This is a fascinating and incredibly readable novel. First, the narrative perspective is interesting, in that it's a story of two characters and toldThis is a fascinating and incredibly readable novel. First, the narrative perspective is interesting, in that it's a story of two characters and told from one character's perspective. Second, it's a story that tackles big, moral issues around abortion and motherhood. These two aspects combine to give this novel the feeling of being very old, even though it was published in the last year.
I felt it did a great job of both offering a perspective and an opinion on abortion while still telling a tremendously gripping story. I read this book in days and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a great novel that isn't afraid of weighty subject matter....more
When I was 22, 23, I lived in East Hollywood in a horrible apartment with mold on the ceiling and a ratty carpet. It was an embarrassment, but lookingWhen I was 22, 23, I lived in East Hollywood in a horrible apartment with mold on the ceiling and a ratty carpet. It was an embarrassment, but looking back on it, it was where I needed to be at the time. I worked at a bookstore and I would get home from work at 1am. But that was never the end of my night. I was too keyed up to sleep right away, so I'd get a case of domestic beer (Budweiser was my brand back then...what?), and stay up until 4, 5am, drinking, reading, and most of all, listening to albums.
The records that were important to me then were The Stooges' Fun House, Tom Waits' Closing Time, and above all else, Van Morrison's Astral Weeks. I consider the release of Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot to mark a kind of turning point for me, when I started to emerge from this weird self-imposed exile and start actually living my life. I met the woman I'd eventually marry, started taking my work more seriously, just generally got my shit together. But for awhile there, all I really had was Fun House and Astral Weeks and a lot of bad beer.
Jessica Hopper's collection of criticism took me back to that period in my life (from a safe distance, mind you), and reminded me of when music was vitally important for me. But while there's plenty of Van Morrison referenced here, this is a more modern collection. Reviews of everything from Tyler the Creator to Coughs to Animal Collective. I even enjoyed reading about acts I'd never heard before.
My favorite section was probably the "Bad Reviews" section. Who doesn't love a good teardown every once and awhile.
Side note: reading a book like this in the era of streaming music is great. Haven't heard of a band referenced? Just pull them up online. Twenty years ago, it would have been a completely different experience. ...more
About 12 years ago, I wrote an essay about how I lived in a near-constant state of panic that Pedro Martinez would get injured. You can't read this esAbout 12 years ago, I wrote an essay about how I lived in a near-constant state of panic that Pedro Martinez would get injured. You can't read this essay, because it exists solely in the literary journal about baseball pitching that I published exactly once. It's not online, and it never will be. I wrote it during a time when I was feeling especially fragile. I was trying to figure out where I was going and what kind of person I was going to be. I had just started dating the person who I'd eventually marry. I'd just settled into my first serious job which would eventually turn into a career, against all odds.
And all the sports teams I loved were star-crossed. The only two teams I really follow anymore -- the Syracuse Orange basketball team and the Boston Red Sox -- both had been mediocre for awhile. They'd both had tragic failures in the mid 80s. I didn't have a whole lot of hope. But Pedro gave me something to get excited about. Pedro started to turn it all around.
The Red Sox traded for Pedro Martinez when I was still in college. By the time I'd moved to Los Angeles and started my official adulthood (ha!), he had established himself as the greatest right-handed pitcher of his generation--historically dominant and a superstar personality, to boot. But by the time I wrote my essay in late 02 early 03, he'd injured his shoulder, and it looked like he was bound to be one of those near misses that Sox fans had come to dread.
I remember going over to my friend's house to work on the literary journal. She was publishing it with me (and really doing most of the work on it, laying it out, etc.). We'd agreed that we'd work through the night to meet some deadline that we'd decided was very important. While we were working, I watched Carmelo Anthony lead my beloved Cuse to their first and only National Championship. I credit Pedro with just a little bit of that magic.
Later that year, he pitched what should have been the winning game in game 7 of the ALCS. It wasn't, and I had to wait another year before the Sox would redeem themselves. And even though Curt Schilling and David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez probably played bigger roles in that '04 season, it was Pedro that really started it all.
So what did I think of this book? Well, first, it didn't make me love Pedro Martinez any less. He came across more or less as I expected him to -- fiery, funny as hell, a little melodramatic, sensitive, super smart. Pedro didn't pull any punches with this. Guys he didn't get along with -- from Tommy Lasorda to Joe Kerrigan to Jeff Wilpon -- get called out. And there are more than a few hints that guys he competed with or against were on steroids.
But what was best about this book were the little behind-the-scenes details. Finally, we get a real accounting of what was going on between Pedro and Grady Little during that game in '03. And we get Pedro talking to Manny Ramirez, which is, in and of itself, worth any price ("Hey Pedro, did you know that I have three midgets in my brain that are constantly talking to me?", "Hey Pedro, did you know there are guys on their way up to the moon right now?"). And the chapter on how Pedro pitched and prepared is a master class. Anybody interested in pitching will absolutely love that.
I do agree with what others have written -- that the book feels a little too polished, that it sometimes doesn't feel like Pedro's specific voice -- but for me, it was Pedro enough. I recommend it to baseball fans, fans of the Red Sox, the Expos, Dodger haters everywhere, and anyone interested in pitching.
Of course, what do I know? I probably would have paid $24.99 for a list of the various hair products Pedro used on his Jheri curl. So, you know, I might be biased....more
"He likes the warm feeling but he's tired of all the dehydration..."
A very fun book for anybody interested in booze beyond "I like how it tastes." I f"He likes the warm feeling but he's tired of all the dehydration..."
A very fun book for anybody interested in booze beyond "I like how it tastes." I found the first half of the book to be more engaging and more thorough than the second half (which is more about alcohol's effects on the body) but that's just me. My big takeaway from this book is something that came from the introduction, something that's probably already obvious to everyone else but me: being passionate about something necessarily leads to wanting to take it apart, to figure out how it does what it does. I'd never really thought about it before, but when I look at the things I'm really into -- baseball, food, books -- that rings true....more
This is a masterpiece. If this doesn't win the National Book Award and a ton of other awards, then literary awards are really and truly bankrupt. I waThis is a masterpiece. If this doesn't win the National Book Award and a ton of other awards, then literary awards are really and truly bankrupt. I was a fan of Leovy's Homicide Blog (the original name for The Homicide Report), in so far as someone can be a "fan" of a project to catalog every homicide in LA county. Still, it felt like important work, and this book continues in its steps.
The point of the Homicide Report was to bring attention -- in whatever way possible -- to every homicide, regardless of circumstance. To say that every murder is a tragedy and that every life matters. This book makes it plain why that's so important to do. If you don't, the signal is quite clear: some lives--specifically those of black people--don't matter. In fact, the point of this book could be summed roughly by saying that the low "clearance rate" -- that's the percentage of murders that get solved -- sends the clear message that black lives don't matter, which then leads to insanely high murder rates among African Americans. The book posits that if more murders were solved, less murders would be committed, that the main problem that inner-city blacks faced was that they lived in an area where the state had lost its monopoly on violence.
Kind of a radical idea, really.
A few key quotes from the book:
"In 1993, black men in their early twenties in Los Angeles County died by homicide at a rate of 368 per 100,000 population, similar to the per capita rate of death for U.S. soldiers deployed to Iraq in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion."
"Legal scholar Randall Kennedy was a lonely voice among his peers when he asserted that “the principal injury suffered by African-Americans in relation to criminal matters is not overenforcement but underenforcement of the laws.”"
"The killing of a human being anywhere is like a rock thrown in a pond. Bitter waves emanate outward, washing over an ever-wider circle of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, finally lapping against those distant from the impact point, friends of friends, old classmates, all, to some measure, sickened by the taint of this news—murder, so awful, so unbelievable—no degree of separation big enough to neutralize its poison."
"He believed in his heart that violence comes first—that law is built on the state’s response to violence—and that responding was better than preventing. It was more true to the spirit of the law—and in the long run, more effective."
Leovy does a tremendous job not just making this a book that catalogs abstract misery, but rather the story of specific people, specific tragedies. Specifically, it's the story of the death of Bryant Tennelle, the son of LAPD detective Wally Tennelle, and all of the people involved. From the kids (and they were kids, really) who shot him, to the detectives and prosecutors who sought justice. Through this one case, as well as others like it, she sheds light on "The Monster," the plague of horrible violence that holds so many its grip.
Whatever, TLDR: you should read this book. It's important, sure, but more to the point, it's a great read. ...more
It's hard for me give this a rating, as I haven't really read many other how-to business books. I liked the narrative section at the beginning of theIt's hard for me give this a rating, as I haven't really read many other how-to business books. I liked the narrative section at the beginning of the book a bit better than the tactical advice section, but I think that's probably just how I prefer to get information. There are some great lessons in here for non-CEOs, but I suspect it's even more valuable for those who have founded and/or run a company.
I think most relevant and/or interesting to me were:
* Hiring for strength rather than lack of weakness. If you're bringing someone new onto the team, really think hard about what strengths are most important for the job and find someone who is world class at those things. If that person isn't as strong at everything else on your check-list, don't sweat it.
* Importance of one-on-ones as a management technique. It's sort of incredible that people can manage without one-on-one meetings, but I guess it happens. The big breakthrough (or at least, the one that I hadn't put into words before) is that it's the employee's meeting, rather than the manager's. I mean, duh, but still a good framework for thinking about the meeting.
* As a CEO, you don't have time to develop your direct reports. I suspect this is really difficult for many CEOs to deal with at first. I know it would be tough for me. But it makes sense -- at that level, you just have to be able to do the job with minimal-to-no developmental runway.
Anyway, for my first management book, this one was fun and readable and very honest. Also lots of hip-hop quotes, for those who roll that way. ...more
Not in the same league as his Patrick Melrose novels, but better than Lost for Words, which was light to the point of vapor (at least for me). Again,Not in the same league as his Patrick Melrose novels, but better than Lost for Words, which was light to the point of vapor (at least for me). Again, St. Aubyn's incredible gift for perspective shows up here, with shift POV in many scenes so deftly handled there wasn't a moment of confusion. I could have done without yet another drug hallucination scene (when I am king, these will be first against the literary wall), but otherwise, recommended. ...more
Disclosure: I'm friends with the author. But don't let that influence your reading of my review, you know.
This is a really fascinating book. At timesDisclosure: I'm friends with the author. But don't let that influence your reading of my review, you know.
This is a really fascinating book. At times it's almost too convincing as a work of nonfiction -- I thought it was most successful when it allowed itself to get immersed in the story. Still, it's the sort of book that has you asking over and over again "Wait...is that for real?" The breadth of the material the book cover is pretty incredible, too: Guy Debord and the Situationists, modern pop stardom, cartography, the history of Chicago...it goes on and on.
And on top of all that, this is Disabato's first book. It's sort of unfair that she could pull this off first time out the gate. ...more
This is a really fascinating book. It's also a really enjoyable book. Even the relatively negative reviews I've seen of it grant it that. The main chaThis is a really fascinating book. It's also a really enjoyable book. Even the relatively negative reviews I've seen of it grant it that. The main character felt so real to me, so alive, so human, and also unique and distinct from anybody I'd seen on the page before. And the minor characters, the ones who are necessarily more flat, were still interesting and provided very true (in my opinion) points of view.
I'm wrapping the rest of this in a spoiler because the end of the book poses some very interesting questions and I wouldn't want anybody to read this book knowing what is coming. Read on at your own peril if you haven't finished the book.
(view spoiler)[There are, I think, two lenses through which to view the end of the book. The first is not very charitable towards the characters, especially Adam. That view takes the position that Adam is, in essence, a rapist for not telling Gillian that he isn't transgendered and instead having sex with her, repeatedly, under the pretense that he was born female. He operates under false pretenses and deceives her for the expressed reason of getting laid, which makes him a scumbag. Gillian, in turn, appears to be less of a character for not reacting with revulsion and horror upon discovering Adam's secret. Both characters are implicated in events that appear to take the book into a somewhat reactionary place.That's one way to view it. I wouldn't say it's necessarily wrong. I'll admit that I felt this at various points reading the book.
In the end, I viewed it differently, though. The way I saw it, Gillian knew at some point that Adam was cisgendered...and she didn't care. Or at least, she didn't care enough to stop seeing him. Because she liked him. She didn't care not because labels like straight and gay and male and female don't matter at all. On the contrary, those labels do end up forming our identities. In the best of circumstances, they are self-imposed labels and not something forced upon us by others, but regardless, they are ways that we choose to say "This is who I am." And sadly, in the worst of circumstances -- circumstances the novel doesn't shy away from -- people die because of those labels.
That being said, I think this book posits, in a very convincing way, that those labels matter tremendously to a point. They matter, but ultimately, a relationship can transcend them. Because as much as the labels have meaning, they cannot define the breadth of a person. Not every relationship does transcends them, but Adam and Gillian, for a brief period of time, are in love, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. To suggest that this isn't possible is to essentially side with Brad, who thinks that a transgender woman is wrong for deceiving straight guys into having sex with her. Ethan himself doesn't always tell people he's trans before hooking up with them.
The book seems to me to refuse to land on something as neat or tidy as "straight people are this way" or "gay people are like this." It offers trenchant critiques of both straights and gays, without condemning or praising either group. Instead, it attempts to dig deeper into the idea of gender and sexuality and to offer us something more. And I think that makes it a very brave book. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
The titular first essay is required reading for humans, especially men. I enjoyed (is that the right word?) the rest of the book as well, though I felThe titular first essay is required reading for humans, especially men. I enjoyed (is that the right word?) the rest of the book as well, though I felt the essays were best when they were most direct. My only quibble with the book is that the essays weren't meant to appear together, which led to some unfortunate repetition, right down to quotes from primary sources that appear in multiple essays. Still well worth the time.
One note: The best part about reading this as a book? No comments section. You forget how great it is to read someone's ideas without a chorus of nutters shouting at them from the comments. ...more
Beautiful, sometimes mesmerizing collection of short (sometimes very short) stories from one of the real masters of the form. These stories are sometiBeautiful, sometimes mesmerizing collection of short (sometimes very short) stories from one of the real masters of the form. These stories are sometimes linked (several stories involve characters named Gil and Bea) but mostly they just have recurring themes and motifs (looking back at the Jazz Age, intimacy and vulnerability, mist, snowfall, Chicago). I tended to prefer the more realist stories in this book, but occasionally a story like "Swing," with strong metaphorical content, would knock me over. Highly recommended.