The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, March 12, 1997 - 9
Ruff to bring bark, book to Borders
By Eizabeth Lucas
Daily Books Editor
By now, many have probably seen the
book in Borders - a hardcover with
surreal cover art on a book jacket in flu-
cent pink and yellow. Many have
rbably won- _
cved what it is. PR
Atid those who
have read the book
may, still be won-
author Matt Ruff
Iig latest novel, "Sewer, Gas and
Electric," is not easy to define.
People who've read it seem to have
e it - the trick is that it's very diffi-
cult to summarize or describe Ruff said
in n interview with The Michigan Daily.
VRuff's novel, subtitled "The Public
Works Trilogy," is an updating of Ayn
Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" - in this sur-
eCal and futuristic version, the self-sac-
rificing liberals are the heroes.
By Anna Kovalszki
For the Daily
Welcome to Chicago - "Chicago
Sons,' that is. "Sons" is yet another
family show, with a twist. Instead of
portraying an entire family (like
"Roseanne" and "Home
Improvement"), it follows three broth-
There are a few other changes.
Whereas Rand's weighty novel runs
more than 1,000 pages, Ruff's zips along
in a mere 300 or so, shifting scenes and
bringing in new characters at a dizzying
pace. The novel is set in 2023, and it fea-
E V I E W sinister computers, a
submarine full of
Matt Ruff ecoterrorists and a
Thursday at 7:30 p.m. mutant shark named
Free In Ruff's vision
of the future, people
drive talking cars, work in immense sky-
scrapers and live in domed cities, assist-
ed at every turn by mass-produced
robots. But this high-tech existence is
not exactly a utopia. His altruistic char-
acters must not only battle the local
wildlife, but they must also solve a
bizarre murder mystery.
This highly original work "all started
with the title," Ruff said. "I looked at
sci-fi trilogies and I thought, what could
be the strangest-sounding name for a
book,.where you could still conceive a
Ruff's reading of "Atlas Shrugged"
was also important in developing his plot.
"I think I was old enough when I read
it that I saw the flaws in the philosophy.
I started out to make fun of it, as a
quasi-satire, but it turned into some-
thing a little different," Ruff said.
"Sewer, Gas and Electric" is indeed
something different, filled with unexpect-
ed plot twists and situations, and it may
make Ruff more well-known as an author.
But it is by no means his literary debut.
"I was a writer at 5;' Ruff said. "I fin-
ished my first novel as a senior thesis in
high school, and another in college.
'Fool on the Hill' was my senior thesis
Writing "Sewer, Gas and Electric"
took about four years, and it required
plenty of research, Ruff said. Some of
this was background reading on Rand,
who appears as a character in the novel,
and some research took other forms.
"I do a lot of weird reading into side
paths of history - like the tunnel that
brought water to New York, or the alli-
gator safari," Ruff said.
This last anecdote, also included in
the novel, is apparently not just an
urban legend. Ruff stated that a 1935
New York Times article reported the
sighting of a 7-foot alligator in a sewer.
It's not revealing too much of the plot to
say that this story was clearly an influ-
ence on the book.
Ruff said his next book would probably
be a departure from the style of this one.
"I wanted to try something a little dif-
ferent, with six or seven subplots, Ruff
As Ruff said, the hardest part of writ-
ing an unusual book is "getting people
to read the book in the first place."
Readers might well want to give
"Sewer, Gas and Electric" a try. They
will encounter a highly inventive and
Ruff-ruff: Author Matt Ruff will talk about his book at Borders on Thursday night)
minula keeps 'Sons' from shining
ers living in an apartment overlooking
Chicago's Wrigley Field.
What creatures occupy their fantasies,
as well as cause their trials and tribula-
tions? Girls, girls and more girls! So
much so, that even this masculine set
needs a full-time female. This slot is
occupied by Lindsay Sutton (Paula
Marshall, "Wild Oats"), a co-worker and
crush of middle brother Harry Kulchak
(Jason Bateman, "The Hogan Family").
"Chicago Sons" has the potential for
Casanova, who, much to her dismay, is
an umbrella boy.
Corny jokes plague the comedy.
Picture this: a moonlit night with star-
greatness, like pre-
chemistry of that
'70s hit is present in
this new sitcom -
in a brotherly sense
- but the comedic
Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m.
Lindsay and Raul
gazing up at the sky.
Lindsay: "The stars
are so close here."
Raul, in a melodic
voice: "Just like me,
they long to be close
aspects are lacking, to say the least.
In one episode, the oldest Kulchak
brother, Michael (D.W. Moffett,
"Stealing Beauty"), earns so many fre-
quent flyer miles that the whole family
and Lindsay have the opportunity to
take a vacation in the Bahamas. Never
mind the hotel costs. Predictably, every-
one on this ill-fated trip runs into prob-
lems, if you can call them that.
Mike has the biggest problem/bless-
ing. The owner of the resort, Ms.
Parkhurst, falls for him, lavishing him
with gifts like Rolex watches. He feels
like a slab of meat, the poor soul.
Lindsay falls for Raul, a Latino
In addition, audiences were pleasant-
ly surprised by Scotty Pippen's cameo
as a building owner on Feb. 12. In
another episode, who should pop up but
Gabrielle Reece, in yet another of the
show's sexual innuendo jokes.
Unfortunately, though, the comedy too
often seems to rely heavily on guest
appearances to enhance its appeal.
The unreal circumstances and formu-
laic script leave even the most avid com-
edy watcher thirsty for something to
wash down all the syrup. But if you're
looking for a basic, veg-out-in-front-of-
the-television comedy, "Sons" is it.
Paula Marshall, D.W. Moffett, Jason Bateman and David Krumholtz star in
"Chicago Sons," on Wednesday nights at 8:30.
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Please join ABBOTT LABORATORIES at our
Career Opportunities Reception
March 12, 1997
The Michigan League - Michigan Room
We will discuss current and future openings for students interested in the following disciplines:
I i a
I n - I I