Carver was definitely a master, and well worth reading. However - and here's where my review becomes more about personal and momentary taste - I'm notCarver was definitely a master, and well worth reading. However - and here's where my review becomes more about personal and momentary taste - I'm not sure if he will stand the test of time, or even is doing that now. To me his characters are hard to identify with, although I can sympathize with them. It's just that often, they seem stuck in a time that's thankfully past - the sort of 40s through 60s time of couples who don't really talk, men (and in some cases women) who drink too much, get in fights, play their gender roles to the hilt, and leave their families at the drop of a hat, etc etc. Generally lots of not very conscious, unhappy, low-grade jerks, sadly bumbling through their sordid lives. Perhaps there's still a lot of people like these out there, but to me this feels dated. Carver's a a step up from Hemingway in that at least he recognizes the sadness of these people and isn't just celebrating macho stoic males. Still, I'm preferring, these days at least, fiction that resonates more and is addressing what it's like to be alive now. Perhaps I'll be accused of subscribing to the dreaded "relatability" fad, but I find more spiritual sustenance in protagonists that are more modern - folks that are vulnerable, smart, dorky, and nice, but still get into trouble and have a hard time. Following the mishaps of dudes whose flaws have mostly been addressed by my generation and demographic is interesting, but not necessarily the most useful to me in my quest to become a wiser and better person. That said, Carver was an expert at his craft, and in the context of his background and time, is worth reading - just like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Shakespeare, etc. It's just not what's floating my boat these days....more
Took me awhile this time, but the issue does not disappoint. Highlights are the piece by David Graeber about play, the Susan Faludi article on feminisTook me awhile this time, but the issue does not disappoint. Highlights are the piece by David Graeber about play, the Susan Faludi article on feminism, and the excellent take-down of Vice magazine....more
Krakauer is always a good muckraker. In this slim volume he turns his skills to bear on someone who he once trusted, Greg Mortenson, whose charity orgKrakauer is always a good muckraker. In this slim volume he turns his skills to bear on someone who he once trusted, Greg Mortenson, whose charity organization Krakauer had donated lots of money too, only to start doubting Mortenson's work and honesty. My cynical, pessimist side wishes there were a book like this for every feel-good heartwarming pop-memoir of miraculous altruism and supposed world-changing vision, because I'm sure way more of this goes on all the time than we ever see or suspect. This book just methodically rips to shreds all the smoke and mirrors that Mortenson employed over years of pretending to do good. It's pretty satisfying, though saddening too....more
This is not great literature, but it is great inspirational storytelling for kids who might be geeks or are leaning toward becoming geeks, interestedThis is not great literature, but it is great inspirational storytelling for kids who might be geeks or are leaning toward becoming geeks, interested in computers, hacking, cryptography, and civil liberties. Basically the book is a piece of not-so-subtle propaganda - a word I use simply as description, not as value judgement. Doctorow is trying to spread and instill a way of thinking about politics, the "War on Terror," the Security State, and related issues. He does so with writing that is pretty basic, though it is competent storytelling that kept me turning the pages and wondering what would happen. There was a lot of (to me) over-obvious, breaking-the-fourth-wall explanation, mostly of stuff I already knew, on topics ranging from ciphers to DNS to San Francisco Mission District burritos. Some of that was fun to recognize and skim over, while other instances of that made me wonder if young readers would get bored or angry with such bald instructional passages and just set the book down. The potential problem is that when you cross over the line from political literature into expository how-to manual thinly disguised as fiction, you run a risk, and you also waste an opportunity to make truly great art. I could argue that David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest" occupies the other end of the spectrum, in that it covers a lot of the same ground, politically, that "Little Brother" does, but it does so while also being an amazing work of avant-garde literature that is at many times formally brilliant and challenging, something that "Little Brother" definitely never is. But of course I would be clueless and stupid to think that the average 14-year-old computer nerd might get the same kind of call-to-arms buzz from DFW's mammoth opus as from Doctorow's book, or even finish it. I just think that some middle ground might be the better way to go, because any kid smart and dorky enough to care about jamming arphids or installing linux on Xboxes will most likely also be smart enough to smell literary hamfistedness and benefit from the pleasure of reading a piece of writing that is not just good, but great. Doctorow's book is good-not-great writing, but it is admittedly very good popular education....more
Yet another case of a journalist not really able to make the jump to quality long-form writing. This book is interesting content, but it just never reYet another case of a journalist not really able to make the jump to quality long-form writing. This book is interesting content, but it just never really clicked. The author tried to go for the deep personal angle, but never really arrived at a tone that made me give much of a damn about her or her neighbors or friends. ...more
This book proves that Frey was not a flash-in-the-pan with "A Million Little Pieces." Here he takes the same intense and emotional style turned to focThis book proves that Frey was not a flash-in-the-pan with "A Million Little Pieces." Here he takes the same intense and emotional style turned to focus on the city of Los Angeles and a variety of fictional but very realistic inhabitants. I kept wanting the various little story threads to somehow intersect, which is one thing that drives the book forward. The structure is a neverending alternation between various historical and statistical factoids about the city and various characters, mostly newly arriving in the city and trying to set up a life for themselves. Some of the characters Frey keeps coming back to and building a plot, others you only see once and then never again. It's a bit dizzying and sometimes frustrating but ultimately forms an experience that is gripping and wise. It makes me glad I moved away from L.A. as soon as I did, although the book also makes me kind of want to move there....more
This is the kind of book I just don't want to put down. It's hilarious, a bit scary, profound, and profane. In the middle of fighting zombies and mutaThis is the kind of book I just don't want to put down. It's hilarious, a bit scary, profound, and profane. In the middle of fighting zombies and mutants and demons, the narrator throws around some great wisdom as well as some comedic slacker banality. It's brilliant, and once you pick it up and open it to the first page, you won't need me or anyone else to persuade you that it's worth reading. You'll just keep reading....more
An odd book. A novel that reads a lot like a memoir and probably partially is one, in which the narrator blunders around her life as a young white priAn odd book. A novel that reads a lot like a memoir and probably partially is one, in which the narrator blunders around her life as a young white privileged playwright in Toronto, making friends and enemies and vaguely struggling to reach some vague profundity. It reads a little bit like something I wish were a female version of Sam Lipsyte's "Homeland" - or maybe it is, but I'm just too male to get it. It doesn't have a clear narrative arc and character development resolution that I kind of instinctively want, and would expect from somebody like Lipsyte or Franzen or the author of How I Became a Famous Novelist, whose name I forget.
In other words, it has that flavor of the modernday creative outcast bumbling around gradually learning stuff, and it's weird and sorta funny, but it doesn't ever... gel as much as I wanted it to.
Probably should be 3.5 stars but I'm generously rounding up....more
I've been reading Cometbus for, oh, I dunno, about 20 years now. It's a strange feeling to pick it up again. Aaron's writing has always seemed beautifI've been reading Cometbus for, oh, I dunno, about 20 years now. It's a strange feeling to pick it up again. Aaron's writing has always seemed beautiful and so vulnerable and honest, but also flawed, in that it's always so long-winded and a bit overly dramatic. It can be excused somewhat by saying it's poetic, but I don't really like poetry any more. I like stuff that gets to the point and doesn't beat around the bush or communicate in strained riddles. It just seems a little whiny sometimes, a white Berkeley punk kid, complaining about his 'mysterious', tortured heritage growing up in the hippie Eden. Waaaah.
That said, he weaves a fascinating tale that I couldn't easily set down, about an odd childhood friend that he kept in touch with all his life, but he had agreed to keep her out of all of his previous writing until she finally gave him permission - and so then he wrote this issue, almost entirely about her. Pretty touching....more
This novel really has an odd arc to it. It starts out as an almost plotless meditation on fancy food and cooking. Then it gradually, very gradually, bThis novel really has an odd arc to it. It starts out as an almost plotless meditation on fancy food and cooking. Then it gradually, very gradually, becomes the story of a scary, diabolical sociopath. As someone recently more and more interested in fine cuisine and the culinary arts, it was challenging but not overly so to make it through the first 170 pages or so of the gourmet musings of the narrator. And then it starts getting really juicy, though still full of ever so erudite foodstuff trivia.
(view spoiler)[Spoiler Alert: It's really pretty ingenious how the author ever so gently introduces the narrator's simmering jealousy toward his brother, a famous artist, and also at the same time increasingly reveals with greater and greater obviousness that the narrator has murdered, as a child, his nanny and his family's cook, and then later his parents and his brother. This is an excellent example of an "unreliable narrator," someone you at first identify with as a brilliant and artful and sensitive aesthete, and then a tiny bit at a time you realize, hmm, this guy is a monster. Wow. So great. (hide spoiler)] ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book actually IS heartbreaking, and actually is a work of genius, though perhaps not staggering genius. Anyway, I could go on and on but I won't.This book actually IS heartbreaking, and actually is a work of genius, though perhaps not staggering genius. Anyway, I could go on and on but I won't. It's just really really good. I should have read it much sooner. It's way better than I ever thought it would be, and in fact I think the title is what threw me off and made me wait 12 years to get to it. Most commendable is that Eggers, in a way similar and almost as well as DFW, perfectly captures the way the (post) modern, youngish, neurotic, superintelligent, self-aware-to-a-fault mind sounds to itself as it goes about its desperate days, restless, chaotic, unable to stop its ceaseless flopping and fluttering about....more
This is pretty much as good a book as I could reasonably expect in the realm of step-by-step guides on how to do a Kickstarter campaign. Covers all thThis is pretty much as good a book as I could reasonably expect in the realm of step-by-step guides on how to do a Kickstarter campaign. Covers all the bases, explains things clearly and completely, and is very useful. I already knew quite a bit on the subject, from reading numerous blog posts by various people who had highly successful Kickstarter campaigns, and just from observing projects I've backed over the last couple of years. But I'd recommend this to people like me as well as people who've never really looked into it but want to learn how to crowdfund....more
Like with many anthologies that are collected around a specific formal practice in writing, this book varies in quality. Some selections are really toLike with many anthologies that are collected around a specific formal practice in writing, this book varies in quality. Some selections are really top-notch, but others are almost worthy of skipping. The idea behind them all is creative writing that is in the format of some non-creative text: for-sale listings, book indexes, wills, police logs, etc. Where these work the best is, I believe, not dependent on the the form the writer chose to cleverly lampoon, but on the actual content. When the story, the situation being portrayed, is powerful and touching, the piece is powerful, regardless of whether it's written in the form of a glossary, colophon, or set of story problems.
Some standouts I particularly liked were "Permission Slip" by Caron A. Levis, in which a problem student hijacks her school's intercom system and rants at the entire school; "Officer's Weep" by Daniel Orozco in which a romance between two cops blooms in the form of a police blotter; and "National Treasures"by Charles McCleod, a heartbreaking life story told via an auction listing of the narrator's possessions. The key in all of these, and all the others that are best, is the depiction of a realistic and poignant human life, not the cleverness of how it gets bent into a weird type of writing....more
This book is a comedic satire with an interesting and funny premise: what if some chemical in all the animal products caused non-vegans to turn into zThis book is a comedic satire with an interesting and funny premise: what if some chemical in all the animal products caused non-vegans to turn into zombies? However, in the execution of this idea the thing has lots of problems. I will just list them out: 1. It really should have been better copy-edited, or at all. It's full of typos, spelling errors, grammatical errors, and punctuation errors, to the point where I wonder if the author even re-read his work after writing it, and/or whether he ever passed an English class at a higher level than 7th grade.
2. The book is full of what i call "Portland exceptionalism" - the idea that Portland is some kind of ultimate mecca, different and better in every way. As a former Portland resident that would still be living there if I didn't need more sunshine, I understand the allure of the place, but this kind of attitude is something that keeps getting more and more common and more and more extreme.
3. Besides the poor English errors, it's just, frankly, bad writing. The sentences are very simplistic. The characters and any development they undergo are really obvious, stereotypical, and cliched. The plot is pretty by-the-numbers - at no point do I really worry about any of the heroes or the final outcome, there's no real suspense, since the zombies are so clearly weak, powerless, and easy to kill or avoid.
4. There's some fun humor in the book and great critique of various silly and hypocritical subcultures like freegans, raw-foodists, locavores, and many types of hipsters, juggaloes, and more, but: the book is basically a really overly didactic vegan sermon. Now, I'm sympathetic to the causes and the points made in the book, but it's just painful to read something that's so preachy, especially since there's not much else in the book plot or character-wise to make up for that.
The book is basically "liberal snuff porn" - what if you woke up one day and could finally really shoot in the head all those annoying yuppies and hipsters you hate? - which, as a liberal, I can agree can be fun for a while. But it's not going to change any minds and it's only going to really entertain some smug, simple-minded Portland vegans. If it had been a short story, maybe 10,000 words at most, instead of a novel, some of the above problems could have been mitigated or eliminated. To be sure, if it had been much longer I would not have finished it. I only wish my town still had a smug, simple-minded infoshop that I could leave the book at for some young, earnest traveller kids to find and confirm for themselves that Portland is just as cool as they already know it is....more
This is a great book, if you're in the situation to benefit from it, that is, if you're a father who is looking for inspiration and ways to raise kidsThis is a great book, if you're in the situation to benefit from it, that is, if you're a father who is looking for inspiration and ways to raise kids and be a husband and father according to feminist, anti-patriarchal, anti-establishment values. Not all of the pieces in this anthology are that useful. Some are rather banal pep-talks. But some are highly moving and wise statements that reach to the core of what's wrong with our culture and offer alternatives. Hardly any of the pieces are highly good writing; most are simply competent journalism/opinion pieces and don't qualify as any kind of Harper's-level essaying. But this is made up for by the personal nature of the pieces, and, for me, the way in which many of the questions and issues are exactly what I'm looking to explore as I embark on the long journey of fatherhood. I think several of my friends who've already been on this path for years might get considerably less out of this book; also, the rest of my friends who don't have kids and don't plan to won't get much of anything of it. But if you're somewhere in the middle, this book will be good for you too....more