Catherine Price has gone and done it. She’s managed to throw an entire state under the bus in her new book, “101 Places Not to See Before You Die.”
Fortunately for us, that state is Nevada.
Why, you ask, is it fortunate the Silver State be lumped into such onerous company as The Testicle Festival (No. 1), Ciudad Juarez (No. 39), and The Annual Poison Oak Show (No. 74)?
For one thing, Price is a pretty funny writer who can’t quite pull off the outrage over our surreal state. She sort of blushes and stares at her shoes while leveling her criticism that Nevada (No. 84) should not be experienced during your lifetime.
Price is, of course, riffing on the recent bookstore phenomenon of “bucket list” books. That is, books dedicated to making you feel really awful about your life unless you’ve experienced a long list of extraordinary places and pleasures such as sky-diving into a volcano or dog-earing every page of the Kama Sutra.
For most of us, it’s a burger-and-fries life.
It’s just a hunch, but I don’t think Price is a burger person.
She is disturbed by the Strip: “Complete with a fake Statue of Liberty, the Strip is also an example of Americans’ willingness to accept reproductions of famous sights as adequate alternatives to the real thing.”
She’s particularly bothered by the existence of Luxor, “a building that combines the despair of an existential crisis with the ambience of a parking garage.”
She also notes Nevada has a history of exploding atomic bombs and is the on-again, off-again future home of a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. Many Nevadans agree with her critique.
Then she goes and picks on our aliens.
No, not those guys outside Home Depot wanting to help you install your desert landscaping.
I’m talking about our other aliens, the ones who are spotted above Area 51 near Rachel and are crudely photographed riding around in what looks suspiciously like a Wham-O Frisbee or garbage can lid.
Aliens are one of Nevada’s great supernatural resources. Price doesn’t like them much, or the small army of humans who believe in them enough to travel to isolated Rachel and the Little A’Le’Inn.
Fact is, Price seems so disgusted by our great state that she also includes a snipe at Black Rock City (No. 93). That’s the home of the annual and odd Burning Man Festival in northern Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.
You would almost think the author was of the belief Nevadans aren’t in on the joke, that they are such bumpkins they somehow fail to appreciate the questionable taste of gaudy gambling palaces and the radioactive politics of the nuclear waste issue. (Although she’s merely having fun at our expense, she errs in suggesting the Yucca Mountain repository was being created to store waste from nuclear weapons exploded at the Nevada Test Site.)
My problem with Price’s ribbing of Nevada isn’t that she’s critical, or even inaccurate. It’s that she’s not the least bit original or funny in an otherwise humorous book. If you’re going to throw a stone, my dear, wing it like Sandy Koufax.
Here, let me help. Take No. 89, for example: “The Inside of a Spotted Hyena’s Birth Canal.” Really, how many of us are going to even have the opportunity to visit such a place?
I mean, now that Joan Rivers is no longer dating.
Then there’s No. 90: “Groper’s Night on a Tokyo Subway.”
Isn’t that the theme of the new Asian nightclub at Encore?
See, it’s not so hard.
Mostly, Price’s book is clever and funny and delightfully weird.
But a No. 84 ranking is an insult.
I’m left wondering what Nevada has to do to knock that Testicle Festival out of the top spot.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith.