Toby Barlow writes about the good things in life and the bad. Oh, you know: Blood, sex, death, hunger, frenzy But his conceit! His gall! Is to structure his stToby Barlow writes about the good things in life and the bad. Oh, you know: Blood, sex, death, hunger, frenzy But his conceit! His gall! Is to structure his story as 308 pages of free-verse poetry whose style this preview crudely mimics.
But wait! Oh gentle goodreads friend I haven't even told you the best part. For Barlow's book? poem? experiment? What do you call something that defies all genres? Anyway, Barlow's.. product follows the lives of A PACK OF FREAKIN' WEREWOLVES raping, feeding, and pillaging in present-day Los Angeles.
Like Fight Club, Thank You For Smoking (TYFS) was one of the very few books I've picked up after seeing the movie adaption first. And like Fight CluLike Fight Club, Thank You For Smoking (TYFS) was one of the very few books I've picked up after seeing the movie adaption first. And like Fight Club, TYFS was one the very few where I think the movie was better.
They made some interesting adaptions for the big screen. For one, Aaron Eckhart's "Nick Naylor" is a very different creature from the novel's. Whereas Buckley's protagonist is a morally compromised figure peddling a product he inwardly believes to be evil, Eckhart effuses with boyish enthusiasm that there's no such thing as evil at all. Which makes the movie Naylor a more interesting character, superficially lighter but spiritually darker. (I cannot wait to see Eckhart's Two-Face in the new Batman movie.) The movie's jettisoning of Naylor's dominatrix girlfriend from the plot in favor of a wholly new bit exploring Nick's role as a father also worked, although it left the film without a real denouement, a sin atoned for in one brilliant line of unrepentant kicker dialogue about cellphones.
So why, after two grafs extolling the movie as the superior version, do I give the book five stars? Simply, this book is jam-packed with lulz. Buckley is a genuinely gifted comic writer with a very incisive take at life at the politics/journalist/lobbyist Washington DC conflux. TYFS is not a timeless classic speaking to universal human truths, the book is about America during the Bush/Clinton bi-dynasty and it's dead-on. A highly enjoyable breezy read, even if you've seen the movie and already know half of the best lines. Recommended....more
Yes, Nabokov is more than occasionally self-indulgent, preferring to showcase his wit in direct addresses to the reader rather than concePost reading:
Yes, Nabokov is more than occasionally self-indulgent, preferring to showcase his wit in direct addresses to the reader rather than concentrating on the tiresome tedium of narrative. Honestly now, didn't you too roll your eyes just a little bit as HH pursues his nemesis across the cheap motels of the American interior only to be tormented by literary puns his adversary leaves for him in guest registers? Puh-leaze.
But I forgive him. It was a supreme achievement to take a man as loathsome as HH -- who gleefully plots drugs and murder to achieve his ends; who's perversion is but the symptom of a deeper and darker inability to relate to women (have you noticed his deep dislike of Lo's personality, or any sign of individuation on her part other than adorable petite sex-doll?); who is insanely jealous of his object's affections as he continually searches for something younger and fresher -- and turn him into someone entrancing and oddly likable. Is that because HH is so well actualized? That he doesn't angst or whine, he knows what he wants and pursues it with gusto (even though his goals are, in a word, evil) that he's so queerly admirable? I'm gonna be chewing on that one for a bit.
Anyway, for once, a so-called classic that lives up to its considerable hype. A monumental, iconic, smashing success, the confessional of a monster turned sympathetic through prose. Required reading.
OK OK OK so I never read Lolita before. Shut up.
I had almost sworn off Nabokov forever after choking through (Guantanamo waterboarding style) the hideously self-indulgent "Ada or Ardor." But Big Bad Vlad could only get away with that incoherent, masturbatory exercise in puerile wordplay knowing his thrall of blindly loyal slaves would love him for it and shower Ada with PhD theses earnestly deconstructing its dick jokes. Which is where Lolita comes in.
Notes: 80 pages written by Aubrey Beardsley before his death in 1898 developed a cult following. Story expanded and finished by John Glassco, publisheNotes: 80 pages written by Aubrey Beardsley before his death in 1898 developed a cult following. Story expanded and finished by John Glassco, published as "Under the Hill" with dual byline in 1959.
Oh, the fun to be had in the library if one knows where to look.
Beardsley writes with an ecstatic delirium that reminds me vaguely of Coledridge, except the object of his literary fever is the Tannhauser legend, sort of an erotic Holy Grail story where a lost German knight stumbles into the court of the goddess of love. Everything in Venus' realm is pure sensuality, from the nymphs rapturously impaling themselves on wine bottles to the goddess' servants joyously plotting to obtain scraps of her toilet paper with traces of the divine essence. Imagine if Neil Gaiman had made Desire and Delirium/Delight one character. Beardsley captures the manic overload of it in jumping, hyper-stimulated prose. Even when Venus masturbates her pet unicorn Adolph and licks the semen, the wording is exquisite. Go on, try it to write that scene yourself. It's harder than you think.
As Glassco found out. He did an admirable homage, but could not sustain Beardsley's exhilaration, the text becoming more pedestrian, and more sadomasochistic in its pleasures (this is Glassco we're talking about) the further into the story he gets. The end result reads exactly like it is -- a composite job started by one man and finished by another with no communication between the two....more
5 stars for writing, minus two stars for incorporating fictional elements into what Herr allowed to be marketed as nonfiction and not fessing up to it5 stars for writing, minus two stars for incorporating fictional elements into what Herr allowed to be marketed as nonfiction and not fessing up to it until years later.
Really though, the so-called "best book ever written about Vietnam" is one THC-addled disjointed mess. But maybe that's more about yours truly, having been born in 1974 and growing up hearing the Boomers constantly work themselves into masturbatory apoplexy over the conflict in SE asia. World War II fascinates me. Erich Maria Remarque fascinates me. Thomas Jefferson fascinates me. I just do not give a shit about Vietnam....more
I had a brief interaction with Tom Wolfe last November.
He came to speak to my class in one of those rare "Oh wow, Columbia Journalism might be worth iI had a brief interaction with Tom Wolfe last November.
He came to speak to my class in one of those rare "Oh wow, Columbia Journalism might be worth it" moments. Inexplicably, he started in on a lengthy out-of-context run about how the New York Sun was a disgrace of a newspaper. I happened to be working there as a reporter at the time (and hating it), it was one of those surreal coincidences that seem to happen to me on an eerily regular basis. He asked for questions, my hand shot up first, and I prefaced with "Hi Mr. Wolfe, big fan of your work, and I write for the NY Sun...." He hemmed and hawed, we both laughed and shared a little moment.
As for the Acid Test, well, it's a masterpiece of writing. ...more
Hitchens at his worst. It combines a smarmy pseudo-intellectualism in which Hitch throws out a lot of names to distract from his lack of original insiHitchens at his worst. It combines a smarmy pseudo-intellectualism in which Hitch throws out a lot of names to distract from his lack of original insight, rebuttals of figures unknown and irrelevant outside an incestuous circle of Orwell-followers, and a general failure to advance his thesis "Why Orwell Matters." Really Hitch is at his best deriding something, rather than praising it.
If you want Orwell, then read Orwell. Not Hitchens....more
A detailed history of a fascinating and little known subject, the long-since-abandoned nuclear pulse propulsion project, which would use the kinetic sA detailed history of a fascinating and little known subject, the long-since-abandoned nuclear pulse propulsion project, which would use the kinetic shockwave generated by hydrogen fusion (read: thermonuclear bombs) to "push" spacecraft at speeds of up to 0.12c.
This is not science fiction -- it is and was all well within the technological / industrial capability of the USA since the late 1950s.
The author, Dyson the younger, grew up hearing about this from his famous father, Freeman, and has lots of intriguing anecdotes and insidery access of the ideas and men behind the idea. However, his historiographical acumen doesn't quite match his enthusiasm, making for a stunted read of a wildly compelling topic. Perhaps someday a better writer will take Dyson's work as a primary source for a literary retelling of Project Orion -- therein lies a bestseller.
The 5-star review is NOT an endorsement of McCain for President. His time and place was 2000, and the country and the world suffer for his loss to BusThe 5-star review is NOT an endorsement of McCain for President. His time and place was 2000, and the country and the world suffer for his loss to Bush in the GOP primaries. Now he's too old, too crotchety, and will with a mathematical certainty get the USA into a righteous and wholly unnecessary war with Iran. As it happens, so far I support Obama.
But this book is extraordinary. McCain's father AND grandfather were admirals, but he never felt affection for or from them. He enrolled in the Naval Academy because everyone always assumed he would, and spent the four years hating the casual sadism of the midshipmen and the idiocy of military life. He drank, and womanized, and barely graduated fourth from bottom of his class.
Then his plane shot down over North Vietnam. The rash maverick who didn't care about anything learned about honor and duty while spending years in a POW camp being tortured by the NVA, suffering injuries which trouble him to this day.
I won't vote for him again, but the man is a hero. Fer'real, yo....more
Yeah, sure, the hokey premise is a car is possessed by demons and runs over people. Clearly one of Stephen King's earlier, andThis book is underrated.
Yeah, sure, the hokey premise is a car is possessed by demons and runs over people. Clearly one of Stephen King's earlier, and weaker, scary ideas.
But King has a knack for drawing very human characters to suffer the creepy situations he thrusts them into. You've got the HS geek with a quarterback best friend set upon my bullies (and bullies from the 1950s are a wholly different menace, remember Kiefer Sutherland terrorizing Wil Wheaton in the King adaption "Stand By Me?"). So the geek works on a car (apparently something a lot of geeks used to do in the days before computers) that acts as vicar for his own suppressed anger and smouldering sense of injustice. Stuff happens. But you know, you don't dance with the Devil, the Devil dances with you, and there's a price to be paid when unleashing a monster on the world.
Not great literature, not even good literature, but I retain fond memories of reading it as a 12-year-old....more
So Lee Smolin is like really fucking smart. Here he tries to explain Newton, Liebniz, Einstein, relativity, grand unification, &c &c to the inSo Lee Smolin is like really fucking smart. Here he tries to explain Newton, Liebniz, Einstein, relativity, grand unification, &c &c to the interested non-physicist and.... fails. I really wanted to like this book. Lots of brilliant people I know recommend it highly. But it's a convoluted hyper-abstract snoozer, too philosophical for the scientist yet still too esoteric for the layman.
This book reminds me of why, despite pseudo-deep 3am geek bull sessions freshman year of college about time travel and the speed of light and black holes, I never took physics again after high school. Smolin sets out to write just for that kind of person, just for ME, but only irritates me into remembering why I turned from that path....more