Books


Brandon, John.  (2010).  Citrus county.  San Fransisco: McSweeney’s Rectangulars.

Gordimer, Nadine.  (1982).  Six feet of country. NY: Penguin Books.

Hartwell, David G., ed.  (1989).  The world treasury of science fiction. NY: Little, Brown and Company.

Haug, Frigga.  (1992).  Beyond female masochism. London: Verso Books.

McQuade, Donald and Christine McQuade.  (2006).  Seeing and writing 3.  NY: Bedford/St. Martins.

McSherry, Jr., Frank D., Charles G. Waugh, and Martin H. Greenburg, eds.  (1991).  Great American ghost stories. Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press.

I’m not sure I want to do this anymore.  My reading has taken a hit.  I think it’s because I have strayed from the ground I enjoy.  Exploring is great, but there’s a reason why some of the explored territory is so poorly travelled.  Palahniuk did become tiresome, but I think I am ready to return.  Chabon never became tiresome.  Instead he became established.  I am ready to return to the safety of popular opinion.  Chabon’s popularity is no marketing ploy, unlike The Last – sooooo effing bad – Airbender, his stories are just legitimately good.  In any case, I am disappointed with my June readings and to keep things going I will return to established safe ground.  It is July, and I am clamoring for fireworks.  It is, after all, July.

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Too funny, if only because it is so true…

When Mr. Hibma pulled into the lot, he saw a fleet of cars adorned with Citrus Middle School parking stickers.  He stepped around a bush and peeked in a window.  Librarians.  They’d bunched the tables together.  Assistants.  Even volunteers.  There were maybe nine of them, sipping determinedly at pink wine.  Mr. Hibma knew when he was beat.  He leaned against his car, face upturned toward the sky, racking his brain for something else to do, some other way to salvage the night.  (121)

It’s an okay book.  It’s about two disaffected youths and one of their teachers, Mr. Hibma, who identifies with them.  What’s with this new trend of literature capturing the weirdoes and their weird ways and acting as if they are all special and different just because they don’t behave normally.  It smacks of melodrama, the writer proclaiming her yawp so others see how special she is.  I’m just as guilty as the next person (ok, more than the average person) but why do we as a culture now buy into this stuff?  I still like heroes and the average guy acting like a fool in the face of danger.

Brandon, John.  (2010).  Citrus County.  San Francisco: McSweeney’s Rectangulars.

This is the first book in The Rumpus’ Book Club.  I guess I will be sharing my thoughts as I make my way through it.  The back blurb:

There shouldn’t be a Citrus County.  Teenage romance should be difficult, but not this difficult.  Boys like Toby should cause trouble but not this much.  The moon should glow gently over children safe in their beds.  Uncles in their rockers should be kind.  Teachers should guide and inspire.  Manatees should laze and palm trees sway and snakes keep to their shady spots under the azelea thickets.  The air shouldn’t smell like a swamp.  The stars should twinkle.  Shelby should be her own hero, the first hero of Citrus County.  She should rescue her sister from underground, rescue Toby from his life.  Her destiny should be a hero’s destiny.

This blurb does not excite me.  There is too much nature.  There is too much heroism.  There is too much sentimentality.  Which is why I am excited.  Given the types of books produced by McSweeney’s and the sensibilities of The Rumpus folk, I suspect the book will flip on all of my impressions of the blurb.  As if a blurb for Californication had been

The story of a writer whose taste of success ruined his ability to create.  His career plummets and his relationships tumble.  The show follows the widening gyre of his life in LA.

Something like that.   The book’s design is not appealing either.  The cover is only shades of green.  Trees are intimated all around and in the distance is a small greenhouse with a boy, darkened in green shadows, trying to peer inside.  This is most definitely not a book I’d pick up at a bookstore.  215 pages is not at all daunting.  The typeset renders the 215 to about 170 normally set pages.  The paper is odd though, thick and slick.  I worry about the ability of my pen to mark it up without smudging, can’t see the words for the smudges.  Something like that.

Beghtol, LD.  (2006).  69 Love Songs. NY: Continuum.

Bowden, Mark, ed.  (2007).  The best American crime writing, 2006.  NY: Houghton Mifflin.

Bunyan, John.  (1678).  The Pilgrim’s Progress. NY: Penguin Classics.

Eagleton, Terry.  (1983).  Literary theory.  Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Kois, Dan.  (2010).  Facing Future.  NY: continuum.

Sisario, Ben.  (2006).  Doolittle.  NY: continuum.

Stegner, Wallace.  (1950).  Joe Hill: A biographical novel. NY: Penguin Books.

Terry, Randall A.  (2008).  A humble plea: To bishops, clergy and laymen: Ending the abortion holocaust. Washginton, D.C.: Insurrecta Nex.

The Rumpus book club.

Vida, Vendela, ed.  (2007).  The Believer book of writers talking to writers. San Fransisco: Believer Books.

I am a sucker for the 33 1/3 series.  Each book is about a famous album and as far as I have been exposed each book is great.  Sisario writes about the famous album full of body counts by The Pixies, one of my favorite bands ever.  Kois writes about that song, a staple to weddings and Rom-Coms: Israel Kamakawiwo’s medley of “Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World”.  I bought them new becuase the books are so hard to find.  Even more difficult to find at a used book store.  In fact, it is this very series that has me contemplating the switch to an ereader.  I can have nearly any book, nearly instantaneously and for less than the cost of an actual book.  I also resent the amount of stuff I own, and an ereader can help cut it.  But, of anything to have as clutter, I do think books are acceptable.  Note the large libraries of smart people whom I respect.  Admittedly they are from a different time.  The library is an anachronism I cannot shake.  Reminds me of the scene in Good Will Hunting (Gus Van Sant: Finding Forrester) , when Will (Matt Damon: Ocean’s Eleven)is scrutinizing the library of Sean Maguire (Robin Williams: Jumanji).

At the end of April I was in a wedding in Charlotte, and it was easily the best wedding I have ever been to.  I was in one the next weekend and that wedding was ruined by the Charlotte one.  Of course, the Indian (dot, not feather) colors and traditins helped to spoil it, but the dancing and the music is what put it over the top.  Notably, the Kamakawiwo song was not played.  The occasional Indian pop music helped, but it was the absence of the traditional that was really telling.

Am I spendng enough to justify a B&N membership?  I don’t think so.  But, I am unsure enough that I should begin tracking.  Of course, then I will become aware of the horror that is the amount I spend at B&N.  Ugh, to save or to live in blissful ignorance?

One of the few magazines I read dutifully, even though I subscribe dutifully to many more, is The Believer.  I think Tin House might better suit my interests, but The Believer carries a monthly column by Greil Marcus.  In any case, the reason Tin House might be a better match than The Believer is because of its focus on writing.  This book by Believer Books seems to cater specifically to me.  Even though I read these interviews in their initial publications.  But they are great to revisit, not only because I forget things but because they are the epitome of how a rereading is a different reading altogether.  And… The Believer is where I first discovered the Nick Hornby series I have modelled this post after.

Wallace Stegner is a stud.  Good writer too.  Joe Hill was an important labor organizer.  Stud too.  All of this despite my IWW affiliations.

The Beghtol books is another in the 33 1/3 series.  This time the album is 69 Love Songs by The Magnetic Fields.  Ursa raved about this album.  The critics at Slate’s Cultural Gabfest rave about it.  I hear people on the street talk about in intimate terms unfamiliar to an album.  It’s a great album.  Here’s hoping this book serves it well.

John Bunyan.  I thought I was going to read about Minnesota and how its lakes were made.  Was Mille Lacs made by Babe’s hoof or by Paul Bunyan scooping it out with a spoon.  But… John Bunyan is not Paul Bunyan.  Sadly.  It’s an old, important, and oft-cited book.  I’ve never read it.  It was only $2.  It’ll look good on my shelf.  Which is the reason, I am ashamed to admit, that I have not yet bought an ereader.

My addictions are not just for Verso books and 33 1/3 books.  I also love The Best American [Crime, Science, Mystery, etc…] Writing series.  Bowden’s Black Hawk Down was so magnificent that this entry into the series has to be good.

Terry.  I found it on an airplane.  Sometimes I need a good laugh.  Sometimes I need to inflict some pain.  Most of all, I am curious about theology.  I am also curious about hearing the other side’s argument.

Terry Eagleton’s book has constantly been on my list of books I need.  I need to read it because of its importance.  I also need it to hunt down footnotes.  This was one of the books that was leading the charge for an ereader, so I could constantly have it on my person.  I folded.   The anniversary edition is just too damned pretty.  And I have so much time on my hands right now that I am delusional, thinking I can actually make it through this.  Through all of these books actually, this has probably been my most active month of book acquisition.  And I am moving.  I don’t have the space for all the books.  Sigh.

She [the Minerva] floats only because boys mind her pumps all the time, she remains upright and intact only because highly intelligent men never stop watching the sky and the seas around her.  Every line and sail decays with visible speed, like snow in daylight, and men must work ceaselessly worming, parceling, serving, tarring, and splicing her infinite network of hempen lines in order to prevent her from falling apart in mid-ocean with what Daniel imagines would be explosive suddenness.  (Stephenson 2002, 217)

That’s a marvelous passage and needed applause.  Only one adverb to detract from its beauty.  Few adjectives.  Plenty of descriptive verbs.  It also acknowledges the infinite struggle against nature for technological stasis.  More importantly, it does not chalk up the struggle to labor, but highlights the labor intensiveness of the struggle.

I am reminded recently of a talk by Alan Weisman, author of The world without us, where he remarked about the popularity of his book among conservative talk shows.  He had anticipated being lumped into the tree-hugging environmentalist camps, but was instead surprised that the conservatives glommed onto his praise of the common laborers.  The book does, after all, read like the show Dirty Jobs would.  Not that Stephenson has never been suspected of not being a friend to labor.  But why is labor friendly to the conservatives?  A question I have yet to find a satisfactory answer for.  False ideology, sure.  But how does it work?

What is also interesting about Quicksilver is that much of the beginning is set aboard the Minerva.  At the same time I started this tome I also started and finished another book which involves the Minerva. Only a few chapters of Linebaugh and Rediker’s The many-headed hydra were assigned, but I had to read the whole thing.  It is about the role of sailors, slaves and commoners in the revolutionary Atlantic.  Tracing labor through the major struggles, it was a fascinating read.  Its dovetails with Quicksilver were too odd.  Nearly sublime.

While I am speaking of sublimity, I am really excited about the latest book I just started reading to-day: Massumi’s Parables for the virtual. All four of these writers are extremely gifted and I have no doubt that had their interests changed any, had their body-sites been repositioned slightly on the grids of identity, then they all could have been best of friends.  Or competitors.

This clearly was not labelled as a post about reading and yet I can do nothing but think about what a strange confluence these three books have created for me.  Especially in such a short period of time.  I know I will be speaking more about the Massumi book as I already have some ideas to knock around before I take them to the faculty.

And…notice the comment Stephenson makes about the snow melting in the sunlight?  I have never really seen it at work until to-day.  The past few days were spent in delirious moments of waking between naps as I slept off illness.  Watching the icicles dissolve was fascinating.  But seeing the snow on the ground recede to the shade line was doubly amazing to-day as I trounced around the city celebrating the new warmth. It was a good day to be alive and in Minneapolis.

Linebaugh, Peter & Marcus Rediker.  (2000).  The many-headed hydra: Sailor, slaves, commoners, and the hidden history of the revolutionary Atlantic. Boston: Beacon Press.

Massumi, Brian.  (2002).  Parables of the virtual: Movement, affect, sensation. Durham, NC: Duke UP.

Stephenson, Neal.  (2003).  Quicksilver. NY: Harper Perennial.

A marvelous sentence that needs to be shared.  A review of Houllebecq’s HP Lovecraft biography contains this marvelous insight:

It doesn’t take a Freud to recognize that a man who writes constantly about decay, pestilence, and a fishy-smelling menace continually emerging from the sea has more than a little sex on his brain, and a lifetime of insisting otherwise is a terror that begs unpacking.

The Plot Against America
Image via Wikipedia

I had not been to the local used bookstore in a while and since I leave for my first tournament of the season to-morrow I decided it was a good time to hit up the clearance section (no title was more than $2).

Scott Turow, editor.  The Best American Mystery Stories, 2006.

I am a sucker for this series.  I am also a Scott Turow fan.  Most law school graduates that write turn to legal writing, but he didn’t.  Of those, he is easily the best.  I am not a huge mystery fan, so much so that when my beloved Cold War fictions are placed in the mystery section I tend to find employees and lecture them as though I am an old man and they have some ability to care.  If it had not been in clearance then I would have never seen it and never have paid the money for it.

Iain Pears.  An Instance of the Fingerpost.

I remember this book being hot hot hot when I was working at Barnes & Noble.  A mystery (sigh) set in Victorian England (I think) and yet not a mystery but more a tour of theory and the history and thought.  Or so I remember one of my managers telling me as a reason why she thought I’d be perfect to read it.  Looking back, she wanted me to read it and review it for the Staff Recommendations section.  Maybe if it was free.  But, alas, modern businesses require their employees to spend their wages for their own marketing.

Ursula K. Le Guin.  The Eye of the Heron.

I have never read any Le Guin, but I am constantly coming across her name as an important literary figure.  And not just in science fiction circles.  I had never even heard of this book, but: 1. the author is important,  2. it is a tiny thing, I can get through something this size in less than a week, and 3. I have been on a science fiction kick lately.

Speaking of which, I am currently working on season 1 of Mad Men so I can see what all the hype is about.  Episode 4 and Draper is revealed to have been someone else before the war.  Now I am really intrigued as the story turns to be more inline with sci-fi circles than just a cultural criticism.  A TIRED cultural criticism, at that.

Duncan Heath & Judy Boreham.  Introducing Romanticism.

I am also a sucker for the precise genre.  Complex ideas simplified and then put into comic book form.  How can it not be worth a few bucks?

David Zane Mairowitz & Alain Korkos.  Introducing Camus.

I probably would not have bought this book had I not turned to the Camus chapter in the Sturrock book earlier to-day.  I am still not too sure that I care about him, but I am curious enough to drop a few bucks to find out.  And, it is also a precise book.  One of these days I will get some scratch together and commission my friends to write a precise pour moi.  Ursa can do some Spinoza.  I am not too sure what Nate would do, but I do not doubt I would learn something.

Philip Roth.  The Plot Against America.

Philip Roth.  Alternate history.  Philip Roth.  I almost bought this book several times when it was a hardcover on the bestseller list.  How this ever made it to the clearance rack I will never know.  I know Minnesotans read the wrong stuff, but this is ridiculous.

Phil Hellmuth, Jr.  Play Poker Like the Pros.

This is his serious book.  It was not on clearance, but I am curious to see what he has to say.  Poker writing fascinates me because the players are often engaging in some rather sophisticated communications theory without even knowing it.  The pain of reading these books is seeing them skate around methodologies and terminology.  They are almost quite there but I suspect there are editors or publishers delimiting the thought so the book remains available to the masses.  To the future poker writers out there: be brave, the audience will come along and appreciate it if the writing is good!

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