Weighing in at 750 pages, I knew this book would have a Dickensian quality to it, with subplots emerging as the tale progressed. The main story is pai...moreWeighing in at 750 pages, I knew this book would have a Dickensian quality to it, with subplots emerging as the tale progressed. The main story is painful and wonderfully done. Once Lamb begins to commingle the main character's ancestry with the story, however, the book begins to meander from taut to sprawling.
For an epic that tries to weave the Columbine shootings, Hurricane Katrina, Civil War times, and generations of family history into one tale, I'd give Lamb an "A" for effort, and perhaps a "B" for execution.
As I told my wife, "You'd love the journey back to the secrets of his family's past, but hate the current day Columbine stuff". I was just the opposite - more interested in the aftermath of today's tragedies than unearthed familial history from generations before. So, on one hand, there's something for everyone; on the other, you might feel you're reading more stories than you bargained for.
Lamb, though, is a terrific writer, and I felt as swept away by his narrative and characters as I have by my favorite current writer, TC Boyle. So, I do recommend this book - just prepare yourself for Lamb's desire to throw every historical moment since slavery into the tale at some point. (less)
I enjoy books where satirists take aim at the hypocrisies of organized religion, while still working to honor the notion that spirituality itself is n...moreI enjoy books where satirists take aim at the hypocrisies of organized religion, while still working to honor the notion that spirituality itself is not a bad thing.
Black does this well...though with scatter shot organization.
The book reads like a mix of stand-up and essay, and that's a tricky blend. Black's stand up is a loud ALL CAPS shout. His approach to essay is more sincere and sedate. The mix of the two makes for a bit of a bumpy ride.
Still, whenever someone calls out folks like Falwell, Robertson, the Creation Museum in Kentucky, and George W Bush for being bad examples of what faith is supposed to be, I gotta stand up and applaud.
Lewis Black isn't the next Bill Hicks. Yet. But, if he'll keep honing his skills to mix sincere personal beliefs like this with his stand-up, maybe he'll get there. (less)
Sarah Vowell is a gem of a satirist. This is a very funny book, with a unique voice. Highlights include: Tom Cruise Makes Me Nervous, The First Thanks...moreSarah Vowell is a gem of a satirist. This is a very funny book, with a unique voice. Highlights include: Tom Cruise Makes Me Nervous, The First Thanksgiving, and Dear Dead Congressman.
The Audio Book is voiced by Conan O'Brien, Jon Stewart, Sarah Vowell and others. I would love to hear it.
I'm looking forward to seeking out more of Sarah Vowell's work. Her debut, "Take the Cannoli" was a great read as well.
The answer to the question, "Why is God Laughing?" might very well be, "He's doing something more entertaining than reading this book."
Sorry to slam D...moreThe answer to the question, "Why is God Laughing?" might very well be, "He's doing something more entertaining than reading this book."
Sorry to slam Deepak, but this book just failed to connect with me for three reasons:
1) The spiritual platitudes, while solid, were ones I've heard many times before, from various sources. Not that I fault Chopra for this, maybe it's just that the basics of a spiritual life are universal and as ancient as wisdom itself. But, still, I'm always looking for an evolutionary step forward in enlightenment from such books, and when they don't deliver, I'm always a tad let down.
2) Storytelling Contrivance #115 - the mystical guide. This is the character that such yuletide classics as "A Christmas Carol" and "It's a Wonderful Life" used so effectively: the spirit who comes down to guide our protagonist to an awakening. And I know, as a writer, I use a lot of contrivances, but once we met this netherworld/heavenly guide early on, I kept wishing Chopra had found another way to go with this journey. Omniscience is taxing.
3) The 'hero' of our story is a stand-up comedian. Problem is that all the comedy material in the book that Chopra borrows/creates isn't very funny. Like the movie "Punch Line", which had a compelling story, but bad stand-up material, I kept wanting this character to be funnier than he was. Comedy that is intended to be performed rarely works on the page. Good for Chopra for trying. Just felt like I was reading from Rupert Pupkin's notebook.
So, I guess I need to give Chopra another try with one of his non-fiction tomes on spirituality. As for this approach, well, Mike Myers wrote the forward and seemed to love the book. But Mike Myers also gave us "The Love God", so...(less)
OK, I read this, in its brief entirety at the bookstore. It's priceless. Satire at the level of "The Daily Show". Great illustrations, smart reference...moreOK, I read this, in its brief entirety at the bookstore. It's priceless. Satire at the level of "The Daily Show". Great illustrations, smart references, and a spot on parody of the original "Goodnight, Moon".
Should go nicely in the Bush Library. I mean, the Bush Shelf. Cubby Hole?
My bias is showing, but if you don't believe we've had the most forthcoming, capable leadership the past eight years, and you can still laugh about it, this is well worth reading or gifting to a Blue-state buddy.(less)
After reading "The Road", I decided to read more McCarthy, starting with the inspiration for 2007's Best Picture. A bit odd to read the book after see...moreAfter reading "The Road", I decided to read more McCarthy, starting with the inspiration for 2007's Best Picture. A bit odd to read the book after seeing the movie. Especially after seeing the movie four times.
The Coen Brothers were quite faithful to the book, save a subplot here or there and some of McCarthy's dialogue that had to be trimmed. But, most scenes felt spot-on in translation from page to screen.
More to the point, McCarthy is just one hell of a confident writer. His terse prose reminds me of Raymond Carver. There are no flowery descriptions, no impressive polysyllabic adjectives. Things are what they are, and he says so, bluntly, but to great effect. Many writers would draw a murder out over several pages. McCarthy covers it in four words. But the tension and the build-up to that moment is what makes those four words so devastating.
A chilling read that tends to infer that evil has triumphed over good, or is at least winning the battle at the moment, and our lives are made up of our choices, each and every one.
Lest you think I love everything I read, I frickin' hated this book. Written in a smarmy, sarcastic tone, it purports to be written to kids so they ca...moreLest you think I love everything I read, I frickin' hated this book. Written in a smarmy, sarcastic tone, it purports to be written to kids so they can learn how to cope with the variety of Little League coaches they may encounter. Rather than give practical advice, he does his best to "Dennis Miller" his way through all the possible scenarios a kid may face, which really boil down to two situations: The coach is coaching so he can make his son a star, or The coach is coaching because his dreams of playing in The Show were dashed, and he's determined to rectify that vicariously with you!
The book is one long tedious insult to everyone who loves baseball and anyone who has experienced an agenda-less coach who is there to enjoy the game and help the kids. And yeah, I took this book personally...that's what the author wanted. My response? You're outta here. (less)
This book was a lot of fun. Short 2-3 page synopsis of jobs from Harlem Globetrotter opponent to Prize Patrol for Publisher's Clearing House, beekeepe...moreThis book was a lot of fun. Short 2-3 page synopsis of jobs from Harlem Globetrotter opponent to Prize Patrol for Publisher's Clearing House, beekeeper to Zamboni driver. You'll learn what the jobs pay, how to break in, and pros and cons of the gigs.
Wanna be a dominatrix? You can get started with less than $100 at the hardware store. Want to be a human guinea pig? Learn how to apply for profitable, painful medical tests! This book is a great bathroom book or coffee table conversation starter.
Me? I'm heading to Ace Hardware with the wife! ;-)(less)
When NPR correspondent Joe Bageant moved back to Winchester, Virginia after being away for decades, he felt the true breadth of the chasm that exists...moreWhen NPR correspondent Joe Bageant moved back to Winchester, Virginia after being away for decades, he felt the true breadth of the chasm that exists between - for lack of a better term - the classes in America.
He tells it like it is - showing empathy for the folks who are working hard to sustain a lifestyle that encompasses far less than most of us are accustomed to. He also acknowledges the anger and disbelief that he experiences around these folks who so willingly give their votes to a political party that seems to far removed from their basic needs. Yet, they forsake the promise of good jobs and health care because - as Bible belt Southerners - they put more stock in a candidate's purported stance on God, guns, and guts (a/k/a, blowing up foreigners).
The book is, at times, infuriating, and then it swings to heartbreaking, then to humorous. At times it gets bogged down in Michael Moore like fact-checking, but the point is clear - a sizable portion of the American voting pubic is made up of rather simple folks who cling to an ideology that might seem outdated to many of us, but to them, it's what got them this far, and they aren't ready to relinquish it.
Those of us that go to Starbucks every day, and spend time on Goodreads (or, heck, just reading!) are as elitist and odd to them as they may seem hayseed to some of us.
Bageant pulls it all together nicely with the reminder (cliched though it may be) that we're all Americans, and we all essentially want the same basic things - we just have very different views of how to accomplish those goals.
I'll never endorse the NRA/Nascar mentality, but now I have a better understanding of who some of these folks are, and I see why they believe what they believe, whether I agree with it or not.
I've had a hard time entering Philip Roth's world, having abandoned "Sabbath's Theater" and "The Human Stain" in the past, though I still hope to revi...moreI've had a hard time entering Philip Roth's world, having abandoned "Sabbath's Theater" and "The Human Stain" in the past, though I still hope to revisit them.
"Everyman" may have been just the right passageway for me - a novella about a man (we never learn his name) and his realization that, in the twilight of his years, he has become everything he'd hoped he wouldn't. As he undergoes a series of medical procedures, the wreckage that is his body serves as a metaphor for the maladies of his human spirit, having failed at marriage three times, as a father twice (his sons hate him, only his daughter wants a relationship with him), and as an artist (he waited until retirement to pursue his dream of painting).
The narrative is splayed between present and past, beginning with a graveside service for the man, and then weaving through the phases of his life. Roth isn't one for verbal theatrics, and his style doesn't draw attention to itself, so what you have left is simply a story well told, which may be the hardest thing for a writer to do - no bells, no whistles, just the bone and marrow of a life, presented but never explained.
Roth's rather unapologetic approach to prose accentuates the regret this character feels, and while most would consider the book a downer, I find stories of regret like this one to be most inspiring - it reminds you of priorities, the gifts of health and happiness, and the devastating power of every choice we make without being didactic about it.
When I told Wendy that this book never shares the main character's name with the reader she said, "I can't connect with a character if I don't know what to call them." Then, I looked at the cover of the book - completely black except for the title glaring off the hardback: "Everyman". There was his name, and the metaphoric punch that Roth intended.
This is not an 'enjoyable' or light read, but it's a quick and rewarding one, and one I'm glad gave me a passageway into Mr. Roth's reading room. (less)