**spoiler alert** This is a very easily read book. Very reminiscent to the style of Palahniuk, Lipsyte and Vonnegut, this is a tale told by an I, a 34**spoiler alert** This is a very easily read book. Very reminiscent to the style of Palahniuk, Lipsyte and Vonnegut, this is a tale told by an I, a 34-year-old Englishman named John Self, who is employed in the pornography trade. As he delves into the USA he becomes set in old ways.
Refreshed by a brief blackout, I got to my feet and went next door. The mirror looked on, quite unimpressed, as I completed a series of rethinks in the hired glare of the windowless bathroom. I cleaned my teeth, combed my rug, clipped my nails, bathed my eyes, gargled, showered, shaved, changed — and still looked like shit. Jesus,'I'm so fat these days. I tell you, I appal myself in the tub and on the can. I sit slumped on the ox-collar seat like a clutch of plumbing, the winded boiler of a thrashed old tramp. How did it happen? It can't just be all the booze and the quick food I put away. No, I must have been pencilled in for this a long time ago. My dad isn't fat. My mother wasn't either. What's the deal? Can money fix it? I need my whole body drilled down and repaired, replaced. I need my body capped is what I need. I'm going to do it, too, the minute I hit the money.
It's a bit Dashiell Hammett, too. The sleuth. But no sleuthing here, just living. Self, with his money in the pocket, trying to find Selina, seemingly the woman of his dreams. Is he sure? How can he be? Self's an alcoholic, always on the bend, never on the mend.
Extremity is the only element of surprise. Hit them with everything. No quarter.
It feels as though Amis has given it his all to write a daily diary as though the alcoholic I is a child, a no-gooder who doesn't remember and gets told of what he's been through and deserves. At times this works, other times it feels like a dull knife, an author jaded and not driven by anything than a deadline:
At once I grimly instigated my miracle flu cure. You go to bed, wrap up warm, and drink a bottle of scotch. Technically it's meant to be half a bottle, but I wanted to make absolutely sure.
Amis even writes himself into the book, running into the I a few times.
'Your dad, he's a writer too, isn't he? Bet that made it easier.' 'Oh, sure. It's just like taking over the family pub.' 'Uh?' 'Time,' said the man behind the bar. 'Time. Time.'
...which is something I don't think works very well. But considering Amis' slow, rambling style without loads of sentences directly aimed to thrash the reader, it's an easy get-by. You simply wait for the next good thing.
So what is the next good thing in this book? There's no real plot. There's no magical "oh!" in it. It simply is, without much effect. It owes quite a lot to alcoholism and noir detective stories.
Other times, Amis seems to aim for yob wordplay:
The French, they say, live to eat. The English, on the other hand, eat to die.
And at a few times, it's funny, as when Self meets his dad:
'I want you to meet Vron.' 'Vron?' He's doing it with robots now, I thought. He halted me with a tug of my hair. 'Yeah. Vron,' he said. 'Now you behave.'
Vron sounded bad enough when I said it. My father has trouble pronouncing his r's, owing to some palate fuck-up or gob-gimmick. Vron sounded a good deal worse when he said it.
And the drunkenness goes on, which is the strength of this book, in a way:
Martina sighed. 'You were drunk. You know, it's quite a lot to ask, to spend a whole evening with someone who's drunk.'
... I had always known the truth of this, of course. Drunks know the truth of this. But usually people are considerate enough not to bring it up. The truth is very tactless. That's the trouble with these non-alcoholics — you never know what they're going to say next. Yes, a rum type, the sober: unpredictable, blinkered and selective. But we cope with them as best we can.
His inadvertent/blind chase for Martina, a girl who actually cares for him, seems to pass his blind face by.
All in all: entertaining and worth the read, but I really would have preferred a hefty amount of editing....more
This is a logical, slower step forward in this canon. Unfortunately, it's all a bit same-old, but the fantasies don't stop coming. In my eye, the veryThis is a logical, slower step forward in this canon. Unfortunately, it's all a bit same-old, but the fantasies don't stop coming. In my eye, the very last bit in this book regarding Tommy is the best, including the very last chapter which isn't about him at all, but about the continuing saga in the life of a very nasty and desperate psychopath.
I'm looking forward to part 5, dropping in January 2012....more
Dave Eggers once wrote that he spent an entire month reading this when it was released. And added that it's impossible to mutter an "eh" when finWell.
Dave Eggers once wrote that he spent an entire month reading this when it was released. And added that it's impossible to mutter an "eh" when finished with it, saying the book will change your life for the better.
I think he's right about it changing things.
The first 15 pages stormed me. Then, I felt David Foster Wallace was merely trying to impress and masturbate onto pages in some self-loving way that Jonathan Franzen can be prone to coming close to; after appx. 150-200 pages, however, that went away.
This book is filled with subjects and words and places but it's coherent, funny, inspiring and disgusting, bewildering, simple and complex. At times it felt like a drag, but mostly it's really, really good.
Every sentence feels thoughtful and sincere, and at the same time, I got the feeling (which is still in-place) that's simple; all you need is genius....more
This is original, funny, sad and made in such an exquisite way, both gently and with a huge amount of humor, that any reader is rendered helpless to iThis is original, funny, sad and made in such an exquisite way, both gently and with a huge amount of humor, that any reader is rendered helpless to its charm and the author's ingenuity.
I can't remember when I last read a book that's as much for young kids as for old ones.
Pettsson, an old man who lives in the countryside, is in need of a friend. He thought about getting himself an old lady, but then again, naw, that'd be too much trouble. Something smaller, perhaps? Well, a dog! No...it'd require too much attention? But how about a little cat? his friend asked. Well...
The day after his friend had brought along a box which read "Findus green peas" [Findus being a household brand in Sweden]; as he opened the box, Findus stood on all fours, tiny as a button.
They instantly became best friends, and one day, as Pettsson was reading the paper about a clown, Findus' first words were "I want pants like that!".
This marks the start of the tale which is only a bunch of pages long, and is utterly remarkable because of several things. Nordqvist is an absolutely fantastic and remarkable writer as well as an extremely meticulous and funny illustrator. Findus comes alive with every stroke of his pens, and what goes on in the background - constantly! - makes for great re-reads.
I'm 34 years old and really nearly wept upon seeing Findus crying while hiding from a "monster". Art moves me, I guess. I realise the author hasn't really created any monsters or black-and-white imagery which feels great to me; I hate it when people try to present two diametrical versions of good and bad, without anything in-between - which so often is the case.
All in all, this is an absolutely brilliant tale and I'm very glad to see that it's available in other languages as well. Long live Pettson & Findus, as well as Sven Nordqvist!...more
As the story and plot thickens, new parallel stories emerge and yet, Mike Carey manages not to muddle things by making this collection of stories compAs the story and plot thickens, new parallel stories emerge and yet, Mike Carey manages not to muddle things by making this collection of stories complicated; instead, it's growing more complex.
Easily compared with "Sandman", this story branches out towards epic characters and stories, blending literary characters such as Harry Potter and the stereotypical vampire with authors, e.g. Rudyard Kipling and Mark Twain.
The story goes on, Tom/Tommy being hunted by different parties throughout different ages and tales. I shan't say more about the innards, but the story is definitely matured since volume one and is intricate. It's like getting to know the well-developed characters that make all of this come alive, which it most definitely does....more
As Tom Taylor continues surveying the Universe as he once knew it to be, it continues crashing around him. As he is wanted forThis was quite a treat.
As Tom Taylor continues surveying the Universe as he once knew it to be, it continues crashing around him. As he is wanted for multiple murder, he is also being desired by different creatures alive and dead, from his ordinary world as well as from fables and his vanished father.
And Mingus, the winged cat, is cute as a button.
All in all: exciting, making me long for the third collection of stories regarding...all of this....more
Despite a few glib errors - such as not differentiating between psychopathy and sociopathy - and attributing "[...] wanted to kill women because he thDespite a few glib errors - such as not differentiating between psychopathy and sociopathy - and attributing "[...] wanted to kill women because he thought looking into their eyes as they died would make him feel normal" to Ted Bundy, this book provides fascinating insight into what happens in the field, today.
For instance, Ronson visits Robert Hare, by many considered to be the father of modern-day views on psychopathy. Many criticize him for having conducted nearly all of his research for his psychopathy checklist - PCL-R, widely known as the most well-used checklist for professional psychologists to spot potential psychopaths - on prison inmates:
“I came to you,” I said, “because of this guy called Tony. He’s in Broadmoor. He says they’re falsely accusing him of psychopathy and he hopes I’ll do some campaigning journalism to support his release. And I do have warm feelings for Tony, I really do, but how do I know if he’s a psychopath?”
Bob didn’t seem to be listening. It was as if the crash had made him introspective. He said, almost to himself, “I should never have done all my research in prisons. I should have spent my time inside the Stock Exchange as well.”
I looked at Bob. “Really?” I said. He nodded. “But surely stock-market psychopaths can’t be as bad as serial-killer psychopaths,” I said.
“Serial killers ruin families.” Bob shrugged. “Corporate and political and religious psychopaths ruin economies. They ruin societies.”
Ronson consciously writes like a a literary Karl Pilkington, i.e. a buffoon who plods along and discovers major things along his way by mistake. Of course Ronson knows what he is doing, and he has probably taken his time in editing his book that way. To me it's funny as he keeps the tempo up, but it's also a tad to effect-seeking for me.
One of the key strengths of this book is Ronson's background as a journalist. He digs, digs and digs, tries to find something valuable and presents it affably as he goes from Gothenburg to England, from America to Canada, seeking psychopathy among the very rich, the very poor, the researchers themselves and the victims.
What I like the most of the book is Ronson's dissections of his own thoughts as he discovers the meaning of psychopathy beyond the tabloids, how he - having taken one of Robert Hare's courses - first feels like an empowered psychopath-spotter...
I wrote to him, fully expecting a refusal. Talking to me would, after all, have violated the terms of his release. Once the authorities found out, he could well have been arrested, deported back to Haiti, and executed. Prospective interviewees tend to turn me down for a lot less than that. Many decline my interview requests simply because they think I might portray them as a little crazy. Nonetheless, he cheerfully agreed to meet me. I didn’t ask why because I was just glad to get the interview and—if I’m honest—I didn’t really worry about what would happen to him as a result, which I suppose is a little Item 6: Lack of Remorse or Guilt, Item 7: Shallow Affect, and Item 8: Callous/Lack of Empathy, but he was a death-squad leader, so who cares?
...only to delve into self-examination as to how he is simply using the PCL-R to confirm his own, basic needs and desires, e.g. how he dislikes A. A. Gill, a critic known to dislike Ronson's work.
And then there are drugs...
Gary Maier—the psychiatrist who invented the dream workshops and the chanting rituals at Oak Ridge and was eventually fired for giving LSD to twenty-six psychopaths simultaneously—was recently invited for lunch by some drug company reps. He works at two maximum-security prisons in Madison, Wisconsin, now and his department had just made the decision to have nothing more to do with the drug companies. So a few of the reps invited him for lunch to find out why. “It was two beautiful women and a pretty nice guy,” Gary told me after the lunch was over. “What did they say?” I asked him. “Well, if you look for me on the Internet, you’ll find essays I’ve written about Indian effigy mounds,” he replied. “They’re my hobby. So the two beautiful women spent most of the lunch asking me about effigy mounds. They had me drawing pictures of effigies on the tablecloth.” “And then what?” I asked. “Then they got down to it,” he said. “Why wasn’t I using their products? I said, ‘You guys are the enemy. You’ve hijacked the profession. You’re only interested in selling your products, not in treating patients.’ They all had a run at me. I held my ground. Then the bill came. We were ready to go. And then the more attractive of the two women said, ‘Oh! Would you like some Viagra samples?’” Gary fell silent. Then he said, with some fury, “Like street pushers.”
...and the maybe-psychopaths...
“What will you do now?” I asked. “Maybe move to Belgium,” he said. “There’s this woman I fancy. But she’s married. I’ll have to get her divorced.” “Well, you know what they say about psychopaths,” I said. “We’re manipulative!” said Tony.
...and perhaps the most interesting question of all: what of the DSM, the diagnostic manual most commonly used throughout the world for diagnosing mental disorders?
When Robert Spitzer stepped down as editor of DSM-III, his position was taken by a psychiatrist named Allen Frances. He continued the Spitzer tradition of welcoming as many new mental disorders, with their corresponding checklists, into the fold as he could. DSM-IV came in at 886 pages. Now, as he took a road trip from New York down to Florida, Dr. Frances told me over the phone he felt they’d made some terrible mistakes. “It’s very easy to set off a false epidemic in psychiatry,” he said. “And we inadvertently contributed to three that are ongoing now.” “Which are they?” I asked. “Autism, attention deficit, and childhood bipolar,” he said. “How did you do it?” I asked. “With autism it was mostly adding Asperger’s, which was a much milder form,” he said. “The rates of diagnosis of autistic disorder in children went from less than one in two thousand to more than one in one hundred. Many kids who would have been called eccentric, different, were suddenly labeled autistic.” I remembered my drive to Coxsackie Correctional Facility, passing that billboard near Albany—EVERY 20 SECONDS A CHILD IS DIAGNOSED WITH AUTISM. Some parents came to wrongly believe that this sudden, startling outbreak was linked to the MMR vaccine. Doctors like Andrew Wakefield and celebrities like Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey promoted the view. Parents stopped giving the vaccine to their children. Some caught measles and died. But this chaos, Allen Frances said, pales next to childhood bipolar. “The way the diagnosis is being made in America was not something we intended,” he said. “Kids with extreme irritability and moodiness and temper tantrums are being called bipolar. The drug companies and the advocacy groups have a tremendous influence in propagating the epidemic.”
All in all, a grand mix. Ronson doesn't claim to know all, or to have written the Absolute on the subject. Or, to quote "Tony" from the book:
“Friends are the fruit cake of life—some nutty, some soaked in alcohol, some sweet”
A for effort, seeing how LaPorte has scoured Hollywood and its tombs (e.g. people and mags), but I think this book might have benefited by more bird'sA for effort, seeing how LaPorte has scoured Hollywood and its tombs (e.g. people and mags), but I think this book might have benefited by more bird's eye-views on the whole thing.
Through all the details in this book one is served a bunch of very close perspectives of how DreamWorks, the company brought to life by Jeffrey Katzenberg and his trustees and wealthy supporters, Steven Spielberg and David Geffen, worked and definitely didn't work.
One is served the picture that Spielberg is the talent, catered to at all times, surrounded by yes-sayers and people who dared not point out cracks in his façade, empire or films. Geffen, with all his money, had abandoned ship on the music industry but revived it in DreamWorks, while staying away. Katzenberg, a vicarious workaholic, who before founding DreamWorks left Disney in despair and fights, hit the floor running in his ultimate task: defeating Disney on their own turf, that being animation.
DreamWorks set out to be a complete spiel (pun intended) for the auteurs, who were supposed to play hard and win harder, being backed by the three main gents. Trouble was, the company went the way most studios did: towards generating profits.
LaPorte describes this to great extent, and often wonders: why didn't people say no more often? Where were the reins?
Loads of gossip, loads of tall tales and interesting ideas. Definitely worth reading if you're into these books, e.g. Peter Biskind's "Easy Riders and Raging Bulls"....more
At the comics shop, I asked for something that would fill the mind of somebody who loves "The Filth", "Transmetropolitan" and "V For Vendetta", and goAt the comics shop, I asked for something that would fill the mind of somebody who loves "The Filth", "Transmetropolitan" and "V For Vendetta", and got this.
It's the story of Tom Taylor, whose father created the Tommy Taylor enterprise, a long series of books about a boy wizard with round glasses and...yes, it's a poke at Harry Potter.
Tom Taylor's bored with going from comic-con to comicon, until he is suddenly pointed out as a fraud and some otherworldly characters make their move onto him, post-stalking. I won't reveal more of the plot and story, but suffice to say, Mike Carey has culled a lot from the world of fiction.
This is a very promising start to a series that might end nowhere or become increasingly epic and distorted. I'm hoping for the latter.
Inked and penned nicely (with the obvious use of computer effects, e.g. fading and toning) the story drives the graphics rather than the other way around, even though the stray use of unconventional framing is very welcome.
A dark, modern comedy with ruined-relationship ends strewn through old friendships and fiendish colleagues, Milo Burke goes through life in a seeminglA dark, modern comedy with ruined-relationship ends strewn through old friendships and fiendish colleagues, Milo Burke goes through life in a seemingly endless game where he's suddenly rehired at his old job, specifically to successfully lure a big donation from an old friend.
Lipsyte's second most-used weapon is using the protagonist as a simple prop to display interesting characters and milieus, but his forté is wordplay; sometimes, he seems to me a bit like an old man trying to play younger than he really is:
He was the kind of man you could picture barking into a field phone, sending thousands to slaughter, or perhaps ordering the mass dozing of homes. People often called him War Crimes. By people, I mean Horace and I. By often, I mean twice.
Other times, he mashes words into something new:
"I mean," I said now, "I used to know him." "Well, that's just swell," said Cooley, rose, petted his mustache with a kind of cunnidigital ardor.
Yet, when at his seemingly least lucid, he conjures up magnificent sentences using quite a few words:
I felt as though I were snorting cocaine, or rappelling down a cliffside, or cliffsurfing off a cliff of pure cocaine.
Lipsyte's writings about Milo's connection to his child and his estranged wife range from so-so to excellent; diamonds are found in the rough.
The same goes for Milo's connection with his old friend Purdy, the former school-mate who made a fortune in IT.
All in all, the humor is tight and the flow is good. It's a recommendable book which needed more editing....more
This was pretty darn interesting, apart from the porn which I mostly skipped. I like how VICE draws things to their edge by discussing stuff with peopThis was pretty darn interesting, apart from the porn which I mostly skipped. I like how VICE draws things to their edge by discussing stuff with people who mostly aren't associated with it, like drawing a lot of stuff on politics from notorious Black Panther founder Bobby Seale while mostly talking about barbecuing. Or talking about anything with Ol' Dirty Bastard.
The article about Hiroshima where they interview a survivor that was close to where the atomic bomb went off.
I actually liked her first one, "Ego Girl", because it was ADHD in the best and worst sense of the teOne of the worst books I've ever read. It's true.
I actually liked her first one, "Ego Girl", because it was ADHD in the best and worst sense of the term; Gynning was all over the place and extremely honest, which really made for some funny, laughable, interesting and tragic anecdotes. One could understand her.
This book, however, is filled with contradictions, stories repeated, blatherings between her and a psychic about her previous lives which - of course - are all interesting and larger than life; why can't people who claim to have lived past lives simply say "I used to be a farmer. Did regular farmer's stuff. Nothing more than that." but claim to be Napoleon in some sense?
Gynning retells stories of her mother's mother, and I've no idea why, really.
There's a Q&A section at the end of the book that seems to be taken from her blog.
While her prior autobiography struck me as interesting, this one recounts a lot of her career in TV, which bored me. Her writing is filled with wordings that are apparently - all too apparently - construed to make her seem intelligent and cunning, which all ends up with a structure not too far fallen from that of the Harlequin novel: it's all "And her hard times were forgotten by all but herself, those tragic years..."
Writing about yourself in the third person is ludicrous, but if that wasn't enough, she does it after almost every chapter, in italics. Yes, in italics. To emphasize. Yes. EMPHASIZE the IMPORTANT STUFF.
I wish I could forget all of this. Don't ever buy it. I paid 37:50 SKR (appx. 6 USD) for this, and I wish I could get every Crown back....more