Comedian and actor Patton Oswalt (the voice of Remy the Rat in Ratatouille and the star in the little seen indie gem Big Fan) has just released his first book, an autobiographical collection of stories, anecdotes and hilariously original tidbits, such as a poem that pays homage to his Dungeon and Dragons character that he created before he discovered the wonders of making out and feeling up girls. It’s entitled Zombie, Spaceship, Wasteland and that title presents the reader with an interesting thesis: geeks can be divided into three personality types: some are disenfranchised and cynical zombies or vacant spaceships who long for escape and others are wastelands, perfectly content with a destroyed version of their universe in which they are in control. The Mayfair and other havens like the city’s comic book stores, vintage vinyl shops and EB Game outlets as examples, hold such people.
He poignantly writes about his upbringing in the dull suburban wasteland that is Sterling, Virginia that helped shape and inspire his comedy and writing. He tells tales about the wonders of building snowforts (while all the parents suffered the aftermath of wife swapping). He recalls with great comical detail working (or at least downing PBR beer and listening to R.E.M.) at the local mall movie theatre while 80s blockbusters like The Living Daylights and Coming To America and not quite blockbusters like Jaws: The Revenge played. He also recounts spending time with his eccentric and mentally ill uncle who holds an oddly special and affectionate place in his heart. He shares an alternately funny and painful story of his first headlining gig: in Surrey, B.C. in which he dealt with a coke addled, pea brained club owner.
Oswalt is the movie, comic and music geek’s comedian. This book perfectly illustrates his loves, hates and philosophies in way that makes like minded readers feel right at home with perfect company. Not only is Oswalt ingeniously hilarious, he’s also insightful and knows how us geeks tick. If there’s any criticism I have of the book, it’s that it’s too short and leaves you wanting more of his singular vision of a world obsessed and spoiled by pop culture. Essential reading.