Nonfiction Quickies: Carsick & Console Wars

Book cover: Carsick by John WatersCarsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America by John Waters

Publisher/Year: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: John Waters
Length: 8 hours, 8 minutes
Source: Purchase

What it is: A couple of years ago, John Waters hitchhiked across the country as the basis of this memoir. Technically, only a third of this is nonfiction because only a third of it is memoir; the first two sections are composed of multiple mini-novellas in which he envisions the best and worst case scenarios of what could happen on the trip.

Why I read it: I love John Waters, and I remember when news of this trip broke because sightings of him were popping up all over Twitter.

What I thought: John Waters being John Waters, parts of the novellas were so, so wrong. Yet even though they were fiction, some still gave some illumination into Waters’s life. Take the first story of the best-case scenario, for example. In it, he miraculously finds funding for his next film, which has been sitting unfunded for years now since people still expect him to string films together on a nonexistent budget like he did in his early days (something he refuses to do at this point in his career; his last film was released ten years ago). While his good/bad fantasies sometimes got tiresome, they did have their moments (one involved an anti-abortion fanatic, while another featured an animal rescuer with tapeworms; having some background in both of these areas, I found both of the stories ridiculous but highly amusing). I do wish he’d bulked up on the actual memoir portion, though, because the reality of his journey was the best part.

Book cover: Console Wars by Blake J. Harris

Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation by Blake J. Harris

Publisher/Year: It Books, 2014
Format: eBook
Pages: 576
Source: Publisher

What it is: A history of how, for a brief period, Sega broke through Nintendo’s monopoly on gaming, only to ultimately fail. The book is told mostly via the story of Tom Kalinske, a marketing genius who took over Sega and presented Sonic as a cooler (and, more importantly, viable) alternative to Super Mario.

Why I read it: I played both consoles as a kid (though I’ll admit that I’ll always be #TeamNintendo).

What I thought: This book is nonfiction, but it’s written kind of like a novel, dialogue and all. Harris conducted over two hundred interviews to give this insider perspective; as a result, the book feels more personal, especially where Kalinske is concerned. The dialogue worked for me most of the time, but not quite always. I also thought that some sections were unnecessary to the overall focus of the book; they added too much bulk to the narrative. That said, it’s a really interesting story. I already knew some of it, but using Kalinske as the main vehicle for the story was a smart move that allowed a closer look at the business and marketing side of the two gaming giants of the time. I think it would make a great gift for your favorite geek.

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