Hunter Thompson on the campaign trail, before the magazine had respectability, before it won awards and became part of the firmament. There was an entire magazine devoted to my interests. And as good as the music coverage was, there were always stories that stuck indelibly in my brain which were off-topic. If it was in “Rolling Stone,” I read it, cover to cover, it was a ritual, it was the highlight of every other week.

And today I get more magazines than anybody I know. It doesn’t make sense to pay for Apple News+ because I’m paying already.

Actually, my interest in magazines has shifted to newspapers, especially since so much of magazine writing is awful, or close to it. Amateurs writing about subjects they’re unfamiliar with. Stories without detail, in an era where information is not scarce, magazines have dropped a notch, trying to be all things to all people and failing. I can get specific information online, usually for free, why should I pay for an ersatz version?

And as my mother says, she can fly coast to coast with only the “New York Times.”

There’s no flight long enough for me. I never buy the wifi, I love being off the grid. But by time I comb through the newspapers, the flight is often over, or it’s time to go to sleep…

Then again, my best reading is done when I’m disconnected, when everybody’s asleep. I spent every night in Toronto reading “Lake Success” for at least an hour, what I really wanted to do was stay in bed and read it all day, it was that good.

“Lake Success” is by Gary Shteyngart. I read his well-reviewed 2010 novel, “Super Sad True Love Story,” set in the future when I was in Val d’Isere back in 2011. Never told you that, just didn’t write for a week, but that was back before the tsunami of information, just before the attention economy, a term I coined and now everybody uses. And I didn’t enjoy it, but if I buy a book I finish it. It’s my own personal commitment to myself.

If you don’t pay, you don’t have to finish. But if you do…

In 2009, Felice bought me a Kindle for my birthday. This is what put me back on the road to reading books. My mother rarely paid, she got on line at the library, where you could get a best seller for free a year after it was published. But before Apple colluded, all Kindle books were $9.99. Amazon was building a market. Which the publishing industry quickly destroyed. The concept was Amazon was going to grow the market via lower prices. But the antiquated publishers, technically ignorant, business ignorant other than their narrow silo, were unhappy. Just like the record business, albeit with a much lower total gross.

The record business was brought into the future by theft and Spotify.

The book business is still living in the past.

Now the Kindle books are not that cheap, but what’s worse is the paperback version of “Lake Success” is over four dollars cheaper than the Kindle version. Printing, shipping, returns…that’s what physical comes with. It’d be like charging a hundred dollars a month for Spotify to maintain CD sales, keeping the labels in control of a small market. So what we’ve got now is a self-satisfied publishing industry that isn’t even aware it lost the war. Amazon was doing them a favor, but they missed it. The economics of digital are so much better. But “book lovers” say they love print, the same way the vinyl fanatics go on about LPs and the inane press trumpets gross figures when digital figures are net and… Never underestimate the power of Luddites to hold back the future.

If “Lake Success” were still $9.99, you’d impulse buy it. But at $13.99…you’re not so sure, maybe Lefsetz is wrong. Look at the reviews on Goodreads and Amazon itself, less than four stars. But these are wankers who want easy reading of books that are glorified movie scripts. Whereas “Lake Success” is…

Art. And not that hard to read to boot.

“Lake Success” is “Bonfire Of The Vanities” without the over the top comic tone. Oh, “Lake Success” is funny, but it’s also believable.

Now this is not a book for the underclass. This is a book for strivers, winners. It’s about the haves and the have-nots. About the super-rich versus the rich. But with a conscience.

Yes, the game is rigged, but these are the people who rig it.

But…at what cost?

There’s always a day of reckoning. And then do you wake up and find out you’ve wasted your whole life, doing what’s expedient?

“Lake Success” is au courant. Better than any record this year, better than any book I’ve read in YEARS!

The characters are believable. And flawed. And what happens is not expected, you keep on turning the pages believing you know what’s going to happen and then it doesn’t.

We’ve got instant best sellers, and then we’ve got the books that sneak up on you, that percolate over time.

Then again, the book industry is so insular, they review books a week or two BEFORE they come out, and then there’s no publicity unless they get traction. So it’s all word of mouth.

Hell, I wasn’t gonna read this, I was done with Shteyngart, but then Kate testified and I decided to download the sample chapter, and was immediately hooked and impulse bought it, after midnight, because the endless characterization of the rich’s viewpoint was so spot-on.

“Lake Success” is legendary. Maybe it’s barely known because it skewers the readers themselves. It’d be like trying to sell a book about the lunacy of fantasy sports to those that participate in them. If you worked hard to get ahead, I mean REALLY hard, in high school, to get into a good college, and then slaved to build a career so you could drive a Tesla to your vacation house…you might be offended.

But maybe that’s the point, the rich don’t have a sense of humor about themselves, they’re confident in their beliefs, have contempt for those wasting their opportunities, when the truth is for all their education and experience they’ve got huge blind spots, they know much less than they think they do.

Okay. If you’re capable of reading, and you must be if you got this far, I need you to purchase this book immediately. It’s so right on so many levels. And the plot moves forward and you know the characters and the worst thing that happened to me this week was IT ENDED!

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