(Originally published at Bookhawk Pilipinas last Jun 3, 2008, 7:35 PM Philippine time. Also blogged about on my Multiply site.
Looking back now... yes, my taste in books had been insanely cynical.)
I can't remember exactly what year she bought it, but just a few years ago my mom plucked this book out of the bargain bins of Page One/Fully Booked (P100 from P580, Power Plant Mall) with hopes that it would give her sound advice on how to deal with single-parenthood and precocious children with increasingly disturbing behavior, a.k.a. me and my two siblings.
Not that it was much help: for one thing Ted Rall is more popularly known as a political cartoonist a.k.a. the bane of Republicans/conservatives the world over, and not quite as an authority on rearing teenagers. Heck, despite its title it wasn't even entirely about troubled families at all (although it DID pose the fascinating proposition of abolishing Father's Day due to the proliferation of all those absentee male parents today's emo songs keep bitching about). To top it all off, the book was published WAAAY back in 1998, and therefore contained quite a few now-outdated references on how slow and unreliable the Internet was. I'm guessing that at some point Mom just plain gave up on reading the thing... which is how this extremely revelatory tome has now come into my possession.
An anthology of some of Rall's most incisive early non-political essays (with more than a few of his horrifyingly apt cartoons thrown in), Revenge of the Latchkey Kids can probably be best described as the Generation-X equivalent of Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book. It has been by far one of the most important books in my as-of-yet young life, and it pretty much wipes the floor with the whole of that Emo musical genre I was talking about.
A lot of the topics here fall under the subheading of "Things We Never Talk About, But Are Secretly Pondering", albeit from Rall's glum, angry & irreverent point-of-view. Barring the fact that some of the socio-political stuff still keeps an American audience in mind (and that some of the content, especially the technological sort, has since fallen out-of-touch), the more universally pertinent subject matter is dark and disturbing all the same. Such must-reads include Rall's pieces on broken families, the end of the world, religious dissatisfaction, fickleness in friendship, personal identity, futile employment and the egocentric, apathetic youth.
Just as dark and disturbing as the essays themselves of course are Rall's accompanying cartoons, which also shows how much his drawing style has evolved when compared to his current cartoons.
Looking back at this last image now, I can't help but notice something... prophetic about it (note that this came out way back in the nineties)...