What more can I say about David Sedaris that has not already been mentioned? If there is a late 20th century/early 21st century Humor Canon, he is a m...moreWhat more can I say about David Sedaris that has not already been mentioned? If there is a late 20th century/early 21st century Humor Canon, he is a must read. One of my friends tells me that Sedaris has "ruined" humor for her. If the book is not up to his snark calibar, it just does not cut it.
My entree to David Sedaris was Holidays on Ice. (No holiday season should be attempted without this bit of leavening hyper reality. It is almost hard to read because of the spasms of laughter it produces.) For me, no David Sedaris can match Holidays.
But this was very funny. The chapter about David's ride on the Paris Metro with a couple of Ugly Americans makes whatever the cost of the book is worthwhile right there. (Even better if you get a library copy and the yuks are free.) We get to know his mental family better and they are a never ending wellspring of dysfunction.
I went into this book expecting a non-stop howling chucklefest. However the writing is actually more restrained and thoughtful in sections than I anticipated. The big laughs are spaced apart by smaller giggles and even some introspective questions about who we are as a society...and the myriad ways we can define a loving family.
David Sedaris is, and I say this with love and respect, like everyone's very favorite catty gay dinner date. It brought back memories of the people I knew years ago...the cutting wit and bon mots that peppered the conversation at most gatherings. I've lost touch with a lot of people and I cannot even play at Hipster Pretender these days. But I can still grab me some David Sedaris!
I'll preface this by stating that I believe I am a fairly rational person. I have been labeled eccentric but I have never been a fantasist. Although u...moreI'll preface this by stating that I believe I am a fairly rational person. I have been labeled eccentric but I have never been a fantasist. Although unexplained phenomena intrigue me, I generally feel there is a logical explanation for things. And I have had very few personal experiences that qualify in any way as paranormal. Mine has been a reasonable little life generally devoid of intrigue. Perhaps this is why I read so much...to find the drama elsewhere.
Now that I have given the disclaimer, I will also admit to a weakness for the concept of time travel. I am one of those people who should probably have been born about 50 years earlier than I was. I have always felt just a little out of step. Unfortunately, I have not been able to uncover too many quality time travel titles. When the Time Traveler's Wife was published amidst a clamor of applause and accolades, I was very eager to read it. And it did not disappoint me.
The central theme of a bond between two individuals being so enduring that it can transcend time and space is an amazingly romantic and comforting conceit. It pushes aside the boundaries of life's linear progression. It provides second chances. It tantalizes the reader with possibilities. Obviously, this novel was right down my alley. I was a complete sucker for Henry and Claire's romance. And I was gratified by the writing style. I never felt as if I was delving into Harlequin Romance territory. Although the novel was, basically, a great love story...it was also much more.
I'll wrap this with a story--something that happened to my husband about a year before I met him.
He was leaving work one evening (we met on a job). The parking lot there had blind spots because of some overgrown hedges around the perimeter of the building. My husband saw nobody as he took a step out of the lot onto the sidewalk (he lived nearby and walked to work). As he took that step, two things happened simultaneously: a car careened out of nowhere directly toward him going too fast to stop before hitting him...and a hand reached out and pulled him out of the path of this car with seconds to spare.
My husband was shocked on a variety of levels. He had not seen the car at all. If it had hit him, he would have been very seriously injured, or perhaps, dead. Of coarse cars do come out of nowhere. People drive too fast and he would not have noticed someone sitting in the parking lot getting ready to drive out, or someone cutting through the lot from the side street on the other side of the building.
But why didn't he see the person who saved him before she suddenly appeared directly behind him at the crucial moment? Still a bit shaken, my future husband turned to the young woman and thanked her. At the time, my husband was only about 21 years old and he seemed to be talking to a peer. His rescuer was tall with long brown and slightly wavy hair.
She smiled at him and said, "I'm your daughter. I only came back to do this." Then she turned and ran to the end of the block and around the corner to the busy street there. My husband was further unnerved by what she had said. He called out to her to wait...but she was gone in an instant.
After we met and began telling each other the stories of our lives, he told me what had happened. Ever the pragmatist, I told him: "I want to believe...but it was just a hippie chick who took some Ex and read too much Deepak Chopra." "Yeah," said the guy who would eventually be my spouse..."that's probably about right."
About 12 years later, our daughter was born. (Everyone from relatives and friends to nosy and intrusive strangers told me I was going to have a boy. We irritated everyone by waiting to be surprised.) She is almost 4 now and is a brown eyed beauty with long brown hair. Somehow, she acquired some curl at the ends (although this does not come from her poker haired mother.) She is also a Daddy's Girl. My daughter loves me and we spend the bulk of our time together as I am not at work right now. We are close and I am satisfied with our bond. However, I watch the way she is with my husband and I think...there is something very special there.
I'm not saying anything here! But I do know my little girl would already do just about anything for her dad...and she is interested in being a super-hero like Wonder Woman. So, who knows?
Greetings from the Buckeye State...specifically the town of Knockemstiff. This town does, indeed, exist (I have been there on a lark) and the author i...moreGreetings from the Buckeye State...specifically the town of Knockemstiff. This town does, indeed, exist (I have been there on a lark) and the author is a native who escaped, but could not forget the place.
These are desperate characters trapped in the holler. Some aspire to life beyond but many are terrified of the thought of leaving. The town is a blend of hilarity and treachery, violence and pathos. I am not sure how I feel about this book yet. But it has a quirkiness that will probably stick in my memory when I am done.(less)
I found this little gem waiting for me at random on the New Book Shelf at the library. I am a sucker for the setting...a backwater English village in...moreI found this little gem waiting for me at random on the New Book Shelf at the library. I am a sucker for the setting...a backwater English village in 1881. The not-so-likeable protagonist is an arrogant city-trained architect full of himself and of the social conventions of Victorian England. He feels himself to be a cut above the inhabitants of the town in which he is temporarily working on a church restoration project.
The architect, Stannard, shows contempt for his laborers, his landlady and the curate of the church. However, he also becomes absorbed, much against his will, into the strangeness of the village. Stannard's interest is piqued by Ann...an attractive young local woman. As his attraction to Ann grows, the misfortunes that plague his work at the church continue to occur and the tone of the tale grows darker.
I am enjoying the style of the writing very much. The author successfully uses Stannard's repressive style of communication and his obsession with class distinction and propiety as a counterpoint to almost gothic scenes of fever dreams (suffered by Stannard during a period of illness). The story is restrained when it needs to be and foreboding when I want it to be.
Although I have never heard of the author before, I will look for future efforts.(less)
Yes, I know this is Dreiser and I have heard all the caveats against reading him...His mundane style and his need of an editor...the pounding over the...moreYes, I know this is Dreiser and I have heard all the caveats against reading him...His mundane style and his need of an editor...the pounding over the reader's head with his points...
I was unprepared for the power of this prose to be sure.
But the story overwhelmed me. The character of Clyde became real for me. I have known so many people like him...young, vaccilating, dreaming of better things, chafing at the position in life to which they have been placed by an accident of birth and susceptible to flattery and vice because they are bored and weak and run down by a drab life. This book was written in the early 1920s and the portrayal of the human condition is certainly not dated.
There are many who will write a more detailed, lucid and knowledgeable description of the merits of this book (or the demerits). I will simply urge those of you who have never read this classic example of 20th century realism to give it a go.
Clyde is not a hero. He can be despicable, irritating and frustrating. By why don't I detest him? This is a question I still ask myself after finishing the book months ago. I found myself rooting for his character to, literally, get away with murder (and the murder of a very nice person, too.) The last portion of the book is especially gripping as we learn Clyde's fate.
An American Tragedy was an emotional rollercoaster. As Clyde's story unfolds we are witness to scenes of drab poverty, lavish luxe life, the cheap thrills of brothels and booze ups in the big city, the bucolic amusements of mid 20th century rural life, the power of lust and greed, but also of faith and love and the fact that we have no choice but to go on until the end...whatever that end might be.
This book was a panarama...the story of a life...and one worth reading.(less)
Ummmm. I am going to buy this one. I am a lover of cookbooks. I generally get at least one from the library each month. I take down a few recipes here...moreUmmmm. I am going to buy this one. I am a lover of cookbooks. I generally get at least one from the library each month. I take down a few recipes here and there and stare at the lovely pictures.
I realized I would have to re-copy the entire book in this case...and I believe there are rules about that! So, I am going to grab my own copy from Amazon and I am going to start with the Sassy cake.
Any baking book where cayenne is thrown in with citrus liqueurs and delicious looking creamy fillings in one single concoction is taste-sensational enough for me. These look like the kind of death defying cakes (5 eggs and 3 cups of sugar, folks!) that you make for parties all the better to share the calories and cholesterol around.
Cake love contains some zany conversation pieces along with some standard tried and true pound cakes and bundts. The directions are very thorough and the photos are clear and useful. The fact that I was salivating throughout is another positive.(less)
This is one of my favorite books in recent memory. What child of the 70s, such as myself, can resist an amazing vampire story...a sweeping adventure a...moreThis is one of my favorite books in recent memory. What child of the 70s, such as myself, can resist an amazing vampire story...a sweeping adventure across the capitals of Europe and as far away as Istambul? If you ever sat riveted to In Search Of as a child and dreamed of being an archaeologist or historian on the trail of mystery, intrigue and the supernatural then race to the library and grab this book.
Once inside the pages you will meet thoughtful characters and a compelling dual storyline of present and current events which intersect neatly to frame the action. Yes, it is a vampire story...but it is so much more. It is literary and evocative. You can smell the leather of the old tomes in the research libraries of various great cities...you can gaze at the views from the monastery in the Pyrennees...You can feel like you are a world traveler and a vampire hunter and that you have the mind of an Oxbridge don all at the same time.
Do not let the vampire dissuade you...even if nosferatu is not your usual thing. The Historian is a literary award winner that just happens to feature a vampire along with a cast of well drawn characters...and it is damn fun reading.(less)
My husband thought I was having a psychotic meltdown when I read this. I really sat in bed all night howling...tears streaming down as I toured the ho...moreMy husband thought I was having a psychotic meltdown when I read this. I really sat in bed all night howling...tears streaming down as I toured the horrors of mid-twentieth century American cuisine. i read it cover to cover in one sitting and was left gasping -- thoroughly spent from the convulsive guffaws.
You want tuna in aspic? Check. How about those pigs-in-a-blanket? No problem. The "joys of jello"? Got that too.
This is not to be described. Just hilarious altogether. I want to start an entire new collection of vintage cook books after reading this. You have to love those grainy black and white photos of glutinous masses of quivery jelly studded with olives and gherkins...or the enormous Flintstone-Scale slabs of meat featured within.
As memory serves, this book was born from a web site of the same name. (less)
Ahhh, the 70s....they were the best of times (if you were a sweaty, coked--up-to-the eyeballs swinger on the make hoping your little bag of sweet sins...moreAhhh, the 70s....they were the best of times (if you were a sweaty, coked--up-to-the eyeballs swinger on the make hoping your little bag of sweet sinsimellia would sedate most of the groovy chicks into your pad)...they were the worst of times (if you had any friggin' design sense or something approaching aesthetic appreciation.)
Lileks and I must have both spent the decade in that second category...firmly rooted in the 70s as the worst of times. Perhaps we both care too deeply about fabric, color, line, style and not experiencing cramp-inducing migraines when unexpectedly entering a room decorated by the demonic love child of Rhoda and Ron Burgundy.
My God where to begin? Interior Desecrations brings it all back with a vengeance. Wall paper on every surface that is not already covered in shag...much of this wall paper texturized with foil. The continuous screaming pattern on bedspread, walls, throw pillows and curtains. The sour and billious pallettes. Wall art created by psychotic day-campers. Flimsy and painful furnishings designed by HAL, perhaps? ("I know I've made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I've still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you.")
Um, no...HAL. Just put the chrome ashtray shaped like a frisbee down, take your swatches of goldenrod and avocado synthetics and leave me to my private hell, ok?
I lived it. It was really that bad. And now I can take some pride in surviving this world of over-the-top tastelessness that was the backdrop to my formative years. Looking back, it is unbelievable...but certainly hilarious.
If you ever had a bean bag chair in your living room, grabbed your Tab out of a rust colored refrigerator, enjoyed a shag covered toilet or framed macaroni art for your walls...this is the book for you. Love it or loathe it, the 1970s is a stand-alone decade in craptacular awesomeness. Even if you were not yet born during the era of Captain and Tennille on TV and "You're Havin' My Baby (What a Wonderful way of Sayin' how Much You Love Me) on the FM dial...This "read in one sitting" lovingly created attack on the much maligned (yet unaccountably cool) decade is the cure for what ails you.(less)
I generally LOVE Lileks...as in devour his books in one sitting, laughing almost to the point of incontinence as I do so. This one kind of let me down...moreI generally LOVE Lileks...as in devour his books in one sitting, laughing almost to the point of incontinence as I do so. This one kind of let me down. Perhaps it is because I now know, first hand, the horrors of potting training. It just did not grab me the way the Gallery of Regrettable Foods and Interior Desecrations did.
It felt like a one note humor book this time...Ok, we get it. Mid twentieth century parents had an over reliance on laxatives, were way too interested in/controlling of their kids' poop habits and this was so wrong on so many levels. But it got a bit stale for me.
I will, as ever, actively seek out James Lilek's next offering. Maybe I'll be over the interior defecations by then and will have my sense of humor back.(less)