So wrote Dwight Garner in the January 9 New York Times Book Review about “The Digested Read.”
It appears weekly in the Guardian of London.
Its premise: each week the Guardian asks a writer to regurgitate the contents of a newly published book in 500 words or less, preferably in the style of its author.
Bonus: at the end, there’s a one-sentence compressed version of the compression.
Here’s the December 20, 2004 installment, which featured Michael Crichton’s State of Fear.
- A scientist dies in Paris after having sex with a mysterious stranger. A supplier of mining equipment is also killed in Canada. Nobody – least of all the reader – pays any attention. Except Kenner, the MIT-educated, special-forces-trained lone wolf.
“Hmm,” he smiled grimly to himself. “The environmental activists are on the move.”
Back in California, Nick Drake, head of the National Environmental Resource Fund (Nerf), was sharing his thoughts with George Morton, his tycoon backer.
“It’s really heavy,” said Drake. “The water level of the Pacific has risen so much that these islands are going to be swept away. We need money to sue the multi- nationals for global warming.”
“You got it,” replied Morton. “I love this planet.”
Peter Evans, Morton’s attorney, and Sarah, Morton’s impossibly beautiful PA, nodded in agreement. “We love this planet.”
Two weeks later, Morton appeared drunk when he got up to speak at a Nerf gala. “Global warming’s a load of rubbish,” he shouted, before driving off in his Ferrari.
Peter and Sarah tried to follow him, but found only his wrecked car. There was no sign of his body. “Guess he must have been thrown into the ocean,” they sobbed.
“Give me Morton’s money,” yelled Drake.
“I can’t,” replied Peter. “His estate is in probate.”
Drake stormed out.
“What are we going to do now?” asked Sarah.
“Not so fast,” said Kenner, abseiling in through the window. “You two are coming with me.”
On the way to Antarctica, Kenner delivered a long lecture on how global warming wasn’t really happening and that many scientists had allowed themselves to be lured into a state of fear by environmental pressure groups.
“Nerf is funding terrorists to create environmental catastrophes to reinforce their message,” warned Kenner. “We have to stop them.”
A day later, Sarah and Peter crawled out of a crevasse. They were bruised and bloodied, but at least they had prevented a huge piece of the ice-shelf from being calved off into the ocean.
Two days after that, Sarah and Peter crawled out of a mudslide in Arizona. They were bruised and bloodied, but at least they had prevented another disaster.
“Just the Solomon Islands to go,” yelled Drake.
Sarah and Peter looked at each other. They were about to die trying to save the world from a tsunami and they hadn’t declared their love for one another.
“I’m alive,” shouted Morton, as he rescued them. “The world is saved, and I’m going to start a new environmental organisation based on truth.”
Author’s note: I’m very, very clever and have read a lot and you’re all stupid wishy-washy liberals.
The digested read … digested:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with Crichton, and the Word was Crichton.