Subtitle: “my dad went to Houston and all I got was this crummy crooked “E” hat.”
Just polished off the latest tome on the Enron debacle, by Kurt Eichenwald. I can attest that it is a true story, having lived it for 5 years. If you’re interested in how Enron caused the collapse of the stock market, the restructuring of corporate America, the Spanish Revolution, polio and chronic halitosis, this book is for you. Otherwise, don’t bother. Or, if you’re really into punishing yourself, follow this one up with “The Smartest Guys in the Room.” It’s pretty much the same book. I think there’s also a movie coming out.
We were in the neighborhood of our favorite record store last week, so we thought we’d pop in and see how Moby was doing.
It turns out he’s doing pretty well. In addition to his new CD, he also has a new book out called Teany Book: Stories, Food, Romance, Cartoons and, of Course, Tea. There’s something for everyone in that title. I haven’t had a chance to read the book, but it has a cute cartoon alien guy that Moby drew on the cover for us. So we have that going for us.
Sorry it’s been so long since my last post. I’ve spent the time since my last post reading The Plot Against America (which I didn’t bother to do an entire post on, instead commenting on DJ Cayenne’s post), and then reading The Conspiracy Club, which I knew nothing about but got as a present from the wife.
Apparently this Jonathan Kellerman fella fancies himself a mystery and suspense writer, and according to the book jacket, he’s written lots of best sellers. Being the clueless reader that I am, that was news to me. Also according the book jacket, he uses a lot of hair products (webmaster — insert photo here). [editor’s note: I’m not your monkey.]
This book centers on a young psychiatrist named Jeremy Carrier who works at City Central Hospital. His girlfriend has been brutally murdered, and the police seem to consider him a suspect. When other similar murders take place, the 5-0’s seem to be keeping a watchful eye on him. While this is going on, Carrier is approached by an elderly pathologist at the hospital, Dr. Arthur Chess, who invites Carrier to a dinner with a group of old eccentrics. They all seem to have something in common, but Carrier can’t figure out what it is. And he begins to receive packages of materials in his hospital mailbox that he suspects come from Chess but can’t confirm, and which may or may not have something to do with the murders that have taken place. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that someone knows something about the murders and is providing Carrier with clues and information to let him figure it out for himself. Oh yeah, and Carrier gets a new girlfriend — an attractive young resident named Angela. The story goes on to follow Carrier as he uses his psychiatric skills to try to figure out who the killer is.
I won’t divulge any more about the plot, but I will say that I like Kellerman’s writing style for two reasons: (1) he doesn’t use too many big words, and (2) many chapters in the book are only a couple of pages long (thus leaving the bedtime reader with plenty of easy exit points to put the book down and go to sleep). I’ll confess that I was a bit disappointed in the story itself, though, because I felt a little cheated. The twists and turns in the story were not things that the reader could have suspected were coming and could have gone back later and said “Oh, yeah — I remember when x happened, so if I were smart like a detective, I should have suspected that y would happen later.” Instead, the revelations that take place are things that the reader had no reason to know or to suspect. This doesn’t necessarily make it a bad book, and it’s a fairly entertaining and enjoyable read, but don’t go into it thinking that if you pay close enough attention you’ll be able to pick up clues and figure out who’s behind the murders.
This entry was posted on Friday, March 25th, 2005 at 10:33 am and is filed under
Wally Lamb was the darling of the book world in the late 1990’s after both his debut novel, She’s Come Undone, and his second novel, I Know This Much Is True, were Oprah book club books and became best sellers.
His latest publication is not a novel but an anthology of stories written by women convicts imprisoned in York Correctional Institute (Couldn’t Keep It To Myself), the only female maximum security prison in Connecticut. Lamb began teaching a writing program to the inmates on a volunteer basis as a means for these women to express themselves and help them with the healing process. The intent was not to publish a book but over time Lamb was so impressed with some of the writing that he showed some samples to his publisher Regan books and the rest is history.
None of the stories are actually about the crimes that these women committed (Son of Sam laws would not have allowed them to be published); rather they are short stories which provide a glimpse into these women’s lives prior to their incarceration and the potential causes for their behavior. Each story is more heart-wrenching than the previous; if I recall correctly – of the 13 authors, 11 of them were sexually abused as children and all of them were mistreated at the hands of male relatives – either husbands, fathers, grandfathers, etc. The women come from varying backgrounds and span the age spectrum but they all share the same tale of having had to live under unbearable conditions which ultimately led to their demise.
While I strongly believe that if you commit a crime, you deserve the punishment – after reading this book – I felt so sorry for them and it made me want to drive up to the prison myself to give these women a hug.
The stories are extremely well written and have varying styles depending on the race and educational level of the author. It is an “easy” read and I finished the book in 2 nights which I think is a testament to how engrossing the stories were.
When the book was published – there was a big controversy around it regarding whether prisoners should be compensated for their work. Attorney General of CT, Richard Blumenthal, got involved and the state ended up suing these prisoners. Here is an article that details the hoopla (including a 60 minutes segment) around this book.
This is a must read – especially for the women of babygotbooks.com.
Over at Bookslut they’re already debating the best books of ‘05. Mike is pitching A Changed Man by Francine Prose. No, that’s her real name. If you can get past the crap cover, it is the story of an ex-skin head who joins a Jewish anti-defamation-type group so that kids don’t become what he was, and he becomes famous in the process. Jessa is getting behind Paradise by AL Kennedy. It’s about an alcoholic woman who is on a downward spiral, but it’s funny and beautiful, too. The usually staid Amazon product description contains this:
When a dull neighbor asks Hannah Luckraft what she does for a living, Hannah can barely refrain from answering honestly: “Oh, a little theft, monstrosity, credit-card fraud, and my hobbies include giving blow jobs to unpleasant men while I’m semi-unconscious. I also drink a lot.”
So there you go. I myself am locked in combat with a book that was widely regarded last year, that maybe I’m not getting. I’m not backing down, and I’ll be back with the full report soon.
It’s not often that you come across a review that ends with “run, don’t walk” but blog Boing Boing does just that in their review of the new book Reflex by Stephen Gould. It looks like it may be a nice escapist beach book, if you’re into that sort of thing. If I ever finish the book I am reading now (it’s an open question), I’ll need something along these lines.
I just finished hosting my book club at which the discussion was The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard (aka The Great Bore).
I HATED this book which is a pretty strong emotion for me to feel about a book. I always try and slug through a book even if I don’t like it when it’s for my book group, and I did manage to finish this book but it was not without great effort. The reason that I am still awake to even post this blog is that half of my book group loved the book, and we got into a somewhat rousing discussion and now I’m all riled up…….
The book is set in post-war Japan and is “supposedly” about the great romance between a thirty-something British guy, Aldred, and a 17 yr old naive girl, Helen, (who takes care of her terminally ill brother) living in Hiroshima right after WWII. Aldred is portrayed throughout the book as the ultimate hero and the whole book is framed around their tragic love story. There are a myriad of sub-plots, none of which made sense or where meaningful to me, so I’m not even going to go into them.
What amazes me about this book (which did win the National Book Award for fiction in 2003) is that as boring and painful as I felt the book was, there are many who were mesmerized by it and found that it was one of the most well written books they had read. Within my group – it both captivated and turned off an equal number of readers.
And for that reason alone – I want someone else to read it “To Bore or not to bore?” – that is the question.
I blew through Tom Wolfe’s most recent doorstop in record time, thanks in large part to a scintillating stay in the Carmel (Indiana) Hampton Inn. First, the bottom line advice: read this book. You will not suffer. I was sure I was going to suffer. I didn’t. You won’t either.
First, the good. Wolfe weaves several plot lines together throughout the entire work, which keeps what could otherwise be a fairly mundane story churning. The stories of some of the side characters (especially that of Jojo Johanssen) are actually somewhat more interesting than that of the central character. The Charlotte Simmons story line is severely backwardated, resulting in an “okaaaaaay” ending, but that actually ties in nicely with my main complaint about the book (below).
In terms of setting, all the scuttlebutt has been that Wolfe nailed the college campus life and “scene.” I believe he did, but only to a point. Wolfe tends to wild hyperbole, which gives his vivid and detailed descriptions of campus life at the fictional Dupont University almost a cartoonish character. You know reality is tucked in there somewhere, but its sometimes hard to fish out.
Which actually brings us to the bad. I’m going to need some help here. When I finished, I spent a day thinking about what bothered me so much about this work. Then it occurred to me that, although the title character of this book is a girl (she really can’t be called a woman), there is not one single female character in this 700 page book, Charlotte Simmons included, who has even a shred of a redeeming quality (the only possible exception is Charlotte’s high school friend, Laurie, but she is so far from the central plot it’s really impossible to tell). As may be expected, most if not all characters in the book are archetypes, but none of the female characters represents anything even remotely positive. You have roommate Beverly and her ilk (Spoiled Boarding School Rich Kids), Bettina and her ilk (Jaded Boarding School Rich Kids), Camile (Foul Mouthed Socio-Intellectual Bully), the Chrissy/Nicole/Gloria Axis (Frat Sluts), Mother (Overprotective and Manipulative) and some generally unnamed professors and TAs (Idiots). In terms of side characters, that’s it, but it’s Charlotte who takes home the prize. I spent about half the book thinking we were driving toward some kind of Dagny Taggert-type female catharsis where Charlotte takes her knocks but, by drawing on her internal strength and maintaining her integrity, achieves her own victories Her Way. But that wouldn’t be any fun, would it? Instead, Charlotte turns out to be, in my opinion, her own archetype: The Abject Failure. Charlotte apparently (it’s hard to tell because the end literally drives right off the cliff with almost no explanation) tosses away all her intellectual gifts and drive so that she can fit in and be noticed.
Now, contrast all this to the male archetypes in the book, which cover the waterfront. We have, among others, the Rich Successful Frat Boy (Vance), the Rich Blew It Frat Boy (Hoyt), the Geek Who Becomes a Man (Adam), the Redeemed (Jojo). All these dudes have serious flaws but all, except Hoyt, who Gets What He Deserves, have redeeming qualities.
So, what my little brain takes from all of this is the the Guy In The White Suit is either a) a serious misogynist or b) believes that all women want is to fit in and be loved and will do whatever it takes to get there (maybe a) and b) are 2 sides of the same coin). Or maybe I just think to much about fiction.
Anyway, this is bugging me. Can someone smarter me read this thing and set me straight?
This is the second of a two-part, extremely detailed history of Elvis. I read the first book, Last Train From Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, on the recommendation of Dr J. Last Train was one of the best books about music I have ever read. Careless Love, on the other hand, is a slow downward spiral into a pit of darkness and despair with no hope of escape. I’ll assume that the book’s publishers were too filled with ennui to bother correcting the typo that has been on their web site for the six years since Careless Love was published. Nice marketing.
I have no idea what the title refers to. Love? Everyone in this book is looking out for number one. Maybe not Lisa Marie, who is around nine when Elvis dies. But everybody else sucks. There is greed, backstabbing, addiction, jealousy, pettiness, greed (did I say greed already?) – but none of it is in a good way. You know how this book is going to end before you even start, but I was amazed at how little hope and joy there was. If I was Peter Guralnick, there is no way I could sit down at the computer (typewriter?) and work on this every day. It would have sucked all happiness from my life. And it had to have taken him years to complete. 661 pages of unmitigated gloom.
Careless Love was not without interesting side notes, however. I did not know that Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’s redneck manager, was actually a Dutch immigrant named Andreas. Seriously. The section that describes how Elvis came to meet Richard Nixon is just surreal. I also thought it was a little weird, creepy even, that Ann Margaret was discovered by George Burns. Elvis once gave his minions a sermon that began “Whoa, all ye Pharisees and motherfuckers”. I though that was darkly humorous (he was whacked out on drugs at the time).
But in the end, Elvis’s autopsy reveals that he was taken while “straining to stool” with 14 (fourteen) different drugs in his system, ten above therapeutic levels. My recommendation: if you have any interest in the subject matter whatsoever (American music in general, really), then read Last Train. Just forget that you ever heard that this book existed (it worked for the publisher on the second of the tow books). Your life will be that much better off.
That said, do go see Kingsized every chance that you get all you Pharisees…
This is an autobiography about Burroughs’ life between the ages of 12-17. His mother is psychotic and gives him away when he is about 12 yrs old to her even crazier psychiatrist. The psychiatrist has a slew of crazy kids and patients living in his filth ridden house where both the dog and the toddler shit anywhere they want in the house. Some of the highlights of the books are when Augusten discovers he’s gay and has a vividly described relationship with a creepy thirty-something patient that is also living in the house or when he decides he doesn’t want to go to school anymore so the psychiatrist/pseudo-father figure has him overdose on drugs and alcohol so that he ends up in the mental ward of a hospital.
Burroughs’ has often been compared to Sedaris, and while his writing is extremely witty, Sedaris is very believable, while this book was just too over the top. I have to believe that Burroughs didn’t embellish, but you can’t honestly believe that the psychiatrist was able to practice for so many years and that his crazy house went unnoticed by social services. Assuming that the story is true, then it is pretty amazing that Augusten turned out to be a NY Times bestselling author.
This story certainly made me feel like mother of the year and made by Jewish guilt about not spending enough quality time with my kids seem ridiculous.
There is a serial killer on the loose whose inspiration is Dante’s Inferno (reminded me of the movie Seven only hundred years earlier). Of course, the police are stumped (except the token African-American on the force) and the only people that can solve the mystery are America’s notable scholars at the time – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, etc. etc.
There are two main plots: the murders (which by the way are extremely gory and rival any Stephen King novel) and the hunt to find the murderer; and the historical Dante Club which was centered around Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who completed the first American translation of Dante’s Inferno and introduced it to the US. The second plot is actually much more interesting than the first because there are in-depth discussions about Dante’s Inferno which now that I am an adult sounds like a much more appealing read than when it was required in high-school. Within this plot is the struggle between these authors/poets who are passionate about Dante and the Harvard University Board who believed that Italian was a pagan language and that the introduction of Dante would be subversive to American society.
The murders carefully follow the progress of the Dante Club’s translation of Inferno and the reader is exposed (without being subjected to a blow by blow discussion) of Dante’s main beliefs on suffering, evil and hell. Not only did the book inspire me to actually contemplate re-reading Dante’s Inferno but also created interested in reading the poetry of Longfellow and learning more about Oliver Wendell Holmes.
What amazed me was that this is Matthew Pearl’s first book and it was published in 2003 when he was 27 years old. The release of this book actually helped Longfellow’s translation of Dante’s Inferno to be reissued by the Modern Library after being out of print for forty years.
This is a great book for this blog because the actual Dante Club could be viewed as one of the first, great literary clubs whose members joined together once a week to collectively translate, study and discuss one of the world’s classic poems – the Inferno.
The following three books that I am going to post (they will be 3 separate posts as recommended by DJ Cayenne) were my vacation reads last week in Acapulco. I make this commentary because my review should be taken within this context: if you are looking for quick, enjoyable reads with margaritas in hand – these books are for you. They are not literary masterpieces but they certainly met my goals of mindless r&r.
The story revolves around Alessandra Cecchi, a brilliant young girl who dreams of being an artist but is forced into the role of being a docile girl of a wealthy family who is married off to a much older man. Since this book is historical fiction – the storyline encompasses all the great artists of the time as well as the powerful priest, Savonarola, who was responsible for bringing about the downfall of the Medici family and changing the entire Florentine culture from one of beauty, luxury and wealth to one that was ruled by conservative thought and the religious right (hmmm……nothing has changed in 500 years). The characters are predictable but the author created enough of a connection that I was cheering for the good guys to overcome in the end. I would probably describe this as somewhat of a “chick” book but for anyone that likes historical fiction with some romance and intrigue – this book delivers.
Howdy all. Due to a simple suggestion by Dr J for a reasonable way to improve our site, I have embarked on a long, tedious, quixotic journey to make what should have been a few minor changes to the site you see here. Instead, I will be revamping the whole place. Since attempts to brief the staff on my behind-the-scenes work has been met with universal hostility, I’ll leave it at that. I will do most of the work this weekend, as my family is out of town. If the site isn’t here on Monday, you’ll know that things have gone terribly, terribly wrong. Expect the worst.