A memoir of growing up in Manhasset, Long Island in the 70s and 80s. Moehringer really captures the magic of a good bar, as well as the inherent dange...moreA memoir of growing up in Manhasset, Long Island in the 70s and 80s. Moehringer really captures the magic of a good bar, as well as the inherent dangers that lurk within its briny depths. Moehringer is particularly adept at capturing the barfly's deep and somewhat hilarious reverence. I loved the characters, the bar patter, and the author's masterful depiction pf how a place and a group of friends can sometimes transcend cut-and-dried reality.
A compelling read, though sometimes Moehringer's psychoanalysis of his own issues feels a little paint by numbers. Also the epilogue, which deals with 9-11, is cheesy.
Note: I was reading an advance copy so some things may be changed in the final editions. (less)
However, this is hands down the most confounding autobiography I've ever read. For example, Furnas never describes his wife or how he met her, but gives detailed descriptions of the organizational system in an office he worked at as a young man (some 50 years before he was writing the book). Completely devoid of emotional content, in other words. He's still very funny and the book contains amusing curmudgeonly rants and excellent descriptions of travel by freighter in the early twentieth century. But it's completely disorganized and random and basically has no narrative structure, which is the sort of thing Furnas would be likely to deride in other authors. (less)
Bill Buford quits his job as an editor at The New Yorker to become a kitchen slave in one of Mario Batali's restaurants. Although the premise sounds l...moreBill Buford quits his job as an editor at The New Yorker to become a kitchen slave in one of Mario Batali's restaurants. Although the premise sounds like a potentially annoying addition to the recent fad for contrived "my year of doing something weird so I have something to write about" memoirs, Buford's growing obsession with cooking is plausible and fascinating. He is an excellent writer and Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany is an excellent book. I admire Buford's ability to describe people objectively--some of his remarks are scathing, but he is always fair. I loved the cooking tips and the historical digressions. Recommended to anyone who has more than a passing interest in cooking, and everyone who has ever worked in a restaurant. (less)
This memoir has the advantage of a fascinating topic: the author's family, particularly her mother and stepfather, who both escaped Russia during the...moreThis memoir has the advantage of a fascinating topic: the author's family, particularly her mother and stepfather, who both escaped Russia during the revolutionary era to resettle in Paris. A chunk of the book is set in France prior and during the Nazi invasion, and the rest in the parlors of New York City's fashion elite. Full to the brim with interesting characters, including Marlene Dietrich and Salvador Dali. The one real flaw is that the author occasionally sounds whiny and vindictive. (less)
Patti Smith has a beautiful cadence, and the cast of characters is mind-boggling. Sometimes Maplethorpe and Smith come across as too serious for my ta...morePatti Smith has a beautiful cadence, and the cast of characters is mind-boggling. Sometimes Maplethorpe and Smith come across as too serious for my tastes (they are SO deep and artistic), but I enjoyed the book anyway. Poignant and rich in detail.(less)
An entertaining read, though the misogyny can be a little grating at times. I appreciate the format of The Heroin Diaries: Sixx intersperses his diary...moreAn entertaining read, though the misogyny can be a little grating at times. I appreciate the format of The Heroin Diaries: Sixx intersperses his diary entries with comments from people who were around at the time. Evidently he encouraged his contributors to be brutally honest. Some of it is pretty funny. Sixx's absolute narcissism is fascinating--his scope is entirely limited by his own emotional hangups and needs. That said, I was impressed by the honesty--although you can tell Sixx gets a kick out of some of the rock-star behavior stories, the book definitely makes heroin and coke abuse seem incredibly stupid.(less)
Remarkably well written for a local history, Pioneering in Oregon's Coast Range is the memoir of Ione Reed's years living on a homestead above Mapleto...moreRemarkably well written for a local history, Pioneering in Oregon's Coast Range is the memoir of Ione Reed's years living on a homestead above Mapleton, Oregon (a town 20 miles or so from where I grew up)during the depression. Reed was only 19 when she began homesteading on her father-in-law's property, and the book, while generally light and funny in tone, also includes some good descriptions of nature and thoughtful reflections on the people she meets in the area. (less)
A memoir of rural life that lit up the best-seller lists in 1945, The Egg and I is the story of a young bride in the late 1920s who gets dragged to th...moreA memoir of rural life that lit up the best-seller lists in 1945, The Egg and I is the story of a young bride in the late 1920s who gets dragged to the woods of Washington by her enthusiastic and unsympathetic husband. Like Shirley Jackson's Life Among the Savages, which I just read, MacDonald's memoir captures the life of an overwhelmed housewife with a keen mind, a sharp sense of humor, and an unusual and subversive vision of her time. These were women who were trying to be good wives and mothers, but who didn't always like the role they were pushed into, and said so, wittily. Both writers let the darkness creep in at the edges of otherwise breezy stories, which give the books a poignancy one might not expect from the 'harried housewife' genre.
MacDonald is a strong writer, who captures the sometimes creepy beauty of the Northwestern wilderness vividly. Her descriptions of the couple's hillbilly neighbors are funny, if a bit cruel at times. Particularly amusing are her horrified descriptions of the dull and unhealthy food (pork belly and boiled macaroni) her neighbors ate on a regular basis, despite their access to fabulous homegrown vegetables and wild foods. She was evidently far ahead of her time in regards to food: she writes descriptions of the bounty of their table that would make a modern foodie grown in hunger and jealousy. Wild mushrooms, fresh mussels, fresh oysters, fresh cream...Unfortunately, she was not ahead of her time in regard to her take on the local Native Americans: if anything, her descriptions, though intended to be humorous, are unusually mean-spirited. However, over time I have come to accept that works and ideas are best judged in the context of their time, and I'm pretty sure MacDonald would have had a different take (or at least had the good sense to keep her mouth shut) had she been writing today. Just as I have to grudgingly appreciate Jefferson for some of his ideas, if not all of them, I can't discount a sharp writer for espousing one view I don't agree with. Did I just compare Betty MacDonald to Thomas Jefferson? Yes I did. Anyway...a highly entertaining read if you can ignore that fatal flaw.(less)
I just read a salon.com article about Jackson that describes this book as deceptively light, and I can't top that description. Jackson wrote the famou...moreI just read a salon.com article about Jackson that describes this book as deceptively light, and I can't top that description. Jackson wrote the famously disturbing short story, "The Lottery" and several horror classics, and suffered from various neurosis, a back story that adds dimension to these sunny accounts of harried parenthood in the 1940s. Jackson writes well, and her stories about her children are funny. My own grandmother, who, like Jackson, was neurotic and strange and a notoriously indifferent housekeeper, was raising three boys during the same era, so reading Life Among the Savages seemed to add details to my own family history: I could only imagine that my dad wore the same brand of shoes as Laurie, and that my grandmother encountered similar frustrations regarding social niceties. The title is apt. Jackson captures the essential wild strangeness of children, and the book is littered with barbed asides and eerie observations: 'I personally have always believed in ghosts; I taught Laurie later a small charm against evil spirits, disguising it as a nursery rhyme' that make it well worth reading.(less)
Amusing, if a bit hit-or-miss. Rife with the sort of post-modern offensiveness (take that, Evergreen professors) that is the bread and butter of the g...moreAmusing, if a bit hit-or-miss. Rife with the sort of post-modern offensiveness (take that, Evergreen professors) that is the bread and butter of the guys who write Family Guy. Some of it is genuinely hilarious, though: I love Handler's off-the-cuff remarks about celebrities, particularly Angelina Jolie.(less)
This book jumped out at me on my last trip to Epilogue books. I'd never heard of it, and bought it on a whim. Of course it turned out to be quite famo...moreThis book jumped out at me on my last trip to Epilogue books. I'd never heard of it, and bought it on a whim. Of course it turned out to be quite famous, but to me it still seems a lucky find. Published in 1960, The Flame Trees of Thika relates Huxley's childhood in Kenya. The book begins with her family's move to Kenya in 1910 and details their trials homesteading. Huxley vividly conveys the wonder of the country's unspoiled wilderness, and it's fascinating to get a view of colonial race relations through the prism of an intelligent and unusual child's mind. An eccentric roster of characters (including Huxley's oddball parents) spring to life, and incidences are illuminated with fine humor. (less)
Bourdain intersperses stories from his culinary life with essays (read: rants) on the restaurant business. I think the book would have been better as...moreBourdain intersperses stories from his culinary life with essays (read: rants) on the restaurant business. I think the book would have been better as a true memoir (with the essays published separately), but the somewhat random structure didn't ruin the read. Amusing and interesting, if a bit obnoxious. It made me want to check out his fiction, which is kind of the ultimate compliment. (less)
An outward-focused memoir. Instead of retelling key events in his own development, Terkel puts forth hundreds of vignettes about other people--moments...moreAn outward-focused memoir. Instead of retelling key events in his own development, Terkel puts forth hundreds of vignettes about other people--moments and conversations that got him thinking. And because this is Studs Terkel those people range from random bartenders to Martin Luther King Jr. The book was dictated to mixed results. You can hear Terkel's old school Chicago cadence in the written word, but his stream of consciousness is sometimes hard to follow. Still, it's well worth reading for Terkel's memories of Dreamland and other 20's jazz clubs, the gangsters who roamed his boyhood neighborhood in Chicago, the civil rights movement, Mahalia Jackson, Fellini, and Big Bill Broonzy.(less)
An avid hunter and fisherman stumbles across Le Guide Culinaire, the masterwork of the legendary French chef Augueste Escoffier, who cooked for Kaiser...moreAn avid hunter and fisherman stumbles across Le Guide Culinaire, the masterwork of the legendary French chef Augueste Escoffier, who cooked for Kaiser Wilhelm II, the Duke of Orleans, Queen Victoria, and the Shah of Persia. In reading through the recipes he notices that scads of the required wild ingredients are no longer available for purchase, so he decides to scavenge their American equivalents and prepare and elaborate feast for his friends and hunting buddies. The Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine is the story of his year-long food gathering adventure. Rinella's writing is vivid, matter-of-fact, and funny. Most of his inventive similes are effective, but occasionally he'll go too far and, when coupled with a few expository lines on what he learned from an experience, the passage will momentarily evoke an unusually creative high school essay. Surprisingly, these awkward moments don't mar the book--instead they are endearing reminders of Rinella's excitement about the subject. I share Rinella's obsession with meat, so I read with interest his detailed descriptions of capturing and dressing animals. I was a little disappointed he didn't gather any other types of wild ingredients, and I would have enjoyed reading more about the actual cooking process. He does devote several chapters to preparing and eating the feast, but most of the book is about procuring meat. As I am a cook and not a hunter, I found the chapters on cooking more personally useful, though I did enjoy reading his hunting tips.(Some part of me still retains my childhood fantasy that I will one day run away and live in a hollow tree and be forced to trap my own food using ingenious methods. I file away ideas for my future survival.) This book is recommended, particularly if you enjoy reading about food or the outdoors. (less)
Evocative and entertaining, A Trip to the Light Fantastic delves into the lives of a troupe of Mexican circus performers. Hickman, who is British, ex...moreEvocative and entertaining, A Trip to the Light Fantastic delves into the lives of a troupe of Mexican circus performers. Hickman, who is British, expertly conjures Mexico in all of its conflicted glory. I was glad I was in Mexico when I read it because otherwise I'm sure it would have made me homesick. Highly recommended. (less)
I love James Ellroy's fiction, so I was psyched to find this memoir, which details his mother's unsolved murder and his struggle to come to terms with...moreI love James Ellroy's fiction, so I was psyched to find this memoir, which details his mother's unsolved murder and his struggle to come to terms with the past. I think Ellroy is one of the greatest crime writers of all time, and it's fascinating to seem him apply his talents to a murder that is, literally, so close to home. Always quite dark, Ellroy's writing is downright feverish in the section that describes his youth as a petty thief, peeping tom, drunk, and drug addict. These sections are tempered by his thoughtful (though often obsessive) analysis of the crime and other crimes that took place in the same area. The overall story arc is graceful and surprising, but, as with many highly personal works, some of the individual passages are weak on organization. Highly recommended to fans of crime writing, fictional or otherwise, and for anyone with a taste for bluntly poetic prose with a driving beat.(less)
I remember when this book came out I couldn't afford it, and I stood in the Olympia mall reading it from cover to cover. I felt bad--I was pretty sure...moreI remember when this book came out I couldn't afford it, and I stood in the Olympia mall reading it from cover to cover. I felt bad--I was pretty sure Kurt probably wouldn't have wanted these published, but at the same time there was the voyeur's thrill of snooping through someone else's private thoughts. I always feels sorry for people when their private journals are published posthumously; I tend to write in my journals and notebooks when I'm feeling down and I can only imagine what a distorted version of my life they would present to the world. That said, Kurt's depressed and fucked up ramblings make for interesting reading and offer some insight into his life and ways of thinking. (less)