The Morning News has announced the 16 contenders in this year’s literary smackdown. By my count, the BGB crew has read 8 of the 16 nominations (we’ve seriously considered reading another 3 or 4 of the titles). Not too bad. The actual tournament will begin in about a month, but the list was posted in advance so that we could play catch up. Govern yourself accordingly.
- he was only in jail a few hours not a few years
- Lilly did exist and she did commit suicide but she didn’t hang herself (she slit her wrists)
- when he had a root canal (Frey thinks he had 2 but can’t confirm) it was not without anesthesia.Nan Talese was also on the show and pathetically somewhat stood by the fact that a memoir is the author’s recollection of how things happen. She didn’t really take full responsibility for not having the book fact checked.Overall – it was a total humiliating episode for Frey and he is pretty much finished.
For a limited time, you can get all erudite and whatnot with the aid of the OED. The Oxford English Dictionary is available online until February 13th as part of a promotional tie-in with a BBC Program called Balderdash and Piffle. Whatever. You can save yourself an expensive subscription or weighty purchase for a few more weeks. For the love of God, man! The world’s greatest dictionary is available for free at your fingertips. What are you doing hanging around here? Start looking some sh*t up.
Feb. 13: Jay McInerney reads from his new book at the Center for Southern Literature. Check out Amazon’s page for The Good Life. No less widely respected author than James Frey writes a review. I can see McInerney now: Thanks for comparing me to Fitzgerald then pointing out that we both struggled to write after early successes and we both partied a lot. Remind me to write a blurb for your next book Liar McLiarton. Jerk.
Feb 18th: Manuel’s Tavern Hosts the 2006 Atlanta Open Orthographic Meet (Spelling Bee). BGB-ers have participated in the event over the last few years with some success. Make plans to get your spelling on. (Or, once bounced out in the second round, enjoy a cold beer while others spell impossible words).
I don’t know why I picked up this book and I still can’t figure out why I even liked it since I have absolutely no interest in Henry James but it turned out to be mildly enjoyable. (okay I know that’s not an overwhelming endorsement but it was about a 6.5/10).
The Master by Colm Toibin is a fictional portrayal of the life of Henry James from 1895 to 1899. Apparently James was a great American fiction writer, but what I gleaned from this book was that he was a very lonely, compulsive man with sexual identity issues. Read more »
Item! I have just returned from the local Barnes and Noble (Moreland Avenue, ATL) buying books and playing with the Thomas train set with Baby Cayenne. A poster in the window says that the scheduled appearance and book signing by Star Jones for her book Shine: A Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Journey to Finding Love has been postponed by the author. The appearance will be re-scheduled in February. This has been a BGB Exclusive.
Novelist Louise Doughty is directing a year-long group writing “webinar” called a “Novel in a Year” – even though Doughty says in her first article that a novel in 12 months is unlikely. Whatever. I’m in. Until I’m out. I’ll do my best to stick with it, and I’ll let you guys know how to find the least embarrassing stuff I post. Join in.
The last book that I read in ’05 was Tobias Wolff’s Old School.
I should begin by noting that this is not the novelization of the movie starring Will Farrell as Frank the Tank. It is completely different. I came across this book through an BGB reader’s (Len) comment on comments by Shaft and myself regarding Ayn Rand. Len pointed out that Old School (the book) has a nice summation of Ayn Rand’s gestalt. After reading about the book on Amazon, it seemed right up my alley. I picked it up used, and here we are.
The eponymous school is the narrator’s prep school, which is a tradition-steeped east coast boarding school. The WikiPedia biography of the author says that Wolff attended The Hill School, so the events of the book may be somewhat autobiographical (the book is also dedicated to the author’s teachers).* The novel is set in the early 60′s, before all of the national upheaval of that decade takes place. “Old school” may also refer to the status of the authors that are to visit the boarding school that school year: Robert Frost, Ayn Rand, and Ernest Hemingway. What living authors would be a comparable trifecta?
The school has a competative literary journal that is taken very seriously by the students, or at least by the narrator and his boyz. Each guest author selects one of the boys submitted works, and the winner get a private meeting with the author during the visit. The prize is a huge honor, and it weighs heavily on our hero in his Senior year. The book describes the visits by Frost and Rand. Frost defends the use of rhyme and meter in poetry, bristling at the Beats. It is the description of the visit by Rand that is truly dazzling. If you are not a fan of Rand, her bitchy and self-righteous persona and lapdog fans ring so true and beautiful that you want to thank Wolff personally for articulating everything you find revolting about her while not being preachy or self-righteous himself. Thanks, Wolff! Really, the Ayn Rand scene made the book for me on its own. But there’s more.
The last author to visit for the school year is Ernest Hemingway, and it is the audience that the boys have wanted to win all along. This is the real heart of the story and I won’t give away and spoilers on ho wthings turn out.
I really enjoyed this book. Despite its setting, it neatly avoids the boarding school cliches. It also manages to not be Dead Poets’ Society – no O Captain! My Captain! It was a love letter to literature and a time when writing still mattered. To an extent, it is also about teachers who make a difference in students lives, even long after their time in the classroom is done. That theme has been very much on my mind lately, but that is a post for another day. Thanks for the recommendation, Len. If you’ve got any more of these gems up your sleeve, please pass them along.
*Wild Tangent: Why does The Hill School web site suppose that a picture of a bunch of dudes standing in a lake in their underpants in front of onlookers would be a selling point?
Wild Tangent II: I once met a guy in college who by way of introduction said, “I attended The Hill School, perhaps you’ve heard of it”. It was so pretentious that I immediately wanted to punch him in the face. But I digress.
Nitro sent us this impressive list of book readings at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Each reading includes a hosted interview with the author, dinner, and wine. There are at least three that I would seriously consider ponying up the air fare to check out. I’ll be using Google Maps to figure out how to get the readings from the Magnolia Bakery.
Narnia: a beloved children’s book series, a major motion picture, and now – an SNL rap video featuring online mapping software and cupcakes. I’ve been meaning to post this for over a week now, but I have been unable to stop laughing long enough. If you haven’t seen this video yet, be prepared, you may soil yourself. Sample lyrics, “call us Aaron Burr the way we’re dropping Hamiltons”. That is the illin’est. Rap Bonus: if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to (finally) enter a rap battle, this guide might be useful.
Also: our Blog turns 1 year old today. Happy Birthday, everyone.
Clearly I haven’t gotten into the habit of posting, but I have turned a few good pages this year. Here is my top 6 list, not necessarily in order, and not necessarily books published in 2005:
Interesting. This morning The Smoking Gun ran an article resulting from a six week investigation into the author’s claims in A Million Little Pieces. It turns out that James Frey may have exaggerated or invented some of the incidents in his memoir. I haven’t read the book, so I was wondering if these revelations change the power of the book for those who have? Are these revelations important to the story or are they hair-splitting? Discuss.
No, that’s not a joke. Another in a long line of books I’ve read and posted on about cards. My wife knows I dig poker, so in addition to getting me some really cool poker-related stuff for Christmas, she got me two books — One of a Kind, which I recently posted on, and Busting Vega$, by Ben Mezrich.
While Busting Vega$ isn’t about poker (it’s about blackjack, like Mezrich’s earlier book, Bringing Down the House), it’s got Vegas in the title and is about people playing cards, so that’s close enough. Read more »
Well that didn’t take long. I had resolved that in 2006 I would not buy any new books until I had completed all of those piled up in my “to read” stack. I had to keep this resolution to myself so as not to affect Amazon’s stock price. Now that I’ve blown it, the truth can be told. I was doing great until I read a New York Times book review that began:
Question: what do you get if you combine the TV series “The Office” and the Guy Ritchie movie “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” with a Nick Hornby novel and the Kingsley Amis classic, “Lucky Jim”?
What do I get? I get the damn book is what I get. The book is Utterly Monkey by Nick Laird. I had heard of Nick Laird only obliquely. I heard that he was a former attorney, a poet, and current husband of personal fav Zadie Smith. This is his first novel, and I have not read any of his poetry other than the poem that was included in On Beauty. Look for a post on this one only after I have made my way through the backlog. Right…
“Weezie? Who the hell is that?” you ask? Yea, um, ok, I didn’t read so many books last year. (I was busy movin’ on up to the de-lux apartment.) But I did read a few, notwithstanding the lack of any posts. So here’s my “best of” list:
Yup, that’s it. As far as I remember, everything else I read was, as DJ C says, “meh.” But if you haven’t read The Tender Bar, run, don’t walk, over to your bookshelf and get started.
Happy 2006. Hope to share some posts with you this year. Maybe I can even get George to join us. . .
With the hopes that I can get back in the game and actually start posting again………I am going to start off the New Year with my “best of 2005″ list.
In no particular order…..
The additional life changing book “Time Off for Good Behavior” is not on the list because then you might read it and end up unemployed like I am at the moment and that might not be a good thing for most of you. Moral of 2005 is: the more free time you have, the less motivated you are. When I was working and didn’t have 5 minutes of down time, I was reading and blogging away like crazy. And now when I should have hours on end being a stay at home mom – I haven’t been able to get a damn blog posted in months. The reading has continued just not the review and posting. So one of my many New Year’s resolutions – back in action on Baby Got Books. And a year-end/year-beginning thanks to DJ Cayenne for keeping this together and providing the BGB gang with so many great book selections.
As part of my post on Rob Walker’s Letters from New Orleans, I added a Letter from New Orleans of my own. It was therapeutic, so here’s some more that should have been in that post.
In our quick lap around the French Quarter, we found ourselves on the sidewalk outside of the House of Blues listening to the band Cowboy Mouth rehearsing inside. Looking up on the marquee, we saw that they were playing with Dr. John palying the following night. We seriously considered extending our stay for another two days to work the shows in, but we just couldn’t pull it off. My sister, however, was all over it. I didn’t realize it, but the bills were the HOB’s limited re-opening shows. Dammit.
Cowboy Mouth has a new album coming out that has at least two Katrina-related songs on it. You can listen to “Home” and “The Avenue” at their MySpace site (St. Charles Ave is the avenue in question). I think that “Home” is the better of the two. In the opening lines that rhyme “hard” and “St. Bernard” you can get a good idea of what a real New Orleans accent sounds like. My sister says that both songs brought the house down live. The production values of the recorded songs are a little overly slick for my tastes. However, Cowboy Mouth is a force of nature to be reckoned with live. So add “going to see Cowboy Mouth when they visit my town” to your list of things to do.
I read Rob Walker’s Letters from New Orleans a while back. I wanted to wait to post on this particular book until after I actually went to New Orleans, my hometown, for the first time since Katrina. The thinking was that it would make for a more interesting post. How successful I am in that department is for you to decide.
Rob Walker is a regular contributor the New York Times Magazine. He chose to move to New Orleans in 2000. I believe that he left before Katrina. The book is a collection of e-mails that he sent to friends and others explaining interesting things about the City that he encountered in his years there. Rob Walker’s web site says: “Subjects covered in Letters From New Orleans include: Celebratory gunfire, rich people, religion, the riddle of race relations in our time, robots, fine dining, drunkenness, urban decay, debutantes, the nature of identity, Gennifer Flowers, the song “St. James Infirmary,” and mortality.” All true. Read more »