02 July 2009
Eric Garcia: MATCHSTICK MEN
I did not read this book because of the Nicholas Cage movie--or, if in fact that was the reason (I picked it up, by chance, at the Independence branch of the Philadelphia Free Library; I was purchasing two books there [one was Saul Bellow's Herzog; I don't recall what the other one was], and don't like to frequent libraries just to buy books. So, I had to pick out a few to check out on loan, and I recognized the title of this one. Or the title just stood out to me. I'm not sure. If the former was the case, you've most likely got Nicholas Cage, unfortunately, to thank. If the latter, then author Eric Garcia gets full credit), let's say I checked it out in spite of the film. I'm not a big Nicholas Cage fan. I think, in fact, that he's about even with Keanu Reeves so far as acting ability is concerned. So I don't want to make this about Nicholas Cage. I've never seen the movie at any rate, and thus it couldn't really prejudice my opinion of the book. That opinion runs thus: Matchstick Men (the book was Matchstick Men, by the way; I believe I forgot to mention that) is cute. It's rooted in a cute idea, and exploits that cuteness to the very end (others find the ending to be cynical, apparently; perhaps it is a testament to my own, abiding cynicism that I find it, again, to be cutesy). Books about con men aren't supposed to be cute, though. They're supposed to be fun, and lighthearted, and a lot of other words that mean approximately the same thing as those, but not cute. Because if the book ends on a happy note, then the cuteness is just overwhelming--and if it ends on a sad note, the sadness seems trite and affected (such is the case with Matchstick Men). Garcia tried something different, admittedly, and I read the book quickly. But it was still just cutesy, and nothing more. Read David Dodge instead, if you're looking for cons. Or adventure. Or excitement. Hell, just read David Dodge. Read Matchstick Men if you really want, but I'd give it a C-. And that's only because I'm feeling generous. D+, were today a lousy day.