I hope you don't forget about me when school starts again. You shan't? Right?
6th February 2011 Dear Michael, 6 January 2011 Dear Michael,
I hope you don't forget about me when school starts again. You shan't? Right?
6th February 2011 Dear Michael,
22 February 2011
2 March 2011
I have missed our long strolls down the avenues, discussing good books and laughing, the gondola rides, walking down the beach, 69'ing in the back of the church, and all that other romantic stuff we've done over the years. But, you should see the way they're treating me at this school! I'm, at present, chained up in a dungeon where I'm forced to read about sustainability, social media, and composition theory for hours on end. No matter how much I beg and I plead, they make me research communities in World of Warcraft and Second Life by playing these 'games.' It's oh-so-very hard.
Okay, so it's mostly fun. But, it's very time consuming.
I haven't forgotten you, nor have I forgotten the way you taught me to spend forever reviewing a book while barely talking about the book--or even books in general. Or, the way you supported my addiction to crab-related horror novels. (By the way, those crab books STILL aren't in the mail, but I'm getting there.) I remember all the good times we've had, goodreads. And, I especially want to thank you for convincing me to give Virginia Woolf another chance.
When I give a five-star rating to more than one book by the same author, I start wondering if I should demote all but my favorite. Clearly, they can't be entirely equal books. But, Mrs. Dalloway was amazing in its own way. I would definitely recommend Orlando as a more necessary read, though. This is such a strange, dynamic, HILARIOUS book...in very brief form, this is the story of a young man growing up to be a young woman, and doing so over several hundred years. It's magical realism way before Marquez, and it's full of beautiful writing that constantly surprises you. The tone is much more playful than anything else I've read by Woolf (he says knowingly, with two other Woolf novels on his shelves). But, like David Bowie in spandex pants, there's clearly something substantial and weighty under the surface. This book, like other works by Woolf, deals with some major issues of sexism and gender. I would elaborate on that, but I haven't had my coffee yet.
The final off-topic point I want to bring up is this:
Next time you decide to make a printing of The Red Pony, feel free to borrow one of these free blurbs.
"Do you like people hanging around on a farm? DNext time you decide to make a printing of The Red Pony, feel free to borrow one of these free blurbs.
"Do you like people hanging around on a farm? Do you like horses and animals and stuff? Then you'll think this book is okay! It has horses, and grass, and farms and stuff, and is an easy read."
"John Steinbeck is a writer of amazing stature in American literature. He stands head and shoulders above just about anyone, wiping his feet on Faulkner, flicking Mark Twain out of his way like a little bug. He defacates on Edith Wharton's pillow, eats Henry Miller for breakfast, and he doesn't even know who Guy N. Smith is. He wrote this book."
"The epic saga of two families in the Salinas valley, and considered by Steinbeck himself to be his magnum opus, this is a novel that has changed literature, and made Steinbeck an iconic figure. Oh, wait, The Red Pony? I thought we were talking about East of Eden. I don't remember a goddamn thing about The Red Pony."
Or (SPOILERS IN THIS ONE///SPOILERS IN THIS ONE///SPOILERS IN THIS ONE):
"You call THIS The Red Pony? You got a lot of nerve. That's like changing the name of Star Wars: A New Hope to Greedo. It's like calling The Land Before Time something like Little Foot's Mom. It's like putting a picture of Drew Barrymore on the cover of the movie Scream. It doesn't make any fucking sense. What were you thinking, John?"
**spoiler alert** To save you time, I shall summarize this novelette for you. If the subject comes up at a cocktail party, (1) pretend you've really r**spoiler alert** To save you time, I shall summarize this novelette for you. If the subject comes up at a cocktail party, (1) pretend you've really read it, (2) find cooler cocktail parties. But, really, this has some INTENSE spoilers.
AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS (Now with additions to satisfy the whiners)
Okay, so, there's like TEN scientists, and it doesn't matter what their names are, because none of them have personalities. For the purposes of making this more exciting, lets say their names are Michael, Eh!, Jacob, Ceridwen, Caris, Jason, Manny, Brian and Aerin. And, by the way, now would be the appropriate time to turn all the lights off, except for maybe a few candles to get a spooky mood going.
Okay, so! Our brave crew of scientists are going down to the South Pole to study something Scientific. Lets imagine it's the effects of global warming. They're gonna check to see how much more ice has melted, and whether or not the penguins are sweating to death and whatnot. But, when we get down there to the pole, there's a big snow-storm! Some of us are kinda big pussies, so we don't want to fly to the research site and maybe die on the way, so we let the most courageous ones go first. So Ceridwen, Brian, Jason, and Eh! all hop into the plane and fly into the snowy sky.
We cowards are all hanging around and playing Mario Kart and arguing about whether Jay-Z is the new Frank Sinatra, and, if so, whether Beyonce is Dean Martin or Sammy Davis Jr. We're waiting on messages, but we're all on T-Mobile, and you can't even get service in fucking KANSAS CITY on T-Mobile, so you aren't getting SHIT at the south pole. Every now and then, though, our associates manage to get a text message through to us. The first one is all like,
WEIRD BUILDINGS, REMINISCENT OF ROERICH PAINTINGS, ALSO OF CHAPTERS FROM THAT OH-SO-HARD TO LOCATE TOME, THE NECRONOMICON, WRITTEN BY THAT CRAFTY FOREIGNER, ABDUL AL HAZZAD BIN LADEN.
And we're all like, "Yeah, I remember that old, impossible to find tome. I was flipping through its shadow-laden pages for no reason whatsoever this one time. So, there's general agreement: sounds like Necronomicon, chapter 5: "On Scary Arctic Architecture and Other Scary Things Too."
Meanwhile, Ceridwen was building a small hospital with her bare hands, crafting perfect rectangular bricks out of snow. Jason, who was practicing his quickdrawing skills, said, "Do you want any help with that?" "Nope," Ceridwen said. "It's just a small hospital; it shouldn't take me too long." Meanwhile, Eh! was standing in a snowdrift in deep meditation. Focusing her qi energy, she pitched a ball of focused, dense air forward, and used it to explode the head off of a snowman that Brian was making. "Stop doing your ninja moves on my snowmen, Eh!" Brian said. "That's the fifth snowman you've ruined!" With a shrug, Eh! turns toward a high plateau of ice and begins focusing her qi once again. With another blast of air, she caused an avalanche of frozen ice shards that levelled the rest of Brian's snowman army.
Back in cowardville, the phone vibrates again, and says WE FOUND SOME FREAKY, HALF-VEGETABLE-HALF-ANIMALS THAT SEEM PERFECTLY FROZEN. WE'RE GONNA DESCRIBE THEM FOR LIKE 1000 WORDS, BUT YOU AREN'T GONNA HAVE A FUCKING CLUE WHAT WE'RE SAYING, and then they do. When they're done describing the strange beasts, they say, WE'RE KINDA FREAKED OUT, IT LOOKS LIKE SOME STRANGE ANCIENT RACE HAS LIVED HERE IN THE PAST. WE ALL AGREE IT SOUNDS LIKE THE "ANCIENT ONES" FROM THE NECRONOMICON, CHAPTER 7.
Now, we were all excited about the scientific possibilites, so much so that Jacob thoughtfully scratched his ironic beard, and Caris jizzed in his pants. We waited, and we waited, but no more texts arrived.
Then, finally, we got one last message:
AAAAAAARRRRRGH! ICK. DEAD.
And we were skeptical about exactly what this means, so we all loaded into the other helicopter. (The arctic storm had lessened, btw.) We flew out there to the research site, and we saw the penguins were indeed sweating to death. But, more importantly, we saw the strange, arctic structures that immediately reminded us of our undergrad perusals of that old, lost and forgotten tome, and also the Roerich painting. (This comparison to Roerich is VERY important: if my imitation were even more close to the original, it would sound more like this:
But, in my efforts to entertain, I will omit much of the Roerich-ing.)
Even more importantly than these strange ancient structures (Roerich) was what we then saw: the mutilated bodies of our erstwhile comrades! Brian was all over the campsite in gloopy red chunks, like someone had broken a pinata filled with raw sirloin. Ceridwen lay with huge bites out of her, as if some large beast had been noshing on her. And, stranger still, Jason's body was in the very small hospital Ceridwen had built with her bare hands. It appeared a surgery had been done on him, very carefully inspecting all of his insides, but leaving him mostly intact. Part of his body was missing, cut away with amazing precision, as if by a laser.
Anyway, this was all incredibly frightening, and we couldn't imagine what had happened to our unfortunate comrades. But we were on a set schedule, so we went to doing our work.
We went in to check out the strange buildings, and Manny is all like, "I'm going to go off alone this way and see what I can find," and we're like, "Okay, whatev." A few minutes later, as we walk with our torches through the very very unpleasantly dark hallways, we hear Manny scream. Like a girl. Then silence.
We pressed on.
Strange pictures were scattered around the walls of these inner chambers, pictures of those strange creatures from the Necronomicon. The pictures told a story of how the creatures came to earth, and how they created life as we know it as a cure for their boredom, and how they grew people in a big bowl, kind of like sea monkeys.
We passed through vast chambers, many of them, for like pages and pages...I mean, hours and hours. By the time we were done looking at all the wall murals, several more of our party had died from boredom.
Jacob was walking along with the torch, and he was like, "Is that one of those ancient whatchamacallits?" And it was: recently dead, looking like it has died out of pure fright. Then, we heard a deep, throaty cackle from down one of the chambers.
Brad said, "What the shit was that?"
And I was all like, "I didn't know you were here, Brad!"
And he was like, *shrug*.
"It sounds like some tremendous bird!" Jacob said.
"Like a really big chicken!" I said.
We noticed a great, foul-smelling fog coming from the darkness before us, like we were buried in a pile of high school gym socks filled with dog poop. We started running and shrieking through the dark, dank, dark corridors. Turkeys are fucking dangerous as hell, and this thing sounded even bigger.
For some stupid reason, Caris was all like, "Let's simultaneously turn and look and see what's back there, looming up from the stenchy darkness!"
So we did. And it wasn't just a chicken. It was scarier than that. It was a big blob of protoplasm flowing forward, with an endless supply of eyeballs and mouths rising to its surface, the mouths howling out in that frightening "cluck, cluck, cluck."
We came to a chamber with some penguin babies in it, and we started field-goal kicking them back into the darkness, hoping to slow down the onset of that protoplasmic horror from the depths of earth's coldest and darkest recesses.
It didn't slow the thing down, so we tripped Brad. Then, Caris tripped on a pocket of strangely dense air. Jacob and I kept running.
I smelled feces, and I had a suspicion about what just happened in Jacob's pants. Behind us, behind that wall of rancid fog, we could hear that blob of ancient unknowable soulless funkiness devouring Brad and Caris, and they moaned with pain and horror as they sank into it and were quickly digested.
Finally, we got back outside and ran to the helicopter. Aerin was snoozing in the pilot's seat. We shook her awake and said, "Step on it!"
The helicopter lifted into the air, and Aerin was like, "It smells like you guys stepped in shit." And I said, "It was Jacob," and he said, "Way to narc me out," and I was like, "Dude, it's not a big mystery, maybe next time we go investigate ancient evils you should wear a diaper." He was upset, and, in an attempt to distract himself from the embarassing situation, looked over his shoulder at the receding mountains...and glimpsed something so petrifyingly horrific, so vast and abysmally bleak, horror that Jacob may never fully recover emotionally, and might only speak in sentence fragments for the rest of his life:
"The spires. . . of doom. . . . the ancient blood of souls forgotten. . . the peaks of apocalypse birth. . . the cluttered geography of darkness. . . "
Catherine: Oh, Henry, I do so love you, and I hope you don't tire of me. I'm going to do my best to be a good wife for you. I am doing well, aren't I?
Henry: You couldn't be doing better, my love. I can't imagine what I'd do without you.
Joy: Pardon me while I puke under the table.
Michael: Try not to get any on my shoes.
Waiter: Could I interest you in any appetizers?
Michael: Sure. What kind of animals are in your sausage?
Waiter: Ummm . . . I'm not sure, but I can check.
Joy: No, don't worry about it; we'll have the queso dip.
Catherine: Order for me, Henry, I want whatever we choose to please you.
Henry: Okay. We'll have two more bourbons and the chicken fingers.
Joy: *looking at Catherine, makes whipping noise, and does the accompanying arm gesture.*
Catherine: What does that mean? That thing you just did?
Joy: Thing I just did? Whatever do you mean?
Catherine: You went. . . *makes whipping noise, does the accompanying arm gesture*
Joy: I most certainly did not, and I don't know what something like that would mean.
Catherine: Well, I'm confident I saw you do it.
Joy: I had a thing on my arm. I was shaking it off. Maybe I sneezed at the same time, I can't remember.
Henry: It was good of you to invite us on this double date. I've just returned from the war, and I'm glad to be out with friends again.
Michael: Don't mention it, Henry, it's my pleasure. I always like having dinner with fictional characters. How is the war going?
Henry: Not so well. It's over, actually, and Italy lost. The two of us are living in Switzerland now, getting ready for the baby.
Michael: How long will it be?
Joy: That's what she said.
Michael: *punches Joy in the arm*
Joy: *Slaps the side of Michael's head*
Henry: Another two weeks. We can't wait.
Catherine: We're simply dying for the baby to be born.
Joy: *Whispering* Well, that was tasteless.
Catherine: What did you say?
Joy: Oh, nothing.
Catherine: *glaring at Joy* I get the feeling you truly don't like me, Joy. What on earth did I do to you?
Joy: You're just so fucking submissive, Catherine! How do you ever expect to be happy if Henry never gets to know the real you?
Catherine: What do you mean, the real me? He knows I was a nurse during the war, and that I love him . . . what else is there to know?
Michael: But don't you have any hobbies? I mean, do you like French movies? Do you like gardening?
Henry: Wait a minute. Why would you require a greater depth of character from my wife than you get from me? I'm not an especially complex person, either.
Michael: Well, not especially, but we know you have a fetish for sports, and you dig fishing and stuff. So, that lends a greater realism to your personality than Catherine has.
Catherine: *blushing* This is hardly polite conversation.
Joy: Sorry, Catherine, but you asked.
*The waiter delivers appetizers. They begin eating.*
Michael: This is good queso. Good choice, babe.
Joy: As usual.
Michael: So, you two read any good books lately?
Henry: *ignores Michael's question* I object to the way you're talking about my wife. She might not be the most complex person, but she's still admirable: like my own sacrifice--fighting in the war--Catherine is going to make a great sacrifice when. . . well, you know.
Henry: Nothing, dear.
Joy: AAAH, so YOU make a sacrifice by voluntarily going off to war. She makes a sacrifice by getting knocked up and dying during childbirth. You defend the country and come home safely, while she dies trying to poop out a baby.
Catherine: What? I die during childbirth?
Henry: I thought we weren't going to talk about that.
Michael: Well, it IS kinda the elephant at the dinner table.
Henry: We both show equal courage in the face of hopeless adversity, and neither one of us have a false sense of optimism!
Harold Bloom, from the next table over: I'm sorry, but NOBODY would say that. That's just bad dialogue.
Michael: Fuck off, Harold. Go find some Dickens to stroke off to.
Harold: Well, I never. . .
Joy: Yeah. Go pick your wick. And, in response to your unrealistic dialogue, Henry, here's what I think: she might be brave, but she only does three things, really: take care of wounded men, love a man, and have a baby. You and half the lit crits in the world can try to convince yourself that she's a 'feminist' character in some context, but it's like when Intelligent Design people try to re-explain scientific findings so they'll agree with a predetermined worldview.
Michael: THAT'S realistic dialogue.
Henry: Oh, god, do we have to talk about politics?
Catherine: Why not? We've already talked about how I'm going to f______ die!
Michael: It's the year 2010 now. You don't need to censor your swearing anymore.
Henry: Good. You two are cocksuckers.
Michael: Do you wanna walk out of here or get carried out, soldier boy?
Henry: Try me. Just try me.
Distressed customer #1, from across the restuarant : Help! Help! Is there a cynic in the house?
*All four characters raise their hands.*
Michael: I've been waiting my whole life for that to happen.
*Henry rushes toward the distressed patrons, but Joy trips him and pushes him down. The other three rush over to find a customer hyperventilating on the floor.*
Dying Customer's Fiance: He just proposed to me, and when I said yes, he started hyperventillating! I think he's on the verge of dying from sheer happiness!
Michael: What is this world coming to?
Catherine: Don't be so happy. You'll inevitably give away your youth, vigor and passion as a sacrifice for the generation coming after you. And YOU *pointing at the fiance* just be careful about using birth control.
Joy: *crouches over the dying man* And, anyway, women are genetically designed to seek out other potential mates once they've found a man to take care of their children, so she'll probably cheat on you with every bad boy she meets.
Michael: Not to mention, even if things somehow work out, what do you have left? Fifty, sixty years? And that's counting all those shitty years, where one of you will be living in a nursing home and dragging around a colostomy bag, wondering why the hell your grandkids aren't visiting. And that's the LUCKY one of you who doesn't die first. Honestly, buddy, you're probably gonna die in your mid-seventies, then SHE'LL head off to the nursing home, and maybe meet some hot old guy who she had an affair with twenty years ago, get remarried, and that old fucker will inherit all your money.
I can just see Heinlein as a teenager, hiding under his blanket and playing with his wand, astronomy textbooks splayed all around him with their coverI can just see Heinlein as a teenager, hiding under his blanket and playing with his wand, astronomy textbooks splayed all around him with their covers spread wide. This is a guy who may just get his astrobation on more than Arthur C Clarke.
Herein lies the tale of three teenaged boys who like building rockets and get pulled into an inventor's crazy scheme to build a rocket that can make it all the way to the moon!!!!!!! I know, right? Remember, this is from 1947, so when this puppy came out, this idea was so "out there" quite a few publishers rejected it based on its outlandishness.
But Heinlein got it published, and began his illustrious decade of juvinile novels, followed by his Golden Period starting with Starship Troopers. This morphed into his Creepy Old Man period, which was unfortunately the last period he had. If my reliable sources (wikipedia and Aerin) are reliable, his Creepy Old Man period's primary themes are incest, time travel, incest, free love, incest and incest.
That being said, this book is less fun than the other two I've read by him so far. The primary reasons for this are the vague characterizations of the children and the sheer level of technical sense-o-wonder scenes: "They connected the A-Valve to the primary submodilator, which sent a combustion of zinc fibers up the right chamber of the whozawhatsee, which created a reaction that used reverse gravitational magnetism to propell the rocket forward." Imagine paragraphs like that. That's my made up version of the technoporn going on here; perhaps the stuff he's coming up with in this book means something. I'm not scientifically minded enough to know.
But the end does a lot to redeem the lackluster first 100 pages. ***SPOILER ALERT FOR REST OF THE REVIEW*** You see, when they arrive on the moon, they find the remnants of a moon people civilazation...which is cool enough...but THEN...they find...NAZIS! AAAAAH!
Although World War II is over, a small group of Nazis are camped out on the moon with some big-ass bombs, ready to initiate Project Nuke The Good Guys. Our crew has to use their brilliance to out-think the Nazis if they ever want to make it back to Earth.
One thing I loved here was the fact that the children did everything important. The scientist got scared when he was trying to land the ship and one of the kids had to do it. The kids had to defend them against the Nazis because the adult got knocked unconscious. The kids also came up with a lot of the most brilliant ideas. So, this book sense the message to kids that, by cooperating with both adults and other kids, they can do huge and important things, like fly to the moon and kill Nazis.
Would I read it again? Sure. It took all of two hours, and it had its fun parts. Would I recommend it? Uhhh....as a cultural artifact, it's quite amusing. Nothing like reading old SF to see how continually surprising and hard to predict scientific progress can be.
(Since the original review got a vote, it hasn't been deleted. It has just been pushed down here.)
I suppose this is going to spoil the book's one big surprise for you, but I imagine it's the only way to get you to read a juvenile from the forties about a (GASP!) trip to the moon. So here it comes, big spoiler alert.....drumroll......NAZIS MADE IT TO THE MOON BEFORE US! AAAAAAH! And it's up to three meddling kids to stop their evil schemes!
Real review coming up. I'm too A.D.D. this morning to formulate more than one paragraph of cohesive thought at once....more
I couldn't decide whether this should be a four-star book or a five-star book. Then, I realized that I got everything out of this book that I want outI couldn't decide whether this should be a four-star book or a five-star book. Then, I realized that I got everything out of this book that I want out of a fantasy novel. I suppose that means it should get five stars, right?
This book has the utterly compelling and original setting of Groan Castle, a monstrous behemoth of a castle where whole sections have been forgotten and abandoned. It has many wonderful characters who are simultaneously outlandish and complex. And one of these characters is Steerpike, an upstart boy who is clever enough to turn all of Groan Castle on its head, and gradually maneuvers his way from a kitchen helper to a quite prestigious position (and one gets the sense his ascension is going to continue in the sequel). I don't want to spoil anything because I definitely recommend this book. The only flaw was the pacing is sometimes slow. Unfortunately, the first hundred pages or so are fairly slow as you gradually discover the environment of the castle. But, when the plot starts to thicken, it quickly becomes very hard to put down.
I liked The Grapes of Wrath quite a bit, but I think East of Eden is a better book. This book was a lot of bleakness and darkness, with a conclusion tI liked The Grapes of Wrath quite a bit, but I think East of Eden is a better book. This book was a lot of bleakness and darkness, with a conclusion that surprised me but worked very well for the book. That being said, a couple of the characters were developed so slightly that I had trouble keeping track of which one was which. The main four or five characters, however, were all very well developed....more
I really enjoyed this book, and I think it might've comforted me when I was 18 or 19 and kept falling in love with the wrong women. . . I know it wasI really enjoyed this book, and I think it might've comforted me when I was 18 or 19 and kept falling in love with the wrong women. . . I know it was about a guy older than I am now, but it really would've connected with my teenage self....more
I read a lot of dystopias in High School; I had a bit of an obsession with them. Long story short, when I started adding ratings to GoodreaUmm, yeah.
I read a lot of dystopias in High School; I had a bit of an obsession with them. Long story short, when I started adding ratings to Goodreads a million years ago, I spent quite a while trying to remember all of the dystopias I'd read. This one I only just now remembered. It was the absolute LEAST memorable of the dystopias I've read (unless there's another forgotten one still waiting to be remembered . . .)
And, on the subject of how lame this book is, how about Ayn Rand? Is there a more annoying author? Subtlety is not a concept she embraces. In fact, she bludgeons you continually with her idealogical views. As someone who most of the time agrees with her, I still want to yell at her, "Okay! Okay! We fucking get it!"
But, lets talk about Anthem.
It's slightly over a hundred pages, and it feels overlong. And, I didn't get anything out of this book that someone else didn't say better either before or after. Despite the book's brevity, it packs as much of Ayn Rand's sermonizing as books seven times its size, although I can't compare it to Atlas Shrugged since I don't think I'll ever feel masochistic enough to read it.
Since brevity is the soul of wit, I'll conclude. If you think Ayn Rand is the bee's knees, read this one. But, if you think her books are closer to propaganda than art, this one ain't gonna change your opinion....more
It seems that every time I finish and review a book, I remember two books I've read in the past. Thus, like the Hyrda of Greek mythology, my unrevieweIt seems that every time I finish and review a book, I remember two books I've read in the past. Thus, like the Hyrda of Greek mythology, my unreviewed books continue growing. So I'm going to work on going back and writing reviews for books that are already on here when I have a chance. Here we go.
As I Lay Dying was my first Faulkner, and I was excited to give him a read. But DAMN did I have a hard time getting through this book. I rarely consult the Cliffs notes when I'm reading for pleasure, but in this case it was necessary. Not because I didn't, in a purely plotline sense, understand what was happening; I just wasn't sure why I was supposed to care.
One of my favorite authors is Cormac McCarthy, who is constantly compared to Faulkner. The two of them write frequently about the south, and they have some stylistic similarities. So, if I were to go back now and reread this one, it's possible I'd think it's awesome. But, I doubt it. As I read McCarthy, I'm awed. As I read this one, I felt mostly disoriented and bored.
In the end, I didn't understand why this book is considered a classic. Is it because you have to work so hard to figure out what Faulkner's point is? Is it his occasionally poetic writing? Is it a purely historical significance, because of how he challenged the medium of novel writing?
It's not like I don't see some good things in his writing. But, I don't really get why he should be read in high school. This seems like the exact thing that would give high schoolers the sense that reading is boring, and a lot of work. Methinks that's not the first impression we should give students....more
This is a very cool collection of short stories, because they are all centered around a theme (life on Mars), but there is quite a range of story typeThis is a very cool collection of short stories, because they are all centered around a theme (life on Mars), but there is quite a range of story types in here. Some are horrific, some are funny, and the majority of them are very fun. ...more