Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Crying of Lot 49

Too fat to Frug,
That's what you tell me all the time,
When you really try'n' to put me down,
But I'm hip,
So close your big fat lip,
Yeah, baby,
I may be too fat to Frug,
But at least I ain't too slim to Swim.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Way Down in the Hole

Clockers is by Richard Price. Richard Price is a novelist, mostly of crime novels, but also a screenwriter. One of the screens for which he writes is the television, and as someone with zero authority on these things, I feel totally qualified to say that his best work for said medium was undoubtedly for The Wire, which, if you have not seen it, is the greatest non-comedic television show in the history of everything. Based of readings of Clockers and his more recent, mostly superior novel, Lush Life, what Richard Price brought to the show (and brings to his books) is a deep understanding of the humanity that everyone exemplifies, whether that person be drug dealer or dope fiend, hitman or homicide police. Everyone gets a fair shake from Richard Price, which means no cop is perfect and no clocker is evil.

Clockers follows two characters, in alternating chapters, and the worlds they inhabit. Ronald "Strike" Dunham is a lieutenant in a heroin selling operation in a New Jersey project. He is quiet, careful, and unassuming, and good at his job, which he believes he is doing only long enough to save up to move away and do something else. He will eventually cross paths, following the murder of another dope dealer, with Detective Rocco Klein, a New Jersey Homicide detective who, despite receiving a confession and weapon from a supposed suspect, has the case in his sights and refuses to give up until he is satisfied that he has gotten to the bottom of it. Strike is a mostly sympathetic character, with his bleeding ulcer and his wanting to do good by a local boy named Tyrone. But he is a drug dealer, at the end of the day. Rocco is mostly good, but drinks heavily, avoids his wife and young daughter, and may or may not have the wrong man. Eventually everyone comes together and the murder is solved and people are done right by or wrong by, and we meet a whole host of characters in the projects and the policestation.

This novel, like all Price, as far as i know, is a loving but gritty and uber-realistic look into a fascinating world. Clockers could have been the story arc for any season of the wire, if it was transplanted a few hundred miles south to Baltimore. That being said, the book is long (over 600 pages! How!) and isn't as engrossing a read as Lush Life. But if you haven't seen the wire yet, do yourself a favor, and spend your time on that.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

no one belongs here more than you.

David Byrne says: Miranda July's is a beautiful, odd, original voice - seductive, sometimes erotic, and a little creepy, too. 

David Eggers says: These stories are incredibly charming, beautifully written, frequently laugh-out-loud funny, and even, a dozen or so times, profound. Miranda July is a very real writer, and has one of the most original voices to appear in fiction in many years.

David Lampl says: What? Nobody told me I had to read this book!

I loved this. And I think I'm now officially in love. Have you guys seen Me and You and Everyone We Know? These stories were written by the woman who wrote and directed and starred in that. She loves wordy titles. And I love her. It all works out in the end. 

There was something so perfect about this book. It's filled with these characters that are so profoundly sad and real and lost, and you can't help them. You can only keep reading, and continue to swallow the lumps in your throat. 

Mom, I think you would really really like this. I know you have a slight aversion to short stories, but you might want to reconsider. Just this once. Justice Wants. 

Miranda July, will you marry me? I'll be so good to you.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Blast you Barker!!!

This book totally rocked my socks off.  Moment after moment of jaw-dropping horror fantasy...Dead letter rooms leading to astral traveling through time loops; warring demigods; an evil comedian lording over a Hollywood funhouse.  Totally yummy.

I'll always love this book for the creation of the Lix.  This snake-like creature is made from a potent combo of excrement and semen, the latter coaxed from its maker by the wriggling legs and biting mouths of hundreds of bugs.  Holla!

But then, in the final hundred pages, the whole thing falls to caca.


Thanks Mom!

Jeannette Walls has a Mom.  I have a Mom too.  My Mom is a better Mom than her Mom is.

Thanks Mom!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009



At the center of A Wild Sheep Chase is an unnamed narrator who is passive and somewhat unhappy with life. His wife just left him. A girl that he used to have sex with, but whose name he can't recall, just died in an accident. His cat is overweight and has weak teeth. His thoughts are occasionally consumed by a certain whale penis.

And then something happens (as things usually do). A man dressed in an immaculate black suit finds our narrator, and tells him that he has one month to find a mysterious sheep with a star on its back. One month. All of Japan. His life depends on it. So the unnamed narrator sets off on a journey, accompanied by his new girlfriend with curious ears, to find this sheep.

This was a very cool book. It was my first Haruki Murakami novel, so I didn't quite know what to expect. But now I do. There are so many cool details and phrases and storytelling devices crammed into this novel. Sheep and frozen seagulls, red wires and green wires, a mirror that might be actual reality.

This is one of Murakami's earlier novels (I think possibly the first one to be translated into English), and at times you can tell. It maybe feels a bit long, maybe a little too wordy. But only at times. And it really doesn't matter anyway, because at the essence of everything, this is a story about finding the most evil sheep in the world. And what about that doesn't sound incredible?

Mmm. Lamb chops.

Birds and Sadness

We talk about this book all the time. It's been my favorite book since the moment I finished it. But that was four years ago. I thought it might be time to return.

I'm very happy to report that it's still unbelievable. I was worried that I might have soured over the years, and that my pure love for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close that I carry around with me always was actually nothing more than naive innocence. I was worried that my bubble was going to burst, and that I would have to find a new book to call my favorite book.

But I don't! The bubble is still there. Round and soapy! Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close remains victorious. Everyone wins. 

Baseball as a foundation for Ragnarok

Hey, bookish chums! Wow, I haven't written or read anything in ages! (I've read SOME things, just not "books." Terrible plays, mostly. Less rewarding, as it turns out, than you'd think!)

So here I'm back with this sprawling epic of a classic young-person's fantasy novel, from everybody's favorite creator of unique worlds, Michael Chabon. There's something really delightful about the way Chabon builds the environments in which his novels unfold (at least Kavalier and Clay and Yiddish Policeman's Union; I haven't read Wonder Boys yet, but presumably it, um, works wonders on Pittsburgh?). Elaborate detail underlies YPU's Jewish community of exiles in Alaska -- easily half the joy of the book is tracing Chabon's comprehensive working-through of the geographical and behavioral attributes of the alternate-timeline's settlement. And Summerland follows that model in exploring an island community located at a point connecting our reality and a host of others, all jam-packed with a dizzying amount of detail and attention.

It's a mashup of Norse mythology ("Ragged Rock" replacing Ragnarok), Native American mythology (Coyote serving as the principal villain), classic post-colonial American mythology (a community of tall-tales figures, a Sasquatch, etc.) and sweet, sweet baseball, which Chabon clearly loves. To the extent that you're looking for a book containing both references to trickster gods and clever riffs on Bill James's SABR organization, this is your book.

That said, even running a little over 500 pages, the book's a little cramped for space -- there are so many lands, characters and worlds encountered that it begins to feel a little like a montage rather than a full-fledged story, especially as the book heads into its climax and through its denouement. Breaking the book into multiple volumes would probably have been structurally problematic, and I'm sure there's an upper limit for how many pages a publisher would prefer Chabon take on what's ostensibly a children's novel (albeit in the Tolkein mold more than what passes for kids' lit today), but it would have been nice to see these cats breathe a little more than they do.

Guys, it has been real. I will see you when next I post (mid-August 2012, I believe).

Monday, April 6, 2009

Eight is Great

I read this book. Just wanted you all to know that.