Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
I can neither explain why nor actually how much I loved this book, but I do know it was my first experience as a reader in a long time where I had to fight to put it down...where I stayed up later than I wanted to or woke up early to keep reading (though I did read it all in 36 hours, so that may be a bit hyperbolic). While I don't love it the same (or even as much, necessarily) as a David Mitchell or Murakami, it is an entirely different beast (first of many intended puns) and can share shelf space with them in my heart-library any day.
In a nutshell, this book is a noir, set in Los Angeles, that is about werewolves and written in blank verse. Go ahead and read that sentence again. A werewolf-noir-epic poem. These werewolves are neither mopy nor gargantuan and beastly (so they are neither of the Twilight nor Gothic/Victorian variety). They are lycanthropes in the mythological sense, men who can turn into beasts at will. The beasts are closer to dogs, usually, than wolves, though they are huge, vicious, and above all, sentient and intelligent dogs. They can rip a man to shreds, or they can plot huge schemes while you scratch their ears in your home. It's also a love story about a dogcatcher and a female lycanthrope, known only as "She" (and their love is of the human-human variety, not the human-female dog variety), who is the lone female for the pack the story begins by following (apparently Barlow's inspiration was in part an article about a dogcatcher in the Chicago Reader that revealed that packs of wild dogs usually are comprised of many males and one female).
Barlow immerses you into a world that is similar but not like your own, a world of drug dealers and dog fighters and surfers, and a world where packs of man/dogs are organized like gangs or like country clubs or like hedge fund firms. Where some are ruled by sex and some by love and some by a zen like philosophy of abstention. Where revenge comes to many but where innocents are felled as well, and some are left behind to mourn. His writing (and remember its in blank verse) can follow many perspectives at once, can be in turns brutal and charged, and beautiful and sad, and funny and true. I don't know if everyone will react like I did (in reviews it seems most reviewers think this book will be clasped to the bosoms of generations of teenage goths and outsiders, an idea that made me more than a little suspicious) but I think its worth it to try. It is, after all, about fucking werewolves.
Towards the end of Shakespeare Wrote For Money, Hornby channels Sarah Sullivan and goes on a big YA fiction kick (YA being Young Adult, the home of Rowling, Pearce, Lewis, etc.). The two he talks most about are David Almond's Skellig (his favorite) and Toby Barlow's Sharp Teeth. I ordered them both, to see what the fuss was about, and after finishing Skellig I felt like maybe I missed something, and this would be another brief joint post. It won't be, but more on that later.
Skellig is good. It's not great, though it has some great parts, and its not bad, though it leaves (for me) a lot to be desired. I'm not sure what this book would have done for me as a "Young Adult" because, the way it is written, it would have felt small even when I was 13. It's told in the first person by a young boy, Michael, in England, who moves with his parents who spend most of their time driving to and from the hospital where their newborn daughter is probably dying. Michael, while trying to amuse himself and cope, finds an old man barely surviving in his new garage. With the help of his new friend, Mina, they nurse the man back to health, to find that he is probably (and this is not a spoiler, look at that cover) an angel. The book is about being young and changing and coping with things that no one should ever have to cope with, least of all 13 year old boys. But it is short, and written in huge print with short sentences, and while there are a couple of sweet, simple passages that brought tears to my eyes, it also never feels totally gripping or engaging, it feels too slight. But I am sure there are those among you (Julie) who would love it as much as Hornby did. As for my love, its coming up next.
So, the new book (the first volume of what was supposed to be the final 12th book, but now is the first of the final three so i guess there will be 14, and the first by Brandon something who took over for Jordan after his death last summer) comes out October 27. I would love to say it will be my last book, finished for number 50 on nov 1, but I can't imagine i will be able to read it in 4 days (they are roughly 800 pages usually) nor that I will reach the magic 50. there, i said it. But, that means ihave only one book left to be ready for it. And that I will have read the full cycle again in a year. go me.
Earlier, I wrote about how badly I wanted to be Chuck Klosterman- I thought his life was suitably different from my own to warrant a fantasy of living in his shoes. I have long suspected, on the other hand, that I may in some small way already be Nick Hornby. Now, I well aware I am not an incredibly famous novelist and screenwriter, I am not British or middle-aged, I don't have an autistic son, and I don't even like Arsenal very much. Most importantly, I love and respect Nick Hornby's writing, and would never presume to compare my halting prose (most especially on this blog) with his astute, witty, observational style. In spite of all that, there is just too much in his ouvere (and I have read almost everything he has published, from my all time favorite, High Fidelity to the almost indefensible How to Be Good) that reasonates with me- more than feeling like it was written for me, it seems like I could have written it, if I had been given the talent and opportunity and life experience described above. These two books are perhaps the best examples...one is the final collection of his Believer articles under the heading "What I've Been Reading" and the other is a collection of short essays about 31 songs he likes.
Shakespeare Wrote For Money, like the two books that preceded it, is actually a very close relative to this blog. Every montly column begins with two lists, Books I Bought and Books I Read (rarely do these lists overlap as much as one thinks they should, though any experienced reader knows this experience). Ostensibly a book review, these columns are mostly about the joy of reading, and how the books Hornby reads affects or reflect his life. Reading it is reading about a man reading. Hornby, as always, writes with humor and wit, although (to borrow from an av club review) frustration sets in when Horby refuses to name books he disliked. This is done under the pretense that the people who run the Believer (who Hornby refers to as the Pollysylabic Spree) refuse to let him say anything bad about any book, and punish him when he does.
Songbook is much nearer and dearer to my heart. The 31 essays are much less about the songs than about a life spent listening to music, with each song serving as a lens into a period or feeling in Hornby's life. Some of the essays spend less than a paragraph actually discussing the songs they are about, but spend their time disucssing what its like to be a father, or how growing up makes you appreciate certain music more and certain music less. It really could be a memoir, a life of a music listener, but having the songs there gives you an insight into exactly what Hornby was listening to and whne. The original pressing (which i have, naturally) even comes with a mix CD containing 12 or so of the 31 songs. I kept marking passages I wanted to include here, but there ended up being too many to pick just one. So I'll just say if you love music, if it colors your life even half as much as mine, this book is about you.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Since being introduced to DFW by this blog I've been eager to read as much of his work as I can get my hands on. And I have to say that I haven’t been disappointed. Consider the Lobster is a collection of non-fiction essays he wrote from about 1994 to 2002 and boy oh boy does it have some gems. Following the success of his accounts of attending the Illinois State Fair and taking a celebrity cruise, Wallace was sent to
* Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace
 I’m saving Infinite Jest until January so I can preserve the illusion that I’ll get 50 books in by the time we’re done.
 Both for Harpers
 Curiously always held at the exact same time as the World Electronics Expo, also in Vegas.
 Really, 1.5. he dropped out pretty early the first time around.
 Out of the sadly limited supply.
I'm devoting this entire post to my argument that Sarah Vowell is actually Julie Ritchey in disguise. To wit:
1. Similar obsession with the Civil War.
2. Both love presidents. in particular, the assassination thereof, in MORE particular, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
3. Both are fans of This American Life and have met Ira Glass.
4. Both are female.
5. Both have some opinions and feel that those opinions should be heard.
6. Both seem to break down into tears with little provocation.
And the list goes on. Maybe it's because I read this after Watchmen and was a little preoccupied with alter-egos, I dunno. I think they're the same person.
Also, this book was ok. The Rosa Parks, in particular, story is pretty hilarious. I just think I like other essayists more. She seems like a cool lady and I like listening to her on TAL, but something didn't quite translate into the writing. (6.5/10)
OK. So I'm way behind because I'm bad a budgeting my time, so I'm going to do really quick reviews of my last few books and just be done with it. I think most of them have been reviewed on here already anyway. Which brings me to Watchmen.
I would have to say Watchmen is decent, but not amazing. It's beautifully drawn and the idea of the story is very very cool, but it just didn't pan out in any kind of interesting way for me. The story turned out to be pretty lame and I never really felt like I identified with any of the characters (which may be because I'm not a costumed hero, but c'mon, make me feel like I might know what it'd be like.)
I don't know why this movie gets such a bad rap. I saw it right after I read the book and yeah, it wasn't as good, but it doesn't deserve the panning it has received. juuuuuuuust sayin'. 5/10