PHIL He walked down the halls past the old Id awards, the Freddy Krueger mask, the Doom plastic shotgun. So it had come to this. No Carmack, no Adrian, no Kevin. At five p.m., he tapped the button on his keyboard and sent Quake to the world. It felt weird, he thought that none of the other guys were here with him, but it all added up. They weren’t gamers. They didn’t even play games anymore. They were broken.
JAY Welcome to Dog-eared and Cracked, the podcast where each host subjects the other to his taste in books. If you want to read along with us, head to dogearedandcracked.ca to have a look at what we have upcoming. I’m Jay…
PHIL And I’m Phil.
JAY And this week, oddly enough, on a podcast about the literary experience, here we are talking about computer games: How were Doom and Quake created, and more specifically, David Kushner and his book, Masters of Doom.
PHIL Now, Jay, before we go any further, because of that thing you said about the literary experience, I’m assuming you — did you ever read, I think it was the Roger Ebert discussion on “Can video games be art”?
JAY No, I didn’t, but that does sound compelling. What was that all about?
PHIL Oh, well, just, you know, the idea — I haven’t read it for a long time, but a lot of writers work in games. Narrative is a huge –narrative design is a huge thing in games. So I will, I will say that literary experience and gaming are not at odds with each other, although maybe they are when it comes to Doom and Quake.
JAY Oh, you, you’re going to have to remind me about that, because there’s this great quote that I’ve got a little later on, I’m going to throw in from the book. It relates to storyline.
JAY You know what, though, before we really start getting into things, I started playing Doom just before we started recording this episode. And I’m almost about to defeat one of the boss monsters. So while I just quietly finish up my level here, why don’t you tell us a little bit about David Kushner and what this book is all about?
PHIL OK, so I have to say, when I when I looked up David Kushner, I kind of had a bit of a shock. I was like, what? He’s an architect and he’s Jared Kushner’s like, he’s related to Jared Kushner? And I realized I was I was reading the bio of the wrong Kushner. So so our guy, our guy, David Kushner, there’s actually not a whole ton of information out there on him. He’s a writer and, you know, you’ll see — I’m going to read you a couple of the titles of his books and you’ll see there’s a certain kind of template to them. So, of course, we have the book we’re discussing today, Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture. He’s written a book about Grand Theft Auto and a couple of his books and articles — he’s also written a graphic novel, a couple of graphic novels. A couple of them have been turned into films. One of them, unfortunately, which sounds like it was a good story, Silk Road, came out earlier this year and seems to have basically just sunk because of the, because of the pandemic. So, yeah. So David Kushner, he — obviously he has a personal interest in games, like the guys in Masters of Doom. He grew up playing these games. And, and Masters of Doom is really a book about a couple of things. It’s about the guys known as the two Johns, John Carmack and John Romero, who together formed Id software and created the, you know, groundbreaking games, Doom and Quake. But it’s also about the early days of Internet gaming and, and I guess the rise of of tech culture in a lot of ways, in terms of what the book is about. And I think that, you know, I think we’ll just we’ll cover the rest of it as we go, probably.
JAY All right. So you mentioned the book’s subtitle: “and transformed pop culture.” That’s pretty weighty. Do you believe that they really did change the game, the two Johns, so to speak? And there’s also this parallel that they try and make in the book, where Kushner draws a parallel between grunge, which at that time was quite popular, and how that changed the music scene and what these two guys did with their games and how that changed computer games or the video game industry.
PHIL You know, I come to this conversation with a real disadvantage. And the disadvantage is — I was thinking as I was reading this book, you know, for most of my life, I’ve kept up fairly well with what’s going on in, like tech and with what’s going on in games. I’ve always kind of been interested in in games, although for a long time that came wrapped up in a lot of guilt. Also — like, “this is bad.” And yet I have this complete sort of black hole when it comes to the cultural impact of these games. Like I realized when I went to look at, you know, what they looked like online that I was mixing up Doom with Castle Wolfenstein, I was mixing up Quake with Duke Nukem. And I realized the reason is like the early to mid 90s, this is when, you know, I was in grad school, we had little kids, and then I had my first full-time job. Like, I was just not paying attention to any of this stuff at the time. So I was learning a lot of this from the book. I mean, I would say, I would say they transformed like tech culture and they probably transformed pop culture in some way, too. I’m not sure I buy the grunge thing, I don’t know. And also, as someone who grew up loving metal, I hated those grunge guys because they, they kind of destroyed metal. I don’t know.
JAY A hundred percent agreement on that one, Phil.
PHIL But, so, were you playing these games at the time?
JAY Well, back then, that definitely was my heyday. That was when I was playing computer games, and I played Quake and played Doom too. And I appreciated them at the time. And it did, I think, create something that was at that time groundbreaking. It was — for someone playing computer games back in those days, it was the sense that this was the first time, this is the closest that we would ever come to what we’ll call an immersive, immersive experience. So kind of that 3D aspect where you can actually enter the game, it’s not a top-down approach where you’re looking down from a bird’s eye view. You’re right inside these catacombs, these tunnels, and you’re going around and you’re — whatever it is you’re doing, shooting, shooting demons, I guess. But it was really groundbreaking from that perspective. And that was actually kind of fun jumping into it now. And that was one of the key aspects, that ended up being one of the key aspects of the book that I really enjoyed. It was kind of that behind the curtain look. Part of it, I’m reading about how Carmack really was pushing the envelope in terms of how how polygons reacted to his programming, how he’s able to kind of create that 3-D impact, how he’s actually able to change the lighting and that aspect of programming. I thought that was really interesting. I come to this discussion and this book from a different place as well, and I forgot about those games over the years, so I really haven’t looked at them until I guess I… Haven’t we both downloaded a version of Doom 2 just for fun? To use for research purposes, of course.
PHIL I paid $2.74 for Doom 2 on Steam.
JAY Excellent. I bought Doom 2 as well. So we’re going to have to play that game.
PHIL Can we deathmatch on Steam?
JAY I don’t know. We should try it. That would be great. You mentioned deathmatch. That was the other area I think the book kind of highlighted as — to answer my own question. I don’t know if it was as transformative as they’d like to think in terms of pop culture. They being I don’t know if the book was as transformative as Kushner would like to pretend it was, because really gaming is a smaller segment of pop culture. It’s, it’s gamers and they’re not the entire, they don’t make up the entire world of culture, although they do have a huge impact and revenue-wise are significant. I believe they even may surpass the movie industry and certainly now they absolutely have with the pandemic. But they did make a lot of impact in terms of that immersive experience. And the other thing was this idea, this deathmatch, because when you read the book, it gives you an indication that this really wasn’t a thing. Now, based on kind of the games I see these days where people just play online, they play each other, they really don’t play single-player campaigns. That’s rare.
PHIL Yeah, I thought one thing that really was interesting in the book was seeing how these guys, they essentially set the template for decades to come and also how things that we just come to take for granted — like I mean, from simple things like just the idea of of of scrolling and you know that — as your character, your spaceship or whatever, in the very early days moves across the screen, that you have a sense of the world you’re in extending beyond either side of the screen. Like that’s a very basic thing. And yet, you know, it was interesting to read about what had to go into creating that, because it didn’t exist before. Right? If you think of something like Donkey Kong in that era, it’s all on the screen in front of you. And then you have the next level, right? You’re not… And then the other thing was, which, you know, I was reading last night and thinking, oh, right, of course, was this idea of the persistent world online. So, you know, if you wanted to play Doom head-to-head against someone, you had to each connect through your modems directly to each other. Then you had the thing where, OK, you can dial into a server and see who’s there and play them. But that’s — and then when they came up with this idea for Quake of making it persistent, which we just completely take for granted now. Like if I want to go play, you know, Fortnite or Call of Duty or whatever, once I get off, you know, this this call with you, like, it’ll be there. It’s just waiting. It’s, you know, ready to go. Right? I kind of forgot about that. Wasn’t always the case.
JAY Very cool how the technology has changed, isn’t it?
PHIL So one thing that struck me reading the book is that, you know, a lot of these games, they did create kind of a template. At the same time, what struck me is they were also creating this business culture that still in a large sense exists, right? Like the crunch when you’re making games, the idea that, you know, all those tech bro cliches of the Foosball game and the, you know, the arcade machines and like, that’s fine when it’s you and your buddies living in the lake house like they were doing in Shreveport, Louisiana, and making games. And then you see how massively problematic it becomes when that becomes your corporate culture. And, you know, you’re mad at your employees because they’re only putting in 11 hours a day and — you know, so I just thought, I wondered if you had any thoughts about that. It seemed to me like, OK, they weren’t just creating these games, they were creating also a whole kind of toxic culture around the world of creating games.
JAY To my perception of it, that was — there’s a couple of key individuals and they’re kind of characterized that way. Carmack was the self-admittedly very cold… He was almost like a machine in the sense that all he wanted to do was program.
PHIL Right. He doesn’t even care about money that much, right?
JAY That’s right. And the other extreme was John Romero, who is the consummate gamer. And all he wanted to do was play games. And between the two of them, they probably could have come up with a compromise. So there’s not a lot of stories, for example, Romero yelling at his employees, but there are a lot of stories of Carmack being hard on his employees plays to the point where they would quit. I don’t know if it’s so much a toxic culture. It supports — my understanding of programming in general is it’s a very focused activity. You need long hours to spend at. Some nights it takes hours to get where you need to be and you kind of want to encourage that in your staff any way you can. I always thought it was the other way around. Maybe I’m naive, but the programmers are there anyway working long hours and it’s more about supporting that activity rather than trying to encourage it. It’s more about just being able to kind of provide what they need so they don’t feel like they need to go home to get a snack or play a game or unwind or whatever.
PHIL Hmm. Yeah, I don’t know. I mean, I wonder from just from people I follow on social media who work in gaming, it felt like last year a lot of them had reached some kind of tipping point, like they were quitting working for the high-profile publishers because they just, they’re like, this has to stop. It can’t continue being like this.
JAY Let’s talk about violence. So the International Digital Software Association to this day exists. It’s a rating system. It’s like a T for teen, M for mature and for and if you’re a minor you’re not allowed to play that game, or buy it from a gaming store. And I’m wondering, though, because there’s a fair, a little bit of the book devoted to this debate, which is basically: Do computer games encourage the violence, and, in using them, and should they be rated? So they are rated, that’s kind of out of the argument. But I was wondering, curious what your thoughts are on putting out a rating? Does that actually change the demand for a game or create publicity where it might otherwise not have had that notoriety?
PHIL I don’t know. I mean, one thing I did find interesting was that they said that in some ways the rating system liberated them to be more violent. Because you could, you could slap a mature tag on it and then say, well, it’s clearly not being made for kids, right? They could — it’s hard to, it’s hard to know. You know what? I think my mid-90s self would have found that argument more compelling, that maybe they did actually contribute to people being violent, than my current self does. I don’t, I I don’t know. I mean, I find, I’m not a fan of gore in general, like in films, but I don’t have such a hard time with it in games for some reason. I could, I can put up with a lot more of it in a game than I can, than I can in a film.
JAY Is that because in a game you’ve made — you’re in a game, you’re in control? Where you’re passive, watching the film, you’ve made a conscious decision to create that violence on your own, therefore your mind rationalists that it’s more acceptable?
PHIL Maybe, I mean. Do you remember the conversation about shooting dogs in Doom?
JAY I think it was in Wolfenstein and OK, they wanted to convert it to a child-friendly, I think it was for Nintendo, and they asked them to take out the shooting of the dogs and they ended up with something else in there instead.
PHIL Like, last year, I played The Last of Us Part 2 and, you know, there are scenes in which these dogs are hunting you down and, you know, it’s very hard to survive without killing the dogs. And that was one thing I’d read in reviews that people objected to killing the dog or didn’t want to have to kill the dog. And I was playing the game and I was like, well, I’m holed up in this abandoned building and this German shepherd is coming at me to rip my throat out. I have no problem firing a few blasts from my shotgun and killing the dog!
JAY Well, I think we just lost all our listeners right now. I can hear the sounds of them unfollowing us on Spotify. Click, click, click.
PHIL I mean, yeah, it’s a… I mean, the rating system always struck me as a joke, like, I don’t know. Do the shops really not sell the games to people who are younger? Or the parents buy them for their kids? Or, I don’t know.
JAY Well, here’s the thing. And I’ve gone through this a couple of times now. And in both instances, it’s, it’s always come down to “all my friends are playing this game.” So what’s the difference? And here’s the thing. The ratings create a conversation. So if the games aren’t rated, then there wouldn’t be a stigma or distinction. And I don’t know if you’d have the same conversation that needs to happen, whether it’s with other parents or with your kids. So I think it’s good. I just think without the ratings, the level of awareness may not have been as widespread. And I don’t think it’s changing anything in terms of people’s psychological behaviour.
PHIL That’s a good point
JAY if you’re predisposed to something regarding violence, I find it hard to believe the games are going to contribute to that. But who knows?
PHIL You know, I remember Eli really wanting Watchdogs. I think maybe the first Watchdogs when it came out and I wouldn’t buy it for him because it was rated M and he was, whatever, 14 or something I can’t remember. And he was really pissed. And, yeah, all my friends have it, you know, and I remember thinking about — it caused a lot of like thinking and conversation and should we get it for him or not or, you know, so yeah, I think that’s a good point.
JAY Yeah. For me it was Grand Theft Auto.
PHIL Yeah. It’s it’s funny because you, we — I mean, he eventually bought Grand Theft Auto, but by then he was like 18 and and, you know, I was thinking like, OK. I mean, I guess he’s 18, so that was the difference because it was like a big deal, right? The early part of the book definitely took me back to high school and thinking about, you know, typing in programs that if you made a single mistake, like that’s how games were published. Right? They would they would publish the code in a magazine and you would type it into your computer and run it. And if you made a single mistake, you would get “syntax error” and then have to go through all the code, try to find what you did wrong. And, and I do remember, you know, my parents spent a ridiculous amount of money at the time for an Apple IIe computer, which I basically just played games on. Like, what is it about those early games, do you think? And I don’t know if you experienced this, that was just so compelling, that drew you to them?
JAY I do like that. There’s this great principle in the book that they bring up, which is about game development. And it’s the principle to make a game easy to learn, but hard to master, easy to learn, hard to master. I love that. I love the way they phrased it that way, because it’s actually very instructive in a lot of things in life.
JAY Like what what really kind of draws us to something and what keeps us motivated to continue with it, right?
PHIL Yeah. And there’s all these games now that have like, you know, basically the first hour and a half of playing them is the tutorial and, you know, it has to be really good for me to be patient enough to bother with that.
JAY Well, I mean, you can tell, like, when I first started and they talk about this in the book a little bit, they talk about game briefings and that they would write the story. And it was like a manual design…
PHIL The design brief or design manuals.
JAY Right. And the computer games all had them in there because they sold them in those days back in the 90s in these big boxes that were like the size of an 8 and a half by 11. And you got your CD in there and you got the game manual. And then you noticed over time as computer games kept coming up, they actually stopped publishing those game manuals. They would start on a first level to kind of get you going on it. And then the other thing is that the games that they designed just kept using the same directional control. So arrows, you know, got you going left or right. Space bar’s for jumping and opening doors. So they didn’t need that manual explaining those kinds of instructions anymore as people were just conditioned and learnt that behaviour.
JAY I don’t know how I got off topic here, but let’s talk about the book a little bit in terms of story, because I really want to kind of look at this from the perspective, the writing itself and whether it was actually a good book or not. Or was it just really just the content. You know, you’d mentioned this at the beginning of the podcast, where the book is essentially about the two Johns, John Carmack, John Romero. Very different personalities. They might have complemented each other and it’s how they were able to produce and be really so prolific in their contributions to the computer gaming world. But what, what about storytelling? How did storytelling work for you in this book? There are a lot of research facts, but did it make for enjoyable reading?
PHIL Well, his research was amazing. I think if you read his notes at the end of — the number of people he interviewed and the amount of time he spent with them, I was a little confused at first because he, he builds the narrative, he really chooses that like, that narrative style of you’re there as it’s happening, which, of course, in the back of my mind is always, how do you know this, right? But, but he clearly spent a lot of time interviewing all the principals to try to get multiple perspectives. So so I trust him, obviously, on on, on him saying, you know, that things were the way he says. There were a couple of times when I was — particularly with the family life, that, that made me wonder. Like, he repeated several times that Romero continued to have a good relationship with the kids from his first marriage, you know, even though they were living in California. He never saw them. He continued to have a good relationship. And, you know, he brought that up several times. And I thought, well, I would like some other perspective on this. Like, I can see that I found, you know, what — I was, I really liked the beginning. I was, I was, it dragged for me the last third, I would say after it has the software company that Romero and Carmack found, after it’s fallen apart and then all the intrigue between Edos publishing and the other companies and the business deals, and there I really like did not care at a certain point anymore. I was just like going on and on and on and on. And we knew from the opening chapter, which, you know, I thought it was a good opening, that they’re going to have some kind of reconciliation as they they both turn up in their Ferraris at a gaming conference. But it really started to lag for me. \And the other question I had, I’m curious to know what you think about this. I kept finding myself wondering who is this book written for? Like if it is written for people who are really into gaming, like it’s not written for them because it explains, it spends a lot of time explaining fairly basic, fundamental things. Is it a business book? :like is it kind of a case study for, you know, relationships and building a business? Not really, because it doesn’t seem to draw any obvious lessons. I don’t know. It just it seemed to me like, that a few times I was thinking, who who are you actually writing for here?
JAY You know, this reminds me of a conversation we had when we were doing Andre the Giant as a podcast. The same point: Was this written for a wrestling fan in that context or someone who’s new to the sport, someone who’s interested in just some of the more colourful characters? I think for me, this book was almost written for someone like me, and the reason I say that is because I kind of had a sporadic interest in games, had played those games back there in that time period. And this gave me a glimpse into the business aspect of it, the personalities involved and how those games came together, and it’s more than just the programming aspect, which was — he does go into a little bit of detail there, which I appreciate it because I like to learn a little bit. I don’t need to learn the entire programming language. And the book kind of got me fired up part of my imagination, thinking about what I was, you know, I wasn’t about to run out and start designing games, but I did like how it really fired me up about building technology and using technology, mastering it, using and applying it to build something new, and building — in this case it was games. There’s a great quote which I got, I get to throw in now, which I love as it relates to story, and its Carmack being asked about storyline and he says, quote, “Story in a game is like story in a porn movie. It’s expected to be there, but it’s not that important.” I just like that. You know what? I agree with you as well. Like the last third of the book was probably a little more, I won’t use the word tedious, but it it may have dragged on a little bit as as you said. So he builds tension really well. And it was a great story in the beginning, because you get to see this, this world where two kids two scrapping kids out there, scrapping to make their way in the world on a shoestring budget. Nothing going on except a dream. It’s a classic trope. And it worked. And it was kind of neat to see them kind of make these correct decisions all along the way. They fell in with companies, they fell out, they’re recognized for their talents and they came up with the game. So I think that the apex of the book is when they release their first game, its success and then they have a falling out. At this point, the book starts to just go a little sideways because — I don’t know if it’s the fault of Kushner or maybe the story just ran out. Maybe the book should’ve ended a lot more quickly, more sooner. Every kind of non-fiction book takes a basically snapshot of a particular time-frame, and he chooses a time-frame, I think that was not really amenable to the reader because it kind of stretched out and maybe he went a little too long.
PHIL And, and — essentially, it seems like in a lot of ways it’s the tragedy of Carmack and Romero who created this magic and then spent, you know, the next whatever decade trying to get it back. I mean, and it made me think, he uses the analogy of a band trying to recapture their success, which I think was good. It made me think like, you know, do you want to be AC/DC or do you want to be Miles Davis, to use an example from The 50th Law? Like, do you want to be kind of you’ve got your niche and you’re kind of that’s what you’re sticking to it, or do you want to be constantly reinventing yourself, right? And that seems to be one of the tensions between — they kept trying to recapture this magic, but it just wasn’t there, which seemed ultimately kind of tragic.
JAY Yeah, well, there’s holes in the comparison. I mean, they did refer to themselves as John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and, you know, to some degree, maybe a little bit of comparison there, because both guys went off and did their own different thing after they had that magic they capture of the Beatles. I don’t know if it’s a good comparison, but at a certain point in time, you try and kind of recreate that magic, continue it, or you do something different. Can we talk a little bit about the game itself, though, because I know that you’ve downloaded it. I’ve downloaded it. So when you played it or you put the blinders on, do you go to yourself, it’s 1993, I’m pretty excited. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life? Or did you look at it and go, well, this worst graphics ever? That’s not a demon, it’s just like a green and red blob. What’s with the bunch of pixels lying around?
PHIL I have a, I have a soft spot for old games and retro games. Like, once in a while I’ll download some, like, you know, fake Space Invaders game on my phone for a couple of days and then delete it. So I saw — I did see a mobile game that was, it was redone versions of some of those early Atari games, but for copyright reasons, they all had different names. So Duck Hunt was called Quack Blam. But you know what, I actually did not spend a whole lot of time playing it, I’m not I’m not a huge first-person shooter fan. I have played them, I played it a little bit. And I maybe it’s also just because I was really busy the last few weeks. I will go back to it. But I did find, like, I don’t know which way am I supposed to go? How do I open this door?
JAY Well, but did it help when you, when you were reading the book?
PHIL Yes, yes, yes. Yes, it definitely –I also went and looked on YouTube at some playthroughs I mean, obviously not the full game but of from Quake and from Doom. And that was definitely helpful also for sure.
JAY I got through the first level, and when you complete a level, they have the screen comes up and it basically it’s kind of like golf. It says what the your par time is. And in this case, to get through a level, par would have been one minute, thirty seconds and I clocked in at a miserable seventeen minutes.
PHIL That’s like when I see people have completed the New York Times crossword in three and a half minutes.
JAY Yeah, that’s crazy cheating.
PHIL So Carmack and Romero, Lennon and McCartney, you know, Jagger and Richards, are you the Carmack or Romero of Dog-eared and Cracked?
JAY I don’t think we can give away to our listeners who Dog-eared is and who Cracked is, because that’s going to be one of those mysteries. What’s your thought?
PHIL I mean, the other thing I was going to say that I loved, which I had no idea, is that the name Doom comes from the movie The Color of Money,
JAY That’s right, with Tom Cruise.
PHIL He opens up the case for this pool cue and they say, “What’s in there?” And he says, “Doom.”
JAY Yeah, it’s great.
PHIL I have seen the movie, I recommend watching The Hustler, which is from the 50s or early 60s.
JAY So shall we get down to maybe rate this piece of literature? Let’s say the scale is…
JAY One to five, as it is every week. Five means you’ve already begun lobbying for the two Johns to be on the U.S. $100 bill and a 1 means you pine for the good old days of Pong and Blip when you find yourself referring to the book as The Masters of Doom.
PHIL What’s Blip?
JAY It was huge! I think Pong was played on TV and it was a handheld game.
PHIL All right, I’ll have to look it up after. I remember Pong, I don’t remember Blip,
JAY Maybe I made that up. So where do you stand on Masters of Doom?
PHIL I would give it a three. I would say I like I like the characters, I like, I found it kind of, kind of exhilarating reading in the beginning for sort of nostalgic kind of reasons. I did, I did have this issue of like who is the audience which would crop up and also, you know, just really finding it lagged in the last third. I –you know, I’m glad I had the opportunity to read it. It doesn’t make me want to rush out and pick up any of his other, his other books. I don’t know, three, three and a half. Can I can I fudge it like that?
JAY Absolutely, I found myself drawing comparisons with The Library Book. I think it’s because they’re both kind of the same tone, but different subject material. So I started drawing comparisons between Susan Orlean and David Kushner in the way they’re drawing on things like characters. And it’s interesting, though, because Sue, Susan really did not have a lot of material to work with. And she wrote an entire book and she managed to make it fairly entertaining. She did draw a line of things that were kind of peripheral to the actual incident at the library to flesh out the book. And she had more characters to work with, whereas Kushner had more material to work with, but less character. So there’s that difference. Kushner I felt effectively built tension. And I think we both kind of agreed that the, on The Library Book podcast, that there was pretty good dramatic tension built up when he was describing how the fire was started and the investigation. And I thought there was really good tension, dramatic tension in Masters of Doom in the beginning anyway, in particular when, for example, they’re trying to get Doom uploaded onto the FTP server at the University of Wisconsin, they can’t get in because all their fans are already in the waiting room and it’s basically effectively blocked them out. It’s kind of like the guest of honour at a surprise birthday party can’t actually get into the house because there’s too many people there waiting for them. The way he wrote that was was excellent. The description of technology in that industry to me was compelling. And the book’s theme, I thought, was ostensibly about possibility and it was almost inspirational. I really carried that theme and I carried this idea that two people very passionate about what they’re doing, and they’ve got this enthusiasm, that I kind of felt was contagious and reading about those early days, and they finally start — get moving, and seeing that success. I love that. I love that part of the book. So I would I would rate this a 4. It’s an enjoyable read to me. And I thought it was fairly accessible. A little bit of technical detail in there, but not too much.
PHIL It’s definitely accessible. Yeah. Anybody could read this book.
JAY So getting back to your view then, it just wasn’t as interesting to you because of the content, or was it the writing? How did you compare it to The Library Book?
PHIL Well, I don’t, I mean, just in terms of skill, I don’t think he’s as skilled a writer. I know maybe it was just, maybe it was just the pacing, it really carried me for the first half or the first two-thirds and then… I mean, it was a more compelling story, so it’s like you said, maybe that, maybe if the focus had been narrower or — it probably could have breezed through the last third of the book, like with less detail. I mean, it’s hard because he obviously did a huge amount of research and he wants to use that. Also, and, I mean, it’s also, you know, when he talks about the rocketry scene at the end, Carmack develops a new hobby, which is building and firing…
JAY Right, he was kind of starting a new book.
PHIL And, well, that was OK. But I mean. Kushner, he does, he obviously he made a conscious decision to not make himself a part of this book, so he’s with Carmack when he’s firing those rockets, right? He’s not being told about it later. You can, if you read the acknowledgments, it seems pretty clear, unless I’m mistaken, that he was there with him. But he doesn’t insert himself into the book at all. And I can understand that for the historical stuff, but I could — even then, I would, I would be interested in knowing, like, you know, when he was interviewing Romero, what was Romero doing or saying or what did he think he was thinking or… You know what I mean? Instead of just setting it out, like, here’s my story I’m telling and I’m standing back from it. And of course, it’s a narrative choice. I’m not saying every non-fiction writer has to put themselves in the story, but it just — in some of those scenes where clearly they’re fairly intimate and he was clearly there, it felt weirdly kind of discombobulating reading it.
JAY I think the big difference for me, Susan Orlean had a personal relationship with libraries. She talked about that a couple of times, both when she was a kid and later on, Kushner really only mentions it in his introduction and…
PHIL Just in the author’s note at the end.
JAY Right. And I think maybe that’s why I thought it might have been interesting if he had been more of a gamer himself. Well…
PHIL Mm hmm.
That’s it for this week. If you haven’t signed off yet to go buy a PC gaming system and lots of junk food to create your own game, please rate and review us on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen. Ratings and reviews make the podcast easier to find and allow us to reach more people. And you can also leave us feedback any time at dogearedandcracked.ca.
PHIL I was going to say at dogearedandcracked.ca, where I recently learned that we have a blog.
JAY I read — your contribution on that blog was quite, quite enjoyable. I’ve already had feedback on it, so this is great.
PHIL So, I didn’t realist that you’re a hockey fan, but I guess for next time you want to do Rick Vaive’s hockey memoir, Catch 22? Did I understand that correctly?
JAY Yeah, well, I was thinking Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, but — you know that this is going to be a Dog-eared and cracked first. Neither one of us actually read this book before.
PHIL I tried reading Catch-22 in high school or CEGEP, and I think I didn’t make it past 10 pages, so — but it’s one of those cultural touchstone books. I am curious about it.
JAY Yeah. Joseph Heller’s, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 has had a lot of literary praise and great feedback over the years. It’s one of those books that just kind of keeps popping its head up. So we’re both going to give it a try.
PHIL I know it’s about a guy in the Air Force called Yossarian and he wants to get out but can’t, that’s that’s all I know.
JAY That’s right. That’s about all I know as well. Well, I guess we’ll see you next time.
PHIL Yes, we’ll see you next time with Joseph Heller and not Rick Vaive in hand.
JAY This is going to be — next one, the next one is going to be the worst podcast ever or the best one ever, both of us having read potentially different Catch-22 books. All right. I got to go level up here. I got to go finish my game, OK? See you next time,
PHIL OK. See you next time.