Review: A Taxonomy of Barnacles

A Taxonomy of Barnacles - Galt Niederhoffer

In continuing to work through the massive amount of random used books that I impulse purchased at a church book sale, I came across this gem.  And by gem, I mean tedious, pretentious, "aren't I edgy and ironic," hipster crapfest of a book that I almost didn't finish. I should have known better to trust a book that quotes Claire Danes' as a featured recommendation on the back cover, but the front cover was so pretty and it was hardback and super inexpensive so I ignored my better judgement. Regardless, it was a time-suck - or just a sucky way to waste my pre-baby precious time (11 days until the baby's due to drop - so many books, so little time). 



Disclaimer: As far as I know, this book is (thankfully) not a movie - although some reviews that I've read have compared the family dynamic to that featured in The Royal Tenenbaums. It's been too long since I've seen the movie for me to accurately assess this critique; however, this heinous book may have been made better with some aptly placed Bill Murray. After all, aren't all things better with Bill Murray?


The book centers around the six Barnacle sisters, all with unique-ish qualities and first names that begin with "B," who have been challenged by their eccentric, millionaire father to a competition that will determine which sister will be the sole heiress of his fortune. (Side note: pretty much ALL the characters have names that begin with "B" which, strangely enough, isn't the greatest way to help readers distinguish between the multitude of characters the novel follows over 300-odd pages). They have one week in which to establish their right to claim the family fortune as their own, and each sister seeks to prove herself worthy through various tactics - including winning talentshows, developing groundbreaking scientific theories, procreating or landing a favorable fiance. All of the characters were incredibly quirky, but, unfortunately, none of the characters were particularly endearing. In otherwords, I just didn't care which of these entitled, New York, richy-bitchy socialites won the contest - thereby rendering the entire plot null-and-void in terms of emotional involvement. 



(show spoiler)


In the midst of this underwhelming plot, the author insists upon forcing Darwin's concepts of nature and nurture into every nook and cranny of the novel. The book is, in fact, divided into two parts - nature and nurture - and the chapters are named after traits that the Barnacle sisters have inherited or developed.  There is much discussion of barnacles, finches, and Darwin's theory of evolution, but it feels like a pseudo-intellectual ploy that the Harvard-educated author has used to attempt to elevate her book beyond the realm of a cheap, contemporary, character-driven drama.



In closing: Did. Not. Like.



STATUS UPDATE - 10-5-2013: pg. 63


If this book were a person, it would wear plaid shirts, skinny jeans, an ironic mustache and it would drink PBR. 


 In other words, it is trying way too hard to be hip, edgy and eccentric. Effin' hipster book. *pregnant lady grumble*