Friday, December 29, 2006


After reading this blog (via theproglady) I remembered on of the books that blogger ate!

It was The Day of the Owl by Leonardo Sciascia (1961).

I loved this book, and not just because it is a sexy NYBR edition, with an excellent and curiously tender intro by George Scialabba, but because I love a good, weird crime story. I chose this one from a few other possible NYRB splurges at the Strand because I have never read any Italian crime fiction. Somehow in my mind wanting to read this got linked up with my enjoyment of Magritte novels and Murakami (!) and seemed like a better and better way to spend my money.

Luckily I was right. The story concerns a murder, obviously a mob murder, in a small town in Sicily. When a Northern Italian police investigator (I still don’t really understand the Italian police rankings) is sent down to solve the crime, he finds that the people of the town don’t seem to want the rime solved.

While TDTO spends a lot of time remarking on the character of Southern Italians, and their insistence on the nonexistence of the mob, the main draw of the story for me was reading about the town- the food, the conveyances, the clothes, the habits of the police and townspeople. I also liked how when Sciascia has members of the mob in conversation about “business” there is no attribution; as the dialogue goes on personalities are revealed. Because these are shadow personalities in a way (everyone knows who is in the mob, but no one speaks about it), this was an amazingly effective way to tell without telling and ratchet up the tension at the same time.

So, 54 then.

a couple of quick things...

- I forgot to tell yall that I had a blogaversary on Dec 1. try harder is a little over one year old. This was my first post.

- Shelley Jackson's Half Life is waiting for me at my pretty, little branch library and I am so excited.

- Yesterday I met Austin English, creator of Christina and Charles, an excellent comic that I wrote about before. He remembered reading my post which was a surprise. I told him how much I liked it, but, of course called it "space" instead of C&C. He corrected me and gave me some good suggestions of what to buy. More proof that cartoonists as a group are very nice.

Monday, December 25, 2006

These are beautiful and not badly priced.

I am a fan of the subscription concept, but I rarely have enough up front money to make it work for me. What an excellent gift idea...

That reminds me, I have to reup my subscription to the fantastic and awesome VQR. You should get one too.

How to be Good by Nick Hornby/ Christmas

So it is Christmas for many folks out there beyond the wilds of the internet. I am still sick and things are taking a sad, surprising turn towards UTI country. I cannot express how upset this makes me without audio.

I’d like to finish writing up my 2006 books before the year is over. In that spirit, here is a review of How to be Good by Nick Hornby.

I go this book for free or under a dollar. Whether at a bookswap or a library sale, I know not. It had been languishing on my shelf for a long time before I grabbed it some night when I wanted to be entertained.

About: a failed marriage and its unexpected quasi-resurrection
POV: female, first-person
Favorite paragraph: “ ‘Anything you need help with? I mean your old man’s not Brain of Britain, but he is not bad at English. Writing and all that.’ And he chuckles, we know not why.”
Sufficiently nasty, sad and real, yet light: Almost. I enjoyed this book, but it lacked a completeness that I felt in A Long Way Down.
Ending: Properly ambiguous
Funny bits: Many, but they seemed rather rote.

I liked the exploration of why we put up with the things we put up with and the lengths that people will go to avoid change. I wish the main character were less sketchy. I can’t picture her at all but we see all the events through her eyes, making the whole book seem less genuine somehow.

Overall: meh

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me/ Accidental Round Up

I wish the sun would not go down today. It is so bright and warm. Even though by streaming into my window it illuminates the funky sick house that is my apartment now, it is making my brain feel better.

I am in the last hundred or so pages of Pure and Radiant Heart. Oh Lydia, you have a big imagination and great follow-through. More people should read your books. In fact, I would say that you are under read.

PRH will likely be the last book I finish this year. According to my list (and including PRH) I have read 53 books this year. That number does not include:
_Books I read for review purposes. Usually I have linked to these reviews.
_Books I almost finished (like all but one story of I am Not Jackson Pollack by John Haskell and the second novel included in this collection)*.
_Books I pick up and pick down throughout the year like The Gastronomical Me by MFK Fisher.
_The books I lost (and then couldn’t remember) when Blogger** ate tryharder.

I think I did pretty well. And so many of the books were actually good!

I could have done without a few books. Another list:

_Hokkaido Popsicle by Isaac Adamson because it was only marginally fun.
_ Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis for the same reason.

I hesitate to add the other crappy books I read this year because I read a few of them to find out what the author’s style was (I’m looking at you THUD!) and others because my brain just needed the literary equivalent of a fluffy pillow and a lullaby (cough-Anansi Boys-cough).

Hmm. I guess that was the round up. Maybe we do more listy-list later, baby? Oh, don’t make that squishy-squishy face! You looka lika Pekinese!

* Class Trip was excellent. So was The Moustache, but I just put it down and didn't pick it back up.
** You suck.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

I hate your santa

The holidays sure seem to fuck people up. Normally rational people I know get all strung out about buying gifts for their family and friends and it depresses me. Seeing all this compulsitory gift giving makes me mad, especially when my friends feel the need to spend spend spend just so your greedy peeps can judege how much people love them by the amount of crap under their tree. Sorry, but your families suck if they make you feel like that.

If gifts don’t mean something, they should mean nothing at all but be incredibly useful.

So, in the spirit of self-disclosure, I thought I would tell you some of my favorite mean-nothing gifts to get any time of year:

- A big box of name brand trash bags
- Socks
- Stickers
- Stationery
- Paper towels, kitchen towels and bath towels
- Manila folders
- Magazine and journal subscriptions
- A job

Of course they do mean something I guess; people who know these are my favorite things besides books, money and handmade art are actually thinking of me when they wrap up the paper products.


I guess I am just a bitch.
No surprise there.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Here is the thing about the internet:

Someone I didn't know is dead
. A lot of people loved her. A while ago, this someone loved someone. They died. She wrote this. I found it, but I can't even tell her thank you.

She is a stranger but she knows my thoughts. Knew my thoughts. Was a stranger.

It is hard when someone disappears.

I Like You by Amy Sedaris and other things

Ever feel that a mountain of paper was going to overwhelm you in a wave of bills, magazine offers and letters never replied to? Ever have that feeling while pounds of bloody snot rockets from your face and you have no voice to curse with?

Just wondering.


I Like You by Amy Sedaris was a birthday present, sadly given after I was already deep into throwing a crappy party. When the party starts at 4:30, show up before 10, know what I’m saying?

The book is big and pretty. The photographs of Amy are fun and remind me of the intriguing entertaining books from the 70s I have seen in the thrift store- where the food is poorly lit and there’s always an orgy around the corner. The illustrations were doodly, but not doo-doo-y. The shtick is Jerri Blank plus Sedaris clan, which was kind of disappointing because I like Jerri, I really do, but I like her confined to her short Comedy Central show.

The most helpful parts of the book are the sections on how to be a good host and how to be a good guest. People don’t seem to get that the responsibility for a good party goes both ways. Please keep the graphic descriptions of your “fungus problem” and unexplained and unclaimed bleeding to yourself (unless you are me. I am hilarious when I harp on gross medical stuff, as evidenced by this blog). The invitation requirements she sets out are helpful to an inept host like myself as well. It was fun to read and I might refer to it again if planning a party, but I will never make any of the food (except perhaps the cupcakes) that Sedaris so lovingly diagrams out for us.

I wish I could add quotes but finding the book, opening it and making editorial decisions about which lines t choose and how to describe them seems so hard. So hard.

I never made it to the KGB bar lit event last night. Too much anger and mucus. Did anyone go?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

so sick

Well, less today, but still sick.
I spent yesterday watching Dead Ringers, accidently rereading 100 Demons, diving further into the immensely enjoyable Pure and Radiant Heart and trying not to die.

I picked up PRH at the library last week when I realized that I needed a novel, a really big novel, to fall into for awhile. No more short stories! I am liking it so far. Any suggestions for more gigantor novels?

Also, has anyone read Melville's The Confidence Man? I was thinking of trying it...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Blechdel

What can I say that hasn't been said already?

Go read this beautiful, densely detailed, smart, sad, funny, amazing book now. Buy it, borrow it, steal it.

If you like memoirs, if you like comics, if you like "the classics," if you have ever been gay, if you have ever had sex, if you have ever been changed by reading, if you have ever had parents, or been a kid, read it.


I think my feelings are clear.

Report to the Men’s Club and other stories by Carol Emshwiller

This is another SBP book. I have to say that I may have done it a disservice in reading it too quickly and along side Maureen F. Mc Hugh’s collection. In fact, I know I did.

Emshwiller’s stories, taken all together, leave the scent of mountain air and the feeling of impending doom. She has many stories about raising governmentally created killing machines as children, or taking them as friends, in worlds not entirely unlike our own. There is a lot if first-person storytelling here, maybe even all the stories, which is a personal dislike of mine. If you read a collection like this too fast, all the voices blur into one really annoying voice, in this case, a strange mix of old-timey Western and spacey, animal consciousness.

Taken separately, I think the stories would stand out on their own. One I really liked was a short one called ‘Nose.’ It was about a person who is thinking about their nose, about how their nose really runs their life. “It’s because of my nose. I stay in because of it. I go out because of it. My whole life is because of it.” I liked how Emshwiller took a thought like that and spun it into a whole, while pretty short, story and made her nameless character a real person.

I still want to check out her other books. I’ll keep you posted about that.
Next Wednesday, go to KGB Bar's Fantastic Fiction reading with Justin Corter, Brian Evenson and Ira Sher. Evenson's been getting so much good press for his book Open Curtain (from Coffee House Press)- sigh- another book to try to get from the library and then break down and buy.

I don't know the other writers, but scary stories are best on winter nights. Space! Skunks! Mormons!

It's free, people.

Who's coming?

Mothers & Other Monsters by Maureen F. McHugh

Ok, time to stop reading blogs, magazines, and various other crap I have lying around the house and write something for you. I recently discovered that I don’t know when to use “lie” and “lay.” All I know is that I am usually quite wrong. This was pointed out to me by a terrible primetime cartoon, so I guess I should add ‘stop watching TV’ to my stoppin’ list. TV should never make one feel bad about oneself, it should only foster feelings of superiority and/ or delirium.


MOM by MFM is delicious, fantastic and is likely the best short story collection that I have ever read. The structure is one reason for my panting topic sentence-- the tone of each story fluctuates through the book so the stories don’t run together, the subject matter and types of characters change (sometimes delightfully drastically) with each story and the writing is so intelligent, you’ll be spinning new brain threads for days after putting it down. MOM stands up to at least one reread (that’s all I have done so far), so it is worth owning and loaning. Also it is from Small Beer Press, which means you should buy, buy, buy from this fantastic small publisher now, now, now.

Ahem. Ahem.

So what are the stories actually about? Well, let me start by say that MFM is a science fiction writer. After that sinks in and creates all kinds of WRONG and STUPID stereotypes in your head, let me crush those ideas by saying that MFM writes about life in a beautiful and sometimes painfully acute way. Also in a weird way. Perfectly weird.

The book opens with ‘Ancestor Money’ a story about a long-dead American woman named Rachel whose Heaven is disrupted by a shiny, red and beautiful letter from dead-China informing her that she has received some ancestor money from a granddaughter she never met. Mc Hugh manages to make her character real in those circumstances; my favorite detail is how Rachel’s illiteracy (not uncommon for a Kentucky woman born in 1892) was “one of those things that had solved itself in the afterlife.” In Rachel’s afterlife, many things had solved themselves, quietly, and because of her personality, which is revealed just enough by Mc Hugh to make the story work, that is the perfect heaven for her.

The next story, ‘In the Air,’ is a unique take on haunting wrapped in a chick-lit story. It surprised me.

As the stories go on a few recurring plot points emerge: Alzheimer’s disease, lost children, running away or being forced to leave, the terror of new beginnings. Whether in a story about post-Civil-War Southerners shipped out to the Okalahoma territories as punishment for owning slaves, or a tale about a remote, communistic community on a harsh planet, Mc Hugh’s themes are present and insistent, without clouding her imaginativeness.

One story where her imagination really caught mine was in ‘Interview: Any Given Day.’ This is science fiction at its best, my friends. MFM gives us a world where rejuvenated baby boomers develop a viral disease that is devastating to actual young people. It is sexually transmitted. The story is told as if it were viewed on a webpage, in pitch-perfect NPR (here NPI, National Public Internet) format. The faux-hyperlinks were surprisingly un-annoying and the format (which isn’t actually all that unusual looking) adds something great to the story. Read it now.



Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Today I am writing various things to get away from some personal sadness and dark-daytime-weirdness. I am reading the internet to feel impersonally depressed, part of a group (see booky folks links), and just plain distracted.

I have crusty pimple freckles that I am also avoiding, as well as bathing and doing some editing.

For a month or so I have been dreaming often of being on America's Next Top Model, either as a contestant, a judge or a former contestant, wearing gold lame and eating ramen. Maybe I should watch it tonight to further my agenda of distraction.

Also, I could go to Mo Pitkins here in NYC to see another Grace Reading Comics Showcase. That would be fun.

(Secretly, secretly, it is not working. I am raging and wet inside with grief and anger and longing. Nothing helps much.)

Stranger Than Fiction by Kelly Link

I am trying to catch up. I have had so much luck with reading the past couple of months and I want to tell you about it before I forget everything.

This book has gone back to the library and I can't remember titles. I loved it. In fact, I think I enjoyed it more than Magic for Beginners. STF is a lot easier for me to read, maybe that’s it, the stories are shorter and maybe because the reader has to work less. That quality doesn’t distract from the intelligence of Link’s tales, though, and even if it did, the fun of this book would trump the difference. I would recommend that you read this slowly so that the stories don't blur together.

It is definitely worth a read. Enjoy.


Ed Champion has a recent interview with Kelly Link (#82) on the bat segundo show. Sadly, too much of it is bogged down by talk about genre and labels and there is a little too much Ed in this one. For me, it was worth it to hear Link drop little tidbits of trivia about book covers and travelling and attempt to discuss her work.

read me

I have two reviews up at the now debugged December issue of Bookslut. The whole issue is looking tasty, so go, now and read it all.

Antic Hay by Aldous Huxley

Before landing on every high school reading list with Brave New World (which I should really reread) Huxley wrote Antic Hay, a book about richish do-nothings and their hangers on in London in the early 1920s. Everyone is post-university so there are quotes and Latin and Greek phrases galore to wade through, most of which matter little to the plot, luckily.

The main character, Theodore Gumbril, is a not-so-young man on the verge of doing something. Something to do with manufacturing and selling pneumatic trousers. Then a bunch of stuff happens, a bunch of exquisite sentences describe the stuff that happens and in the end there is nothing.

I did like the book. I did! I read it during the bulk of our renovations, mostly on the toilet, mostly to be transported elsewhere. It did the job. But, the mores and lifestyles skewered here are not mine (or my parents’) so a certain amount of detachment (present whenever I read Waugh or Greene or whatever old, dead British drole-doller) latched itself onto me when I read through the tales of drinking, being bad and breaking hearts.

One character stood out. Gumbril’s father, Gumbril Sr. is a lost man, an architect with no one willing to build his projects. In one passage his giant model of London, built as if Christopher Wren’s plans had been entirely executed, along with some touches of Gumbril Sr. himself, is a worthy literary creation and I like that Huxley allows Gumbril Sr. some of the best lines.

This book is well worth a read if you want to get away from it all, just don’t expect to remember much of it later. Actually, I think that is a result that the wild, wacky kids of Antic Hay could get behind.

Mc Sweeney's 18: an irresponsible review

I read this over a couple of sleepless nights in the old apartment. I wanted something that would put me to sleep after giving my brain something to chew on. McSweeney’s 18 is a small, brown paperback with fourteen stories in it.

Since it has been very, very long since I read this thing, I can’t promise a responsible review, but I will tell you about the few stories I remember.

The first story in the book, “The Stepfather” by Chris Adrian, is about a huge family of children, all named with “C” names and all fathered by one of an ever-expanding group of men that their mother becomes romantically involved with. Each time a new one arrives at their home, he becomes the new stepfather. One of the kids, (I keep saying ‘kids’ but the characters range in age from toddler to grown-ass man), dies and his death tears through the family like one would expect. After the brother dies, in a horrific way that worms around in the brain, each of the children reverts to self destructive behaviors (bulimia, S&M porn-making, being timid, dating abusers, being abusive) that show Adrian playing, enjoying writing outrageous things for their own sake. Surprisingly, this does little to distract from the solemnity of the story when a line like this precedes it: “How stupid, after all, to think that something like that could improve a family. Better and more reasonable to believe what was easier, and more sensible, that it was a ruination that would reflect through time to wreak further and greater ruin, that every one of Calvin’s hundred’s of wounds would reach forward to be born again into the declining future." While “The Stepfather” is gimmicky and not amazing, I liked it, behind all the alliteration and sexual proclivities of the various family members, there is a somewhat sweet story about siblings and how they work.

“My Hustlers” by Edmund White was a giant waste of time. An old man looking back on his sexual development, and the the cocks he has bought. BORING.

“Happiness Reminders” by Rachel Haley Himmelheber is an experiment in keeping a lot from the reader and slowly winding threads of story together into a “we are all connected, ain’t we” potholder. I liked it, but it wasn’t entirely successful.

“Bad Habits” by Joyce Carol Oates is a tense, funny, nasty story about child murder from a child’s point of view. It is not as vicious as some of her recent, horror-like short stories in the VQR have been, but very compelling anyway. I always thought I didn’t like her stuff, but her recent short stories blow me away more often than not. So creepy!

Deb Olin Unferth’s “Deb Olin Unferth” is too silly.

The rest I don’t really remember. I think I like all of them to varying degrees, so late at night. That is how I always feel about Mc Sweeney’s anthologies. They are fun to read, but the stories don’t quite make it. All about the journey and what what this n that. Still, it is disappointing upon reflection.

Monday, December 04, 2006

five things

1) Did I mention that I loved Bugbear#1 and Mattie & Dodi? Well, I did. M&D was powerfully good at portraying an unusual family dynamic. Eleanor Davis is a master of facial expressions and body posture. The whole thing felt very, I don't know, alive.

2)I hate those phony breathers you get the day after you've completed a bunch of writing. It feels like a rush of relief, when in fact you still have a million other things to do, just things where the deadline isn't tommorrow.

3)This book is beautiful and I want it. In fact, all the books of Chris Van Allsburg are so creepy and wonderful, that when I bought one for my as-yet-unborn son of a cousin, I almost bought a few more for myself. Alas, more pressing concerns require my money these days.

4) But, despite those tricky "more pressing matters" I am very close to dropping a Jackson and some change on a bunch of minicomics from shortpants press. Damn internet book reviews, always making me buy stuff. If only publishers would realize what a good book blog/site does to an avid reader/cheapskate... and then pay us for it.

5) Since I did not write a Thanksgiving post detailing what I am grateful for (maybe later), I wanted to tell all four of my readers how much I appreciate your comments, recommendations and support. Thanks!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Via bookslut:

Perhaps the coolest idea for gift giving right now (and giving to a cause that sounds pretty good).

See a movis with Bitch's Lisa Jervis!
Get a tattoo designed by Jennifer Camper!
Get a character named after you in the next Thisbe Nissen book!
Have Dorothy Allison record your outgoing voicemail message!

and more. The auction ends on Tuesday, so hurry up.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

This weekend

Don't forget that this weekend is the Independent and Small Press Book Fair.

The suggested donation is one dollar my friends, cheaper than coffee or crack.

This panel on Saturday sounds like some fun:

4:00 pm to 5:00 pm
In an era of corporate consolidation and bottom-line mandates, how do fiction writers negotiate their careers? Indie hit novelist Joe Meno, elusive best-selling writer T Cooper, and San Francisco renegade Peter Plate discuss their approaches in a conversation moderated by the editor of the Believer, Ed Park.

So does this one on Sunday:

1:00 pm to 2:00 pm; Assembly Room
They look so easy. They’re short. Not a lot of text. Simple, straightforward prose. Anyone can do it, right? Wrong. Picture books are deceptive in their simplicity. Writing, illustrating and editing them is a craft. Join author Emily Jenkins, illustrator Tomek Bogacki, author/illustrator Meghan McCarthy, and editor Erin Clarke as they share their experiences and advice.

I can't be held responsible for any paychecks spent.
See you there.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I need to write something. Instead I will tell you of my birthday book presents:

Norwood by Charles Portis
I Like You by Amy Sedaris
Ulysses (!) by James Joyce, in a nice Modern Library edition

I love presents. I like them especially when they are given for no reason. Some of my best friendships have been littered with small gifts and when I find them, I feel good.

I am truly not a fan of gifts given by rote, however I will always accept cash.

I have gift giving on the brain because it will soon be my boyfriend's birthday. What to get the man who works too hard, cleans up the kitchen after various gloppy meals, and is rarely visibly embarassed by me? I have a few ideas, but do you have any?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I just saw some asshole riding a Segway the wrong way down 10th Ave.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Since Ms. Moonlight Ambulette demanded a new post, and my booky post isn’t done yet, here is a hodgepodge of mish mash in list form for the motley crew.

1) I love my own chili. I am empowered. I made a big batch of it last night, but the Whole Foods whole canned tomatoes were too sweet. I ate a bucketful anyway. I put carrots, celery, tomatillos, zucchini, whole tomatoes, black beans, red beans and whatever spicy pepper I have around into my chili, plus garlic, onions and seasonings. It is healthy, but let me tell you, after two bowls and being tired and too much TV, you will not be having sex. It might be worth it if you love chili as much as I do.

2) I am sad that it gets dark so early. It would be a lot cooler if there were bats and other twilight creatures flying around to make things more interesting. Also if I had ever finished the lighting in our apartment.

3) I often respond to the comments you leave me in the comments. Check back if you want to see what I think of your pathetic attempt at wit.

4) Anyone know where I can get charcoal in Manhattan so long after summer?

5) I wish Amtrak weren’t so expensive. I spent a very costly late night coming back to New York on Saturday. It was kind of awesome- in a dimly lit café car that looks a little like McDonalds in the eighties, hot tea, eavesdropping and maybe seeing an semi-famous artist, reading a giant book, and nodding off a little here and there- feelings I remember fondly from childhood, but the cost was insane for the comfort. Anyone want to start a competitive train line? Maybe with a library car, clean toilets and hot conductors? Sleeping compartments that don’t suck? We could have one cross country line, one West Coast Line and one East coast line to start. In fact I would be satisfied with just an East Coast line…

6) I apologize to everyone I owe letters to. It will happen soon, I promise.

7) I miss my brother. He is fading from my mind. I guess that is healthy but it hurts so much, especially when all the people around are talking about the families they are going to visit, their new nieces and nephews.

8) Nephew is a weird word. No, seriously, look at it:


Read any good comics lately?

Monday, November 13, 2006

book 38: Girl Stories by Lauren Weinstein

Girl Stories- I have them, you have them, someone you know has them, and yet, when it comes to mainstream storytelling, people don’t care so much about our stories unless there is a lot of chances to show violence, teen titty (or violence plus teen bodies) or maybe horses*. All of those things, of course, are parts of many of our stories (mine too, sans horses) but sometimes it feels like unless the girl characters in question are victimized, they are worthless, and lack compelling narrative power. That is an ugly bind for girls and for the women we have come to be.

Girl Stories is a collection of comics that invite us ladies and our gentleman friends to just laugh and enjoy girlhood through Lauren Weinstein’s fabulous depiction of her childhood self. The comics were originally made for and the intended audience was, yes, girls. Luckily for us adults, Weinstein’s stories work on many levels and don’t require complete identification with Lauren and her friends to be funny and compelling.

Though I am sure the story featuring Morrissey will stir many a heart, my favorite two have to be ‘The Incident’ and ‘John & I Go To The Movies.’ The former tells a tale of revenge with a side dish of poop. I like how Weinstein shows the anxiety of burgeoning friendships, and then shows how sometimes it can be worth just trusting your instincts. The latter is mostly wordless, and when Lauren’s dad shows up to her date unexpected, the line he delivers is crushing; Weinstein manages to show all the conflicting feelings of being someone’s child: pity, embarrassment, protective love and exasperation, in just a few lines. That is why I love her work.

Though Girl Stories lacks the delightful nastiness of Inside Vineyland (seriously, my eyes light up when I think of that book), it is well worth checking out. Buy it for a smart girl you know or an amazing lady that needs a boost. If you have no friends, buy it for yourself and then tell a stranger about it. If they don’t run away the second you say “comics,” you might have found a keeper.

* I recently saw Weinstein read at Mo Pitkins for the Grace Reading Series Comics Showcase. She read a story called 'Horse Camp.' It was so awesome that it transcended girl + horses= awww + subliminated sexuality. I loved it.

If you live in NYC and can’t afford to buy Girl Stories the NYPL has 63 copies. Go to their website and request that GS be sent to your branch library ASAP. The Brooklyn Public Library seems to have none. Obviously someone needs to write a letter. If you don’t have a library card, what the fuck is wrong with you? And GO GET ONE!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I just ordered Bugbear #1 and Mattie & Dodi by Eleanor Davis and Drew Weing. I'm having an urge to buy comics, zines and tiny art. Any good leads?
This is very nice.

Thanks Mary for taking a chance on me. You are my A Number One! Now you can be one other thing besides Bryan's girlfriend. Doesn't that feel good?

ETA:(from Gothamist: "Bryan Bruchman, of New York band Man in Gray, and his girlfriend Mary..." ew.)


Uh oh! A meme! But you and I, not some faceless douchebag in the internets, cobbled this one together and gave it life. Use it yourself if you like. Thanks to Jenine and Mary for their questions.

1) What books do you open for comfort when you've woken up from a nightmare?

When I wake up from a nightmare, less often now, I tend to gravitate towards whatever I am currently reading. I like getting re-caught up in the story that’s on my mind. If I am not reading anything at the moment, I might start right then, either with a new book I know is going to be brain candy, or an old sci-fun book like Quicksilver, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or Norstralia.

2) What are some books that make you laugh inappropriately in public places?

Nothing jumps immediately to mind. I know I laughed out loud at Superfuckers #1 by James Kochlaka, I’m sure I had a giggle or two with Douglas Adams and Nick Hornby in the wayback.

3) What book do you read when you cannot fall asleep for long periods of time?

This is a tough one. I am compelled for some reason when I have insomnia to read big, dense books that can be somewhat boring. This is a bad strategy because I get distracted from the narrative and become re-obsessed with whatever is giving me insomnia in the first place. What works much better are comics compilations like Mome or Kramer’s Ergot and short story collections like McSweeney’s. It makes the brain skip around. The added bonus of McSweeney’s is that you can be blown away by one story and get all huffy and critical on the next.

4) What book would you lend someone upon whom you were crushing?

The thing about giving crushes books is that you want to tell them who you are, and how cool you are simultaneously. Well, that book used to be The Wind-up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami. It is excellent and has a million things going on, plus it is quite long and a good test to see if they like you back. Or maybe Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick, but now Dick is everywhere (!) and I am less defined by my love for creepy scifi. Now, I am not sure. I’ve gotten a lot more possessive about my books. I think I would tell them to get David B.’s Epileptic. It is long, beautiful and sad and emphasizes the unique bond of siblings in a way that I have not really seen before. That’s kinda where I am at now, plus it is a comic! Which makes me hott!

5) What book goes best with burning urination?

Nothing goes better with crotch pain than reading angry, mean writing by 90s post-punk zinesters and faux- NeoNazis. That’s right kids; I’m talking about AnswerMe!, by Jim and Debbie Goad. I had an old compilation of the first three issues that I got a million years ago. In retrospect, it is a difficult book to get behind, but with the lists of 100 best serial killers (with a helpful key of the criminals defining characteristics for easy identification) and 100 best suicides and bite-sized articles spewing rage (maybe real rage, maybe not), it is the perfect companion to a day spent on the toilet, cursing the day you were born.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

a life lesson learnt 2: in haiku

oh internet why
does a coke shower answer
make sense before day?

shampoo has nothing
on you Dawn, dishes beware
of multi-use friends

sticky hair sadness
a goth without eyeliner
in the mirror, ugh

Procrastination, I think I hear my mother calling!
Anymore questions for me for the upcoming franken-meme? Only a little more time until I need another break...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The 2006 List

* 1. Hokkaido Popsicle by Isaac Adamson
* 2. 3 Girltalks, 2 by Kochlaka, Bogus Dead ed. by Jerome Gaynor
* 3. Whistle Stop by Maritta Wolff
* 4. Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender
* 5. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
* 6. Camp Concentration by Thomas Disch
* 7. That Old Ace in the Hole by Annie Proulx
* 8. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
* 9. The Secret Society of Demolition Writers, edited by Marc Parent
* 10. Samaritan by Richard Price
* 11. Already Dead by Denis Johnson
* 12. Fascination by William Boyd
* 13. Women and Children First by Francine Prose
* 14. THUD! by Terry Pratchett
* 15. PopCo by Scarlett Thomas
* 16. Counting Heads by David Marusek
* 17. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling
* 18. A Changed Man by Francine Prose
* 19. Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis
* 20. Life by Gwyneth Jones
* 21. My Happy Life by Lydia Millet
* 22. Clear By Nicola Barker
* 23. The Bad Seed by William March
* 24. My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl
* 25. Love Invents Us by Amy Bloom
* 26. Great Granny Webster by Caroline Blackwood
* 27. Come to Me by Amy Bloom
* 28. Inside Vineyland by Lauren Weinstein, Squirrel Mother by Megan Kelso
* 29. My Most Secret Desire by Julie Doucet
* 30. A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You by Amy Bloom
* 31. Astonishing Tales edited by Michael Chabon
* 32. A History of Violence by John Wagner
* 33. George Bush: Dark Prince of Love by Lydia Millet
* 34. Bigfoot Dreams by Francine Prose
* 35. Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
* 36. Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
* 37. Meet Me in the Moon Room by Ray Vukcevich

* This is where the numbers get a little hazy...

* 38. Girl Stories by Lauren Weinstein
* 39. Mc Sweeney's 18
* The Day of the Owl by Leonardo Sciascia
* Antic Hay by Aldous Huxley
* Stranger than Fiction by Kelly Link
* Mothers & Other Monsters by Maureen F. McHugh
* Report to the Men's Club and other stories by Carol Emshwiller
* I Like You by Amy Sedaris
* How to be Good by Nick Hornby
* Nekropolis by Maureen F. Mc Hugh
* Floating Worlds by Cecelia Holland
* Black Hole by Charles Burns
* Indiana, Indiana by Laird Hunt
* Persuasion Nation by George Saunders
* Fun Home by Alison Blechdel
* Two Girls, Fat and Thin by Mary Gaitskill
* Pure and Radiant Heart by Lydia Millet

Monday, October 30, 2006

a life lesson learnt

Never put a shitload of Murray's pomade in your hair, even if it is too complete the look for a improvised, yet awesome Halloween costume, unless you are willing to be committed to that costume for at least four days.

Otherwise, you will look like you just need to be committed.

The only plus side to getting in the above predicament is that it could help you finish shortening the back of your hair easily and quickly.

P.S.- anyone know how to get an especially tenacious hair wax out of your hair?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

I will answer your great meme questions on Monday sometime, so if you are cooking anymore up, write them down and send them to me. Ok? Ok.

Events you should be at

Freebird is having a benefit for their most awesome store on the water. There are a bunch of great writers who are going to be reading and hanging out. There will also be the usual Freebird treats, excellent used books, Moxie soda and totebags.
4 til 10pm
$10 suggested donation

Topic Magazine will be belatedly celebrating our Music issue with a night at iheart.
7 til 11pm

A new job without pay for me, more listings for you. At Exit Art, a benefit for clmp (hooray) will be going on- spelling bee style and be called most helpfully, A Better Bee. Writers will be working it out.There will be some music too.
8:30 pm

The Grace Reading Series is going to be hosting Alison Cole & Lauren Weinstein, comic creators of excellence and ladydom. Ariel Bordeaux, another fantastic comic-er, is curating the event.
7pm @ Mo Pitkins
One reason to go to events is the possiblity of having some beers with very nice people who remember your name and pretend to not notice how fandy you are when you have consumed some of those already mentioned beers. More on that later.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

It cost too much, staying human.
- Bruce Sterling

Lost, then found. Too bad.
- Graeme Gibson

Dorothy: "Fuck it, I'll stay here."
- Steven Meretzky

Six word SF from Wired Magazine. Ignore some corny bush-bashing please.

via Maude
I have been listening nonstop to the Bat Segundo Show. It has forced me to use iTunes, which is retarded, but simple minded. Just click, click and there are a million book podcasts to have.

Anyway, I've especially enjoyed Matt's interviews with Daniel Handler, Alison Bechdel, Gwenda Bond and Jeffrey Ford. Matt goes very deeply into plots, themes and other details of the author's work, so it may be better to have read the books they discuss, but since I have read very few of the books he talks about, listening makes me smarter.

One thing I find so compelling about these podcasts are how they wander from topic to topic and really allow for digression and repetition. After listening to one, I usually feel like I've met the author which doesn't happen when I read a tightly edited magazine profile, no matter how detailed.

Get them all, and don't be turned off by the silly intros.

more for the voyeurs.

So here's the deal.
I am having trouble writing these reviews, so I want a little jumpstart. I am going to start with a question about books, which I will post at the bottom. You, my dear readers will email me or comment with some other bookish questions you'd like me to answer.

Then i will put them all together in format that you can annoy your intardnet friends with.


number 1: what book goes best with severe burning with urination?

Comment away.

Monday, October 23, 2006

from me to you, and then the world

In my other life, I am a Senior Web Editor at Topic Magazine. I am also the Photo Blog Editor and I am looking for some new work. Please check the below out and send around to interested, interesting folks who like to take pictures. When they pitch to me, I will be extra nice, I promise.


What’s your story?

Topic Magazine has always focused on contemporary photography and non-fiction first person narrative, and Topic on the web ( is doing the same, point’n’clicky-style.

Here’s where you come in.

Right now, we are lining up contributors for our Photo Blog department. We aren't looking for professional (or even very accomplished) photographers. Instead we're looking for people who have a digital camera and an interest in capturing their life with utmost honesty. As always, we look for contributors whose lives intersect with our chosen topics in interesting and unexpected ways.

Here are the topics we’ve covered so far:
Topic 1: War *
Topic 2: Fantasy*
Topic 3: Cities
Topic 4: Fads
Topic 5: Prison*
Topic 6: Food
Topic 7: Family
Topic 8: Sin
Topic 9: Music
And our upcoming Topic 10: Games
* we are especially interested in these topics for photo blogs.

Feel free to interpret our topics however you want to-- there are no strict content guidelines and we can work together to come up with some great ideas.

Chances are, we'd agree to a short period of time (one week, maybe two) in which you'd be expected to send regular emails that consisted of photos and captions. Also, while we have no budget for compensating our contributors, we would certainly run a bio, byline and links to any of your other work.

Please email me with pitches and/ or questions. I look forward to hearing from you!

Carrie Jones
Senior Web Editor

Feel free to forward…
ooh, ahh.

I like those Tales Designed to Thrizzle, even though I own exactly zero of them. Maybe this would be a good chance to spend some money that I don't have.
I just finished the last few pages of the last story in Maureen McHugh's short story collection Mothers & Other Monsters.

I think I am in love.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

oh and I forgot to mention...


This may be the perfect book notes entry. It is exactly what I am looking for in a peice about books and music. Hunt's entry made me think more about the book, to fantasize outside the plot of a book that I enjoyed. Though Tulip is a marginal character really in The Exquisite, I am not surprised that it is her story that compelled the creation of Henry's.

Check it out.
Sometimes we need all the thanksgiving we can get.

so true.

bicycle fish's blog makes my eyes happy.
Scarlett Thomas has a new book that looks good.

working on something that's not working

It is late. The plumber is coming in a few hours to fix some drips and answer some questions that have stymied our energies.

I am writing and looking and not seeing for a bunch of projects and still looking for a job. I am more frustrated than I have been in awhile.

My body is not responding to my prayers for health. It is also not responding to my demands for fitness or my threats against being gross. I think that means another day in the doctor's office for me.

The day I spent in the doctor's office today was long and only partly helpful. I don't look forward to tomorrow.

My mind is wandering to nowhere good and making me seem morose and ditzy. How lame, especially with an unread Checkov in my bag.

Luck and concentration would be great right now. Got any to spare?

Two Pack

The next two selections from the books of yore are both from Small Beer Press. They are both also long-returned to the library so please try to bear the pale, faded qualities of these reviews.

book 36: Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link

I really enjoyed this book of short stories. I especially enjoyed one about a convenience store on the edge of the known world, where the management has turned against consumerism and the counter staff lives in the storage room. It asks the question “where do I go from here” and stops short of giving the answer, but remains satisfying. I also like Link’s use of details- a Turkish lesson, a sweater, qualities of night and day. The main character is young and lost and knows it, but is not celebrated for it. I am not a fan of idolizing 20-something confusion, especially when it is done humorlessly.

Anywho, the rest of the stories are a grab bag of fable-ish tales of loss and abandon, and how one can sometimes lead to the other. Especially fine is a story about a family that moves into a house that infects its residents with hauntedness. The ending has kind of a misplaced bang to it, but I loved Link’s exploration of what happens when something or someone you love is all of a sudden wrong.

When I finished I felt surprisingly eerie. I think I read the stories too quickly and some of the magic wore off on me and turned sour. If you are a sensitive type, this book isn’t for your lunch hour.

book 37: Meet Me in the Moon Room by Ray Vukcevich

On a Small Beer bender, I immediately launched into Meet Me in the Moon Room, a book of stories with many of the same characteristics as Magic for Beginners. Here, though, the unconventional conventions of the not-quite-fantasy tale wore thin and eventually rubbed me the wrong way.

Many of Vukcevich’s stories in this book are quite short which makes them easy to just plow through. Instead of enjoying each story, I found myself with heightened expectations for each successive story, wanting it to top or be very different from the last one. This never happened. I also remember that there were a few details that reoccurred often in this collection—blondes being one of them. It seemed old-fashioned and bad, somehow.

I think that if I had read one or two of these in a magazine or anthology they might have seemed like a fresh take on modern domestic stories. Instead, they just smothered me and I lost interest in doing more with the stories than just finishing them.


I’m sorry to mention that after Girl Stories, I cannot remember any of the books I’ve read since, much less their order. Since Blogger swallowed my blog a few weeks back, I’ve been working on the sidebar. Now I am finished with the exception of the missing books. I think there were only four or so. Any clues would be appreciated.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

i got the itch, i'm going crazy

So, kids, here's the thing about being a sensitive flower- sometimes you get crazy itches, swellings and other grossness for NO UNDERSTANDABLE REASON. Well, this is what is happening to me now. For the past three days I have been so itchy. My hands, my fett, my scalp are red, burny and itchy. Sometimes, any place that gets touched, by pants for example, turns red and swells a little. My boyfriend fears the infestation of my person (which makes me feel a little offended, I must say) and I am worried that I am allergic to the new apartment. It sure makes trying to read my first Chekov story The Story of a Nobody rather difficult.

In other news, I plan to finish rebuilding the sidebar as soon as possible.

How are you? Got any good itchy stories? How about literary passages on allergic reactions?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

long time

I am in the middle of a move that has taken a month so far. A move that caused me to have the worst birthday since the one when I got a root canal. Anyway, check me here for now. I review The Exquisite by Laird Hunt.

I will be back to blogging soon. Belated birthday wishes and gifts accepted.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

no, you suck.

Someone got here by googling "aimee bender sucks."

Obviously this person meant to type "aimee bender rocks," but became distracted by their mother's voice or the mewling of their sixteen cats.
Today and tomorrow (and yesterday) I need to finish a boring project for a nice, helpful guy who is awesome. Even so, it is burning my brain and vocal chords and ears to do so much calling of busy folks. So, here I am, in my new place, using a disgusting old door for a desk and drinking a Coke.

My mother called me today and asked me what I was reading. For once, I had nothing to say. I am re-reading some stuff for bookslut and directions on sandpaper. Do bank statements count? I don't think my mom was impressed. We also talked about how much we hate baby showers, especially for relatives. I told her that she need not provide a detailed excuse for not going (she has a good reason beyond just being a misanthrope), and if they don't get it, then they are assholes.

I need some new books to read. Maybe I should force myself to write up some of those sidebar items before I can indulge in novel-ty. Any suggestions? I want something gripping and weird, but not gross for now. And for my birthday- what? It's coming up- I want a shitload of comics and sci-fi. No more books about New Yorkers please! Unless they are in space, underground or undead.


I am flirting with a new book group but I really don't feel like reading their current selection. No Leonard Cohen right now. I guess he could qualify as undead, but even so...

Write me some comments for distraction. Any book suggestions? Has anyone read Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead? What did you think?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

the poe-poe

I am reading on and off a copy of all pf Poe's short fiction that I got a while back at the Strand. It is hefty and stinky and the only book in my new, tore-up apartment. I love his stuff and if you can get your eyes on the story "Bon-Bon," do so. I just read it while waiting to digest some powerful Indian food and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The devil makes an appearance and Poe's description of his look is ti-eeeet.

Now, if only I could force myself to read that Pym thing...
Check me at bookslut.

Also, B sent me this link with the subject: these are a few of your favorite things. It's good to know my butt buddy of so long knows I like books. (secretly: aww). I'd like to get out there to here some words from Colson Whitehead, Jennifer Egan (anyone have a copy of The Keep I can borrow?),Gary Shteyngart, Rich Cohen ( I revewed his great memoir/ sugar history here), and others, but I doubt I'll be able to get away from renovations and frustrated anger long enough to enjoy a panel.

I'll be back to review writing soon, I promise. I really want to tell you about a few books on my read list.

What do you want to tell me?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


just a little shout out to pinky.

she lives in pittsburgh, loves film noir and does kick ass interviews with authors.

please read her, and tell her carrie sent yinz.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

some music

here is a new site that my friend Rebecca writes for: paperthinwalls

Check it out so she can keep getting paid.

***ETA:another incentive might be that you can download all their discussed songs for free...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Chick Lit is closing.

Apparently the forums are staying open and that is good news for some. I'm not a fan of forums really, but I loved Deborah's writing, and usually loved the writing she posted to the site.

Now I feel like a jerk for not pitching more...


Monday, August 28, 2006

losing it/ loosing it

For the last few days it has been raining in New York. I truly enjoy the rain. It makes me dreamy and okay with being at home and doing the things I need to do like writing and cleaning.

One down side to all the sleepy slowness of these kind of days is how pleasurable it is to stay in, make tea and just read all day, the kind of reading you do instead of TV, the kind of reading you won’t remember when the sun comes out. Doing the crossword and eating kimchi instead of showering and taking care of bills is a pitfall not to be lightly ignored on a damp day. It is also easier to daydream about projects that require much muscle and clanking tools on rusty nuts than it is get a current apartment ready to be vacated.

Something I’ve been thinking about during these recent rains is what I am doing with my reading and writing and the conclusion is that I need to slow down. I need to counter my voracious appetite for reading with more concentration on what I am actually consuming. That is maybe harder than it sounds here on the screen. My mind has been boiling with plots and characters and clever phrases to categorize it all- usually a pleasant distraction from obsessions and sad thoughts- but now nothing is coming from that mess but confusion and unmet obligations. I realize that it is hard for me to remember what I got out of all that time spent bent over all those pages, and for someone who lives and breathes (and writes about) books, this disconnect between pleasure and utility is disturbing.

Not as disturbing as the exploding glasses in my kitchen cabinet (discovered after an unexplained THAWUMP in the night), but a lot less easy to fix.

As always the comments are open for you guys to commiserate and advise. Please do.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

New Post and Snot

1) Verizon is not having service providing today. No cell phone, slow DSL. James Earl Jones is wiping away a single tear now.

2) I am procrastinating. I can't seem to clear my head. Ugh.

3) Does anyone know of any good books set in/ about the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood?

4) So much snot! Miles of piles of mucus in my face.

5) Low bookswap interest is getting me down.

(sad face)

What the most exciting thing about today for you?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Dumb and Dumbo

Is your Google stuff, i.e. Gmail and Blogger, not working properly? What is up? The superbrains better not drop the ball now-- it's deadline time!

Are you DumboBooks at yahoo? If so, the listing you sent me was interesting, but what do you want from me?

I have so much to write about. Right away, let me tell you that Girl Stories was excellent.

In other comics news:

Awhile ago I read a beautiful book by called Christina and Charles by Austin English. English apparently works at my local Forbidden Planet. I am amazed at how deeply he managed to get into his characters' brains and give us a taste of what it is like to be them-- not just the usual "I went to highschool too!" claptrap.

Yesterday I went to Rocketship and almost cried, but I also bought three icecreamlandia comics and that made me feel much better. I feel like perhaps the images are from found photos, but I am sure the words are from a genius.

More comics!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

There are no books for that

Sometimes I am awake. Sometimes I am dreaming.

Sometimes I say, “you’ll have to excuse him, he’s dead.” Sometimes I say, “you’ll have to excuse me, I’m dreaming.” Sometimes I say, “you’ll have to excuse me, I’m dead.”
One time my brother sat next to me on a train and defended my choices to strangers and kept me company in a yellow t-shirt and glasses. He was dead, but I had to excuse him. One time he came to my apartment in the middle of the night, dressed in black, and banged on the window and whispered to be let in. He was alive and I excused him. One time he left dirty clothes, red, black and green, all over the floor and I had to clean up. I was dead and no one excused me. One time he was dressed in black and would not say a word to me. He was dead and I couldn’t excuse him. One time I broke my brother’s glasses in a fight under a yellow and white polyester afghan. I was barely excused, but he was alive.

Now I dreaming and more alive than dead. I find that there are no more excuses for me, and no one left to dispense of my burden.

This will be the case for a long time.

Friday, August 11, 2006

quick click

Check me out here and here.

Still need crappy day suggestions.

Monday, August 07, 2006

down in the dumps

I should be writing letters, but instead I want to talk on the phone.

I feel bad. I miss my friends and their friends and projects and conversation and stopping by and Rittenhouse Square and and and.

What do you do when the spookies won't quit?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

catch up 2: books and books and books...

The fact that yall were expecting some sort of Electric Boogaloo joke shows how we all need to GO OUTSIDE sometimes.


Alas, though the weather has calmed down and most of my deadlines have been met, I am inside on this Saturday, supporting my life partner and feeling all shaky and nauseous. Can you OD on bacon? I hope not, as bacon is one of the only things I can eat when my appetite is all fucked up.


I have some advice for all you book bloggers out there. Don’t wait too long to post about your reading. You will not have quotes because books have gone back to the library or disappeared in your apartment. You will forget plots, you will forget characters, you will forget whole books and then have to create a review from vague feelings and crusty clichés. [Insert a self-deprecating joke here. I am too tired to flog myself cleverly.]

Now that that quasi-disclaimer is out there please enjoy the second batch of shriveled ol’ backlog reviews.

33. George Bush: Dark Prince of Love by Lydia Millet
Lydia Millet can imagine with the best. Her idea of a lone American, buoyed by a secret emotional bond with 41, is a great one. The execution was too jacked up for my tastes (the scenarios became increasingly one-two-punch-y and tired me out by the end of this short book), but Millet’s grasp of presidential politics and the history of Bush 1’s reign are totally impressive. I wish there had been more sly satire and less exploding fancy, but even so, GB: DPL was a fun read, and I am so happy that I found it at Housing Works for a few meager cents on a lunch break from my last job. I need to read her newest, a book about the creation of the A-bomb, but I keep getting distracted.

34. Bigfoot Dreams by Francine Prose
Oh Francine! I love you so!
This book chronicles a lost New York, where you could get by writing for a tabloid where they actually had a staff, a photographer and two editors all up in a musty elevator building in Manhattan. The main character, Vera, is a thirty something woman with a ten year old and a long mostly-lost husband and a creeping feeling that something is missing. When she writes a story that comes true, everything goes to shit in a spectacularly amazing way.

Prose can really write characters. Even her bit players become plump and real. If you want to, you can easily imagine their lives as they fall off the page. This book is worth reading merely for its picture of a looser NYC, but I stuck around for Prose’s Commie seniors, burnout out BFs and subway screamers. Only one character stuck in my craggy craw, the Vera’s daughter Rosalie. She reads unevenly—sometimes like a twelve or thirteen year-old, sometimes like a sixty-year-old. I know Prose was trying to capture that dichotomy between innocence and wisdom that so often exists in precocious kids, but it didn’t totally work.

Read it anyway.

35. Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
Steam punk ahoy!
Mieville creates a giant, London world sans digital for this book. I’ve never read anything by CM before and I had no expectations when starting. I just wanted a giant book to read and that is what I got. If you like sprawling stories, full of philosophy, violence and crannies, you will very likely like Perdido Street Station. If magic, flying and humanoid races with occasionally annoying dialects make you crazy, you will hate it. He kind of lost my rabid interest half way through, but I kept reading because the story remained moderately interesting and I wanted to see how Mieville would tie it all up.

I got PSS for a buck, which made the deal all that sweeter. I read it on trains and on floors in sad houses and it is a great traveling book, even with its giant size.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Make Mine a Big One

I am back from a short, hot vacation to Chicagoland. What I saw of it was neat, and I’m sure what I didn’t see was even better. I went to Quimby’s and bought some comics, as well as the Summer 2006 issue of The First Line. I even fucked up their bathroom twice with no comment but an eyebrow raise from the cashier. Now that’s customer service.

While there I had lunch with my father’s friend. He is very sweet and funny and his wife is a librarian. He told me to go for it. (For those of you not in the know, I have been toying with the idea of getting an MLS for a year or so now, but I am kind of chicken). I love a man who loves librarians.

I didn’t finish Antic Hay and I didn’t even touch Robinson. I ended up reading magazines and the story Wild Child by T.C. Boyle from the last McSweeney’s. It was set in France in the 18th century and tells the tale of a “savage” boy found in the forest who is made an experiment by a group of teachers/scientists at a deaf mute school. It was okay, but I waned to know more about the last teacher beyond just a sketch of his motivations and frustrations.

In other fantastic news:

While I was away and email-less I got a message from Lauren Weinstein about my review of Vineyland. It was very cool of her to write me. Thanks Lauren! I now need to run out and but her newest, Girl Stories, and so do you.

Check out my story of a love song ruined at Ruined Music. Mary is one of the editors and she is the nice lady who told me about Freebird and writes me long emails even when she is moving.

More retro-reviews soon.

Friday, July 28, 2006

vacation time, brother!

See everyone later.

I am bringing with:

Muriel Spark- Robinson
Her second novel.

Aldous Huxley- Antic Hay
I want to try a novel of his out. Brave New World left nary a residue in the memory banks... I hope this one has more wit, less "savages."

Enough for four days?

Also you have a short essay on another hateful NYT Book Review essay to look forward to. Hurrah, no?

Monday, July 24, 2006


I am going to miss this, but that's no reason for you to.

Go, and tell me all about it.


Catherine Deneuve is playing the mother in the 2007 movie of Persepolis!

books 28, 29, 31 and 32 or Catching Up

So, so behind in the reviews, as you can see. If any of you are still reading, that is. I sure am, as you can also see by the rapidly blooming sidebar.

Anyway, I’m going to try to get things moving here by giving you guys a few short reviews which will hopefully re-wrangle the flock (so fluffy, you guys) and get some comments going.

Inside Vineyland by Lauren Weinstein

A million, bajillion years ago, Weinstein submitted a comic to Topic Magazine called You Saved My Life, a just a lil’llion years ago, I saw it while doing some work interning at the big T. I liked it. It was black and white, squiggly and kinda evil. I’ve had her on the brain since.

After an as-usual satisfying trip to Rocketship to buy Squirrel Mother (see below), I decided I needed a little bit from the Vine to round out my purchases. I picked up IV after a cursory flip-through. It is a little old, copyright 1999, but comics are the Catherine Deneuve of books, n’est-ce pas?

IV is a lot of one and two pagers, less jokey than going for the jugular. One character, Robot, makes a double appearance in the only two longish stories, Robot Takes a Walk and Robot Quest for Love. Bad, bad things happen, but the Robot can’t quite get beyond want he wants to compute the rest. He can’t. Weinstein draws thoughts like no one else I have seen using an incredibly effective heads-on-writhing-strings method in these stories. Thought bubbles do appear elsewhere, but they are mean, as they should be.

Weinstein’s take on things could be easily dismissed as snark but only if the dismisser is a total asshole. There is something bubbling underneath the funny and that’s the way I like it. Plus, she is local.

Squirrel Mother by Megan Kelso

I wanted this so badly. I coveted the creamy cover and the stories within. I knew the collection contained The Pickle Fork, an amazing story that was in Kelso’s disinherited collection Scheherazade, so I had the best advance opinion of what else was going to be inside.

I don’t want to say this. I don’t.

Squirrel Mother
was a disappointment. The drawings are beautiful but the stories just didn’t get there for me. Something is missing, maybe a few need to be longer, or more developed, but I just didn’t latch onto the characters. The exception to this was the autobiographical Green River, about living during the reign of terror of the Green River serial killer, and the silly yet mournful series of stories concerning Alexander Hamilton, Publius, The Duel and Aide de Camp.
Next time, next time…

My Most Secret Desire by Julie Doucet will be written about somewhere else. I will keep you posted.

Astonishing Tales edited by Michael Chabon

Ugh. Usually I am a fan of these compilations by the McSweensters but this one was terribly boring with the exception of a few stories. I mean they have the usual sheen of quiet wackiness so loved by those folks, but- boo. Skip it, but read 7C by Jason Roberts if you can.

A History of Violence by John Wagner

The graphic novel with the best name ever is a little ugly, the drawings that is. Sadly, we never really get a feel for the main character, or his family, because we never really see him clearly. The dialogue is stilted and formulaic in some parts and merely serviceable in others. The good part is that you can breeze through the book in an hour or so, and then have something to compare to the film. I was mostly disappointed that the violence never transformed for me; it never showed me anything, which I think was Wagner's intention with this...

Nevertheless, I can see why the idea so captured Wagner, then David Cronenberg, who did an excellent job trimming the fat for the film, even if his subplots were just flapping in the winds like an old hoagie.

It is hard to find intelligent writing on violence, especially in comics. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

book 26: Great Granny Webster by Caroline Blackwood

I bought Great Granny Webster because I liked the way the book tickled my eye. I liked its size and design. The story came second this time. Lucky for me, the story kicked ass.

A very British gothic, Great Granny Webster is chock full of sinister characters and places, the main eeriness being provided by the title character and her freezing, foreboding house in Hove, near Brighton in England. I was in Brighton once in March and down by the sea, it looked like Hell itself was spilling out from a tear in the nasty grey sky and whipping through the abandoned piers that make for the seashore scenery.

Great Granny Webster is the story of a woman who tries to understand her family’s ghosts, from the haunting character of her bitter, proud great-grandmother, to her mad grandmother, to the mystery of her long-dead father, whose sister is as light as air as well as being quite suicidal. The main character’s childhood stay with GGW is the circumstance where Blackwood really exercises her gift for restraint and forcing the reader to see what is straining just beyond the edges of her words.

In fact, a stormy, sultry night like this is the perfect time to dip into a ooky family tale, especially on that has such a great introduction that points out what plot devices and characters may have very well been based on life. Blackwood’s life itself is worth looking into, so I my find myself back in the stacks, looking for a bio.

GGW is one of my beloved nyrb books and every time I hit the Strand or other fine, fine booksellers, I am always looking for another to add to my collection.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What's Worth It

I was flipping through the NYT Book Review as I do most Sundays. I like to count how many reviews or articles are about books I would actually read. Usually the count hovers below two, but often it is zero. Occasionally the essay can redeem a whole useless Review, but this weeks’ “Saving the Planet, One Book at a Time” by Rachel Donadio was not one of them.

Donadio starts off by doing some interesting description of what is up with the companion volume to Al Gore’s ever-present film An Inconvenient Truth, the recycled paper, the carbon-neutralness the book’s production. She teases those of us who are kind of wowed by this, she lets us know how useless the not-often-used process is in an industry that uses dead wittle twees and toxic ink to make almost all of its products. She then writes some silly shit about a plastic book made by a green architectural “pioneer” and a chemist and how plastic books may be the wave of the rolling green FUTE- CHA!

What the essay brought into focus for me was how strongly I feel that books are worth it. They are worth the tons and tons of paper, they are worth the toxic inks. Books are not the problem. Here are some things that are not worth it:

-- Paper used to print out “funny” emails from work. Or really, anything from work.

-- Paper used to send endless political brochures around election time.

-- Paper used to print out those ugly low-res digital scans of your cousin’s baby. Buy a fucking 35mm and send me some prints!

-- Carbon dioxide created every time a Greenpeace canvasser asks me if I have a “minute for the environment.”

-- Carbon dioxide created when the folks from our big white house open their mouths to try to convince us that it is we who are crazy—everything is under control.

-- Trees felled to make pressboard to build housing projects, oops I mean luxury town homes, on former farms.

-- Paper used to print the Book Review every week.

Friday, June 30, 2006


I am going away for the weekend. To lure myself back I am leaving the excellent Magic For Beginners by Kelly Link in NYC. This book is so good that I went to the library site and ordered half of their holdings from Small Beer Press, including Link's first story collection, Stranger Things Happen. I resisted reading the summaries and just blindly ordered. That's what I like about the library-- no repercussions for wild clicking. This book is so good that if the quality of the stories stays consistant, I will buy it for friends and maybe even myself. I know, I said "buy" and I meant full price.

I will have to lug this computer with me, so keep those suggestions coming. I will need a break from mad deadline chasing and outline writing. I still want to know what's in your bathroom...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Alot is going on over here but I did not want yall to think I forgot you, so here's a list.

I am taking Doppelganger's excellent word creation (and post) and using it here in tryharderland just to tell you what reading pleasures there are to be found in my water closet.

Don't think about the fecal matter, it will only make you upset!

-- Various magazines gathered from the messy trash piles of my sloppy n ignorant neighbors.

-- Too Fat Can't Fly by Yuko Kondo
A crazy, colorful book of comix short stories. Nice laminated cover keeps water from overzealous washing out.

-- The Greek Way by Edith Hamilton
Her introductions are amazing. Her scholarship on ancient Greece is pleasantly obbsessive. The perfect bathroom book.

-- Expo 2001

-- quantify #6

-- the collected short stories of aldous huxley
Alot more funt han you'd imagine. Takes me far, far away from the present.

-- Top SHelf #8(maybe)
Another one of their collected books. I can't say I liked it very much, but the bright blue and poop green color scheme of the cover fits well in the bathrrom, plus, it hides those pesky stains.

-- Typewriter 8
A not so good exquisite corpse comic.

-- The Job Thing by Carol Tyler
This great comic collection makes you happy that you're shitting instead of working.

If you haven't already told the big D what's on your shitty stack, tell me...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

book 24: My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl

This is going to be short, like My Uncle Oswald, and sweet, unlike My Uncle Oswald.

Much ahs been made of Roald Dahl’s adult stories, and this is, by plot alone, the most adult of his fictions. The book focuses on the sexual and financial romps of Oswald, as written in his immense diaries. With Oswald, the sexual and the financial are often linked.

What could have been a tongue-in-cheek (maybe even ass cheek) romp through times past, and an exercise in riding euphemisms to climax, ended up being a boring, repetitive, and weak satire of your grandfather’s dirty book.

Skip it and read the stories of Kiss Kiss instead.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

book 23: The Bad Seed by William March

Tap, tap, tap went the little girl's shoes, her ice-blonde pigtails swinging with the abandon of youth. Rhoda looks so sweet, so why does her glance send chills up our spine? The Bad Seed was a triumph of creepiness, and the unsentimental ending ratchets up the cinematic dread so high, that even as a jaded teen viewer, I was left spinning the unfortunate family's future in my head for hours after the screen when black, then blue.

I saw the book by the same name in the Strand a little while ago and picked it up right away. I have never been burned by reading "based-on books" like The Talented Mr. Ripley and The Big Sleep, so I thought William March’s take on child sociopaths would be a great pre-summer read. I was very, very right, as evidenced by being very, very tense until the last part of the book when March bowed to his time’s interest in heredity and genetics’ influence on behavior. In a certain way, the film’s ending was much more effective by leaving the girl’s behavior unexplained and unchallenged.

What The Bad Seed offers on the page is an excellent cast of supporting characters, including a charming brother and sister neighbor team, and an even more menacing and malignant groundskeeper for Rhoda to spar with. March does a great job getting inside Christine, Rhoda’s mother, and renders her maternal emotions and increasing dread with a sensitive and detailed eye. Rhoda, in print, has muddy brown hair and is much less perky than her celluloid counterpart. Her ordinariness makes her actions even more monstrous, and March’s descriptions of Rhoda tending to her bangs are a bit of throwaway-line pricelessness.

If you are looking for a great thriller or a tense look at 1950s America from a woman’s point of view, get his right away. If you just love good stories, you can wait a little bit, but you still need to pick this up soon, whether you have a beach vacation planned or not.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

book 22: Clear by Nicola Barker

Last year or so, I went to a library sale looking for something out of the ordinary, especially something with a sci-fi/ horror twist. I came out with a giant book called Behindlings. It was almost really good. But, this review is not of Behindlings; it is of another book by Nicola Barker, Clear.

Clear is set in London during the reign of mediocre spectacle that was magic’s dark n greasy heartthrob David Blaine, suspended in a giant glass box above the Thames, starving himself.

The main character is this guy (scroll down to the italics, and replace “new York” with “London” and throw in lots of hoo ha about “trainers”). The supporting characters are cardboard-y plot-proppers. The story is rom/com and the punctuation is all over the place, a characteristic shared by Behindlings, one that greatly interfered with my reading pleasure. What all this means is that the story was snappy, happy and a little sappy—basically a beach read for the Hornby set. This is not a bad thing, but it doesn’t make for memorable reading, as you can tell from this review.

One thing Barker does do here is pull together a bunch of wacky stuff and make it work together really well-- Houdini’s mystique (that guy is everywhere. Thanks Chabon.), cheesy celebrity bios and Kafka’s A Hunger Artist.

Reading the analysis of A Hunger Artist that Barker gives us through the combined mental efforts (and mouths) of her characters is a lot of fun. Kafka’s story is described in loving detail, and so thoughtfully fleshed out that I wanted to drop Clear and run out for a paperback classics fix. Barker does a great service to us booky folks by making A Hunger Artist seem so vital and exciting, even though she ties it to a modern-day bullshit storm- that method could even be the reason the shout-out stands out so much.

Even though I didn’t like Behindlings or Clear so much, Barker has still somehow gotten her burrs caught in my mohair. I want to read her other work. Any suggestions?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Books, by place

This is an interesting project. I love Maud's entry...

I have a hard time remembering what books I have read where. The best book seem to transport me away from whatever bus, plane or bed I read them in.

(Via Maud)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

More me

Read me in Bookslut's June issue. I'd tell you where my stuff is, but isn't a wild goose chase fun sometimes?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Clicky clicks for NYC people

-- Topic Magazine's EIC talks with other magazine folks at what looks like an awesome event. Go and see David, he's great.

-- Mocca's Art Fest looks so fucking fun that my head could just explode. I hope other obligations don't keep me (or you) away. More info via Flog!

-- Rocketship brings the noise (in the form of an amazing in-store party) for the Mocca Art Fest. I gotta get my copy of Squirrel Mother signed...

book 25: Love Invents Us, book 27: Come to Me, book 30: A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You

Amy Bloom’s stories tear through my heart. I am weak and tired, I have been for three years, and the tiny walls I have built to keep myself in (and the world out) in the meantime wash away like they were nothing, like they were made of spit and lint when I read her stories. My tears start and stop and I cry for the people I love, and have loved and everything we keep from echo other and every thing we give away to keep loving each other. I cry instead of making an unfortunate phone call. I cry instead of screaming.

I first read Bloom’s work in a nonfiction essay about in-laws in Topic Magazine. [Full disclosure: I am currently a web editor for the online edition of this fantastic mag. Go, get a free login, and enjoy. Bloom’s essay is in Topic 7: Family. The Family issue was what made me want to work with them. I admired a place that would find and publish such a piece, one so unflinchingly angry and yet so beautiful.] When I finally decided to spend the piddly amount of money on her novel Love Invents Us, I thought I was going to get a smartish, bubbly read. What I got instead was a love story that rubbed me raw with terrible realness, nit in the plot machinations so much, but in the moves of the characters, what they do when doors open and close in their path.

Then I had to read Come to Me and then A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You. Yes, love, love, love—all Bloom’s stories are about love and none are sweet. She has an amazing grasp of what real love is- that it hurts sometimes and that it changes over days and years and moments. Her characters force themselves to forgive and trust and get angry, and are only slightly more articulate about it than the average person who has felt deeply for another person. No one is excluded from Bloom’s world of love- not brothers and sons, lovers and mothers, not the undeserving and the wicked. She manages to capture passion without drama, and makes it seem like an elementary writer’s trick.

We meet Julia, Lionel Jr., Buster and Ruth in Come to Me for a first round of fucked-up families and good intentions in “Sleepwalking.” They come back in ABMCSHMILY, older, maybe wiser, but still straining against family bonds, both external and ones they created, on purpose and by accident. I liked the older story better, where the possibilities for the children Lionel Jr. and Buster seemed wide open, but the newer stories satisfied me like a decent movie sequel—Bloom is riffing on an old theme, and drops the ball a few times, but seeing how it all turned out makes her occasional stumbling in tone and voice worth it.

I would not suggest reading these three too close together. The characters will get jumbled and the endings will blur together. You will miss the rough edges of each protagonist, as they should be experienced, singularly, like running a thumb over a pocket-sized rock, found on that lasting camping trip or pulled from the rubble of a destroyed place. Read with caution and consider the love in your life.

***Edited to add: FYI: not all her writing in these novels is spectacular, but she is well worth checking out if you're thinking about love.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Thank you bstewart23.

When I bang on the back of your parked-in-the-bike-lane-car, alls I'm trying to say is "Fuck you." No need to get excited.

In other biking news, I got punched in the head by a special person on Manhattan Bridge yesterday. Today I got doored on 19th St.

I hurt.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Moustaches in NYC

Via Maud (and her listings compiler, Lauren):

Go to the IFC to see some Frenchy moustaches in La Moustache!

I guess this means I need to hurry up and finish the book...

book 20: Life by Gwyneth Jones

It has been awhile since I finished this book, so forgive me some vagueness:

Winner of the James Triptree Jr. award, Gwyenth Jones wrote about sex and science in Life. I was intrigued by the purpose of the award, to recognize writers who tackle the subjects of sex and gender in SF, and after doing a NYPL search on Jones, I decided to read Life.

The main character in Life is Anna Senoz, a hard-working gal with a passion for science, who secretly has a hot body and a wild side. This last part is a major part of the story arc. Unfortunately, Jones likes to use the word "hole" in a sexual way. Gross. But anyway, sex, in many of its permutations, supposedly drives the plot and brings all the disparate topics and characters together, but generally I felt as if I were reading two books: one about a romance, and one a poorly researched text on sexual politics and its influence on science and academia.

The main love triangle- Anna, her American college lover Spence and crazy, mostly lesbian Ramone (oh shocking!)- lacks tension. The supporting characters, mostly older women who mentor either Anna or Ramone in some way, were more interesting and Jones managed to tell us more about them in a few lines here and there than she did about Anna in the whole book.

The scifi in Life comes in a near-future, hard science flavor, sprinkled with some crunchy AI flakes. Anna discovers (by accident) an evolutionary trend in genetics that will slowly obliterate the male sex chromasonal structure on a genetic level, showing gender to be an almost entirely constructed thing (I think, anyways. It was complicated, and I'm sure if I had liked the book more I would have absorbed the theory more fully). Her research on this project is thwarted, but her obsession grows. The science writing and the comment on women's current place in the sciences, were the best part of the book, even if Jones' writing feels labored when she tries to tie all the chromosonal hoo ha in with the plot. I was disappionted that the whole book wasn't as interesting- I'd love to read some smart, female-inclusive, hard SF. Too bad Life was not it.

Any recommendations? I'd still love to read more Triptree winners, hoping that they all don't suck as badly.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The database is down...

... so I am free to wish I was reading.

Anyway, I just finished one good book (Love Invents Us), one gooder book (Great Granny Webster) and I am in the middle of a collection of two novellas (Class Trip and The Moustache by Emmmanuel Carrere) that is knocking my socks off so far. The translation is amazingly elegant in Class Trip which made the reading even more delicious because I was wondering through each nasty little scene what, if anything, had changed from the original French.

(Apparently The Moustache is now a film too.)

Reading Carrere makes me want to check out this book by him, which caught my attention when it came out a couple of years ago. It is a bio of Philip K. Dick, the idol of a certain kind of nerd, one I usually like very much, and writer of some of the most engrossing sci-fi ever. Dick has also written some amazingly impenetratable crap(like the last two books in the Valis triliogy), but even his worst casts a spell on a line-by-line basis. I imagine writing a bio of Dick that adequately captures both his brilliance and his glaring shortcomings as an author, as well as gives just enough facts and specualtion about his twisted private life would be very hard. From my small taste of Carrere, it seems like he has the subtlety to do it so I'd like to give I am Alive and You are Dead a try when I am in the mood to be someone else.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Hi all

I am backdeded up with reading ans, more obviously, writing. I blame working. I love the money, I love the endless free tea and toilet paper, but I miss you all. The books I've been reading recently have been pretty good and I will tell you about them soon.

In the meantime, here is a partial list of things that are on my desk at home:

- a broken bicycle bell
- small Fiskars
- Lonely Planet Spain 2003
- Letters that need responses
- my parents' wedding photograph, reminding me how much better life looks in pictures
- matches
- erasers
- a green silk hankerchief
- a freecycled VHS copy of 'Downtown 81'
- a small basket of bobby pins and hair bands

On my desk at work:

- crumbs
- empty tissue box
- various training manuals
- half full Temple University water bottle
- smudgy fingerprints

What's on your desk?

Friday, May 05, 2006

pray for my ass

Here I am, diligently entering medical data and try (hard) not to fart and listening to my officemate surpass my previous conception of "dumb as a box of rocks," and I wish I were writing about books for you.

As you can see by the sidebar, I've been keeping up with the reading, but not so much with the writing. I need the money that this boring ass job provides. I promise to steal some time from the Man the next few weeks and catch you all up with reviews and news, but for now, pray for my ass not to bubble up with hemorroids from all this sitting.