Wednesday, February 22, 2006

anybody know why

adding my email address to my profile would make my sidbar appear below my entries? Anyone know how to fix that?

***** Fixed thanks to Anita's eagle eyes. Thanks!!

Other things

1) My fingers smell like lime and onions.
2) I have added my email address to the site.
3) I love Francine Prose. I finished Women and Children First and I am slowly working on A Changed Man. So good so far.
4) Eye strain is a subtle, yet evil thing. Beware.

book 12: Fascination by William Boyd

I was recently told in a faa-faa coffeeshop that William Boyd is very well-known. Though I had assumed such, especially after reading Boyd's bio which listed his many pubishings in fancy places, I was glad to have that confirmed so forcefully by my neighbor. Apparently, not only am I a reading rube, but I am also losing my ability to eavesdrop my way into good conversations* in coffeeshops.

Fascination is 16 stories. Each story that does not have to do with middle-aged man longing for firm, young fleah is pretty good. Those are okay too, but read all together are a little repetitive and gross. Boyd also often uses short paragraphs, either as entris of some kind or just with a few line breaks in between, to tell sometimes complicated tales. More often than not this works, especially in 'Ghost of a Bird' and 'Incandescence,' and it is a nice change from a more standard structure without falling into some annoying transcribed IM kind of thing.

Besides the word rebarbative, the music of Brahms recurrs as an element in Fascination. I don't know Brahms, though I heard he is very well-known, but that didn't detract from my pleasure. It just made some of the plot movements a little obscure.

My favorite story was probably 'The Mind/Body Question.' It is about the pimply, wimpy son of two bodybuilders in S. England. He creates his own non-drug mixtures to fuck with the steroid-heads that work out at his parent's gym. He meets a muscle-girl and falls, but not exactly in love. There is also a grammatical error made right for all you wordies. 'Loose Continuity' was a surprise as well. I loved the ending, set in L.A. just post-World War II. Gleaming chrome.

I am intrigued enough to seek out a used copy of Boyd's An Ice Cream War, ot anything else by him that you recommend.
* I should say that my neighbor's conversation was pretty good. It just went downhill when I entered it.
Sorry about the short n crappy reviews recently. I am doing an insane amount of reading, mostly for jobs, and it is making writing here seem too much like work. March will be better, I'm sure. Anyone want to hire me yet?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

book 11: Already Dead by Denis Johnson

I bought this book in California. If that circumstance is possible for you, make it happen. Already Dead is set on the Northern CA coast where the forest meets the sea. It is a magical place, for reals, and being there when I began this book made the book even more absorbing.

Since I have already repeatedly said how much I liked this book, I will finish the review as a tone poem:

errrr iii, errr.
pft pft pft pft. boink. bonk.
pop pop pop
errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
wzz wzz wzz

Read it. Are his other books this good?

Monday, February 20, 2006

A meme? Never again...

Ugh, the meme backlash was too much. If i do do one, I will not pass it on. Blargh.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Holy Shit, a meme!

Thanks to Doppelganger's unluckiness, I now will attempt to put some books in listy-lists for you all. (I knew her shout out was a butter-up for something...)

Here we go:
1) Name five of your favourite books.
(See, even from the get-go thse nefarious Canadians must slip in those extra Us)
I'm not quite sure how to answer this. My favorites change so often, but there have been some books that changed me, or sustained me, or were such a part of one time in my life I can't forget them.
1. Neuromancer by William Gibson
2. Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
3. Weetzie Bat by Francseca Lia Block
4. Maus by Art Speigleman
5. Confessions f a Crap Artist by Philip K. Dick
Wow, I am a nerd.

2) What was the last book you bought?
The last book I bought was Nightwood by Djuana Barnes. 50 cents at a library sale.

3) What was the last book you read?
The last book I finished was Already Dead by Denis Johnson. I promise some kind of review soon...

4) List five books that have been particularly meaningful to you (in no particular order).
Besides the ones listed above, here are a few more.
1. How to Cook A Wolf by MFK Fisher
2. The Mixed Up Files of Basil E. Frankwieler (or whatever it is)
3. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
4. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
5. 100 Demons by Lynda Barry
But there are so many!

5) Name three books you've been dying to read but just haven't gotten around to it?

1. Native Tongue
2. No Logo
3. The Year of Magical Thinking- I am so broke!

6) Tag five people and have them fill this quiz out on their own.
Sorry guys!
Re, Shay-rah, Gwen, Anita, Maryann

Don't feel bad if you don't do it. Just remember that you OWE ME BIG TIME!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Fascination with one word

Wlliam Boyd loves that rebarbative.

I had never read that word until I read William Boyd. I should be writing his book blurbs, obviously.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


I am currently reading A Changed Man by Francine Prose and Fascination by William Boyd. I picked up both of these without prior knowledge of the authors, and so far I like both.

I am working on writing about Already Dead. I liked it a lot, so my review might be short and incoherent. Overall: get this book.

hmm, maybe I don't have to write a review after all...

kinda pissed

I am bringing you a rejected review that i think has some legs. Keep in mind that the pub this was originally intended for has a staggeringly low word count for reviews, and also a staggeringly low opinion of its readers' intellect. Also keep in mind that this review is intended for those who love movies and would go to the theater even if their butts fell off. Since the publisher did not like the movie, my peice was cut. Enjoy!

Directed by Steven Soderburgh

Bubble shows what happens when a new person disturbs the unusual friendship of two lonely doll factory employees in a small Ohio town. Director Steven Soderburgh uses non-actors and unscripted scenes in this quiet experiment in simultaneous release to the DVD, cable and theater markets.

Martha (Debbie Doebereiner) and Kyle (Dustin James Ashley) work at a doll factory, airbrushing baby mouths and manning the plastic mold machines respectively. Each day begins with Martha driving up to Kyle’s trailer to pick him up, and driving him home or to a second job after work. He spends his evenings reading High Times and looking at the wall, while Martha cares for her aging father and sews doll clothes in front of the TV. Martha and Kyle bond over fast food lunches and after-work snacks. Each day is the same until a new employee, Rose (Misty Dan Wilkins), shows up at the doll factory, wooing Kyle in the first few days and earning Martha’s suspicion and hatred. We don’t know how deep Martha’s jealousy goes until a crime is committed, and Martha is faced with questions about passion, reality, and her true relationship to Kyle.

Doebereiner is an amazing find. She gives Martha a depth and subtlety that would be a challenge for even an experienced actor. Ashley is grunty and non-emotive as Kyle, but that seems to be what his role is about. He manages to portray Kyle as simple without making him stupid- a surprise in a movie made by Hollywood about small-town America. Wilkins has less of an impact as Rose, but plays her girl-on-the-make role decently. Later in the film, Decker Moody appears on the scene, and gives his part of the mild-tempered police inspector a quiet steel.

Even though Bubble is using gimmicky (if novel) marketing, the film itself is without pretension. It is short, with a running time of 73 minutes, but never feels rushed. Soderburgh weaves many eerie shots around the doll factory into the narrative, and eyes the hissing machines and doll parts warily. The repetitious nature of the factory in echoed in the characters’ lives, a heavy-handed theme, but Soderburgh has found enough nuance in this rapidly disappearing way of American life to craft a pretty, finely- tuned film.

Decker Moody! What a great name! Anyway, I am no fan of Soderburgh's but I thought this was fun to watch.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Last night I tried to be a good daughter and called my mother for a late night chat. We talked about the weather, books and our lack of emotional energy. She mentioned haing talked with her mother, Grandma. Grandma hasn't been doing so well in the mentals for the past few years. She is very isolated by physical problems, hearing loss and a marriage to an asshole. Recently she has been telling everyone how lonely she is; she is confused, crazy and sad.

My mother tries to be a good daughter. She calls her mother even though it is unpleasant. She sends her children's books to read because Grandma's reading level has deteriorated to second grade or so. My mom sent Grandma a copy of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (not this, perv). Grandma told my mom that she was having a hard time getting into the book. It is too difficult to read. She asked why she would want to read this story about a girl nobody liked.


My mom said, "I read it a hundred years ago, but I don't remember it being about that."
I said,"Yeah... I-- "

I read The Secret Garden at some point when I was a girl. I was a little too old for it, so the emotional trials of the main characters kind of dropped by the wayside. The one thing that stays with me is that I love the idea of finding a secret place, a place alive with plants and animals and light, in the ruins of an old castle or mansion or warehouse. I still want that. A place that allows movement and quiet and change (made by me) fills me with desire. Just imagining it is pleasurable.

I guess Grandma is doing worse than we thought. In truth, I don't think about it very often. My world, and heart, shrank when my brother died, and there is not much room left for people who are only valued because they are going to die soon. There's nothing I can do about it. All my energy goes towards looking for my garden and doing what I love along the way.

"Mom," I said, "Your mom's a weirdo. There is nothing you can do about it.-- Read anything good recently?"

Monday, February 13, 2006


So, so true.

Folks, and you know who you are, I love you. I will always remember the farts, the laughter and washing your underwear out in the rest stop sink.

Friday, February 10, 2006

book 10: Samaritan by Richard Price

I've been meaning to read something by Price for awhile, and when this book popped up on the returns shelf at the library, I grabbed it. I wish I had more experience with his body of work before writing about Samaritan, because there is something brewing in this text that I can't put my creaky fingers on.

Overall, I found Samaritan sentimental and a little silly. The plot was complex enough to pull me along, each tiny mystery feeding the larger one-- why did Ray Mitchell wake up in the hospital with a serious head wound and an extreme reluctance to name the criminal? With so many tiny cliffhangers, you get the feeling the end is going to be kinda crappy. You wouldn't be wrong.

Ray is a ex-cokehead jackass, trying to be a father to his 13 year-old daughter and get his life together at the same time. Awww, except that Ray is now addicted to gratitude, especially from people from his past that by racism, drug abuse or bad luck, have ended up much worse off on the surface than him. The woman who comes to his aid (by way of a slightly plausable circumstance) is Nerese Ammons, a detective with the NJ police force, who feels a debt to Ray because he held her face together 30 years before. They grew up in the Hopewell Homes together, and those projects play a huge supporting role in this book. Mostly that is not annoying, but Ray's nostalgia, in combination with his inablility to refrain from trying to cast a narrative spell on whoever he's with, make his white-boy-from-the-projects backstory painful.

How race affects relationships, especially through the prism of shared experience, is heavily explored in this book. Price is mostly on target, with Nerese in particular, but he makes a few missteps that bug so so bad. One example is when Ray's black girlfriend gives him the goodbye "gift" of some silent,rushed anal sex. Because I guess there is nothing like rushed anal sex to underscore the otherness of a black woman with attitude. Barf. In fact, much of Ray's relationship with that woman is vomit-worthy, so much so I have to believe it is on purpose-- could Price be writing so poorly in these sections by accident?

I plan on reading The Wanderers, Price's first novel. For Samaritan, I can only recommend it if you love detective fiction of all kinds, or you just want to get really pissed off.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Make a list!

March is small press month. Now this is a fake month-long holiday I can get behind. What are you going to buy?

(via the awesome Soft Skull Press blog)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

book 9: The Secret Society of Demolition Writers edited by Marc Parent

How's this for a gimmick? The Secret Society of Demolition Writers is a collection of short stories by Marc Parent, Aimee Bender, Benjamin Cheever, Michael Connelly, Sebastian Junger, Elizabeth McCracken, Rosie O'Donnell, Chris Offutt, Anna Quindlen, John Burnham, Schwartz, Alice Sebold and Lauren Slater. I read it looking for some more stories by Bender ( so good!), but here's the thing, all the stories are written anonymously. Truthfully, I don't know enough of the authors' work to enjoy the guessing game.

The stories themselves were disappointing. They tended to be very similar in tone, and many felt cut short, or not quite finished. The plot hinged on the last sentence or paragraph too often; in one story that's exciting, in a whole collection, it is annoying. One of the stories that actually finished itself, 'The Safe Man,' was a creepy tale of the dangers of an old-timey job-- safe cracking. 'The Safe Man' has the feel of a slow and angry ghost story, with all the restrictions of that genre, but the characters were well-developed and I enjoyed it despite knowing what was going to happen. I especially liked the idea that safe men write blogs and discuss the folklore of their work online.'Sweet' was a day in the life of a mentally ill homelss man. The author (Rosie O Donnell?), pulled it off well. The details saved it from being preachy or explotative. I could see the main characters mouth moving independent of his brain, just wanting something to eat, but streaming profanity instead

'Wonderland,' the story of undergraduate power-lust and its repercussions hooked me early on. The nasty main character reminded me of some of the souless ladies of Aimee Bender's Willful Creatures , but lacked the nuance. I liked it anyway, but I forgot about it until I went back through the book to write this.

The Secret Society of Demolition Writers questions how much an author's body of work, biography and persona affects how the reader reads her work. For me, the answer seems to be a hell of a lot. Perhaps if the stories in this collection were singular in any way, I'd have spent less time wondering which one Rosie O'Donnell wrote and more time feeling things and going places. I usually read collections by various authors to expand my list of writers read. This book didn't do that. It just left a big hole where the time I spent reading it was.

My reviews are up on Bookslut (click to the right). Enjoy, and read everything else too. I am very happy to be a part of such a smart group.

UD does what his readers tell him to

Yay! for funny, funny boy-men. Universal Donor's grasp of profanity makes me shudder with envy and appreciation.

In other news, I am trying to gain the focus to write a review of The Secret Society of Demolition Writers. Also, I hate Leonard Lopate.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

book 8: A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

What I love about Nick Hornby is that he is lighter than air. So light sometimes that you wonder why you spent time reading about a pot-smoking heir, or some douchebag's record collection, but then, in some future flash, Hornby's images or dialouge pops up in your brain and you think, "wow, he's right on."

A Long Way Down is about four potential suicides who meet on a roof on New Year's Eve. I wanted to see how Hornby tackled suicide. He did good.

The four characters are as different, but not so much that they're voices don't tend to run together as the book goes on. They are all in pain, they all have come to the conclusion that ending their life is the best option. The circumstances of their decisions are super-boring (like the majority of actual people who commit suicide-- sorry Sylvia, Nick, Kurt and Virginia!), but quite real and Hornby allows them to think about death and suicide in a very natural way that trancends their rather mundane plights. They think things like this:
"The truth was I didn't feel like a dying man; I felt like a man who every now and again wanted to die, and there's a difference. A man who wants to die feels angry anf full of life and desperate and bored and exhausted, all at the same time; he wants to fight everyone, and he wants to curl up in a ball in hide in a cupboard somewhere. He wants to say sorry to everyone, and he wants everyone to know just how badly they've let him down. I can't believe dying people feel this way, unless dying is worse than I thought."

One character, Maureen, is the winner of the sob story contest. She had sex once, twenty years ago, and nine months later bore a severely handicapped son that probably doesn't even know she is there. She is the character that changes the most because of her relationship with the other almost-jumpers. My favorite thought of hers is about luck and takes on a belief that I think that many people hold tight to in order not to be crushed (as these characters start this book) by the randomness and unfairness of life.
"What I've come to realize over the years is that we are less protected from bad luck than you could possibly imagine.Because though it doen't seem fair-- having intercourse only the once and ending up with child who can't walk or talk or even recognize me-- well, fairness doesn't really hae much to do with it, does it?... In a way, I'm glad I never had another child, a normal one. I'd have needed more guarentees from God than He could have provided."

I like (and agree) with Hornby's characters' take that when you feel like ending it all, the only thing that can keep you going is the desire to see what will happen next, mixed with some sort of obligation you choose yourself. Not children, not parents, not working. In this book, the characters choose each other. They choose books and eating and vacations. Hornby makes a similar statement in About a Boy, but it is clearer and more elaborate here.

But my favoritest part of this book is that it is funny. I laughed out loud a few times, startling my big-eyed boy, and smiled many more times. Giggling at my desk doesn't happen often and I am grateful for the laughs.Anyway, if I can't laugh while reading about other peoples' pain, you know I've been abducted by aliens and replaced with someone to take home to mother.

I had a hard time writng about this book. Perhaps because A Long Way Down is so simple and sweet, yet forced me to do some thinking of my own.