Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Measure For Measure by William Shakespeare

Or "Sexual Perversity in Vienna."

Claudio knocked up his sort-of-officially-but-unofficially-in-the-eyes-of-the-law wife. His sister Isabella is one day away from being a nun. Angelo, the new sheriff in town, decides that fornicators should be put to death. He starts with Claudio. Isabella is not so happy about this. She tries to change Angelo's mind. He agrees to help her out if she sleeps with him. The rest unfolds with all those classic Shakespeare plot devices - a duke in disguise, a bumbling malaprop-dropping constable, some whores, a beheading.

Measure for Measure is the last comedy Shakespeare wrote, and it's fascinating to see how much the genre evolves from the earlier comedies like, say, Comedy of Errors. It's a tough play. After reading it, I get why it's not produced very often. I mean, it's reeeeeally tough in that nothing-really-adds-up kind of way. But that's what makes it so compelling. It doesn't tie up neatly with everything all happy clappy at the end, and we're left with a lot of questions. I love the way that, as his work progresses, Shakespeare challenges his audiences, holding the mirror up to their hypocrisy and shaky morals. In the right hands, this would be an unbelievably powerful show to see staged. In the wrong hands, it would be the worst ever.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Informers.

The Informers begins where Less Than Zero ends. Los Angeles. Early 1980's. Nightclubs. Drugs. Beautiful blond people watching music videos on the Betamax. Nobody's really sure who they're dating, who their friends are, why they're at certain places at certain times. Life is a numb wash of existence, dots on a map. Some cocaine here, a little heroin there, some tanning on the beach, meaningless, boring sex, etc.

But that's only the beginning. If Less Than Zero simply scratches at the surface of Los Angeles, The Informers peels away the entire skin, showing us the lifeblood underneath. Fear, murder, bodies drained of their blood, missing limbs, ripped jugulars. Vampires.

Bret Easton Ellis tells this new Los Angeles tale in thirteen chunks, with thirteen different narrators. Each a different story, a different part of Los Angeles, a brief trip to Tokyo, to Malibu, a drive down Wilshire. But it all feels like a carefully woven tapestry, with the same characters making appearances again and again. He makes huge sprawling L.A. feel claustrophobic, terrifying. Disappear Here.

I cannot begin to describe my new and now undying love for Mr. Ellis. A huge, throbbing man-boner is what he gives me. Every single piece of his writing so far has been pitch-perfect. And I'm only halfway through his catalog, which makes me terribly excited.

"Adjust my dreams for me, Roger," I whisper. "Adjust my dreams for me."

Holy Schnikes I miss you.

This book is hilarious, but mostly sad.

Chris Farley was sad, but mostly hilarious.

I love you Chris!

Gone Phishin'

I first went to overnight camp in the summer between 2nd and 3rd grade. I heard Phish for the first time that summer. I was 7 years old. The combination of crazy counselors, trippy tunes and late nights with no parental supervision made for a potent brew of Upstate NY freakery. The damage was done.

In 1997 I went to my first Phish show. War Memorial, Rochester NY. My dad loaded us up into the minivan and we trekked downtown for a Sunday evening of Phishing. Honestly...I found it pretty boring. The jams were jammy, the covers were rocking...but I didn't get it. Spent the rest of middle school listening to Beck and NIN. Good stuff.

In 2004 I attended the SPAC shows of Phish's final tour. My friend had broken up with his lady, and had extra tix, so off we went. The first night was a disaster. The band sounded like crap, and they only played songs from later albums...I was pretty much turned off for good. But the next night changed it all--there was a Father's Day tap dance, a marshmallow fight, a glowstick war, and some incredibly tasty jams. Then Phish broke up. Goodbye.

A few months ago I caught up with Phish at Bonnaroo. They rocked my face off, then came back 2 nights later and did it again, this time with a little help from the Boss. Yum.

In two weeks, I'll see them again. I can't wait. See you there!

PS this book is fun. The guys in the band are geeks in the best way possible. Plus, Trey loves Slayer! Phuck yes!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Don't Get Too Comfortable by David Rakoff

Or "This (Consumerist) American Life."

In one of the essays in Don't Get Too Comfortable, David Rakoff shares his experience covering some big fashion week in Paris. At first, he had the time of his life: learning about fashion, rubbing elbows with glamorous people, overjoyed by the fun and over-the-top-ness of it all. He keeps waiting for the new to rub off, but it doesn't. Then, all of a sudden, in the middle of the biggest runway show of the week, he snaps. The room starts to spin, he's sweating, he can't breathe. David Rakoff has reached his breaking point and just can't take it anymore. Reading Don't Get Too Comfortable was a little bit like that.

shit, yo, the universe is CHANGING!

Master of Space and Time is about these two wacky scientists that discover a way to control the universe, and hence become the masters of space and time. They end world hunger with porkchop and fritter trees. They give their respective wife and girlfriend the power of flight and Marilyn Monroe-esque beauty (and tits). They produce millions of dollars in unmarked bills, a glorious New York penthouse, cool futuristic ray guns.

But not everything is so great. Along with this great, holy, awesome power, they accidentally will into existence spine-fluid sucking brain creatures who wish to take over the world. And a lot of people die. And one of the scientists accidentally fulfills his subconscious desire to become a beautiful woman. And then he is forced to make love with a horny Vietnamese man. But he/she kind of likes it. It's all very new and confusing.

This book is crazy, yo. It's also slated to be the next film from adorable frenchman Michel Gondry, director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and lots and lots of amazing Bjork and White Stripes videos. The film has been on stall for a while, but I really hope it happens. Jack Black. Dave Chapelle. The universe at their fingertips.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke


It's 1902, and aspiring poet Franz Xavier Kappus is looking for a little advice and inspiration. He writes to Rainer Maria Rilke. Rilke writes back. Kappus keeps the letters and, thankfully for the rest of us, publishes them in as the small but mighty book known as Letters to Young Poet - the kind of book Andy Lampl might describe as being sugary or figgish.

Absent from the book are Kappus's letters to Rilke. At first, I felt sort of cheated, like listening in on one side of a telephone conversation. What was Kappus writing to illicit such profoundly helpful, inspiring responses? Dear God, share it with the rest of us, please! Once this initial bout of stupidity wore off, I realized that I LOVED only reading Rilke's responses. Not knowing the prompts for some of his advice made the experience seem more personal, as if Rilke were speaking to me now instead of some German guy 100 years ago.

Reading Letters to a Young Poet was like therapy. Rilke was only 28 when he wrote the first letter (maybe 27? Either way, not much older than me.), so the letters have this amazing balance of being both wisdom-from-a-guy-who's-been-there and shit-I'm-processing-through-right-this-moment. This book should be mandatory reading for all bleeding heart sensitive artisty types (you know, like the kinds of people that populate this blog), as the majority of it centers around how to survive as a bleeding heart sensitive artisty type in a hostile world, a topic that hits particularly close to home at this moment of my life. Lay it on me, Rainer. I'll take everything you've got.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Music is my lover


This was a blast to read. Andy Summers is a fun writer...his prose is overwritten in a way that I love--it's as though he loves language too much to not use crazy 10 dollar words. All the time. Go for it Andy, you can do whatever you want, you're a rock star.

And I've been thinking. I'm a rock star too. I play music every day...sometimes for children, sometimes for my friends, always for myself. And it's only a matter of time before the space egg cracks, and I am hatched as the psychedelic rock monster. It is happening...I can feel it.

Andy Summers felt it. He lived it. I loved it. Time to swim in the universal yolk and rock the fuck out.

See you at the festival!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How We Are Hungry. For Sugary Figs. Ripe and Plump.

Dave Eggers wrote a bunch of short stories. These are them. How We Are Hungry. I'm feeling kind of mixed about this book. The meat of these pages consisted of four long short stories about privileged white people traveling to foreign locales to get away from their problems, only to find that the problems lie within themselves. Great. Yes, they are beautifully written, some even staggeringly so. But I have a feeling Dave Eggers can do better than that. His best stuff comes in these short microburst one-page stories, about a husband who wants to build three walls of a treehouse to impress his wife, or a guy who meets a girl and then becomes interested in flying in lightweight contraptions. But only with her. If she does not drive in the van with the wings carefully folded, he will have to leave, smile and leave, and then he will look again.

The book is filled with wordplay, imagery, beautiful titles: After I Was Thrown in the River and Before I Drowned; She Waits, Seething, Blooming; What It Means When a Crowd in a Faraway Nation Takes a Soldier Representing Your Own Nation, Shoots Him, Drags Him from His Vehicle and Then Mutilates Him in the Dust.

There's even a story called Notes for a Story of a Man Who Will Not Die Alone. And it's literally Dave Eggers' notes about a story he wants to write about an old man who organizes his death to be a wonderful celebration. And it's oddly touching, these random notes for a story. But that's all they are, just his notes, and I couldn't shake the feeling that Dave was just a little too lazy to put in the rest of the work. He looked at his computer and thought, well, this shit is already pretty good, let's just stop and do some more non-profit work.

All that being said, I actually really did like this book. Parts of it, anyway. Dave Eggers is an amazing writer, and it certainly shows, even if he maybe cut some corners in order to do it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Am I a dumbass for not getting this?

I've been wanting to read this book for years. It's referenced all over the place by some people I really respect and just wanted to see what all the excitement was about and I've just come to the conclusion that I don't get it.
I like the way it parodies postmodernism and conspiracy theorists. I love the idea of the international reprocussions of something as comparably mundane as an underground mail delivery system, and I like many of the characters in the novel, but none of it seemed to gell into anything really worthwhile for me. It all just seems too clever for its own good. As a disclaimer, this is my first Pynchon, so his just may not be a style I understand as of yet, so I'm going to try and read some more Pynchon and see if that changes anything for me.
Another problem might be that I'm not particularly versed in the culture (pop or un-pop) culture of Southern California during the action of the novel and it's apparently largely concerned with satirizing slash making tongue-in-cheek references to said culture.
For me, swing and a miss. oh well. (5/10)

"Black Swan Green" by David Mitchell or "I'M NOT ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE!"

Again, this book has already been deftly reviewed by several posters, so I won't waste your time with a review. What I will waste your time with is this:
Why is it that, even in a book where the central action revolves around what a dweeb the main character is, his cool british lexicon makes him automatically so very much cooler than I am?
Much like I said earlier about White Noise, and possibly even more so, this book is comforting (and humbling?) because it lets me know that I am not alone in the world.
Favorite Quote: "The phone rang and she didn't answer it. My parents would run into a burning asbestos mine if the thought they heard a phone ringing for them in there." LOVED IT. 9/10

"Pastoralia" by George Saunders OR "These are Short Stories. I Find them FunnySadRevealing"

Hey Everyone! Been a while! Pastoralia has already been reviewed on this blog, so I just want to throw my weight behind it. These stories are bizarre and amazing and I'm glad I read them. I will be reading more George Saunders. Also, for all you actors out there, you can find some hidden gems in here that could easily be turned into monologues! 8/10

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Book of Daniel by E.L. Doctorow

Or "It Seems Like All the Books I've Read Lately Are In Some Way Related to the Atomic Bomb..."

The Book of Daniel is one of my little sister's favorite books. She read it in high school and has been raving about it ever since. And she's not really one to rave about things unless she means business.

The Book of Daniel is a fictionalized musing about Julius and Ethel Rosenberg's trial and execution. Here their names are Paul and Rochelle Isaacson, but don't let that fool you. The story is written by their eldest son, Daniel. Daniel is in the library, trying to write his graduate thesis. He writes this instead. It's been twelve years since his parents were killed, and he's had a long time to process through the events, his emotions, his grief, to get his life together and move forward. He has neither processed nor moved forward.

I checked it out of the library and texted Macy to tell her. "I'm reading The Book of Daniel!" I typed. "I LOVE IT SO MUCH," she responded. I was excited.

This book is haunting and imaginative and sad. Mostly, though, it's fucked up. Daniel. Is. Fucked. Up. I mean, rightfully so, but still. I can't say that I love this book as much as Macy does; it was a little bit too far on the disturbing side for me to love it with the kind of unbridled passion that can only be conveyed with all capital letters. Astonishing, powerful, brilliant, yes. Also fucked up.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Simalcrum is just such a neat word

So my parents are therapists. They also belong to a number of book clubs. In one, they read this book, that apparently is a much different book for therapists (or their children) then others. If you want to read this book from a pure perspective, stop reading this post now.

Still here? So Rivka Galchen's Atmospheric Disturbances begins with this line: "Last December a woman entered my apartment who looked exactly like my wife." The book follows (and is narrated by) Leo, a therapist who believes his young wife, Rema, has disappeared and been replaced by a near-perfect, but not quite, imposter/doppleganger, to whom he refers as the "Simalcrum". He also recently have a patient disappear. This patient had a habit of disappearing with other therapists, because he believed he was an agent of a secret agency who was in charge of charting and protecting the weather from a secret, parrallel universe-jumping, cabal who are trying to mess with it. In other to keep his patient in New York, the dr. and Rema (pre-simalcrum) pretend to be a meterologist from this society, Dr. Tzvi Gal-Chen (yes, this book is that meta). Leo decides to find Rema by visiting her mother in Buenos Ares, while also trying to find his patient, and get in touch with the real Dr. Gal-Chen.

Confused yet? Well, the plot thickens a bit, because, according to my parents (and wikipedia), Leo is most likely suffering from a rare pyschopatholgy called a Capgras Delusion, the symptoms of which are a person believe that a close friend, relative, or partner has been replaced by an identical looking imposter. So, in all of his travels, hunting, emails with long deceased meterologists, and insistences (to her face) that the woman claiming to be his wife is not, in fact, his wife, there is the distinct possiblity that he is going clinically insane. The book never seems to decide, and I can't really either (though I do trust my parents). The book falls apart a bit in its second half, but for the first 50 pages and for its slow unfolding of massive ideas about identity and what makes a person him/herself, it may jsut be worth it. Especially if you like the weather.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I think I found myself a new favorite author.

Lunar Park, written by Bret Easton Ellis, is about a famous, coke-snorting novelist named Bret Easton Ellis, who decides to slow down his life a little bit by moving to the suburbs with his new wife and children. And then Patrick Bateman, the wall-street serial killer from his previous novel, American Psycho, shows up at his halloween party. And then the murders start happening. Little boys keep disappearing (his neighbor thinks they've gone to Never Neverland), and the emails from his dead father won't stop. And then there's his little daughter's Terby doll, which may or may not have mutilated a horse when left alone in an abandoned field...

Less Than Zero is Bret Easton Ellis' first novel, about a boy named Clay who drifts through his first christmas vacation back home in Los Angeles, where he does an incessant amount of cocaine, floats in an out of nightclubs and movie theaters and swimming pools, finds a dead body in an alleyway and feels nothing, clogs up the toilet bowl with bloody wads of kleenex, sleeps with blond boys and tanned girls, watches his friends dabble in heroin and child-pornography, and is haunted by a billboard that simply says: Disappear Here.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Portnoy's Complaint

The first time I saw Brenda she asked me to hold her glasses. Dear Gabe, The drugs help me bend my fingers around a pen. Not to be rich, not to be famous, not to be mighty, not even to be happy, but to be civilized - that was the dream of his life. She was so deeply imbedded in my consciousness that for the first year of school I seem to have believed that each of my teachers was my mother in disguise. Sir, I want to congratulate you for coming out on April 3 for the sanctity of human life, including the life of the yet unborn. It began oddly. Call me Smitty. Far from being the classic period of explosion and tempestuous growth, my adolescence was more or less a period of suspended animation. Temptation comes to me first in the conspicuous personage of Herbie Bratasky, social director, bandleader, crooner, comic, and m.c. of my family's mountainside resort hotel. First, foremost, the puppyish, protected upbringing above his father's shoe store in Camden. It was the last daylight hour of a December afternoon more than twenty years ago - I was twenty-three, writing and publishing my first short stories, and like many a Bildungsroman hero before me, already contemplating my own massive Bildungsroman - when I arrived at his hideaway to meet the great man. "What the hell are you doing on a bus, with your dough?" When he is sick, every man wants his mother; if she's not around, other women must do. "Your novel," he says, "is absolutely one of the five or six books of my life." Ever since the family doctor, during a routine checkup, discovered an abnormality on his EKG and he went in overnight for the coronary catheterization that revealed the dimensions of the disease, Henry's condition had been successfully treated with drugs, enabling him to work and carry on his life at home exactly as before. Dear Zuckerman, In the past, as you know, the facts have always been notebook jottings, my way of springing into fiction. "I'll write them down. You begin." My father had lost most of the sight in his right eye by the time he'd reached eighty-six, but otherwise he seemed in phenomenal health for a man his age when he came down with what the Florida doctor diagnosed, incorrectly, as Bell's palsy, a viral infection that causes paralysis, usually temporary, to one side of the face. For legal reasons, I have had to alter a number of facts in this book.


Things I know about Warren Zevon:

1. Alcoholic
2. Sex addict
3. Wife beater
4. OCD sufferer
5. Excitable

I've never listened to Warren Zevon's music. Now I am going to. Right now. And smear a chunk of pot-roast on my belly while I rip porny solo's on my red rocket guitar. I'll sleep when I'm dead!

Smells like Grandma

I found this book in my Grandma's collection. I can imagine her buying the paperback a few months before the movie came out and quickly devouring it.

I like the smell of this book. It smells like my grandma's house. I could imagine talking to her about the drug addled characters while we sip strong coffee and eat bridge mix.

I don't know why I'm fascinated with Hollywood burnout stories, but I am. Can't get enough of this stuff. I bet my Grandma would have some ideas about that too.

Anyway. This book is fine and fun. The opening section is quite funny. There is a remarkable chunk of coked-up prose; very disturbing. Then the book kinda fell apart for me.

Thanks for the read Grandma! I love you!

Monday, July 6, 2009

When porn just kind of stops being fun... by Chuck Palahniuk.

So the basic essence of Snuff is this: Cassie Wright - aging porn queen, the star of such films as World Whore One, The Italian Handjob, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nuts, Moby Dicked, and The Wizard of Ass - wants to make one last great film. A film to end all films. A film where she fucks, sucks, and trades carnal knowledge with 600 different men. This book is about those 600 men. Or, to be specific, three of them.

The book takes place almost entirely in the backstage waiting area of this porn shoot. Six-hundred men, tagged, de-robed, trying to do something about their flaccid states. Getting their fingers sticky with BBQ chip grease. Popping viagra like wildberry skittles. Their skin covered in bronzer, their pores, their hairplugs. Palahniuk makes everything feel very dirty. Like you're lifting up the rubber mat in a restaurant kitchen and looking underneath. The underbelly of society. It was gross in a fascinating, salt-on-a-slug kind of way.

However, I don't really know if I liked it. Not much happens. Everything that does happen is predictable. After about twenty pages, you kind of get it. The rambling facts about porn and death and hairspray. The crisp language. The four narrators that sound exactly the same. It might have worked better as a short story. 

But, then again, it was also kind of awesome. A book about porn, junk food, insecurities, and a room filled with 600 dirty, horny, lonely men... what's not to love?

Saturday, July 4, 2009


First of all, I found this cover hiding in the internet. It tickles me. Secondly, Zeke and I have this little magazine homage to Cormac McCarthy magnetized on our refrigerator. I thought it would only be appropriate to share. 

Just a special note. This is hands down my favorite book. But I don't feel like reviewing. I feel like sharing funny things about it. And hence, from the Cooking section in Vanities Magazine:


But Good.


And salt.
And water.
And Fire.


Place the pasta in the water and the salt in the water and the water in the pot and the pot on the fire.
In the pot? The fire in the pot?
No. The water in the pot. The pot on the fire.
The pasta in the water?
Yes, in the water.
And the salt in the fire?
No. The salt in the water.
And water on the fire?
No. The water in the pot and the pot on the fire. Not the water on the fire. For then the fire will die and dying be dead.
Nor will the water boil and the pasta will drain dry and not cooked and hard to the teeth.


The water boils. So be it.
Cease from placing your hand in the boiling water. Place your hand in the boiling water and it will cause you pain.
Much pain?
Very much pain.


IN THE POT THE BUBBLES bubble up and bubble some more. The bubbles are bubbly. Never more bubbly bubbles bubbling bubbliest. And having bubbled the bubbles still bubbly.
Or bubblier?
Or bubblier.
Across the kitchen a board intended for chopping. Here. Take it. Chop.
What will I chop? There are no ingredients to chop.
Just chop. Don't cease from chopping. To chop is to become a man.


AFTER 10 MINUTES. The pasta stiff and dry and upright no more. The pasta lank and wet and soft. In the eternal damp of water.
Pour water free like some ancient anointing. The pasta left alone in the pot. Alone and naked. 
The salt. Where's the salt?
The salt is gone. Lost to the water and gone forever.
I grieve for the salt.
It is the salt for which I grieve.


The pasta?
Yes. Tip it out. Onto.
A plate?
Yes. And stop.
Finishing your sentences?
Why? Because it's so.


NOTHING IN YOUR MEMORY anywhere of anything so good. Now the pasta is eaten. Disappeared. The pasta disappeared as everything disappears. As the comma disappears and the semicolon disappears and the inverted comma disappears and the apostrophe disappears and the adjectives and the pronouns all disappear.
Leaving just full stops and And.
And And?
And And.
And And.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

What Is The What by Dave Eggers

Or "Not Cattle."

I don't want to write too much about this book. At the bare-bonesest, it's a sort of ventriloquism autobiography - the story of Valentino Achak Deng as written by Dave Eggers. And I think that's all I'm going to say.

It is quiet and profound and unbelievable. It's the kind of book that reminds me why we read.

Read it. That's a demand. In spite of its length, it's a quick read. Plus it's better to read this book and fall slightly short of 50 than to skip it. Just read it. Please.