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.