I got this from the library after reading about it in the Writer’s Almanac on Seth’s birthday (June 20th). Their mention of the book said “It tells the story of the computer engineers working in Silicon Valley, developing the early version of the personal computer.” which sounded pretty cool, especially since it also mentions that the book is in the form of an epic poem. Well, the book is indeed in verse, but it has nothing to do with computer engineering. Fortunately by the time I got the book from the library I’d forgotten exactly why I’d been interested, so I wasn’t disappointed by the mistake until just now when I looked up the reference to write this review!

The book is set in the bay area starting around 1980 (published in 1986) and tells the story of an interconnected collection of friends as they stumble through various rather mundane adventures. Honestly, the story resembles nothing more than Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City. What sets the book apart is the verse. The book is composed entirely of sonnets. The dedication is a sonnet. The acknowledgement section is a sonnet. The about the author blurb is a sonnet. Even the table of contents is a sonnet. And of course the main text is a series of sonnets. On the order of 600 of them (about 300 pages, two per page).

It sounds tiresome, but it’s actually rather delightful. Seth doesn’t take himself too seriously. Most of the rhyming is conventional, but every once in a while he throws in a rhyme that only works if you use very creative pronunciation. As I recall, this is a time-honored tradition. (I had a professor in junior college who insisted that the poem “Don Juan” be pronounced “Don Joo-un” because at one point Byron rhymes it with “new one”) The characters (a lawyer, a project manager, a divinity student, an artist, an activist) relate in all sorts of ways. There are children and lovers (of a couple different gender combinations, this is San Francisco after all) and parents and friends. There are house cats and even a pet iguana. If the plot is mostly soap opera and skids to a rather abrupt conclusion, I found it easy to forgive such minor failings in return for the fun I had reading the book.

I’d thought I might write this review in sonnet form, but I’m six books behind already, so no.