Intriguing premise. Novel interviews. Constantly enjoyed it.
"I doggedly asked each PennySaver seller if they used a computer. They mostly didn't, andIntriguing premise. Novel interviews. Constantly enjoyed it.
"I doggedly asked each PennySaver seller if they used a computer. They mostly didn't, and though they had a lot to say about other things, they didn't have much to say about this, this absence. I began to feel that I was asking the question just to remind myself that I was in a place where computers didn't really matter, just to prompt my appreciation for this. As if I feared that the scope of what I could feel and imagine was being quietly limited by the world within a world, the internet. The things outside of the web were becoming further from me, and everything inside it seemed piercingly relevant. The blogs of strangers had to be read daily, and people nearby who had no web presence were becoming almost cartoonlike, as if they were missing a dimension.
"I don't mean that I really thought this, out loud; it was just happening, like time, like geography. The web seemed so inherently endless that it didn't occur to me what wasn't there. My appetite for pictures and videos and news and music was so gigantic now that if something was shrinking, something immeasurable, how would I notice? It's not that my life before the internet was so wildly diverse — but there was only one world and it really did have every single thing in it. Domingo's blog was one of the best I've ever read, but I had to drive to him to get it, he had to tell it to me with his whole self, and there was no easy way to search for him. He could be found only accidentally.
"Scientifically, my interviews were pretty feeble, as questionable as 'The Missing Movie Report,' but one day soon there would be no more computerless people in Los Angeles and this exercise wouldn't be possible. Most of life is offline, and I think it always will be; eating and aching and sleeping and loving happen in the body. But it's not impossible to imagine losing my appetite for those things; they aren't always easy, and they take so much time. In twenty years I'd be interviewing air and water and heat just to remember they mattered."...more
A good entry point to Christie's stuff. Rousing fun with the murder mysteries, though the ending didn't quite have the punch or the twist that I expecA good entry point to Christie's stuff. Rousing fun with the murder mysteries, though the ending didn't quite have the punch or the twist that I expected and desired. (And I didn't/don't need a cheap Dan Brown-esque cliffhanger at the end of every three-page chapter.) I'm sure her other books are similar day-trip or vacation reads when one craves something light and jouncy and yet dark and slinky.
As with any good sendup, this book and author harbor a not-so-secret affinity for the subject of its spite/barbs.
I laughed a couple times, probably; IAs with any good sendup, this book and author harbor a not-so-secret affinity for the subject of its spite/barbs.
I laughed a couple times, probably; I chuckled a few times; and I smiled a lot. I was never offended (well, duh).
A good format in starting chapters with drawings of (white) people from various cities in the U.S. and Canada, spotlighting key attire and possessions that those folks prefer. Right on in a lot of cases. What to say? People are predictable. A lot of stereotypes are flat-out true.
Some great illustrations and boxes too: Ideal TV Lineup for White People, Acceptable Reasons for a White Breakup (AOL/Hotmail email addy, finding Da Vinco Code on the shelf or Dave Matthews in CD collection), Stuff White People Think *You* Like (for African Americans, Latinos, et al), Perfect White Party Games, and a diagram of How to Win an Argument with a White Person
*ENTRIES THAT I FOUND SPOT ON OR THAT CRACKED ME UP: Conan O'Brien, Duke Basketball, Flea Markets, Sea Salt, Ugly Sweater Parties, Monty Python, Improv, Anthropologie, Trader Joe's, Roller Derby, Black Music That Black People Don't Listen To Anymore, Where The Wild Things Are, Expensive Versions of Cheap Food, Punctuality, Taking A Year Off, The Office (UK/US), Being Offended (but not for themselves), Portland Oregon, IKEA
*ITEMS THAT PINNED *ME* TO THE WALL: Unpaid Internships, Complaining About the Death of Print Media, British Slang, Messenger Bags, Promising to Learn a New Language, Berry Picking (in childhood), Self-Aware Hip-Hop References, Trivia, Whole Wheat, Short Stories, Alternative Newspapers, TOMS Shoes, Mad Men, Hating People Who Wear Ed Hardy, Facebook, The Winter Olympics
*WHAT I JUST DIDN'T/DON'T GET (YET?): Anthony Bourdain, Camping, Halloween, Frisbee Sports, Christopher Guest Movies, Not Vaccinating Children, Bob Marley, American Apparel, Huffington Post, Hummus, Olives, The Big Lebowski, Growing Their Own Food, Banksy, Whole Foods
And that is that. Hardly hugely important stuff, but stuff white folk like, nonetheless. Almost always amusing or funny, observant, sometimes quite insightful, and written in a deadpan or quietly sarcastic way that I appreciate.
Of course you don't ask too much of reads like these....more
This is a tight, dear book, especially for those who have pets, have historically had pets (I'm in that group), and have lost pets. Loved the pup as nThis is a tight, dear book, especially for those who have pets, have historically had pets (I'm in that group), and have lost pets. Loved the pup as narrator, reminiscent of the inventive, brilliant way in which Death Himself narrated The Book Thief, a young-adult tome that I relished. The protagonist, a trying-to-make-it car mechanic-cum-racecar driver, quickly gains the reader's empathy. He's a damn good man, if not in that so-obvious larger-than-life-hero Atticus Finch type of way. (But what did C.S. Lewis write? "There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.")
I won't say more. If this book and this sliver of a review pique your interest, just read it....more
Think of it as Aesop's Fables on acid. I was reminded of Watership Down too.
That'd be a good battle, the fiendish killer rabbits from that socialism allegory in a fight to the death with some of the villainous critters from this "modest bestiary." Not sure who'd win. I don't want to meet any of them in a dark forest.
My meandering mind aside, it's a collection of (very) short stories, anthropomorphic tales of greed, stupidity, gullibility, and cruelty. So, all too human, in truth. These bite-sized stories (most are 7-10 pages in length, which very much aids my ADD) are often darkly funny, sometimes cringe-inducing, and basically always end poorly for someone. Animals -- squirrels, chipmunks, birds of all kinds, bears, and more -- pay with their lives or their hearts.
The accompanying illustrations are fun and fretful at once. The coloration of them is black and white, plus red (of course). Very effective. Chilling in a couple places ... or maybe I just have a beating human heart yet.
This is new ground for Sedaris, and the article linked above is a good gateway to reading these grisly, macabre accounts of how living beings seek to hurt each other, physically and emotionally, to get what they want. A couple of these yarns feel incomplete, but some of the abruptness is surely intended. In the end, a slightly unnerving bag of amuse-bouches....more
The title might seem an oxymoron, but it's quite possible to be lonely without being alone.
Just ask Golden Richards. He's a Mormon who has four wives -- five before this novel is over -- and yet he's emotionally if not physically cheating on them all with Huila, the exotic wife of his construction-contract boss. Also, his project entails renovating a brothel in the desert. Never mind that he has nearly 30 offspring. Yes, talk about a messed-up life -- and quite the premise.
Which makes this book all the more disappointing. Considering the novel's breadth (600 pages!), it's quite sad that it doesn't roll along better. This is no The Book Thief, surely, not a cover-to-cover insomniac's lit dream. I did not tear through this read, as if one could considering the book's well-intended sprawl.
Maybe Udall (a very political Utah Mormon name, that) wanted an epic, cinematic length and feel to it all. That's not achieved, if so, though the book will likely be made into a movie soon enough. Honestly, I skipped chapters 23 through 36 (~200pgs) -- this because my bookclubbers told me I could do so without really missing anything -- and, aside from a couple notes given to me, I finished this gusty tome with nary a wonder about what had transpired outside of what I read.
I forget what the almost-poignant point was that I made at bookclub about this read, but so it goes. (Gail? Help?) In short ('cause I never am that, brief): The Lonely Plyg could've been much more sleek and with a greater impact were it 400 pages long instead.
There's both early and late-breaking tragedy here. The last go-round with familial loss is set up throughout the book fairly well but then still felt a bit cheap. Definitely a miss there on the author's part. If I'd stayed with this book continuously over the course of it, maybe the gravity of a few situations would have affected me more. As it is, no dice.
This is what I will take away from all these pages: One hilarious bedroom scene in which fourth and youngest wife Trish tries to seduce Golden. It involves chewing gum, and it made me laugh out loud twice....more
As the son of a one-time preacher man, this was a read that made a thousand memories flood back into view. I think I appreciated that. I chuckled fairAs the son of a one-time preacher man, this was a read that made a thousand memories flood back into view. I think I appreciated that. I chuckled fairly frequently, laughed a couple times, got sad a few times, and tore through this read on a plane ride.
bits that nailed me:
+ using "faith like a child" as an escape pod from difficult theological discussions + judging fundamentalists for being judgmental + hating on megachurches + saying someone is going to have a bigger house in heaven than you + finding typos in the worship music + the smell of old hymnals + writing "Xian" instead of "Christian"
other bits funny, totally true, and/or poignant to me:
+ not knowing whether to pray for a friend having *plastic* surgery + missionary dating: when God calls you to convert the sexy and unchurched + disguising gossip as prayer + telling other people maybe God gave them the gift of singleness + falling in love on a mission trip + the metrosexual worship leader (with funny +/- points quiz to discern where he ranks) + crock pots + tuning out if the pastor is younger + fearing your church will do something wacky the one time you invite a friend + losing the will to clap during songs + tragically hip church names that sound like designer clothing stores + bringing someone The Casserole of Hope during a tough time + completely disregarding all known copyright laws + not knowing how to hold hands (*never* interlock your fingers! -- personal funny story for that one) + falling in love on a mission trip + scheduling a "revival" + telling testimonies that are really exciting right up to the point one actually became a Christian + side hugs + guilt trips + pretending to believe all sins are equal + confessing "safe sins" + temporarily suspending faith when getting behind the wheel to drive [seriously, some of the Jesus-fish drivers out there are crazy-go-nuts:]
Memorable characters, a couple of them moving in their depictions.
A solid send-up of everyone's reliance on the "telly" for entertainment vs. readingMemorable characters, a couple of them moving in their depictions.
A solid send-up of everyone's reliance on the "telly" for entertainment vs. reading a book in one's hands. Basically an indictment of TV.
The list of Matilda the wunderkind's books read by 1st-grade age had me depressed. I haven't read some of those yet (Austen, the tortured Russian novelists).
A couple funny quips early about teacher-student relations and homework.
A fun, easy read, as a children's book *better be* at this point(!).
I'd have liked it better, but I imagined a better ending than the completely satisfying and yet action-lacking denouement. I'd thought my 4th grade teacher read this to the class in the day, and that the ending involved Matilda, in typical morbid Dahl-esque fashion, ending the treacherous reign of her school's headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, thus saving herself, her beloved teacher Ms. Honey, and everyone else. I thought this even took place by Matilda, who has powers to make objects move, coordinating some knives to fly at the Trunchbull and end her. Maybe I misremember this or am thinking of another kids' read (although what would that be?). Maybe I just saw Stephen King's Carrie too much.
I honestly probably wouldn't have picked it up again had I known the ending.
A fascinating look inside the history of the publishing company John Wiley & Sons, Inc., headquartered in Manhattan and then Hoboken and with an oA fascinating look inside the history of the publishing company John Wiley & Sons, Inc., headquartered in Manhattan and then Hoboken and with an office (where I work) in Indianapolis also. Little-known fact: Indy is where all of the For Dummies reads (those yellow books, yes) are produced. It's the top brand within the company, and I work on the travel branch of those books, as well as with Frommer's Travel Guides, still the no. 1 travel-book brand sales-wise, if not the most tragically hip (hello, Lonely Planet, you who got the shoutout in Oscar-nominated animated short Logorama).
Wiley Publishing celebrated its bicentennial in 2008. That's simply uncanny for a publishing house, or for any company at this stage of the American experience. As Wiley's president famously said in '08, "Countries celebrate 200 years, not companies." Quite true.
Wiley has published Melville, James Fenimore Cooper, and many others of note. The storied history is deep and wide. This book tells it, interestingly, in color. Literally. It's chock-full of engaging photos and intriguing facts and tales.
It's a wonderful company, then and now, for the fact that members of that Wiley family remain actively involved in the company's daily decisions, as three of the heirs to its founders sit on the corporate board. They also promote wonderful charitable efforts for the environment, for animal protection, and (of course) for literacy.
Recommended for anyone with a stake in the publishing business, and for anyone who simply digs history. It's okay, I know no one seeing this review will read it. ;-)...more
Cornwell is very good at what she does, and she builds on her Kay Scarpetta protagonist's appeal and mystique with this crime novel. It's the only oneCornwell is very good at what she does, and she builds on her Kay Scarpetta protagonist's appeal and mystique with this crime novel. It's the only one I've read in the series, but I was engrossed. I don't read this stuff much at all (the James Pattersons, Dean Koontzes, and Tom Clancys of the world elude me), but her brand of it was enjoyable on this trip. I like that the heroine of this series is based on a real person, the (female) former chief medical examiner of Virginia. I also dig all the forensic science that Cornwell goes into detail about -- this was surely a literary precursor to "CSI" and other shows of that ilk....more
I consider myself a punctuation czar. A straight-up card-carrying member of the grammar sanhedrin.
And this book annoyed me the longer it went on. LynnI consider myself a punctuation czar. A straight-up card-carrying member of the grammar sanhedrin.
And this book annoyed me the longer it went on. Lynne Truss's words percolate periodically, and she's winsome often. Just the topic, and that it became such a smashing literary success for her, wore on me. Is it this simple to write a hit book? Egad.
It's a book that seems interesting only because it comes from a Brit, with all her Brit-tastic humor and wording.
All I recall from reading from this (gasp! I did not finish yet, likely won't) is that she took the Hugh Grant-Sandra Bullock vehicle "Two Weeks Notice" to task over the movie title's shabby punctuation. Not once, but drummed it up at least 2-3x. (Wonder what Ms. Truss would think of *that* abbrev, heh.)
That's the kind of book this is. A lot of little amuse-bouches, if you're into this sort of thing (apostrophes), but a bit grating after a time, and then snowballing in that department as you plod along. Oy.
Oh, my bookmark stranded in the midst of this read tells me that I do credit Truss with teaching me the words bedraggled, bathetic, and pernicious. Guess it wasn't a total wash.
Maybe I'll return to this and finish one day. A day when I've read everything else I want to that's worth it. In the afterlife....more
This 3-star rating seems almost obligatory. Ugh, so Rolling Stone of me.
Be that as it may, this is an entertaining little jam of a book, 85 pages, witThis 3-star rating seems almost obligatory. Ugh, so Rolling Stone of me.
Be that as it may, this is an entertaining little jam of a book, 85 pages, with a charming, well-timed illustration or a blank every other page. (I can get behind that.)
Leonard is the author of crime/caper thrillers the likes of Out of Sight and Get Shorty, and plenty of his stuff's been filmed. This list is primarily for fiction writing, novels, but is well worth keeping in mind regardless of what you read and/or write.
His rules: 1. Never open a book with weather. 2. Avoid prologues. ("They can be annoying, esp. a prologue following an introduction that comes after a forward.") 3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue. ("I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with 'she asseverated,' and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.") 4. Never use an advert to modify the verb "said." ("I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances 'full of rape and adverbs.'") 5. Keep your exclamation points under control. 6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose. 7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. 8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters. 9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things. 10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. ("Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. ... I bet you don't skip dialogue.")
My fave's probably that last one. It immediately summoned to mind That Chapter in Wilde's The Portrait of Dorian Gray, an otherwise perfect read.
Leonard tags on one more rule, summarizing them all: "IF IT SOUNDS LIKE WRITING, I REWRITE IT."
"If I write in scenes and always from the point of view of a particular character -- the one whose view best brings the scene to life -- I'm able to concentrate on the voices of the characters telling you who they are and how they feel about what they see and what's going on, and I'm nowhere in sight."
I enjoy how he calls out a couple fellow writers by name. Ballsy. But you can do that when you're a success of his brand. He also name-drops all the right authors -- Hemingway, Steinbeck, Atwood, Wolfe, Proulx, and so on....more
Was not whelmed by this. Maybe lost in translation a bit, from the German. And maybe just not the right timing, you know? Happens.
Interesting thoughtsWas not whelmed by this. Maybe lost in translation a bit, from the German. And maybe just not the right timing, you know? Happens.
Interesting thoughts at times on relationships and love, and on loneliness and the solitary life, which is to say, the life of a writer. Didn't agree with all of those thoughts, and it seems Rilke sort of worshiped the solitary life, exalted it. It got to be a bit cloying.
Just too much of it was esoteric, between Rilke and the young poet, and those pieces take the reader out of the letters. And sometimes Rilke just seemed a bit smug, a bit in love with his own words.
I do dig the idea of "living and writing in heat." Vivid.
some shards I did quite like:
"Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all--ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write?"
"[B:]e patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answers."
"Do not observe yourself too much. Do not draw too hasty conclusions from what happens to you; let it simply happen to you. ... Let life happen to you. Believe me: life is right, in any case."
"And if there is one thing more that I must say to you, it is this: Do not believe that he who seeks to comfort you lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes do you good. His life has much difficulty and sadness and remains far behind yours. Were it otherwise he would never have been able to find those words."...more
ahead of this weekend's tennis-tourney jaunt down there...
updated: Efficient. Brief. Concise. Fun. Colorful. Worthwhile. Steady. This is the best seriahead of this weekend's tennis-tourney jaunt down there...
updated: Efficient. Brief. Concise. Fun. Colorful. Worthwhile. Steady. This is the best series the Frommer's travel-guide brand has going for it, and sales numbers reflect that. Travelers are already savvy; they just like some specs, and these pocket-size ones aim to please.
Didn't use this a great deal, but it was a helpful reference, esp. for nightlife. The maps are a great aid....more
Another sturdy collection of poems from the stalwart Kentuckian. Not many here grabbed me as others have (those in Given, for one), but these tender mAnother sturdy collection of poems from the stalwart Kentuckian. Not many here grabbed me as others have (those in Given, for one), but these tender meditations on life both spiritual and bucolic are well worth anyone's time. We homo sapiens could stand to stop and smell the roses—whether lush or frozen or dead or just returning—more often. Berry is amazing at doing just that. The mundane becomes the mountainous by this man's pen, and always rightfully so. His poems are earnest but never overreaching, and, anyway, he quietly lives and writes by the notion that "A man's reach will always exceed his grasp."
It's good to read from older, wiser people. And this guy is so very wise.
A few facts about the enigmatic Andre Agassi, virtuoso magician on the tennis court (no one else save Federer and Nadal has made the racquet a wand inA few facts about the enigmatic Andre Agassi, virtuoso magician on the tennis court (no one else save Federer and Nadal has made the racquet a wand in the past 20 years) and husband and ex-husband and father and son and ex-meth head and educator and friend and enemy:
+ His father Mike (his assumed American name) was an Olympic boxer for Iran in the '50s + His father harbors a raging temper and coached him in his young years, groomed him to become a champion, using "the dragon," a hyper-rigged ball machine, hurling balls at his son at speeds significantly faster than what the machine originally allotted for + His first marriage to Brooke Shields fell apart, and ahead of their wedding, to inspire herself to get fit, Shields had put a picture of another woman ("the perfect female body, the perfect legs") on their fridge, even within a heart magnet -- that woman was Steffi Graf, another tennis star, and Agassi had adored her for years and would marry *her* years later + Agassi and Shields bonded over a movie they loved, Shadowlands, starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger about the life and love of C.S. Lewis; Agassi and Graf would later bond over their shared favorite film -- also Shadowlands + Agassi and Graf are the only two tennis players in history to win all 4 major tournaments (the Grand Slam) and Olympic gold medals in singles play
Good grief, some people are just meant to be. Together. Such is the long and winding story of how Andre and Stefani (her now-preferred name) came to be a pair. Yea, a power couple. This book essentially arrives at that finish. Life is now complete or this man has been made whole by the fact that he is happily married to the woman he long coveted. (As Agassi's older brother Phil puts it, "You were born with a horseshoe up your ass.")
I'm inspired by Agassi in ways, and I find him maddening in others. In the end, I'm a fan. His ego is huge, and yet he's humble. He's a pigeon-toed-walking, fuzzy-ball-thwacking batch of paradoxes. (I feel that.)
This autobiography's ghostwritten by J.R. Moehringer, author that memoir The Tender Bar, which Agassi loved and whose author he pursued when considering his own history. I'd like to read Tender Bar now.
No one is spared in this personal history, oh no. Brooke Shields, her Hollywood friends, the cast of "Friends" (where Shields did a guest stint), contemporaries such as Sampras (boring) and Chang (pious) and Courier (an a-hole) and the brutish Boris Becker of Germany, who infuriated Agassi when he blew kisses during a match to Shields up in the stands. Jimmy Connors. All get lacerated at different points. Same goes for Agassi's dad, who's said he'll never read this book, that he already knows it all. Which is just what Agassi says about his father -- he knew everything, and what he didn't know, he thought he knew. The tanned-to-leather tennis whisperer Nick Bollettieri also gets his. About the only people emerging unscathed are Agassi's older brother Philly, his sister and his mother, and Graf and Gil Reyes, his longtime trainer and confidant. Oh, and Barbra Streisand (hahaha).
It's okay, though. Agassi hardly got off easy when a friend of Shields, the comedienne Kathy Griffin, recently penned a memoir-ish book of her own (titled Official Book Club Selection, hilariously).
This book is literate, sometimes refreshingly so (for an athlete memoir, for sure, shew) and sometimes a bit distracting and high-falutin' in the way it reads. But those times are few. It's well worth the read, whether you like or love tennis or not. Agassi's got a testament to a life both ill lived and lived well.
It's a cautionary tale and a captivating read. I slam-read this book like none I've read since The Book Thief. By all means, have at it.
an excerpt (and hardly the best one):
"My father says that when he boxed, he always wanted to take a guy's best punch. He tells me one day on the tennis court: When you know that you just took the other guy's best punch, and you're still standing, and the other guy knows it, you will rip the heart right out of him. In tennis, he says, same rule. Attack the other man's strength. if the man is a server, take away his serve. If he's a power player, overpower him. If he has a big forehand, takes pride in his forehand, go after his forehand until he hates his forehand. "My father has a special name for this contrarian strategy. He calls it putting a blister on the other guy's brain. With this strategy, this brutal philosophy, he stamps me for life. He turns me into a boxer with a tennis racket. More, since most tennis players pride themselves on their serve, my father turns me into a counterpuncher -- a returner."
To be fair, this was not the final book for LaBute's play. Which is good, as I found the dialogue remarkably lacking or uninteresting in a few patchesTo be fair, this was not the final book for LaBute's play. Which is good, as I found the dialogue remarkably lacking or uninteresting in a few patches, especially striking because it's *him*.
LaBute's stuff (In the Company of Men, Bash, The Mercy Seat) is often subtle and nuanced. His comedies are bleak and not laden with guffaws. You have to work for the reward of the jokes, and they're usually coupled with a hearty heap of weightiness, regret, or pain.
This play centers on two couples, and the main character, a man, has made a remark about how, compared to a certain female at the office, his girlfriend's face is "regular." In true LaBute spirit, this one word is seized on by the offended party and used (and abused, and dragged into the mud, and spit upon, and hung on a cross, and drawn and quartered) for all its worth in turning the tables on her man and making him feel awful.
Meanwhile the "protagonist's" best friend, who he also happens to work with, is sleeping on his quite-beautiful wife behind her back. They have a child on the way. Will our anti-hero relay this info somehow to the wife, betray his friend? These people are simple, plain -- their lives, if not their faces, are truly regular -- and most of the action happens in the factory lunchroom. (I understand the setting, saw it clearly in my mind's eye, for the two summers I worked at one such place during college.)
I don't care to share any of the dialogue here. It didn't quite percolate like other plays (the recently-read The Busy World Is Hushed, et al), and maybe it was cleaned up in the rehearsals that this book was used for. I know some dialogue was changed, perhaps even considerably, from quotes I've seen in articles about the play that have key quotations said (and thus reading) differently.
The life of a play is interesting. So is the life of any one person, and of a relationship. Few writers explore these matters, and for the stage setting, than does Neil LaBute, the one-time IPFW instructor who became a big, famous film director, and who is well known for his incisive, gutting way with words....more
Utterly enjoyable and fast novel about an effed-up family and all their hijinks as they sit shiva for seven days in honor of their deceased patriarch,Utterly enjoyable and fast novel about an effed-up family and all their hijinks as they sit shiva for seven days in honor of their deceased patriarch, who did and didn't love them as they wanted and needed.
This is absurd. This is no family on earth. And this is every family.
Some laugh-out-loud moments, much appreciated, and some touching, stirring, and poignant ones. Some truly pathetic or stupid or mean ones too. Mmm. Yep. Nailed it: the American family, for better or worse, 'til death do we part.
You can choose your friends. You can't choose your blood. That's the bulk of what this book's about. Pity poor Judd Foxman. His wife's pregnant with his child but is divorcing him after taking up with his boss, a prickly shock jock who no one likes save Judd's wife, inexplicably.
Tragic stuff embedded in this one. And yet. A shit-ton of screwball familial and romantic love. Nothing earth-shattering here, but some very well-put passages, a penchant for referencing cultural artifacts (music!) reminiscent of Nick Hornby, and a fresh, breezy voice. Glad for it....more
"May He support us all the day long, till the shades lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and"May He support us all the day long, till the shades lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done." -John Henry Newman
Here's a dear little play that subtly packs a wallop. Six scenes, 55 pages, 3 characters. Questions arise of God and life and love and why, and few concrete answers are given (how postmodern, right?) while the characters yet wrestle and cope to the end.
They each have their reasons to do just that. Hannah is a middle-aged widow and woman of the cloth, mother to Thomas, and apartment dweller on NYC's 122nd Street. Her home features a brimming library, and Brandt is the young writer who signs on to help her write a book about a gnostic gospel that may reveal truths about the life and words of Jesus.
Hannah has her reasons for taking on Brandt, in particular - her lone offspring Thomas has a nomadic heart and keeps disappearing and returning, ever the prodigal. In a way she brings in Brandt as an anchor for her son, and the two do begin a relationship. Brandt has his own reasons for working on Hannah's book, as he deals with the most normal and basic and wrenching thing all humans encounter: loss.
Sound engrossing? It is. I'll say no more about the plot. The dialogue is crisp and smart, incredibly well-said. Sometimes hilariously witty, sometimes heartrending.
The relationship between Brandt and Thomas felt a bit forced, but, then again, it is just that. Hannah is not above a little deus ex machina action in her son's life. Oh, these three are all too human. They are all good people also, whether or not each is is inclined to snatch that goodness for themselves.
Some things in life you just cannot brace for. Each of these characters encounters that and responds in ways revealing true (vibrant) colors.
(Need another reason to read Bunin? His play 10 Million Miles has music and lyrics by one Patty Griffin.)...more
"I could look at them like you do, Bob. I could damn these boys for what they did. For the madness, for the brutality ... I can see the sin in all the"I could look at them like you do, Bob. I could damn these boys for what they did. For the madness, for the brutality ... I can see the sin in all the world. And I may well hate that sin, but never the sinner."
So go the words of defense attorney Clarence Darrow, to state attorney Crowe. The scene is jazz-era Chicago, 1924, and two 19-year-olds, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, are on trial for the heinous, seemingly unrepentant murder of an acquaintance, a 14-year-old boy.
It's a true story. Leopold and Loeb harbored intellectual prowess for their years, as well as massive hubris, both, that blinded them to the fact that they were actually not Nietzsche's "ubermensch" as they fancied. Turns out they weren't so above the law, weren't perfect.
That alone is obvious by the fact that they were caught. They did not intend to be but were, and stood trial for the killing. The playbook by John Logan does well to not announce the verdict in some melodramatic courtroom scene within his pages.
Exchanges both in and outside the court between Darrow and Crowe are the benchmark addresses or monologues in this play. They get a bit talky, even for a play that at times seems to feign serving as a discourse on capital punishment, but that grandstanding is just what lawyers do, and in Chicago, and in the '20s (see: the musical Chicago, et al). The dialogue here is crisp, staccaco, but for Leopold's strangely loping opening monologue. In the hands of a top-notch director and the throats of polished performers, this show could be brought to life in a riveting way. A local production to be staged soon will do just that, with hope.
Leopold and Loeb fascinate even as they repulse. The attractive, charming Loeb seems soulless but then is let down when his mother won't have anything to do with him as Chicagoans call for his hanging; she seems to be the one person on the earth who he doesn't want to disappoint. Leopold's mother died when he was younger, and he's painted as a ruthlessly academic, learned young man with a fierce romantic bent to boot.
That the two had a sexual pact on the side of their criminal co-conspiring is intriguing, and of course given prominence. Sensational headlines delivered by adult-Newsies-styled reporters canvassing the court and interviewing the players involved tout the affair behind the crime. This was the '20s, after all, and, anyway, sex has always ruled the media.
"This is a love story," say the notes appearing ahead of the two acts. That may be, but if so, it's a rather painfully one-sided one. One of these two seems incapable of ever loving another more than himself. The murder aside, that itself is a real tragedy....more
Relished this, tho' I can't recall if it's my first time or a re-read. A couple rang familiar. Quirky, thoughtful, fun, poignant -- often all of theseRelished this, tho' I can't recall if it's my first time or a re-read. A couple rang familiar. Quirky, thoughtful, fun, poignant -- often all of these things at once.
There were maybe just 2-3 of the tens of poems in this collection that I thought fell flat or were just way too precious or earnest. As for the rest, I can see how kids would be spellbound by these tiny tales. There's a whole lot of head and heart both here.
I like how the drawings in the book feed off of the words, and vice versa. Sometimes the poems were housed *in* the drawings.
+ those that I really enjoyed or loved:
Invitation, Hug O' War, Listen to the Mustn'ts, Sick, Snowman, The Crocodile's Toothache, Lester, Drats, My Rules, No Difference, Ma and God, Skinny, The Land of Happy, Pirate Captain Jim, Fish?, Forgotten Language, and Just Me, Just Me
just a sampling:
Once I spoke the language of the flowers, Once I understood each word the caterpillar said, Once I smiled in secret at the gossip of the starlings, And shared a conversation with the housefly in my bed. Once I heard and answered all the questions of the crickets, And joined the crying of each falling dying flake of snow, Once I spoke the language of the flowers.... How did it go? How did it go?
JUST ME, JUST ME
Sweet Marie, she loves just me (She also loves Maurice McGhee). No she don't, she loves just me (She also loves Louise Dupree). No she don't, she loves just me (She also loves the willow tree). No she don't, she loves just me! (Poor, poor fool, why can't you see She can love others and still love thee.)
Wertheim's a solid writer, period, and he makes any pro tennis storyline -- or match, as this fairly brief read is all about that more-than-classic '0Wertheim's a solid writer, period, and he makes any pro tennis storyline -- or match, as this fairly brief read is all about that more-than-classic '08 Wimbledon final, Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal -- immensely readable. The Ivy-educated lawyer turned sports scribe has an easy way with words, making his prose breezy and
It doesn't hurt when I'm passionate about the subject matter, either.
This book was ripe to be written, and few could have done it better. A couple of those who maybe could were advisers on the projects, according to LJW's acknowledgments at the end.
Ripe, why? Because Fed the Swiss and Rafa the Spaniard could not be more different and yet so similar at the same time. They had normal upbringings, were not exactly groomed for greatness so much as found it themselves, IN themselves, and proceeded to cultivate it because they (gasp) wanted to. There are no psychotic or abusive tennis parents in their histories, as with so many other great players.
But these guys are more than great. They are all-timers. In Fed's case, the nearly-inarguable GOAT (greatest of all time) now.
I did think Wertheim's prose about Federer got to be a bit too glowing and worshipful at times, and compared to Rafa's backstory and expounding -- and in light of the fact of who actually won this match. (This also makes the book's cover art a bit strange -- sure, Rafa was the relative upstart and the underdog, but does Federer really have to loom like a specter over the cover, as if it's Luke Skywalker taking on the Emperor? Well, then again, maybe it was something like that.)
Wertheim's thesis on why Federer isn't more popular stateside is also interesting, makes sense. Will let you read about that for yourself. And do pick this up, as, again, it's simple and speedy and informative all at once.
The Sports Illustrated writer does a solid job of keeping some suspense in these pages as he goes set by set and nearly shot by shot (really) through the match. Kudos to him for the job done, in light of the fact that every reader already knows what happened, ultimately.
Interesting stories about that fateful match's chair umpire also, and tidbits along the way about how Venus Williams regarded the match as she waited to head to the champions' ball herself, and about the two tennis gladiators' parents.
I found the childhoods and formative years of these two (super)human beings to be fascinating, and as that's usual the part of any (auto)biography that I find most compelling. You can tell a lot about who people came to be or presently are by where they've been, what's happened to date. "So much past inside my present," as one songstress put it....more
"He took from his pocket a photograph of the corpse. The face had that odd, disembodied look which even in a photograph tells you that the person is d"He took from his pocket a photograph of the corpse. The face had that odd, disembodied look which even in a photograph tells you that the person is dead. This is the greatest argument in favour of the soul that I can think of. When people are alive, even if they are gravely ill and in a coma, there is still something in their faces, some tension, some spark. Probably a doctor could explain it to me, could give a reason, something to do with rigor mortis or the configuration of the muscles, I don't know, but a dead person is undoubtedly and unmistakably dead, even in a photograph."
This mannered supernatural thriller was originally conceived of and penned as part of a 1994 competition in London, to write a novel in 24 hours under exam conditions. (What fun, right? What a rush. The intense pressure. I want some!)
Maggie Hamand later expounded on it, not really changing or editing anything but adding to so as to make it, well, all of 200 pages -- my kind of book size. The original version was but 23,000 words.
The cover art and the length make it seem "young adult-y," as someone snidely told me upon seeing it, but it's not. And even if it was, well, The Book Thief was a YA read, and astonishing.
That's not to say this book is astonishing. It's certainly food for thought, and I enjoyed the read as the calendar ramped up to Easter. It's also decidedly British, in its proper way of going about the machinations of a thriller, in its dialogue and settings and ruminations.
It centers on Richard, a parish victor, and his doubts about belief and such in the wake of a murder just outside (or in the foyer of) his church on Good Friday. The victim staggered into the midst of the church service even -- of course horrifying everyone -- and his body later disappears from the morgue. Richard and some of his parishioners think they see the man in the days and weeks that follow, as a gardener in a local park. Is he a specter? Is Richard going insane? He is certainly in the process of losing his faith, and doesn't truly believe in the physical resurrection -- or miracles, period. He writes a letter in his parish magazine that the author includes as part of her text that is beautiful and honest.
I found myself identifying with Richard a lot. Also interesting that his wife Harriet was agnostic. Their exchanges and love were refreshing to read, made me think of what the marriages in Annie Dillard's The Living or The Maytrees must be like, if I could just finally get to those books too.
The locations in the book are real, and as Richard sets out to the park, or to a certain parish, to the morgue or St. Bart's hospital or London Fields, the action makes me think of all the scampering from place to place in G.K. Chesterton's supernatural chase thriller, The Man Who Was Thursday. This book comes without that one's genius baggage, surely, but it's fun, nonetheless. I would have liked it if Hitchcock could have filmed something like this, but the mind's eye is so often better than a book captured on (caged in?) film.
Recommended for anyone who digs thrillers and thoughts on the stuff of God, and who isn't offended by a little sex and choice words....more
A delightful little jam of a book, chock-full of the (un)usual amuse-bouches we've all come to expect from NYC dwellers, thanks to the eponymous websiA delightful little jam of a book, chock-full of the (un)usual amuse-bouches we've all come to expect from NYC dwellers, thanks to the eponymous website. Guaranteed to make you feel your city and its own denizens lack chutzpah, wit, flow, and style in their speech. New Yorkers shine, the tourists typically burn, and we all float on all right.
Often I've found that the headlines written by the site/book's keepers are just as funny if not funnier than the quotes themselves. The fan-submitted quotes are often hilarious, sometimes crass, and never dull.
I was gifted this book after a fairly serious car wreck, and blast it if that friend didn't hurt me good, causing me to laugh with my full torso and spine repeatedly. (Thanks for everything, ARose.) Reminds me of a certain Jack Handey-ism: "Papa always said laughter was the best medicine. Guess that's why so many of us died of tuberculosis."
morsels, and hardly the best ones:
ODDLY SATAN LOATHES STEAKS (A group of punks walks by the Hellenic Steaks restaurant.) Punk: This restaurant is perfect for me: I love steaks, and I love Satan!
I EAT IN THE THIRD PERSON Billy: Can anyone help Billy out so Billy can get dinner? Anyone? No? Thanks a lot! -Taco Bell, Union Square
AT LEAST THEY'LL STOP TAKING AMERICAN JOBS Girl #1: Have you heard? I read dolphins are committing suicide together in ever larger numbers. Girl #2: Is that good or bad for us?
THE NUISANCE Guy: Facts are such a distraction from the essence of what's really happening.
This read (picked up cheap from McSweeney's) seemed promising, but I dig the premise and effort more than the finished product, as it turns out. At buThis read (picked up cheap from McSweeney's) seemed promising, but I dig the premise and effort more than the finished product, as it turns out. At but 94 pages, 2 pages for each position description + accompanying art, it's a whimsical, informative little book. Some of the writing's engaging and clever and crisp -- what you'd expect from McSweeney's, sure -- and then some of it, well, made me want to snooze.
Classic Spoons position bats lead-off, and then it's a crazy ride through dreamland from there. Some of the positions shown are flat-out illogical, if not next to impossible (Downward Koala, Bread and Spread, and so on). As one who tends to overheat when conscious and not, some of the depictions only served to make me hot, and not in a good way. I wanted to start sweating just regarding the figures.
It's split into four sections, the Sun, Wind, Sea, and Wood sleepers. Sea sleepers fit me, as it focused on symmetry. (Even so, The Colon was one of the most uncomfortable-looking things I've seen. Yipes.) The Tetherball and Turnstile positions are laughable (or laughably great, take your pick). You just have to see this stuff to (dis)believe it.
Bonus points awarded for the asides about relational and personality dynamics, some useful nuggets, if I could remember them. Bonus points also for the legend at the start of the read that lends symbols to each position denoting such things as suitable for warmer/colder climates, can cause intense/vivid dreaming, proven morning-mood elevator, soothing for digestive ailments, promotes sleep in insomniacs, and the like....more
What's not to love about this tale of an illiterate 9-year-old girl Liesel stealing books in Nazi Germany, eventually learning with the aid of her fosWhat's not to love about this tale of an illiterate 9-year-old girl Liesel stealing books in Nazi Germany, eventually learning with the aid of her foster father to read and write, and then to do both increasingly well?
Need I mention the narrator here is Death himself? Yes. He makes for a quip-tastic observer who alternately looks on fondly at these mere mortals, Jews and/or Germans, and on the same page is prone to whisk away their souls (light or heavy, depending on the person's goodness). Admittedly, a couple times in the middle here, the narrator's side notes and quips, Death's voice, yanked me up and out of the story and into the realization that this was but a bleak fiction, Liesel's life. I did not dig that. Distracting.
Heady, clever prose here from the boyish Aussie Zusak, himself the son of German immigrants. The story sings, and the book breezes by at 550 pages paperback. A notoriously slow reader, I pounded this one in a week and a half.
Some images will endure in my mind. Thank you, author. Thank you, words. Rudy Steiner is an anti-hero for the ages; the image is burned behind my eyes of him holding a retrieved book aloft, triumphantly, as he stands in the middle of a freezing river. Hans Hubermann ("Papa") is the German wartime version of Atticus Finch, seemingly perfect in every way. His wife Rosa ("Mama") and the street-soccer kids gave me quite a few Deutsch names and taunts ("Arschgrobbler" = ass scratcher) for future use. The still image of tough-as-nails Rosa snoring upright in a chair in the dark, her husband's beloved accordion strapped to her chest, made me want to weep.
Weird to see the Allied forces of WWII as makeshift bad guys as they relate to this tale. Strange also to find myself inserting my own maternal grandparents into the roles and faces of Hans and Rosa H. Makes sense, though: Their shack at 33 Himmel Street outside Munich reminded me of my grands' double-wide trailer in southern Indiana. Their personalities matched those of Paul (Hans) and Eileen (Rosa) to a T. My grandparents are Wagoners. Wagners. Germans. This made it all the harder -- dare I say, more emotional -- when I realized I may have to let go of the Hubermanns in this story.
Finishing a book feels like a breakup, like the end of a relationship. I sometimes hate it, thus I don't read quickly and read the last 10 pages and especially the last 10 lines at snail's pace. The epilogue ending seemed fitting. It was as it should be. Perhaps it was as it could only be.
As represented here, the Fuhrer himself (Hitler) reminded me of the Anton Chigurh character from the 2007 film No Country for Old Men for how, despite not appearing in every (any) scene, his awful presence is felt in every word and deed performed. What a small man. What an outsized story, a sprawling imagination in an author so young....more
Oh, how I wish I could retain more of what I read in this one! Such important notes on such all-too-human tendencies such as loss aversion, snap judgmOh, how I wish I could retain more of what I read in this one! Such important notes on such all-too-human tendencies such as loss aversion, snap judgments, instincts, short-term impulse vs. long-term view, and the beat goes on.
Especially intriguing were the sections about loss aversion (how we try to avoid the pain of a loss, or seeing something as such) and value attribution, which explained how we often find it so hard, if unconsciously so, to change our takes on some things (people) after making initial judgments about them.
Started this three months before I finished it, picking it up periodically and having a lot of it fall out of my head. For shame. The epilogue helped tie it all back together to an extent. I do recall a great deal of the section about job interviewing making complete sense, and in light of how I was interviewed in that setting the last time. It's absurd sometimes, the questions asked (and not asked) and the reasons why some managers end up taking to certain applicants over others. (This just in: It ain't a meritocracy out there.)
Perhaps most compelling were the painstaking details surrounding the huge question "WHY?" as it pertained to a highly regarded pilot's inexplicable decision to put hundreds of lives in danger on a particular takeoff. Unfortunately that account got to be arduous to read. As it turned out, the writing throughout this book had a spry cadence at first and then became a bit of a slog, possibly due to my own come-and-go relationship with it.
Eagerly I took to the light shone on the Supreme Court and its own "sway" dynamics, the personalities of the justices and how they decide what cases to hear and whether/when to write opinions. Justice David Souter's take on the highest court in the land was intriguing. These authors (brothers) really snagged some high-end interviews here.
Recommended for anyone willing to admit that the titular behavior seeps into life sometimes, which should be each of us....more