I have no idea how I came upon Frank Bruni's blog when he was the food critic of the New York Times. I started following his behind-the-scenes commentI have no idea how I came upon Frank Bruni's blog when he was the food critic of the New York Times. I started following his behind-the-scenes commentary while I was living overseas, and his quick wit and descriptions of restaurant visits made me long for the food and customer service of home. I loved that he was as much a fan of good greasy take-away grub as he was with Keller's work at Per Se. Never mind that I was not from New York - his writing was too captivating to ignore.
I was highly intrigued when I heard earlier this year that not only was he leaving his position and "outing" himself (i.e. revealing his true identity) by publishing a memoir, but that he had struggled with overeating his whole life. It shares many similarities to David Kessler's memoir The End of Overeating Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite which also came out this year. Both are eloquently able to elucidate those unspoken urges to overeat. Kessler has taken the scientific and commercial tack with his life story thrown in, while Bruni's focuses wholly on his life story, revealing all that was happening within. Both are very worthy reads, and I would suspect Kessler and Bruni would be two peas in a pod discussing their struggles.
Luckily Frank Bruni has both had an unusual life and describes it with humor, drawing us into his extended Italian-American family and circle of friends. As a journalist, he has lead an unusual path from working as a movie critic, to being a staff reporter following the Bush 2000 Presidential campaign, to working as a foreign correspondent in Rome, and eventually landing him as food critic at the NYT.
If you can't relate to having a complicated relationship with food, Bruni's memoir might come across as slightly whiny, or a little too self-reflective; i.e. you won't relate. To others us who through our life have had to have a serious "relationship discussions" with food, he really lays himself bare, admitting to various levels of eating disorders and self esteem issues. It's honest. It's funny, and a well-written account of his life.
The only flaw is that the book is heavily marketed as "food critic who was overweight", yet only about 25% of the book deals with his years as a food critic, eating lavish dinners 7 nights a week. After following his blog, I know there's much more to this story - more behind the scenes stories, surprises, learning about the industry. Perhaps Bruni is trying to be kind to restauranteurs still in business or he's saving the majority of those moments for some future book.
At any rate, reading Bruni's memoir is like getting to sit next to that unusual stranger at a dinner party who has a magical way of telling his life story. If only!...more
Part of my May/June 2010 British Invasion. _______________
Lots of fun and an extremely silly recount of Fry's childhood up to his shenanigans at 18. ItPart of my May/June 2010 British Invasion. _______________
Lots of fun and an extremely silly recount of Fry's childhood up to his shenanigans at 18. It feels more like you're having a snifter of brandy and cigars while Stephen is telling you the stories. As you go on, and imbibe more, the stories seem to meander fairly far from the clear plot. That's okay, because I quite like Stephen Fry. My curiosity in his background and amusement at his anecdotes overcame any deficiencies in the overall story line, as it were - which makes it more like real life than a traditional fictional novel. Although, I couldn't help but think that more than a few details in his stories read like The One Big Fish That Got Away.
He is a self-absorbed, deprecatingly funny, obtusely verbose navel-gazer in the extreme.
I might add that there were many references to English customs and culture that dovetailed nicely with the last book I read, Watching the English....more
Jim Dixon is like a cross between Holden Caulfield and Adrian Mole. Maybe just ever so slightly smarter than either, but just as cynical, aloof, and fJim Dixon is like a cross between Holden Caulfield and Adrian Mole. Maybe just ever so slightly smarter than either, but just as cynical, aloof, and full of troublemaking buffoonery. That type of humor hits some people in just the right way, while leaving others in the cold. Personally, I was in hysterics.
This book is quite funny if you have worked in upper levels of academia, and particularly hysterical if you have worked at a UK university. The skewering academic humor still rings true today - research of minutia, clueless older profs, uncertain job market, and the social awkwardness of the intellectual community.
Even if you haven't had the unique "pleasure" of academia, just the mischief Dixon creates to cover his hide will send you rolling. He likes to pull faces when people aren't looking (I was imagining a Jim Carrey face). His internal dialogue while trying to pay attention was a hoot - the situation in reality is much tamer than in his head. And his inabilities with women are funny, even if dated.
Just a good, amusing read. If you liked Catcher in the Rye, you'll most likely like Lucky Jim....more
I feel a bit guilty giving Dirk Gently #1 only 3 stars. After all, it's wickedly clever and chock-a-block with crazy, colorful, and differentiated chaI feel a bit guilty giving Dirk Gently #1 only 3 stars. After all, it's wickedly clever and chock-a-block with crazy, colorful, and differentiated characters. But I sadly think I just wasn't in the mood for all the absurdist situations and comedy. It was all just a little too random. I'll have to try a re-read when I'm feeling particularly goofily giddy with 1980s British nostalgia.
Just two quotes that struck me: They are not the funniest nor the most famous, just ones I'd like to remember:
"Shapes that we think of as random are in fact the products of complex shifting webs of numbers obeying simple rules. The very word "natural" that we have often taken to mean "unstructured" in fact describes shapes and processes that appear to unfathomably complex that we cannot consciously perceive the simple natural laws at work. They can all be described by numbers."
"The things by which our emotions can be moved—the shape of a flower or a Grecian urn, the way a baby grows, the way the wind brushes across your face, the way clouds move, their shapes, the way light dances on the water, or daffodils flutter in the breeze, the way in which the person you love moves in their head, the way their hair follows that movement, the curve described by the dying fall of the last chord of a piece of music—all these things can be described by the complex flow of numbers. That's not a reduction of it, that's the beauty of it. Ask Newton. Ask Einstein."
Those two quotes pretty much sum up why I felt so compelled to study physics after years of intending to get an art degree....more
Even if you're already a rabid CakeWrecks fan, get this book! There are tons of brand new delicious, hysterical wrecks that will have you laughing untEven if you're already a rabid CakeWrecks fan, get this book! There are tons of brand new delicious, hysterical wrecks that will have you laughing until you cry. There are also some behind the scenes stories - both from the website and the stories behind the wrecked cakes. Don't skip over Jen's witty commentary! You'll be snorting frosting out your nostrils in no time!
My favorites are "Welcome little Swetty!", "Happy 35th, Ann, Dave & Philis" and the whole Baby Bottoms Up chapter.
One of the most brilliant, insightful explanations on why cakes-gone-wrong are both funny and daily addicting is right at the beginning of the book: "I think it has something to do with the fact that almost all of us have a cake story to tell... Good or bad, these cakes tell little stories about us. So when we see a cake... that's shaped like a plunger, we know there's probably a story behind it, too -- and if we're lucky, a really funny one."...more
***Goodreads swap from 10/09 at Vroman's. Thank you anonymous swapper!***
What an achievement to write a book that steps into the mind of an autistic t***Goodreads swap from 10/09 at Vroman's. Thank you anonymous swapper!***
What an achievement to write a book that steps into the mind of an autistic teen yet allows us to laugh out loud and feel some deep emotions! Not to mention it reminded this crusty scientist of her childhood wide-eyed amazement and enthusiasm for the beauty of math.
Seriously, it's okay to laugh at Christopher's quirks and missteps despite his autistic-spectrum disorder. He has Behavioral Problems that most of us have experienced in one way or another, but perhaps not taken to such extremes. He reminds me a lot of Adrian Mole, twisting and bending rules and getting himself into funny, awkward situations.
My favorite part of the book is where he describes his logic of seeing red cars and having a Super Good Day. He points out to the psychologist that other people take seemingly illogical cues (the weather as they step out of the house) that sets their mood for the day. His cue is a bit more unique. Likewise, people have morning routines they faithfully follow that shows they like things nice and ordered, too.
This book should be read in high-schools. It reads fast, funny, with emotional reverberations and a strong empathy moral. Readers question what it means to be "normal," a question that torments teenagers daily.
OK, I can see where the "normal is not all its cracked up to be" moral is a bit ham-fisted at the end. The emotional or sympathetic didacticism here can turn off some readers; not everyone wants a moral lesson with their novel. However, sympathy and empathy are two morals-of-the-story that everyone should learn, embrace and practice. This books gets you there with a laugh....more
Stir contents vigorously. Serve with eggs on hard tack with maggoty butter.
Sounds implausible, doesn't it?
The narrator, Adam Hazzard, tells the story of the rise of Julian Comstock, nephew and unwanted heir to the current President Deklan Comstock in 2172.
The world has survived an almost-apocalypse with the End of Oil and the Plague of Infertility. By the start of the story, new mega-countries have been formed, the population is growing again, and America is at war with Mitteleuropa over Labrador and has effectively replaced the Supreme Court with the Dominion of Jesus Christ on Earth. (I should mention that America has 60 states and covers most all of North America. The Presidency is effectively a hereditary emperorship prone to coups.) It's all a bit Republic of Gilead, don't you think?
This new world isn't all bad - as a matter of fact, it's very much like America in the 19th century. Horse, carriage and trains are the main modes of transport, women generally wear long skirts, and people are expected to maintain their lot in life. Wars are fought mostly with rifles and calvary in trench warfare, but "new" weapons are starting to tip the scales. Movies are very rare and still don't have sound.
Adam Hazzard gives the story an "aw, shucks" naive tone. Many of Adam and Julians' hi-jinks will have you amused and laughing like you did at Tom Sawyer. Adam and Julian are boyhood friends from Athabasaka (northern Alberta) who love to shoot and fish together. Despite Adam's lower caste (lease-holder, one step above indentured servant), Julian (a high-born Aristocrat) tries to share with Adam the knowledge of the Secular Ancients that he's gleaned from non-Dominion approved antique books. This knowledge is in effect heresy, because it claims that space travel existed and evolution was accepted science.
Once Adam and Julian get conscripted into the Laurentian Army to fight in Labrador, the stories of training and warfare take over. Normally this is where my eyes would gloss over; I'm definitely not a fan of war stories or strategies on the battlefield. However, Wilson seems to move deftly from battlefield to human stories, and kept me interested throughout.
I can't really tell you too much beyond this without spoiling the story. Adam develops a love of writing and telling stories from his childhood and his path to becoming a writer is an amusing subplot. Even more amusing are his attempts at romance with the "fairer sex." It's rare that I laugh out loud while I read, but I was chuckling over and over again at Adam's naïveté, or supposed innocent observations. However, all the characters Adam describes end up being deliciously flawed and curiously interesting.
Likewise, the near-dystopic society Wilson creates is fascinating: it's in the future, but it's backwards! Certainly it will have you contemplating society's future after Peak Oil, although hopefully in a fictional way.
My 8 y.o. niece could NOT stop laughing at the poems in this book. Her favorite part (so far) is the end pages that have the drawings and list of RunnMy 8 y.o. niece could NOT stop laughing at the poems in this book. Her favorite part (so far) is the end pages that have the drawings and list of Runny Babbit's friends, like Toe Jurtle, Goctor Doose, and Polly Dorkupine. Over the next few days, she was re-reading the poems then trying to speak Runny Babbit talk. I loved seeing her think about and play with language!...more
Only read this for a book challenge. Dear lord it was awful. I only gave it a second star because it is set in Britain. I miss living there, so beingOnly read this for a book challenge. Dear lord it was awful. I only gave it a second star because it is set in Britain. I miss living there, so being reminded of stores, TV programmes, and the humour was fun. Otherwise, blech. Vapid, vapid bumfluff....more
What an odd, quick read. Vonnegut wrote only one play (thank goodness!) and set it as a retelling of Odysseus's return home from war set in the mid 20What an odd, quick read. Vonnegut wrote only one play (thank goodness!) and set it as a retelling of Odysseus's return home from war set in the mid 20th century. Like the Odyssey, Penelope has several suitors and a son who lamely attempts to fight them off. The role of the returning war hero is Penelope's brutish husband, Harold, an older, gruffy, rude man who's been missing for 8 years while diamond hunting. A lover of big game, guns and "traditional" masculinity, he revels in his surprise return and emotional control over his family.
Frequently the play reads like something from The Theater of the Absurd. The stilted dialogue, particularly at the end, lends to this affect. In true Vonnegut fashion, Happy Birthday, Wanda June is a commentary on heroism, war, and death. So it goes.
One funny note: I noticed the original Off-Broadway cast (1970-71) included Dianne Wiest (In Treatment, Law & Order, Edward Scissorhands, etc.) as the female understudy....more
Predictions of the year 2010 as imagined in 1972? Brilliant! It's shocking how many of Hoyle's predictions came true. (BTW, Hoyle is the son of famousPredictions of the year 2010 as imagined in 1972? Brilliant! It's shocking how many of Hoyle's predictions came true. (BTW, Hoyle is the son of famous astronomer, Fred Hoyle.) Vision phones replace: books, telephones, classrooms, offices, restaurant menus and more! All students' homework is stored on a massive computer at the school. "In the year 2010 everyone wears a jumpsuit and shoes." Ok, maybe that last one didn't come true, but the jumpsuit illustrations are hilariously both futuristic and way out of date.
In addition, the owner of the tumblr site has been trying to contact Geoffrey Hoyle to ask him about how his predictions have held up to the real 2010. He started a Facebook group to report his findings. I can't wait!...more
Part of my March 2010 Hugo Award winner bonanza. ________________
Wow that was really a fun mash-up of historical fiction, time travel and humor! All loPart of my March 2010 Hugo Award winner bonanza. ________________
Wow that was really a fun mash-up of historical fiction, time travel and humor! All lovers of time travel and its implications should give this a go. Certainly if you enjoy the zany humor of Douglas Adams, you should give this a go. I might even suggest that if you're a fan of Victorian England and its foibles, you should give this a go. And most certainly, definitely if you know what a penwiper is, you have no choice but to read this book. ________________
June 26, 2010:
I saw two interesting reviews about TSNOTD.
The first is the ever insightful Jo Walton at Tor.com: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2010/06/acad... "To Say Nothing of the Dog takes place in Willis’ “Firewatch” universe, along with her earlier Doomsday Book and more recent Blackout (and much anticipated All Clear). In this universe, there’s time travel but it’s for academic research purposes only. It’s useful to historians who want to know what really happened, and experience the past, but otherwise useless because time protects itself and you can’t bring anything through the “net” that will have any effect. The thought of time tourists hasn’t occurred in this universe, or rather it has been firmly squelched—and just as well, considering the problems historians manage to create all on their own. Despite having time travel and time travel’s ability to give you more time, Willis’s historians seem to be like my family and live in a perpetual whirlwind of ongoing crisis where there’s never enough time for proper preparation."
The second is Suvudu's 25 Years of (Bantam) Spectra series, which has a short intro from Willis herself: http://www.suvudu.com/2010/06/25-year... "I’d also always wanted to write a Victorian novel. You know the sort, crammed with eccentric characters and an incredibly convoluted plot full of butlers and afternoon tea and ruffles and séances and Oxford dons and falling in the Thames. To say nothing of the dog. And time travel. " ...more
"What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose... his own soul?"
Honestly, I knew very little about the story of The Picture of Dorian"What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose... his own soul?"
Honestly, I knew very little about the story of The Picture of Dorian Gray before reading this. The creepy horror tale is very Poe-esque, but with more description and emotion. It's brilliant!
The dialogue is excessive (more talking than doing) and frequently turns to very long monologues. I read in the reviews here that The Picture of Dorian Gray is really a play written as a novella. Very true. Except the dialogue, while frequently witty, is not particularly natural. My only other quibble is that there are frequent railings against women. Most come from the bawdy Lord Henry, though, so I can forgive him these.
Wilde was clearly obsessed with: flowers, perfumes, fancy side-tables, precious gems, and tapestries. Wilde was the Lawrence Llewelyn‐Bowen of his day! It also appears that Wilde was obsessed with obsession, and describes infatuation to a T.
Oh and this story deserves four stars alone for the most awesomest diss I've ever heard: "Yes; she is a peacock in everything but beauty,"
A few more awesome Wilde-ish quotes:
"The reason we all like to think so well of others is that we are all afraid for ourselves. The basis of optimism is sheer terror. We think that we are generous because we credit our neighbour with the possession of those virtues that are likely to be a benefit to us."
"When we are happy, we are always good, but when we are good, we are not always happy."
"There were in it metaphors as monstrous as orchids and as subtle in colour."
"Oh! anything becomes a pleasure if one does it too often," cried Lord Henry, laughing. "That is one of the most important secrets of life. I should fancy, however, that murder is always a mistake. One should never do anything that one cannot talk about after dinner."
"The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame."...more