Really fascinating to read this during an election year. Nowadays it's common to talk about Nixon as a politician who suffered and sweated under the g...moreReally fascinating to read this during an election year. Nowadays it's common to talk about Nixon as a politician who suffered and sweated under the gaze of television, but this book shows that Nixon and his team bounced back to become true pioneers of televised electioneering. Forty-four years on, little has changed, although the sound and fury have sure gotten a lot louder and more furious (not to mention more infuriating).(less)
I picked this up at an airport bookstore when I realized I had accidentally left my intended reading material in my checked luggage, and ended up plow...moreI picked this up at an airport bookstore when I realized I had accidentally left my intended reading material in my checked luggage, and ended up plowing through it in a day. Wildly speculative and sometimes a bit jarring as it moves back and forth between two pretty distinct stories, but still very readable and fascinating throughout. The links between the murders and the World's Fair are tenuous, but Larsen does a decent job of making his case in the conclusion.(less)
In all honesty, I was not too fascinated by Lomax's life and thought he came across as petulant and selfish. But as a fan of many of Lomax's field rec...moreIn all honesty, I was not too fascinated by Lomax's life and thought he came across as petulant and selfish. But as a fan of many of Lomax's field recordings (particularly those from his "Southern journey"), I really enjoyed poring over this book for names of performers, record labels, and recordists I hadn't heard of before.(less)
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book, particularly after reading the first story, which is by far the weakest of the bunch. These are stori...moreI was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book, particularly after reading the first story, which is by far the weakest of the bunch. These are stories about the brutality of life in the natural world, and while Freddi occasionally incorporates conventions of the animal fable genre, he makes sure that the forest remains amoral, but ordered.(less)
Like a lot of essay collections I've encountered recently, this volume reads more like an unedited blog than a book. Byrne meanders frequently, equivo...moreLike a lot of essay collections I've encountered recently, this volume reads more like an unedited blog than a book. Byrne meanders frequently, equivocates on virtually every assertion, neglects to cite sources (even those he discusses at length), and on a few occasions will introduce a piece of evidence and then go off on a tangent and forget to pick up his initial thread.
Nevertheless, this is a very enjoyable read, and Byrne's thesis (though loosely presented) is important: music is not the realm of aloof genius, operating independently of cultural, physical, and financial barriers, but a social force existing in a state of constant flux, thoroughly interwoven with its context.
Talking Heads fans may be disappointed to find only one chapter has been devoted to Byrne's own discography. If you're expecting a memoir, or some dirt on the band's breakup, you won't find it here.(less)
I’ve long been a fan of film noir, and Chandler’s screenplays – particularly 'Double Indemnity' and 'Strangers on a Train' – are some of my favorites...more I’ve long been a fan of film noir, and Chandler’s screenplays – particularly 'Double Indemnity' and 'Strangers on a Train' – are some of my favorites, but until now I had never read any of the novels that made him famous. I decided to begin with 'The Big Sleep', the first of Chandler’s seven novels featuring private investigator Philip Marlowe.
If you’ve seen the bowdlerised (but still brilliant) 1946 film adaptation of 'The Big Sleep' (starring Humphrey Bogart as Marlowe), you may be surprised by the brutality of Chandler’s original. While investigating the blackmail of General Sternwood, an ailing millionaire, Marlowe uncovers a black-market pornography ring whose leader is murdered in the act of photographing Sternwood’s daughter. Meanwhile, the photos have gone missing — presumably into the hands of another potential blackmailer, who may or may not be the photographer’s killer.
Chandler’s narrative is complex but controlled, and his dialogue is as clever and pugnacious as ever. But the novel’s best moments come during brief lulls in the action, when a reflective Marlowe reveals a palpable dread of his own impending death, and struggles to retrace the steps that led him into a life of danger and depravity. While the seedier aspects of vintage noir often strike modern readers as campy, the bleakness of 'The Big Sleep' disturbs us as much as it does Marlowe (though it must be said that the novel’s two gay characters are treated with a cartoonish contempt one would hope not to find in a 21st-century work).
Chandler’s novel, like all good noir, is an adventure story without heroism or romance: no lessons are learned, and no lives are changed (at least not for the better). At times, though, 'The Big Sleep' is wonderfully human – even when its characters are at their most debauched – and that allows it to both exemplify and transcend its genre.(less)
This small but powerful volume is sort of an anti-"race novel". I cannot imagine why Larsen's work is so often ignored when people discuss the Harlem...moreThis small but powerful volume is sort of an anti-"race novel". I cannot imagine why Larsen's work is so often ignored when people discuss the Harlem Renaissance, except that her opposition to racial delineation of *all* kinds -- including that which is meant to encourage solidarity among the underprivileged -- has never been fashionable in any social circle.
One complaint: what is it about women committing suicide, and why is it so commonly used as a sort of deus ex machina throughout the history of fiction and film? It seems especially prevalent in works of the first half of the 20th century, although of course it goes back to Tolstoy and beyond. Are women really so prone to casting themselves off buildings every time life gets rough? It seems like a cheap way for the author to avoid dealing with the repercussions of the world he/she has created.(less)
This book explodes, maybe inadvertently, one of our most prevalent fallacies: that if we can just get away to someplace exotic, we will find ourselves...moreThis book explodes, maybe inadvertently, one of our most prevalent fallacies: that if we can just get away to someplace exotic, we will find ourselves and our lives will begin to make sense to us. Andrew Pham travels to Vietnam (which he and his family escaped around the time of the Vietnam War) and sees the country by bicycle, and leaves with an upset stomach and absolutely no understanding of the Vietnamese people. In fact, I would go so far as to say that he hates them.
This fact wouldn't sway my feelings about the book one way or the other. The thing that really kills me is the prose, which is often heavy on nonsensical metaphor. Example: silence is "the gift into which one can cast all one's sorrow like trash into an abyss." All I can see is an empty Cheetos bag being drawn into a wormhole.
The other thing I really hate is that Pham is very willing to air everyone's dirty laundry -- from the suicide of his transgendered sibling to his palpable irritation at the impoverished Vietnamese who are constantly trying to part him from his money -- but never allows himself to be examined in the same way. No fewer than three times, Pham engages with prostitutes (who are almost certainly underaged, indentured servants) but suddenly becomes coy during these scenes, pulling them up short and never quite owning up to his own exploitation of the poor Vietnamese.(less)