Green on Blue refers to the killing of U.S. and coalition forces by Afghan troops, oftentimes by the very same men they helped train. Ackerman, a highGreen on Blue refers to the killing of U.S. and coalition forces by Afghan troops, oftentimes by the very same men they helped train. Ackerman, a highly decorated combat veteran, takes his readers into the shadowy world of Afghan militants who have been at war with the Soviets, the U.S., and with each other for over 30 years. If "All politics is local" the same holds true for these internecine skirmishes where the players shift allegiances as often as the seasons turn. It was fascinating to spend a week in the mind of an Afghan soldier as he navigates loyalties that are every bit as treacherous as the rugged mountain passes and dry desert wadis. ...more
Undermajordomo Minor begins where The Sisters Brothers leaves off: with a son saying goodbye to his mother. The title is a joke in The Sisters BrotherUndermajordomo Minor begins where The Sisters Brothers leaves off: with a son saying goodbye to his mother. The title is a joke in The Sisters Brother mold. Lucy Minor gets a job working for the Majordomo of a castle that has fallen into disrepair, which makes him the Undermajorodomo. It's a story filled with strange violence, vivid scenes and elegant language. If The Sister Brothers is like a Coen Brothers movie, then Undermajordomo Minor is akin to a Wes Anderson film. Or, better yet, Franz Kafka's The Castle written by Tom Stoppard and performed by the players of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Perhaps that's overselling it, as I love all of those things. The novel is set in a time that often feels medieval (there's no electric light or indoor plumbing), yet there are trains (a train). The way the characters speak to one another is mannered and breezy, and much of the novel's wit, humor and elan stems from odd, but never off-putting, loquaciousness of the locals. It just occurred to me that this would work very nicely as a play. It would be great fun to sit in a theater and listen to actors bounce these wonderful sentences around. ...more
A quiet book about a Japanese couple who become enamored with their neighbor's cat. On the surface, very simple and straightforward, but there are manA quiet book about a Japanese couple who become enamored with their neighbor's cat. On the surface, very simple and straightforward, but there are many layers here. The book works as a meditation on love and loss. The more we nurture something the more we feel it's loss when it's gone. That's a given. We all understand that. The author suggests this is a model way to live. But how does one come to cultivate a garden, for instance, when the things of this world are in a perpetual state of flux? The garden is made of things that will die, property that will be bought and sold, land that will go through many upheavals for many thousands of millennia. If this is the case, and it is, what is the point of a garden? We are all transients and custodians and only a fool would tend another person's garden, right?
Well, maybe not.
I really enjoyed the way the book cozies up to my experiences as an amateur pet-sitter. The care and feeding of creatures big and small that were not my own yet whose well-being I cared very deeply about. There are some light metafictional aspects where the author talks about how the book came to be put together that really drove home these shared experiences for me. There's a loving attention to descriptions of place that feels like a point of emphasis in a lot of Japanese fiction I've read. Where in a Western setting it might feel like the author was laboring over something of little consequence, here the descriptions of rooms, houses, gardens and roads and the way they intersect feels like much more than scene-setting: it's as if the author is saying, "This place is important," even if we're only going to be here for a little while.
A short handful of modern erotica in which the narrator recounts her adventures in casual fucking via the Tinder application. What was most interestinA short handful of modern erotica in which the narrator recounts her adventures in casual fucking via the Tinder application. What was most interesting to me is that while the app allowed the narrator to cut to the chase and skip most of the awkward rituals of courtship, there was no opting out of the awkwardness afterwards. Not to sound like a 21st century prude -- I can still remember a time when people thought it was strange that I went to the wedding of someone I'd only known through fantasy sports message boards -- but these stories make me grateful that I never had to navigate text messages, social media and apps to find my way into the bedroom. ...more
I think its telling that after spending 270 pages with the author I don't really have a sense of her as an artist, musician, or a person. I know a lotI think its telling that after spending 270 pages with the author I don't really have a sense of her as an artist, musician, or a person. I know a lot more about her projects and things that happened to her, but at the end of the book she remains a cipher. For someone who has accomplished so much the book feels thin, understandably disjointed, yet lacking in depth. It's also oddly humorless, but as many have remarked, the novel begins and ends with her break-up with Thurston Moore and it colors the whole novel in its sad tones. While Gordon is generous in her praise of Moore's artistry, musicianship and abilities as a father, one can't help but wonder what this book would be like if she'd let a bit more water flow under the bridge. The meat of the book describes her relationships with various artists and he circumstances under which Sonic Youth's records were produced. I loved learning about her friendship with the L.A. artist Mike Kelley and how she wrote an article for Artforum about him and Raymond Pettibon. She was also inspired by Black Flag house show in Hermosa Beach. This is really engaging stuff, I just wish there was more of it....more
Collection of personal essays that would have been perfect for Nerve.com back in the early 00s. Lots of gimmicky repetition and overlap of subject matCollection of personal essays that would have been perfect for Nerve.com back in the early 00s. Lots of gimmicky repetition and overlap of subject material. While I found the author's precociousness overbearing at first I came to appreciate the context the fuller picture provides. There was a time when this kind of essay would inspire me to revisit my own period of reckless, feckless sex and drug-taking back when I was in the Navy, but I empathized mostly with the protagonist's mother as I imagine this was a hard, challenging read for her. Portrait of the Book Reviewer as a Middle-Aged Parent. So it goes. ...more
I don't care about birds or riparian ecosystems or the sex lives of birdwatching ex-pats, but I loved reading Zink's sentences. A real savage, smirkinI don't care about birds or riparian ecosystems or the sex lives of birdwatching ex-pats, but I loved reading Zink's sentences. A real savage, smirking wit lurks in these pages that is both delightful and erotic. That's two five star reads in two days set (partially) in Switzerland. I'm off to write my erotic thriller set at James Joyce's grave......more
I blurbed this book: “Drew Andrews channels Kerouac on ketamine while singing from the treetops with Blake’s angels. The Shepherd’s Journals is a mystI blurbed this book: “Drew Andrews channels Kerouac on ketamine while singing from the treetops with Blake’s angels. The Shepherd’s Journals is a mystical trip filled with cracked visions powered by whiskey, women and God.”...more
Classic hardboiled detective fiction with a contemporary twist. Charlie Miner, a private detective with a heroin habit, wakes up on a slab in the L.A.Classic hardboiled detective fiction with a contemporary twist. Charlie Miner, a private detective with a heroin habit, wakes up on a slab in the L.A. county morgue. From this striking premise the story unfolds. I didn't love the first half of the book, but once the story connects Charlie's past with his unusual situation I couldn't put it down. A dark, gritty neo-noir. ...more
"Sean H. Doyle is a punk rock sailor shaman with a message from way down below decks where the guys with hoI had the good fortune to blurb this book:
"Sean H. Doyle is a punk rock sailor shaman with a message from way down below decks where the guys with horns and hooves go jet skiing on a lake of fire. This Must Be the Place is a ferocious testament to love and loss written with razor blades and backed with blood. An unputdownable debut.”
"Mr Earbrass stands on the terrace at twilight. It is bleak; it is cold; and the virtue has gone out of everything. Words drift through his mind: angu"Mr Earbrass stands on the terrace at twilight. It is bleak; it is cold; and the virtue has gone out of everything. Words drift through his mind: anguish turnips conjunctions illness defeat string parties no parties urns desuetude disaffection claws loss Trebizond napkins shame stones distance fever Antipodes mush glaciers incoherence labels miasma amputation tides deceit mourning else wards…" God I love this fucking book.
The Unstrung Harp has the subtitle "or, Mr Earbrass writes a novel" and begins with "Mr C(lavius) F(rederick) Earbrass" contemplating his next book. "On November 18th of alternate years" he selects a "title at random from a list of them he keeps in a little green note-book." Over the course of the next several pages, we get glimpses of the plot-heavy story he's constructing, and while his novels have pseudo-serious-sounding titles like "More Chains than Clank" and "The Meaning of the House," the clues suggest that he's at work on a highbrow, yet slightly off-center, mystery.
Writing, however, doesn't come easily for Mr Earbrass, and the illustrations capture this struggle: Mr Earbrass looking out of the window. Mr Earbrass scribbling notes in his automobile. Mr Earbrass up all night with a bout of insomnia that not even a reading of his first novel can dispel. "It is bleak; it is cold; and the virtue has gone out of everything."
In each illustration, Mr Earbrass is impeccably dressed and has the air of a buttoned-up yet bewildered John Cleese puppet. He carries the look of someone who realizes that only he can solve the problems set before him, yet he has no idea how to proceed.
Finally, Mr Earbrass finishes, but it would be a mistake to call this milestone a "success." His struggle continues as he revises the work, produces a clean copy and delivers it to his publishers. As the publication date approaches, the indignities keep coming. Most dreadful of all is the literary gathering that he's roped into attending, where "[t]he talk deals with disappointing sales, inadequate publicity, more than inadequate royalties, idiotic or criminal reviews, others' declining talent, and the unspeakable horror of the literary life."
The Unstrung Harp is hardly an endorsement for a life in letters, yet it remains one of the most honest books about the writing process I've ever read. Its unstinting pessimism about the struggle to create something out of nothing makes the rewards of publishing one's work feel meager, if not vulgar. Only someone completely intoxicated with the notion of living one's life as a writer could find inspiration in Gorey's grotesque portrait of an artist. Yet I did and still do.
While it's tempting to see Mr Earbrass as a forebear to Barton Fink—another writer whose mental state is reflected by his nightmarish surroundings—Mr Earbrass is a much cooler customer. While Mr Fink is "a tourist with a typewriter," Mr Earbrass is perfectly at home at Hobbies Odd, his cave-like manor house on the moors.
Yes, Mr Earbrass' victories are minor and fleeting—composing the last line of his novel, enjoying a contemplative cup of tea—but in the gloom and doom in which Gorey has trapped him, they feel heroic.
Every Feb. 22, Edward Gorey's birthday, I re-read The Unstrung Harp. Respect.