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If I Could Just Get It On Virtual Paper

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Book 26 - Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season, by Stewart O'Nan and Stephen King

I love baseball, and since the season started this month I decided to bump this chronicle of the 2004 Red Sox season up a ways on my reading list. In general, it was an enjoyable read, with great quips coming from both O'Nan and King at varying times. The story is basically told in diary form, with the bulk of the work coming from O'Nan (I was honestly a little bit disappointed we didn't get more from King), a Pittsburgh Pirates fan who slowly evolved into a member of Red Sox Nation. King, of course, is a lifer.

There were a few things that bothered me about the book. One is that O'Nan seems needlessly fixated on the ongoing BALCO case and particularly on Gary Sheffield's potential steroid-filled past. Considering that there's been no proof whatsoever that he partook of such substances (other than fleeting accusations and the fact that he is great friends with Barry Bonds, thereby taking workouts with him), the fact that O'Nan harped a lot more heavily on Sheffield than Jason Giambi, an admitted user, aggravated me. Also, I'm just frankly sick of hearing about steroids. It's become a ridiculous witch hunt and while I don't agree that people should be able to enhance their performances by using them, I also loathe that every other sports story I hear involves either *this* guy or *that* guy being accused of using. Just let them play, already, especially since the stuff wasn't on the banned substance list in MLB until this year anyway.

The other thing that I didn't like about the book was the ending, though of course that's just because I'm a lifelong Cardinals fan and reliving the horrible World Series was almost too much to bear.

For the most part, though, I think the book is a terrific read for baseball fans in general and probably ought to be required reading for Red Sox fans specifically. Also, I was thrilled to see Kevin Youkilis, the Greek God of Walks from Michael Lewis' Moneyball, get so much play.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Aquaman has a blog. He surely doesn't have much else to do. You'd think Batman or a villain like Dr. Doom would be more interesting.


Haruki Murakami (Kafka on the Shore) has a new short story.


Monday, April 25, 2005

There's an excerpt from Nick Hornby's upcoming book, A Long Way Down, at The Guardian.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Happy 441st Birthday, Shakespeare!


Friday, April 22, 2005

Stuff

I like Cynthia Ozick (note: The Bear Boy is known as Heir to the Glimmering World here in the U.S. I think I like the British title better).

Oooh, a new Will Eisner book. Sadly, it's the final work he completed before passing away.

Five young writers you need to know.

A lot of writers have sent Oprah Winfrey a letter asking her to go back to highlighting current fiction by reinstating her book club.

Michael Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay) seems to be telling some tall tales (use bugmenot to get a login and password)

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Book 25: V for Vendetta, by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

Many people will say that graphic novels shouldn't count in my quest to complete this year's 50 Book Challenge, and that's fine with me. V for Vendetta isn't the first one I've read this year, nor will it be the last. I still feel compelled to do my normal "book report".

Having read Moore's Watchmen and now this book, I can say that I'm starting to find him to be one of the most compelling writers working in the comics industry today. After the mediocre film that was From Hell and the disaster that was League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I actually never held out much hope that his books could possibly be much good. I'm really glad I decided to give them a shot, though, because both Watchmen and V for Vendetta are so remarkable that I want to pick up Moore's other stuff just to see where the hell the movies went wrong.

V for Vendetta is actually being made into a movie as well, not that Moore will make a dime from the adaptation. He announced some time ago that he wanted any proceeds that he might earn to go to the other artists who contributed to the creation of the book rather than to him. It's a generous gesture, but it also allows him to distance himself from any adaptations that might go awry.

The movie, which will be released in November on Guy Fawkes Day, has a screenplay by the infamous Wachowski brothers and is being directed by James McTeigue, who was an assistant director on films like The Matrix and the recent Star Wars stuff. Whether they can translate a movie that essentially deals with terrorism to a mass audience product remains to be seen; however, they so far at least seem to "get it".

V for Vendetta's story takes place in a dystopic England, where the lone survivors of a nuclear holocaust survive under strict rule by a few. The nation is exclusively Caucasian. Anyone who was "different" - whether they be African, Pakistani, Indian or homosexual - has been eliminated. The news is pre-recorded and sent out via one "voice". Cameras are everywhere, and people simply accept that this way of life is natural.

Well, most people, anyway. A terrorist known only as "V" emerges one Guy Fawkes Day and blows up Parliament. This sets events in motion that affect all of society and this is shown through various characters who have positions in the government. Along with "V", the other primary persona is a young woman named Evey, who is taken under the terrorist's wing.

While it might be difficult for some to read about terrorism as being valuable in a post-9/11 world, the book does an outstanding job of creating a believable world in which such events might unfold. Really, is it so hard to imagine that there would be a set of individuals so hungry for power that they would exterminate whole subsets of society? It's obviously happened in the past, and since the human heart is a dark place, I see it as an absolute possibility for the future, however sickening that may be. The idea for the story clearly germinated in some of Moore's unhappiness with the state of British society at the time, and sadly, since the comic series was published between 1982 and 1983, things don't really seem to have improved much. The book and its notions are bleak to be sure, but well worth the time spent.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Odds and Ends

Marjane Satrapi's Embroideries was released in bookstores yesterday. She did an interview at Nerve about her thought processes behind this particular graphic novel.

Here's a nice article at The Guardian about nostalgia and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. There's also a quiz for you uberfans.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Take the Book Quiz!

As for me...I always did have a thing for Eliot.




You're Prufrock and Other Observations!

by T.S. Eliot

Though you are very short and often overshadowed, your voice is poetic
and lyrical. Dark and brooding, you see the world as a hopeless effort of people trying
to impress other people. Though you make reference to almost everything, you've really
heard enough about Michelangelo. You measure out your life with coffee spoons.



Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Book 24: The Ha-Ha, by Dave King

Already picked up by Warner Bros. for Academy Award winner Akiva Goldsman to produce, Dave King's The Ha-Ha introduces one of the most compelling and likeable narrators to appear in a novel in some time. Due to an injury received during the Vietnam War, Howard Kapostash is unable to speak, read or write. Although his intelligence remains normal and he is perfectly able to understand people when they speak to him, the scar on his head reveals him as potentially impaired and puts people off. His life changes when he is asked to take care of the son of a former girlfriend who is going into rehab. With the boy around the house, Howard blooms and becomes a new man, interested in baseball and drawn to the other people who rent rooms in his house. It's just a remarkable, remarkable book and one of the best character studies I've read in some time. Of the published-in-2005 novels I've read so far, it's probably my favorite.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Embroideries

I've mentioned Marjane Satrapi, creator of the graphic novels Persepolis and its sequel Persepolis 2 a couple of times here on the blog. I'm thrilled to see that she has a new book coming out this week, titled Embroideries. I've seen reviews that call it substantially more fluffy than her previous stuff, but frankly, the title gave me that notion anyway. I love her sense of humor and her art, so I'll definitely be picking this one up right away.

And...Showtime's Reefer Madness was sure some surreal, goofy fun. I dig Kevin Murphy (both the Desperate Housewives one *and* the Mystery Science Theater 3000 one!).

Saturday, April 16, 2005

More Cloud Atlas-y Goodness

Today's Guardian has a new Cloud Atlas article. This time it's by the author himself, describing the places from which he found inspiration for the book.


And just because, here's a list (admittedly non-comprehensive) of authors who blog. I've been particularly enjoying Neil Gaiman's detailing of his work both on his latest novel, Anansi Boys, and the screenplay for Beowulf, which he's co-writing with Roger Avary.

Poppy Z. Brite
Warren Ellis
Neil Gaiman
Joshilyn Jackson
Neal Pollack
Jennifer Weiner

Friday, April 15, 2005

Brevity

Today's Washington Times (I know, I know) has a nice Nick Hornby profile. (via Bookslut)

Despite the fact that M.J. Simpson, who has been studying and profiling the life of Douglas Adams for 20 years, says The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is mind-blowingly bad, the Telegraph comes up in favor of it.

I really hate that I'm all caught up on the books I've read this year. They were making for such great, regular blog entries. Next up, once I've finished will be The Ha-Ha by Dave King.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Book 23: Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell

Probably the greatest compliment I can give this book is that immediately upon finishing it, I wanted to start over and read the whole thing again. All 509 pages of it.

I'm linking a series of Guardian articles below by John Mullan about the book, which appear to be ongoing at this point. Frankly, Cloud Atlas is so overwhelming and sweeping that I couldn't possibly do it justice by providing a quick outline of the plot. The thing is, there are six plots, set up with the device that they are essentially nesting inside each other (the fact that Mitchell uses the nesting doll metaphor throughout the book is obviously significant, but he also makes the comparison to architecture and even musical movements). The book is made up of six interconnecting narratives, each completely unique and potentially self-standing, but also sharing themes, ideas and connectors.

It's one of the most thoughtful books I've read in years, and despite the fact that I haven't immediately started reading it again, I'm considering reading a few pages each day to find more clarity and catch things that I'm certain I missed the first time around. I can't possibly recommend it strongly enough.

Oral narrative (Week One)

The multi-genre novel (Week Two)

Antique Prose (Week Three)

Narrative Structure (Week Four)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

On the evil of excuses and books

From various blogs that I read daily, I found this link to an amusing article about bloggers who make excuses about why they can't blog. I sure won't be doing that anymore.

So, apparently the big problem in sports today is the fact that people are writing books about the subject. Take that, eggheads!

Hayao Miyazaki is on Time Magazine's list of the 100 Most Influential People. That's good. Ann Coulter is also on the list. That's bad. Art Spiegelman (Maus, In the Shadow of No Towers) gives graphic novel writers some representation. That's good. Dan Brown's The Da Vinci code is still resonating with people despite the fact that it's primarily eschewed in writing circles. That's bad. The very lonely Kim Jong Il is also there…can I go now?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Book 22: Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, by Stephen Greenblatt

This terrific book re-awakened my long-standing love of Shakespeare's plays to the point that I went to Greencine and put a bunch of the theatrical adaptations in my queue. While I do feel that the book relies a bit too much on speculation (very little is known about real events in the playwright's life), I still found it a fascinating examination of the historical events that were taking place during the time he would have been producing some of the most magnificent plays the world has ever known. Some of the tidbits I found the most interesting were details about the other writers who were working at the same time (particularly Christopher Marlowe) and the likelihood that Shakespeare borrowed from them (and they from him). Additionally, realizing that Shakespeare's sonnets were actually written for a man (why didn't my Shakespeare I professor teach me this? Or did he and I just wasn't paying attention?) and seeing their evolution makes for fascinating study. I was also intrigued by the religious issues of the time, particularly the fact that one regime was stalwartly Catholic, while the next saw practice of the religion as something to be punished. Whether or not you're an aficionado of the Bard's work, I highly recommend the book as a thoroughly engaging read.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Book 21: The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold

I'm way behind the curve on reading this former bestseller, which has sat on my bookshelf since I picked it up for super cheap at a sale last year. Since I have a rotten habit of buying books even though I have hundreds on my shelves that I haven't even read yet, I made a rule this year that a certain number of books I read *must* be ones I already own. A so it was that I came to The Lovely Bones, which had a premise that had intrigued me and moved up a bit on my "To Be Read" list after Peter Jackson and Co. optioned it as their next project to take on after the completion of King Kong.

The story is told from the viewpoint of a teenage girl who has been murdered and is residing in heaven. She observes her family and friends as they suffer through her loss and watches her murderer as he moves through the years undetected by law enforcement. At the same time, the narrator elaborates on what "her" heaven is like - in the book, it seems that each individual person creates his or her own afterlife. They're only able to achieve certain things - like be reunited with family members already present - by accepting aspects of what happened in death.

It's not as though the device of having a story narrated by a dead person is original; however, the girl's voice is authentic and the characters are engaging. I'm looking forward to seeing what Jackson does with the film, particularly if he can imbue it with an ethereal atmosphere similar to what he did in Heavenly Creatures.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Book 20: Fat Girl, by Judith Moore

I wanted to like this book, a memoir by a woman who has essentially been a "fat girl" her entire life, but it was a little bit too dark for me. That's not to say that I don't think Moore shouldn't be negative or bitter or angry about the way things have gone for her. It's just that…well, she's frankly not very likeable, which I guess isn't her point either. She doesn't particularly care if people like her - or at least she says she doesn't. But what actually bugs me is that she states several times throughout the book that she *deserves* for people to hate her. This is a woman who had a rough childhood - an abusive mother, horrible classmates, an absent father - but according to her words (which is all I have to go on, right?), that sort of behavior was appropriate because she is a horrible person who warrants this terrible treatment. I don't expect her to be Up With People, but for anyone who might be in a similar situation, this message might just be enough to send them into an absolute tailspin. It's an unpleasant story and while I can't wholeheartedly recommend it, the book does have a sort of sickening Jerry Springer-esque appeal (surely nothing else can happen to this girl…oh, wait). I picked it up on the strength of various positive reviews, so your mileage may vary.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Book 19: Human Capital, by Stephen Amidon

Just simply reading a description of this book doesn't make it sound particularly appealing, but it turns out to be a fantastic read. The story weaves back and forth, focusing on four central characters. The first is Drew Hagel, a washed-up realty owner whose business, which he inherited from his father, is quickly failing in the wake of more aggressive, inventive entrepreneurs. Somehow, he manages to finagle his way into a hedge fund run by Quint Manning, one of the most powerful men in town. When the fund takes an unexpected negative turn, Drew finds himself in freefall and on the verge of losing the home he was hoping to provide for his wife and child.

Drew's daughter, Shannon, has secrets of her own. Though many people, including her own father, believe that she is still romantically involved with Quint's son Jamie, she is actually seeing a patient who is under the care of her psychologist stepmother. Drew is looking for nothing more than to send Shannon to a great college, but their goals ultimately aren't the same and the high school senior's secret life and her real life will collide in a very significant fashion.

Carrie Manning, Quint's wife, is becoming slowly bored with their riches and is seeking out new ways to entertain herself. Seemingly self-absorbed, her complex relationship with her husband and son makes her perhaps the most interesting and underrated character in the book.

Finally, there is David, the uncle of Ian, the troubled boy who Shannon is dating. Ian's mother passed away some years ago, leaving him in David's care, and David is looking for nothing more than to take Ian away and use his inheritance to purchase a bar in North Carolina. He'll go to great lengths to protect that future, too.

It all sounds like an over-wrought soap opera, but the characterizations are so well thought out that you become deeply involved and invested in each one of these people. It's melodrama on the level of a Douglas Sirk film, but like his movies, fully-fleshed and introspective.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Book 18: Harlem Stomp!, by Laban Carrick Hill

This young reader's book about the Harlem Renaissance is simply terrific, giving a compulsively readable history of the music, writers, artists and politics that surrounded the emergence of African-American artists during the period from 1900 to 1940. Presented almost in scrapbook form, the book makes excellent use of pictures, manuscripts and other visual aids to present an appealing look at some of the most influential and intelligent artists in history. People covered in the book include such luminaries as Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Cab Calloway, and W.E.B. Dubois. It was a book that I checked out from the library, but I plan on purchasing it at some point to share with nieces, nephews, and my own future children.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Sad

Author Saul Bellow has died at the age of 89. It seems like a hundred years since I read Seize the Day and Herzog, though.

Book 17: We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families, by Philip Gourevitch

I became interested in reading this book after seeing Hotel Rwanda. The sad fact of the matter is that our media and government let these people down, relegating this horrible story of genocide to the back pages of the paper and as unacceptable military intervention. Gourevitch, who was recently named editor of the Paris Review, does a remarkable job of taking the horrible events that occurred during the Hutu destruction of the Tutsis and making them readable and personal. He does so by doing numerous interviews with individuals from both sides. Needless to say, those who were involved in the genocide in any way don't really come off looking good at all; however, it is possible to see the genesis of what occurred by examining the historical implications surrounding the incident. There is some reason for optimism - the new leaders of the countries in the area have a markedly different attitude than that of their predecessors. They're far more independent from Europe and the U.S. than in the past. I actually find it remarkable and depressing that Belgium actually may be heavily responsible for what took place by their encouraging the distinct delineation between the Hutus and Tutsis. It's a powerful read and I strongly recommend it even though it's not always easy to swallow.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Book 16: Home Land, by Sam Lipsyte

I picked this amusing novel up at the recommendation of numerous blogs that I read daily. While it perhaps didn't quite measure up to the lofty expectations I had accumulated after seeing all the great word-of-mouth, it's nonetheless a hilarious deconstruction of what it means to be 30-something in America today. Basically, the hero/anti-hero of the book decides that he is going to write to his high school newsletter that is published regularly (my high school surely doesn't do anything like that, and thank goodness for it). The catch is, he tells the truth. Probably the best thing about the book is that Lipsyte has a talent for language - in fact, I suspect it would be even more enjoyable if it was read aloud. By the time the book ends, it's a little bit too Christopher Moore-ish by way of Carl Hiassen, but still a wild ride and a novel I would recommend in general.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Book 15: The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth

This alternate history book resonates perhaps a bit too much in the political climate in which we exist today, and I'm sure that's Roth's intent to some degree. His story is told from the viewpoint of a young Philip Roth (nope, that's not a mistake), and speculates on what might have happened if Charles Lindbergh had been elected president rather than Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his third term. The picture created is insidious and quietly disturbing, as the United States becomes a place where subtle anti-Semitism begins to lead to an even more dangerous situation. Lindbergh refuses to enter the war as he is believed to be in alliance with Adolf Hitler, which means that his leadership by example filters down to the American people. With Henry Ford as one of his leading cabinet members, the story does have an air of possibility about it, particularly since the real historical figures Roth uses as his alternate administration had the reputation as either slight or serious anti-Semites in real life. Whether such accusations were true or not, it's a particularly effective device. My one complaint with the book is that Roth oddly switches voice to third person at the climax, and then switches back to young Philip for the denouement. It just doesn't sit right, but I can't quite explain why. It's an outstanding read nonetheless.


 
     


 
 

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