BOOK REVIEW – LUKE SKYWALKER CAN’T READ. Written by Ryan Britt. Published by Penguin Random House. 224 pages.
I am too old for LUKE SKYWALKER CAN’T READ, the latest essay compilation from Ryan Britt. He most certainly can read and regurgitates, as modern geeks do, all the things he discovered on the Internet. He hasn’t the patience for being a sensitive artist, but he has the mind of a Mentat.
Yes, of course, he can swing vine to vine. He is quick-witted, and clear with prose—I was eighty pages into it before I came up for air. Eighty pages essentially wondering how to talk to him (or anyone who will listen) about this book that fills me with marvel. And with longing, for the character of Mr. Ryan Britt has no gravitas.
Hollow brilliance, yes. Luke Skywalker didn’t grow up with a droid bookmobile. The galaxy far, far away has holocrons but no .pdf files. And it’s not what we need right now, no matter how wonderful, no matter how annotated. We need poetic, emotive monologues of the soul. We need saving from the decreasing box of the sophisticated chat room. We need risk. (Not Roman numerals on Kamchatka, life lived, with Britt’s more-than-capable mind to tell us how and why. Mr. Britt may dissent without prejudice.)
I have no interest trolling the man’s narrative. He got off on a bad foot in his set-up, ridiculing his proto-scifi Dad’s interest in “Barbarella” for that traditional Big Weenie Nerd Y-Chrome element. He was embarrassed of his old man’s sex drive. And this lead to pages of biographic neurosis buttressed by weak-chinned boy feminism and a desire to validate himself by clarifying his preening years. Not nearly a Douglas Coupland or essayist for “The Baffler.” He was an apologist for the Kirks who do not need at all anything.
At seventy-seven pages in, I felt strange like the time I ate carrots for three days, read my Psychology text, and took the final. How can someone author a chapter on scifi movie scores and not mention exposition, fugue, harmony, voicing, or scherzo, or anything involving colors and emotion, or even the remotest bit of theater to place a person inside those scores if only for a moment? If I worked in IT and had nothing but big Doritos bags to munch while data got mirrored to the staging server, I would write chapter and verse just like this, with my pud firmly in one hand and my other hand on my smartphone typing with one thumb.
Have at. He will take you places and tell you things. He’s a strong talent leading a boy’s life. “Luke Skywalker Can’t Read” is easy, breezy reading of Britt’s travails as the nerd who was. Would that it does it for you.•••
Mark Volpe is a playwright and musician living in the historic fishing village of Gloucester, Mass.