Thursday, March 30, 2006

A reason to read the classics

Don't kill me, Doppleganger and Mike, but I have not yet found an entirely compelling reason to pick up classics such as Cold Comfort Farm and Lady Chatterly's Lover.

With Penguin's new Graphic Classics, I might have finally found one.

I love Charles Burns's The Jungle. I've got to get around to reading Black Hole...

(via FLOG)

****Edited to add: the graphic part is just the covers. the inside is the same old boring type.

As if anyone is reading, a bold attack

It is the end of the month and I am very busy as usual editing and going crazy. I have read a bunch of books recently (check out the sidebar), but I haven't had too much time to write about them.

Life in tryharderland has been a little like riding a rollercoaster while suffering from explosive diarreha. Not fun, unless you love shit. I plan to be saved by the power of writing blog entries in April, so have no fear.

On my to-read list for April:
Primitive People by Francine Prose
Pure and Radiant Heart & My Happy Life by Linda Millet
Life by Gwenyth Jones
(Above from the library)
Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis (From the library sale. It had good blurbs.)
Floating Worlds by Cecelia Holland, which I bought becuse of it's sweet, sweet lemony yellow cover and Deco-ish type on the cover. It is also quite hefty.

Here's to a bookish April.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


So I was reading the FLOG and it said that my secret lover francais, David B., is going to be in the next MOME. His book Epileptic was a startlingly excellent memoir of siblinghood. Also joining the MOME folks is R. Kikuo Johnson, who's Night Fisher was a giganitic critical hit. I didn't read it.

I think these two heavyweights will give MOME a much needed infusion of oomph, as Fall's issue was not-so-hot. The interview is going to be with Kurt Wolgang. His contributions for fall's issue were my least favorite thing about it. I hope they ask him what's so funny about incest.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

procrastination and (sort of) biking

I was clicking around and went to the Atomic Books blog and saw this. A pedal-powered laptop would surely cutdown on procrastination surfing. Either that or my thighs would be fantastically giant with browsing power.

The Atomic blog confuses me a little. Is is directly connected to the store & publishing company? I guess so.

Best breakfast ever

This would be an inky wet dream come true. My inky wet dream. Sadly the minimum bid is $1000. I could buy a hell of a lot of comics with that.

(via Fantagraphic's FLOG blog)

Monday, March 13, 2006

book 15: PopCo by Scarlett Thomas

I loved this book. In a way I feel like it was written just for me; I don't often feel that and when it creeps up on me I am profoundly satisfied.

PopCo reminds me of two books I loved- Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson and Pattern Recognition by William Gibson. Ok, I didn't love P.R. but I really liked it. Cryptonomicon is set in a slightly alternate present as well as during WWII. It tackled the subject of the beginnings and ramifications of cryptography, especially its impact on the development of today's computers. It was written wildly, smartly and with love. Pattern Recognition was Gibson's step into the present and considering his more recent books (like All Tomorrow's Parties, which I can only believe was written at gunpoint and while suffering from dysentery), was refreshing imaginative and uncrappy. It was a great story focusing on how advertising can kill, with enough conspiracy hoo ha and hacktacularness to satisfy any genre reader.

(Deep Breath)

PopCo covers both of these topics and more. Familiar names pop up, Turing, Bletchley Park, Gibson himself in a nice radio homage I wish actually existed. The main character, Alice Butler, works for the third largest toy company in the world, PopCo. When invited to a crazy work retreat, she ends up getting sexed up and fucked up- about what her work means and what her small action do to the world. Deep y'all. But not stupid. PopCo takes corporation paranoia to an exciting and real place. Besides the SF-present stuff going on, there is a lot of wonderful character development of Alice. We see her as a precocious child analyzing Vignere squares and an introspective pre-teen with a list of prime numbers in her head but not the right nasty attitude to keep friends. Her angry teenagehood is not glossed over, but it is not fetishized as some sort of major turning point for her character, thank god. I hate that shit.

The ending feels a little rushed, but it is adequate. The option given for battling evil corporations is nothing that your average ADbusters reader couldn't pull out of their ass in five odorific seconds, but in some way that is kind of comforting.

What I liked best about PopCo was Alice. She is a smart character with recognizable contradictions, which feel organically developed-- not just tacked on for expositons' sake. She is smart enough to have an amazing job and knows her power, without becoming boring to read about. Her "quirks" feel like real interests, many of which I share. At first she seems a little blank, but like in life, the longer you stay with her the more fascinating she gets.

Read it, especially if you like long, complicated books that make you feel slightly smarter for having read them.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

paperback writer

(Ok, you knew that title was coming sometime. But this post is not about writing.)

Yesterday, I was out and about with a bag full of books, computer, pens and sticky tabs. I also got a letter from a friend that I jammed into my coat pocket. It stuck out just a little bit-- a creamy touch of mystery bubbling from my front pocket. My books however just dug into my shoulder, causing a poopface and a hunchy walk.

If I had been reading something old or trashy, I could have lost the poopface and just had a junky pocket full of books. Sexy, no? At night, if I want to read a newish book, I have to heft the giants an inch and a half from my face because of my bad, bad eyes and lack of glasses. Trade paperbacks aren't much better than hardbacks, they are just a little smaller, with flimsier pages. (Plus, I hate the markety-marketing of trades, but that is another post). Ugh. My biceps aren't up for that shit at 2 in the morning.

I want a world where the paperback shoots out of the pub pipeline sooner, and the form is not used only for bestsellers, classics, and romance novels. Unstigmatized size. Occasionally I find some Euro versions of nice-selling and nice-reading books and I buy them right away. They tend to have unembarrasing cover art, they are unchanged by American editors, and the size! The size!

The size is so perfect for toting. For subwaying. For training and bussing. For stacking. That's what I want in a book as object. The hardback is hefty and beautiful, but the paperback is light, tight and mobile.

why no action?

And by "action" I mean reviews. Well, I've been reading a lot for work. A lot of crap and sad stuff so far. I have not been reading my good books that cause dazzling reviews to be posted here. I've been looking at a computer screen for days for another job and most of the time wanting to kill others (especially AWOL web designers) because of that.

Luckily for you, Bookslut has three new reviews by me and a feature article by my main man Jennifer Shahade on the book that brought Sylvester down. I was going to try (harder) to manage not to talk about him, but oh well. Blame Jenn and her dastardly freelance writing mojo.

Also, I'm feeling no love from you baby. Don't you guys know that bloggers need the sweet, sweet caress of comments? DO YOU WANT ME TO DIE? Or go crazy like a Romanian orphan baby and then die?

Monday, March 06, 2006

New NYT Sci-Fi column is for "geeks" only

Besides the veiled shout out to Bookslut's Adrienne Martini for this article, Dave Itzkoff's inaugral column for his new sci-fi series in the NYT Book Review (barf!) is a wonderful exercise in terribleness. He is writing about David Marusek's book Counting Heads.

Here is the first graph:
Here's a question I don't expect to come anywhere close to answering by the end of the column: Why does contemporary science fiction have to be so geeky?

Here is the last:
Perhaps I've crossed the line here from criticism into outright advocacy, but who ever heard of a geek who could keep his opinions to himself?

Two stupid questions, with a lot of other stupid stuff in between. Itzkoff complains about the current state of sci-fi and gives no examples, he goes on oand on with plot details from Marusek's small catalouge of published stories and compares them favorably to Counting Heads, then says how good C.H. is, then complains that C.H. isn't "human" enough, and sounds crazy stupid the whole way through by saying things like this: "... perhaps he simply intended 'Counting Heads' to be an effective satire of life as we may someday know it, which it is, albeit one that might require ungrading your brain with the newest Intel microprocessor to comphrehend fully."

Read the whole mess here.

One thing I am happy about is that I ordered this from the library far ahead of this article, and now all you NYT zombies will have to WAIT!

PS- I love you LOCUS magazine and all your attention and clicky-click on this...

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Finalists for the Nebula Awards

Exciting, but I haven't read any of these, with the kind of exception of the Terry Pratchett novel I hated that comes after Going Postal which is a finalist for best novel. Ugh. I really need to streamline my criticism of that book- it was so bad in so many ways that I couldn't articulate it well. I'll try to adequately poison my pen for a reduxed review in the future.

Any suggestions from the list (except seeing "serenity." I saw it, and I have nothing more to say about it.)?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Another meme...

This one is from Maryann. Though it is not book-related, I will try as hard as possible to make it that way.

Enjoy peering into my life, you disgusting voyeurs!!!

four jobs i’ve had:
1) file clerk
2) smoothie wench
3) used bookstore manager
4) listening to you talk about jazz

four DVDs i can keep watching:
1) Aqua teen Hunger Force (all)
2) Maniac Cop
3) Out of the Past
4) Trading Places

four places i wish i had (or intend to) live(d):
1) In Neuromancer when I was 14
2) In the Phantom Tollboth when I was 5
3) In the Met when I was 7
4) somewhere warm and sunny right now

four TV shows i watch:
I only watch 3, and those are private. Oh, and Antiques Roadshow.

four places i’ve traveled:
1) Krakov, Poland
2) Budapest, Hungary
3) Seville, Spain
4) Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

four websites I visit daily:
1) my various emails
2-4) the links on the right

Four foods I love:
1) beans
2) kale
3) pasta
4) tofutti chocolate crumb fantastic explosion (or whatever it is called)

Four early musical influences:
1) Jem (truly outrageous)
2) Sex Pistols
3) En Vouge (maryann and I had the same tape!)
4) all oldies, all the time

Four bloggers I’m nudging:

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

book 14: THUD! by Terry Pratchett

Boo. F.

Why did I read this book? I have heard on the internets that T.P. is one funny guy. Are you websters on the rock?

This book is the newest one in a long series, but I didn't feel lost in the story. There are all manners of magical creatures, like dwarves and vampires, as well as humans. There are lords, ladies and cops. Oh and a lot of bad, BAD jokes. The plot is not really worth relating here, but I will release this tantalizing tidbit-- it involves a role-playing game. Way to pander to the nerds Pratchett!

Another incredibly annoying thing about this story is the rough-and-tumble main character is always reflecting on his relationship with his wife, by saying things like: "it's a woman thing" or "it's a wife thing." So fucking boring! None of the relations between these magical creatures are more than thinly-veiled cliches about human interaction and relationships. The humor is the "gentle," Lake Woebegone-style type- in other words, dumb as hell.

Plus, the characters keep saying "going postal." Is it the early 90s? I realize that this phrase has some kind of meaning in the series, but come the fuck on.

Don't read this, even if you have to spend a lot of time in the bathroom. Am I missing something here?

book 13: Women and Children First by Francine Prose

Short stories are like crack for me when I am stressed. When I am stressed, I often run to and from the toilet in an effort to gain some privacy and get a load off. I run through a collection quickly, especially if the stories are similar. The first few stories in this collection ran through me like prune casserole. The main characters were white women in their early thirties, searching, searching for something to hold their worlds together, usually after the departure (emotional or otherwise) of some boring-ass man. These stories feel a little dated, but in a good way- here is a time past, these are the artifacts. In reality, people still feel adrift, relationships end, but new issues seem to have taken over the public (and female/feminist) conciousness since the mid-80s.

Once I decided to pay some more attention I reread the title story and found some other themes that struck me. "Women and Children First" is about a mother of a young teenaged son, whose father is far away from the country life that he and his mom have. When the main character's friend Gordie tells her about a study on ESP that a sexy man he met is running, Julie jumps at the chance to prove that her connection with her son is real and special, something to be written up in journals, not used as an excuse for divorce or abandonment. What happens next is quiet and pretty cool.

My favorite story in the collection is "Criminals." It is from the POV of a man who is tired of trying to make the world magic. When he gets the chance to amp up the wild, his wife, who is drifting out of their shared past, takes on a dangerous scheme with him. It brings them together for awhile in delicious, Bonnie n Clyde sort of way, but when the husband gets what he wants, he loses that closeness. The ending is sharp and uncomfortable, but very right. I loved it.

I liked Prose's take on personal folklore in "The Bandit Was My Neighbor." Two old women far from italy discuss their wild youth on a park bench in Manhattan. The world screams and puffs by, but they are somewhere else. It made me want to eat and kiss.

One theme that pervades this collection is the substitution of new lust for creative achievement. Many of Prose's characters used to be something, and are now looking for a new path, dragging all the dead weight of realtionships behind them. There is alot of death in here, but only a few instances of mortality. Check it out.

MOME in person

I am also excited for this. I like the Mome anthologies, especially the first one, and I am super excited for the new one.

poetry? why yes!

I want this book so bad! Sestinas, comics and crimefighting? Now please!

Gifts welcome...

i am not dead


Things have been a little wacky over here at tryharder HQ. My eyes are still burning from the crazy reading I've been doing and my brain is fizzizzzling from learning what seems to be endless new things for my various jobs.

Hey, I mean I love learning and all, but I like it to be at my own pace. Also I prefer the subject matter to be more along the lines of identifying trees or making ill-fitting clothing than navigating software and trying not to murder my new computer.

I'll have some new reviews for you soon. Until then, keep checking the Bookslut page obsessively until the March issue comes up. There will be some new stuff from me there, if it is shorter than usual.