Thursday, January 6, 2011

Review: Charitable Getting

I've put off reviewing this, which I don't normally do, and I'm not sure why. You know I find Sam Starbuck fascinating, and Charitable Getting deals quite directly with a lot of the things that make him interesting.

The story centres around SparkVISION Consulting, a company which runs fundraising campaigns and PR for charities. The company is headed by Bo Sparks, a charismatic and slightly unusual fellow. The employees of SparkVISION are our heroes, ordinary people though they may be. It's an eccentric sort of office, full of gossip, secret love affairs, dancing bananas, and the occasional chance to torment the interns. Tanya Montray is a journalist who believes that Non Prophet, a popular blogger, is employed by SparkVISION, and she's determined to find out.

Much of the book is concerned with life on the internet and how it interacts with life in the real world, and how blogging relates to journalism. As a blogger myself, this is rather interesting, even if I am only reviewing books most of the time and not talking about news. But the internet has always fascinated me, and I think it's good that there are books out there that talk about it. As is said in the Afterword, this is a book that in 80 years will be completely out of date, so rooted is it in the world of late 2009. Sometimes it's worth it to spend a whole book talking about the present, to not worry about whether a book "lasts". It captures history in a way other books don't. I imagine that when students in 2111 are writing their theses about extribulum and the emergence of blogging, this will be a crucial text.

Having spent years reading Sam Starbuck's blog, I know the story draws heavily on his life. In some ways this spoiled the mystery of Non Prophet's identity. For anyone less familiar with the author, though, I don't think the book is at all predictable. As a story, this is mostly just a cheerful office novel, full of the ordinary dramas of people's lives. It's very readable and funny. It does have greater depths, though, and for anyone interested in the internet this is an important book, both in terms of the story and in terms of the writing of the book itself.

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