An anonymous reader writes "Michael de Mare's, Confessions of a Recovering Preppie, has been sitting on my desk a long time, for good reason. They say you can't always judge a book by it's cover but in this case, the unintentionally embarrassing front is perfect. Confessions is a painfully ordinary collection of college stories. Michael seems to have a different definition for the word preppie than the good people at Webster or I do. Even though the author specializes in cryptography, he seems unable to decipher any social situation, himself or the code to writing a book worth reading. Click below to see how confusing it gets.Michael de Mare is to literature what Jeffery Dahmer is to fine dining. At least someone finally stopped Dahmer. To complain about any one part of this Titanic failure is like complaining that you don't like the tilt of your room, as the ship sinks beneath the waves. The back of the book promises, "In this compelling book, he lays bare the instructive stories of romantic adventures, intense studies, fascinating friend-ships, highly ambitious goals, and the wit and wisdom that can only come from the mind of those who are capable of fathoming the black arts of advanced cryptography and computer science." What we get is a book that has no theme to speak of. It reads like a logbook more than a novel. I have managed to group Confessions into three parts. Each part consists of the few common ideas that reappear many times in the book. It also includes the scant instances when Michael has an idea or something noteworthy happens.
|Confessions of a Recovering Preppie|
|author||Michael de Mare|
|summary||Stuff happens in college but not to the author|
The first part lets us in on a few basic facts about Michael and his day to day activities. He hates rap. Indian students cheat. Walking makes Michael's legs hurt. He is scared of his stoner suite mate. CS students are the smartest students on campus. Michael is the smartest among them. He likes Chicken Parmesan, Bill O'Reilly, and shopping at Walmart. In this section Michael becomes aware that his friend likes to drink at parties until he is drunk. He informs us that this is called binge drinking and worries that it might affect his friend's grades. (His friend's grades are slightly better than his in the end.) Then he discovers that college kids pirate music. One of my favorite parts of the book can be found here. Michael tells a story about his second cousin who tried to get him seriously hurt on two separate occasions. The first time, Michael was tricked into riding an unbroken horse. The second, was an incident which involved milking an extremely unfriendly cow. This story allows the reader to understand that the feelings of dread and the overwhelming desire to make Michael de Mare stop are a perfectly normal reaction. It is a feeling that is shared by his family and most likely, anyone who talks to him.
Just when you are wondering what purpose the 300 pages of Confessions serve, the author takes a trip to Montreal. When a customs official is making her way through the train, asking if anyone has anything to declare, we find out the FBI is following Michael. Two FBI agents tell the official loudly that they have guns and that they are following Michael because he works for the NSA. At no point prior was the NSA mentioned and it is never addressed again. I re-read this part several times to make sure that it wasn't a dream sequence or a jump to future events. At this point, I was sure that this book was the best way Michael had of telling his friends and family that he was or planned on being, a spy.
Part two follows a common pattern. Michael hates rap. Indian students cheat. Walking makes Michael's legs hurt. He is scared of his stoner suite mate. CS students are the smartest students on campus. Michael is the smartest among them. He likes Chicken Parmesan, Bill O'Reilly, and shopping at Walmart. He learns that men, in particular, college-aged men, are easily manipulated by pretty girls. He doesn't see his stoner suite mate for a couple days so he reports him missing. (The stoner was visiting home.) This section contains what is easily my favorite part of the book. It also demonstrates how hard it is to read Confessions. Here, Michael is talking to a girl he may have some interest in but is so uncomfortable around, that you're not quite sure.
"Hi Shawna! How are you doing?"
"My circumstances are not good."
"Yes. They are not good."
Now I was concerned about Shawna's circumstances. They were, as Shawna had pointed out, not good. I didn't know which circumstances she was referring to, but I was sure that they were circumstances that she considered important. For this reason I hoped Shawna's circumstances would improve."
Then it dawned on me. Michael de Mare specializes in cryptography. This whole thing is an elaborate code! The de Mare code! If I could crack this book I could find out where the descendants of Jesus live and who the Illuminati would allow to win the Super Bowl next year. Unfortunately the best anagram of Michael de Mare I could come up with was, A charm I'd eel me. So I tried writing down every other word, then every third. I cut the pages into strips and wrapped them around sticks of different widths. I made a baking soda solution and brushed it over the pages. Finally I exposed it to a UV lamp and then heat from a light bulb. Nothing I did seemed to reveal a new story that someone might want to read, so I continued with the last 100 pages.
The end of the book provides the usual. Mike hates rap music. Indian students cheat. Walking makes Michael's legs hurt. He is scared of his stoner suite mate. CS students are the smartest students on campus. Michael is the smartest among them. He likes Chicken Parmesan, Bill O'Reilly, and shopping at Walmart. Michael doesn't see his binge drinking friend for a few days and somehow resists the urge to report him missing to the police. He explains how the world would have broke out into World War III if George Bush hadn't been elected president. He defends his thesis, graduates and is accepted into a PHD program. The book then ends as quickly and as uninterestingly as it started. I entertained the notion that this was actually a Walmart viral marketing campaign for a few moments. "Walmart, we got everything Michael de Mare needs and most things that normal people need too." Probably not the message the suits in marketing would want to send. Now I'm convinced that Confessions of a Recovering Preppie is actually part of Michael's work at the NSA. This book is part of an "enhanced interrogation" program. Right now a man in a nicely pressed suit and sunglasses is reading Mr. de Mare's device of unusual punishment, for the second time, to a prisoner who begs to just be water-boarded like usual. Confessions of a Recovering Preppie is not the bottom of the barrel it is in a hole five feet below the barrel.