Friday, October 26, 2012

Everything Was Illuminated: Looking Back Twenty Years

The IlluminatiThe Illuminati by Larry Burkett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This, weirdly, was one of the formative books of my elementary-school years.  No, it's not a young adult book.  I was just a weird kid.

The year was 1992. I was nine years old, and two months into fifth grade.  My parents had just moved us to a new house, which meant a new school, and the kids in my class were about to spend three days taking a standardized test-- the same standardized test I had taken a couple of weeks before at my old school. The new school thought it would be dandy if I would consent to take the test again, but I refused.  So for three days, I sat in the principal's office and read while my classmates clutched No. 2 pencils and stared at row after row of scantron bubbles.
Do kids today even know what this is?
Don't ask why I was not allowed to stay home instead of sitting in the principal's office, because I have no idea.  In those days, I didn't really care where I was sitting, as long as I was allowed to read.  Yes, I say "allowed" to read, because I read so much that my mother would occasionally tear the book out of my hands in exasperation, hoping to jolt me into participating in conversation at the dinner table.  The woman who cut my hair when I was growing up told me later that she was always terrified that my hair would come out noticeably crooked, because I insisted on having my head bent down toward my book during my haircuts.

Back to my story.  I'm sure I looked ridiculous, hanging out in the school administrative offices at age 9 with a book approximately the size of my head.  But this book blew me away. I was riveted. Fascinated. It was, now that I think about it, probably my very first step into a dystopian future.  I remember astonishing levels of detail, twenty years later, down to the year, make, and model of the car that figures into one of the escape scenes.  (A 1993 Chevy Caprice, if you care, which you don't, because it is the epitome of trivial detail.  Still, as a kid I loved the idea of a capricious car, which is probably why I remember it.)
Why did Chevy name this car the Caprice?  In my head it was much cooler.  You know, more capricious.
This is the book that first taught me the word "tsunami," a word that no one else around me learned until 2004.  This is the book that first made me think about how credit and debit cards could be used to track someone's movements.  This is the book that first sent me fumbling in my pocket for a dollar bill, to examine for myself the weird eyeball on top of a pyramid that was pictured there.  Finally, this is the book that probably lies at the root of my tendency to develop mild crushes on computer nerds.

So twenty years later, I tip my hat to Larry Burkett.   Thanks for writing a book that captivated me completely.


Anonymous said...

You're adorable.

Lauren said...

This was one of those books I always saw lying around your room, and I wondered what made it so compelling (in the same way as the ubiquitous James Bonds books dad read) but I never got past the title. Shame.

Oh and I remember those horrid scantrons. God if you missed a row you really screwed yourself

Reader One said...

I think you might still enjoy this one, actually. It's kindof up your alley. Also -- do you mean Louis L'Amour books? I don't remember Dad reading James Bond!)

Lauren said...

Those too, but he read plenty of james bond.