This outrageous, hilarious and insightful novel is one of the great masterpieces of satire and of black American literature. The subject matter is tabThis outrageous, hilarious and insightful novel is one of the great masterpieces of satire and of black American literature. The subject matter is taboo even today. It is more than a satire of race; it covers much more ground, slapping around numerous deserving targets -- religion, politics, sex, and more. Ultimately it is about the great and endless gullibility of the human race. It would make a fabulous movie, if someone had the guts to do it. Spike Lee, maybe?
Schuyler, surely the greatest black journalist in American history, is a fascinating character who deserves a great deal more attention than he has received. He was a close friend and admirer of the great H.L. Mencken, and shared many of Mencken's views and salty style, so much so that Schuyler was sometimes called "the Black Mencken." Mencken in turn once described him as possible "the most competent editorial writer now in practice," strong praise indeed from America's greatest journalist. As a young man he was a socialist, but he became a conservative with libertarian leanings. His conservatism led to his being utterly shunned by the intelligentsia in the last years of his life. In recent years there has thankfully been more interest in the large and very rich body of work he produced. ...more
I thoroughly enjoyed this fast, funny and short Tarantino-ish black humor tale. Weird sex, drug-fueled violence, sideshow freaks, maniacs, idiots, criI thoroughly enjoyed this fast, funny and short Tarantino-ish black humor tale. Weird sex, drug-fueled violence, sideshow freaks, maniacs, idiots, criminals, revenge.... it's just one mess after another as this crazy first-person tale told by a narrator a few bricks shy of a load just roars ahead from the first page to the last. Sleaze, noir, sideshows... hey, if that kinda stuff sounds like fun to you, check this out. One of the most entertaining books I read this year. ...more
“Remember you must die.” That is the message a gaggle of elderly and increasingly decrepit folks in England are getting. Who is calling? That’s the my“Remember you must die.” That is the message a gaggle of elderly and increasingly decrepit folks in England are getting. Who is calling? That’s the mystery, but, of course, the insightful reader will realize that we are ALL getting this same phone call, all the time, though few of us take the time to pick up the phone and ponder the implications.
Murial Spark is a wonderful writer with a sometimes macabre sense of humor. She is a strong and distinctive stylist. Her books are short and zippy, breezy, economical in style and, for me, great fun to read. Here she tackles some of the deepest and most disturbing subjects, namely aging and death, and manages to do so while preserving her sense of fun and lightness of style. A remarkable accomplishment.
This book’s theme and the depictions of the elderly and the difficulties they face are, if anything, more relevant today than ever. The sadly ridiculous ways many of the characters occupy their short time on this planet are both amusing and poignant. Remember, you, too, must die.
A classic of black humor and of modern English literature. I have enjoyed many of Sparks’ books and hope to read them all. ...more
I read a lot of books on organizing, and this surprised me by how useful it was. While there are plenty of cleaning and organizing techniques given inI read a lot of books on organizing, and this surprised me by how useful it was. While there are plenty of cleaning and organizing techniques given in this book, Felton focuses on identifying the mental attitudes and personality traits that lead people to become either organized or messy. She then shows how organized people approach cleaning and organizing problems, and contrasts that with the ineffective approaches that "messies" -- the chronically messy who want to be organized and clean but don't do it -- err in the same situations.
A couple of examples. A "messie" might make a schedule of housecleaning tasks to be done. Then, passing a dirt glob on the carpet, think, "I see that. According to the schedule, I'll be vacuuming tomorrow and that will take care of that," and walk on by it (and lots of other problems). A person who is effective at housecleaning, and whose goal is to keep a constantly clean and organized space, will simply clean it up as quickly as possible, probably as soon as they see the mess. A simple difference, you might think, but the results are profound. Also, a messie might wonder how he can ever find time to clean, say, a bathroom. A neatie will take advantage of a few spare minutes to quickly do some part of that task, so that, in a day or two, it is done. Simple stuff, sure, but insightful and useful to those who do not habitually think that way.
Felton's ideal is to have a house that is always clean and neat -- a house where, when someone drops by unexpectedly, you simply invite them in, without worrying about what the house looks like, because you know it is clean and neat. That simple and very worthy goal is overwhelming to a lot of people. This book can motivate, encourage and teach you how to accomplish it.
The book is simply written, and she does a lot of handholding for her "messies" readers, and that might put some people off. But she knows, as a former messy herself, that this subject can be extraordinary intimidating and is the cause of much stress, despair and self-loathing for many people. Better to err in the direction of too much comforting than too little.
Some of the ideas in this edition are outdated, but most are not. She has continued writing on the topic, and updated books from her are available. If the above resonates with you, check it out. ...more
Glance over the reviews at Amazon and see how strongly readers react to this. You'll see adjectives like bleak, grim, tormented, dirty, horrifying, teGlance over the reviews at Amazon and see how strongly readers react to this. You'll see adjectives like bleak, grim, tormented, dirty, horrifying, terrifying, gruesome, tough, gritty, ugly.... and so forth. You'll also read that it has a smidgin of (quite black) humor. All true.
It's a landmark noir in the tradition of the darker noir writers like Jim Thompson and David Goodis. I loved it. Certainly not for everyone, but if it sounds like it may be for you, check it out, you might just love it, too. ...more
The good parts: I was curious about rice cookers, and this entertaining slim book provided me with some useful answers. Roger Ebert is a charming, delThe good parts: I was curious about rice cookers, and this entertaining slim book provided me with some useful answers. Roger Ebert is a charming, delightful and courageous man, and an excellent writer. His personality shines through this book, and if you are interested in Ebert the man, you might well enjoy this book from that perspective.
The downside: a lot of the book is written by other people, friends and people who comment on Ebert's blog. I didn't find that nearly so interesting as Ebert's own writing. Also I found the basic advice on rice cookers very... basic. And the recipes were of little interest to me, personally.
Bottom line: A lot of it is fun to read. It's an okay short and quick look at some of what a rice cooker can do, and why you might want to own one -- though you'd probably be better off looking at another book, or some blog posts, for that. For Ebert admirers, a worthwhile read, but you can read similar stuff at his blog. For Ebert fanatics, probably a must read, but well down the list of those. ...more
This eccentric and odd-paced book seemed a bit disjointed and confusing to me at first. I stuck with it, mostly because I am a great admirer of the auThis eccentric and odd-paced book seemed a bit disjointed and confusing to me at first. I stuck with it, mostly because I am a great admirer of the author's film Withnail and I. It paid off, as I enjoyed the last 2/3 of the book much more than the first third.
I didn't particularly care for some of it, but sometimes the author would write something so incredibly true and insightful about human relations, or something so beautiful or otherwise moving, that it made the book extremely worthwhile. ...more
One of my favorite novels so far this year. Brilliant, original, a joy to read, this short novel gets to the heart of what is so great about MASTER OFOne of my favorite novels so far this year. Brilliant, original, a joy to read, this short novel gets to the heart of what is so great about MASTER OF REALITY, the legendary masterpiece album by Black Sabbath. It also wonderfully captures how passionately teens love music, and why they do, and how kids can sometimes love and benefit from even dark and disturbing music without necessarily endorsing the lyrics and other elements.
This novel is part of the 33 and 1/3 series of record review books. It's an odd bird of a book -- a sort of a record review/analysis in the form of a novel. It's not a YA novel, but it sometimes uses a voice one might expect to find in a YA novel, a kind of Holden Caulfield first-person howl of adolescent alienation and outrage. It does so brilliantly, just reeking of authenticity.
I think Lester Bangs -- my favorite rock critic and arguably the greatest rock critic ever -- would have loved this little book.
I was in high school when MASTER OF REALITY came out. I was already a big fan because of their previous album PARANOID. MASTER OF REALITY blew me away then, and, forty years and a zillion listens later, it still does. This great novel captures a good bit of the reason why. ...more
I read this after reading three of D’Stair’s noirish suspense novels recently, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. This is not a suspense novel. It isI read this after reading three of D’Stair’s noirish suspense novels recently, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. This is not a suspense novel. It is a seemingly autobiographical tale of the author’s stint as a young and larcenous employee of a chain bookstore, which is marooned for no sensible reason in a bland, sterile mall patronized by shoppers who seem to have little notion of why books exist and what their function is. It reads like a memoir, and I assume that it more or less is, though one must always be suspicious of such assumptions.
I very much enjoyed it. The general tone is comic. I found it at times funny, at times a bit sad and poignant. The lead character is well sketched, and the sad, somewhat confused store manager is particularly well portrayed. The meaningless and absurdity of the mall is conveyed well. The first person voice is easy and natural, and you feel you’re just listening to someone telling tales from his past.
This is also a coming of age tale. The protagonist (presumably D’Stair) learns a lot about the world, human nature, and authority. And he has a particularly significant encounter with a local self-published author that, like a thump on the skull from a zen master’s staff, opens his mind to possibilities.
Anyone who has ever worked a stupid, meaningless, dull job, and anyone who has ever had to deal with corporate stupidity and the bewildering derangement of much of the general public, should find much to identify with here. It’s a short (about 16,195 words) and entertaining read. This is not the first D’Stair work you should read, but if you have enjoyed some of his other works, it is a nice kind of supplement to them. ...more
You’re standing alone at the ATM machine. Suddenly a man pulls a gun on you. He doesn’t want your money. He wants you to come with him. Where? For whaYou’re standing alone at the ATM machine. Suddenly a man pulls a gun on you. He doesn’t want your money. He wants you to come with him. Where? For what reason? What’s coming next? Who is this man? What can you do?
That’s the startling beginning of this short and suspenseful novelette by D’Stair. It’s a great premise, like a classic noir film or novel or an especially good Twilight Zone episode. The book maintains the pace, the suspense, and the sense of dread throughout. The focus is on the protagonists’s mental anguish, as he must try to figure out what’s going on, whether or not to act, and when.
Anyone who likes the more literary of the noir novels published by Black Lizard books or Stark House or Hard Case Crime should consider checking this out, along with the Trevor Knight novelettes by the same author. You can buy it at Amazon for a very reasonable price, or download it for free from the Smashwords website. ...more