That memoir I wrote about how I was Jewish and survived the Holocaust by trekking across Europe, killing a German soldier, being sheltered by packs of wolves, and escaping the Warsaw Ghetto as a little girl? Yeah, I mean when I insisted it was true, I meant, you know, I felt Jewish, and that this was my story. Don’t push your narrow constraints of objective reality on me, man!
Given my past rants about vampire books, you might be surprised that I voluntarily purchased Christopher Moore’s You Suck. Which is about vampires. Why did I do this to myself? I’m not sure. Maybe it was the cover, maybe it was the price, maybe it was because I got Christopher Moore confused with Michael Moore. I really don’t know. But something drew me to it.
Regardless, I pretty much liked it. Perhaps because it wasn’t a science fiction book, or worse yet, a poor attempt at a horror book. It was a book about young people in San Francisco, with lots of romantic tensions, loyalty issues, a goth girl, a gang of guys who work together at the Safeway, a couple of cops, and at least one prostitute. So the vampire side of things was just one element of an otherwise fun little adventure shared by an eclectic group of characters.
I think this one’s been posted on before, so I won’t get into the details of the story. But if you’re looking for an entertaining read that features vampires, but without all the stuff that can make vampire books suck, then this one might be right for you.
[ed: You Suck and its predecessor Bloodsucking Fiends reviewed here.]
The Morning News’ Tournament of Books is scheduled to begin next Friday. I have no idea why I get so excited by this competition each year. The list of judges has been announced, and Powell’s is offering 30% off all nominated books. I’m sure that your local independent bookstore would also be willing to sell you any of the titles in the running.
The Tournament has added a wagering pool to this year’s event. I have friends that assure me that betting makes anything more interesting. Invariably, whatever I wager on loses. I don’t find that very interesting. I decided to bet on the winner of this year’s Tournament anyway, however, because the proceeds go the charity First Book. And the winners will receive a big bag of schwag. From the site:
Each $2.50 we raise buys one kid one book, so your ten bucks buys four. With these matching donations however, your $10 wager has the power to buy 32 new books for underprivileged kids.
What kind of heartless bastard says “no” to that. I’m in for $10 on Junot Diaz’s The Brief History of Oscar Wao. Of course, this means that Oscar Wao will be eliminated very early in the competition. I apologize to the author for placing this bet.
Michael Chabon’s Gentlemen of the Road was originally serialized in the New York Times Magazine’s Funny Pages. I read the first few installment’s there, but I quit when it became clear that I was going to have to buy the book.
The book reminds me of the adventure stories for boys that were in my elementary school library as a kid. I think that’s the point. The book, as a physical object, is beautiful. The end papers are maps of the foreign lands where the adventures take place. The beginning of each chapter has an eastern motif watermark going down the outside edge of the page. Each chapter has a line drawing in the classic old-school adventure tale style. The illustrations are by Gary Gianni, artist for the comic strip Prince Valiant.
It’s all very well done.
Gentlemen of the Road will not be nominated for multiple literary awards, but it is a competent adventure story that will appeal to those that like to read stories with huns and guys with swords and chases on horseback.
This being Chabon, however, there is bound to be more to the tale. According to the Afterword, the original title of the book was to be Jews With Swords. The author laments that when he mentioned the title, people would laugh. Rather than picture the “memory of some ancient warrior Jew, like Bar Kochba or Judah Macabee,” they conjured images of “Woody Allen backing toward the nearest exit behind a…wavering rapier” or “their uncle Manny, dirk between his teeth, slacks belted at the armpits.” Chabon notes the incongruity, but says that we are all ripe for adventure whenever we leave the warmth and comfort of home. This is particularly true for Jews:
For better or worse it has been one long adventure…from the moment…when God told Abraham lech lecha: Thou shalt leave home. Thou shalt get lost. Thou shalt find slander, oppression, opportunity, escape and destruction. Thou shalt, by definition, find adventure.
I received the e-mail below, erroneously, as it turns out. I guess I have a similar e-mail address to the intended recipient. I thought it was fascinating, so I thought that I’d share it. It has no personal identifying content, so I don’t think there is any harm in posting this. I’ll take it down if anyone’s bacon ends up in the frying pan, as it were.
The e-mail appears to be a student teacher’s journal concerning her efforts to teaching Shakespeare to high school students. I have not edited the content.
Journal 3- 2/11-2-15
Monday- today was a tough day. It was my first day back after being out for three days and returning to a “graffitied” classroom. I jumped right into instruction, we started reading Act 1 Scene 1 of Twelfth Night. The desks were arranged into a circle, which was a change of routine for the students, so I had to address some new rules for being in this arrangement. I didn’t plan too much, except to read the first scene in a round robin fashion, interpreting and discussing as we went. By the end of this week of Shakespeare, I’ve found it’s better that they have some kind of graphic organizer in front of them while we are reading because there’s a lot of idle time for misbehavior. I addressed the graffiti in the way you suggested. “This is our room and it’s disappointing that someone has chosen to treat our space like this.” I have a feeling it was 1 student who is never in school, and when he is, does nothing but mischief, but I have no proof.
Tuesday- another tough day. I was exhausted and highly irritable, which made me agitated during class. Some students who don’t normally read, volunteered which was great. The kids were struggling a lot with the Shakespearean language, and I often felt like I was “lecturing them” in a way. Kind of like a college class where the teacher enlightens the students on the hidden meaning in the words, these kids don’t really go for that. It’s tough right now though. With all the breaks, and the time I missed, I wanted to get a lot of reading and interpretation done this week so we could pick up the pace. I tried a group work assignment today which didn’t go well in the first two classes, but worked in the third. I think it was because of the time constraints. We really only had like 5-8 minutes remaining in the first two classes when I handed out the assignment (create stage directions and movement for the actors in such and such lines), so they were ready for the next class.
Wednesday- Better day. My strength was back, so I was able to function with more energy and clarity. We read today with the No Fear Shakespeare version which helped the students. Again, though, it was mostly reading to move through the play and I felt as if I was drawing out all the meaning in the different characters, and only after a while did some kids start making connections and inferences.
Thursday- today the students really acted out the 5th scene in the 1st act. They stood in the middle and wore silly hats that I brought in. They really enjoyed this and it helped everyone gleam much more meaning because they were putting actions and movement behind the words. More kids are volunteering to take on parts, which is also great. We started reviewing homework which only a very few number in each class had completed. I was frustrated because I wasn’t sure if the students didn’t complete it because it was too difficult (it was 6 questions about Feste the fool, ranging from impression to specifics), or if they just didn’t look back at the scene to help them answer the questions. I think it was the latter, but I spent more time reviewing in the ELL class to make sure. In the class where we got through the reading we were able to do an excellent review activity, going around in the circle each person had to say the name of a character, and someone else had to explain this character’s role. They liked this and took notes for tomorrow’s quiz.
Friday- we played a review game and had a quiz. went well.
Gone, Daddy, Gone: The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas is hosting an upcoming exhibition On the Road with the Beats. It promises to be way out. To get all you hep cats excited, they’ve posted a Beatnik Quiz from 1960. Do most of your friends wear goatees? You may be a beatnik. Check out the poetry questions:
Free/No Pay: Random House is making the new novel Beautiful Children by Charles Bock available as a PDF download through Friday. There is no apparent catch. I mean, other than you may find yourself reading a 400+ page novel on your computer.
Mrs. Got Books and I went to see Dean & Britta last night at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur. At this point, the list of bands that we’re willing to get a babysitter to see on a Monday night is very short. The show was FANTASTIC. Afterwards, the band hung out on the patio chatting with fans and just hanging out.
I’ve always loved Dean Wareham’s music. He was the leader of the seminal indie rock bands Galaxie 500 and Luna. (Full disclosure: Mrs. Got Books introduced me to Luna — otherwise I may have missed them entirely.) Luna dissolved, but Dean & Britta have emerged from the ashes.
If you loved the movie Once (Academy Award winner for Best Song in a Motion Picture), you should check out the music of Dean and Britta. In the band’s documentary, Tell Me Do You Miss Me, it is revealed that Dean Wareham kept Luna going to see if he could make that love connection with the new band member, Britta Phillips. (Britta was the voice of the cartoon character Jem.) They were married last year.
Imagine my surprise last night to find the flier below on my chair:
Holy shit! Dean Wareham has a memoir coming out next month! Why wasn’t I notified? I asked him if there would be any tour dates for the book beyond the dates listed on the card, and he told me that his publisher assured him that authors don’t do book tours anymore. What???!!!!
I’d share my favorite Dean & Britta song with you as streaming audio, but due to DRM restrictions related to iTunes, I’m unable to do so in a timely fashion. Don’t even get me started…
BGB Reading Series, Vol. II: The first event in the newly minted Baby Got Books Reading Series (Rob Sheffield and musical guest The Swear) was a huge success. We’ve been working hard to piece together the follow-up, and we should have news to report later this week. It should be another excellent evening of bookish fun. Stay tuned.
BGB Reading Series, Vol. III: We’re very excited about what could be the third event in our series. I noticed last week that BGB-favorite, Steven Hall (The Raw Shark Texts), mentioned in a blog post that he would be returning to the US for a small book tour. Of course, I was e-mailing the author about coming to Atlanta within minutes of reading the post. A follow-up blog post revealed the reason that Hall is coming to our shores is that The Raw Shark Texts has won the Borders Original Voices Award for Fiction. From Steven Hall’s latest blog post:
As a result of the win I’m going to be coming back to the US, to collect the award and also to do a bit of a mini-tour to coincide with the paperback launch. The exact dates and locations aren’t set yet (I’ll post them up here as soon as I have them) but it’ll looking like it’ll be the second or third week in April with possible events in – Long Beach, CA., San Diego, CA, Sacramento CA, Boston and Portland, Maine. And Atlanta hopefully (I’m really pushing for this one BGB folks, I really am!).
Did you catch that last bit? We’ll keep you posted on our efforts.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, by Jean-Dominique Bauby (which was recently made into a major motion picture that I have not seen yet), is essentially a memoir. But way different than most memoirs. It is a recounting of tragedy by its victim, but told with a triumphant spirit that defies the tragic end that looms. If the title hadn’t already been used, I might even refer to this book as a heartbreaking work of staggering genius.
For those of you who don’t know, Bauby was 43 years old in 1995 and was the editor of French Elle magazine — a well-traveled journalist and father of two young children who had lived quite an interesting life up until December of that year, when he suffered a massive stroke that left him with “locked in syndrome”, in which he was completely paralyzed except for his left eyelid (which he could blink). But unlike most forms of paralysis, he could feel his body — he just couldn’t move it. Locked in syndrome is what gives the book its name; Bauby refers to his condition as like being locked in a clear diving bell, unable to interact with the outside world, but with his mind behaving like a butterfly, flitting freely along inside the diving bell.
Other elements of his particular condition are worth noting as well. For instance, his right ear was completely blocked, but his left ear amplified and distorted distance noises. It was like having a bionic ear that allowed him to hear the slightest distant noises, but not always in a good way. If a tv was left on, or if bells rang in the distance, it could be an ear-piercing experience that he could do nothing to stop. And the condition in general left him at fate’s mercy because he could do nothing to correct what would normally be to you or me nothing more than tedious little annoyances, such as covers bunching up under him. Let alone what happened when his catheter came loose (which happened at least once), and he became uncomfortably drenched with no way of informing his caregivers.
The book was dictated by Bauby during his stay at the Naval hospital in Berck-sur-Mer, on the French Channel coast. He dictated the book, letter by letter, to a speech therapist at the hospital, using a special alphabet layout in which the letters are arranged in order of their frequency of use in the French language; she would read off the letters in that order until Bauby would blink his left eye, signaling that she should note the letter at which he stopped her. And the book gave me chills as I read the story, thinking about it in the context in which it was transcribed.
Bauby’s wit and sense of humor are in full effect, despite his condition. He talks of taking vacations in his mind, in which he re-travels to the corners of the globe with no physical or financial restraint. He jokes about Hong Kong, a place he has never actually visited, but which was the site of a global conference hosted by Elle. In describing Hong Kong, he references the Felix Bar in the Peninsula Hotel, which was decorated by the French designer Philippe S., and he says:
The fact is, my likeness adorns the back of a chair in that lofty luxurious watering hole. I, who hate to have my photo taken, was one of dozens of Parisians whose portraits Philippe S. incorporated into the decor. That photo, of course, was taken some weeks before fate turned me into a scarecrow. I have no idea whether my chair is more or less popular than the others, but if you go there, for God’s sake don’t tell the barman what happened to me. They say the Chinese are superstitious, and if my true fate were known, not one of those charming little Chinese miniskirts would ever dare sit on me again.
Bauby also references the sinister character Noirtier de Villaforte, from Alexander Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo, who was described by Dumas as a “living mummy”. In fact, Noirtier — who was slumped in a wheelchair and could communicate only by blinking his eye — was, according to Bauby, literature’s first, and so far only, case of locked in syndrome. Bauby had recently re-read that classic, and had toyed with the idea of writing a modern version of it. Only to be stricken with that rare condition that plagued one of its villains. That’s not necessarily irony, but it’s certainly tragedy.
Bauby died just two days after the French publication of his book. But we are all fortunate that he was able to muster the strength and the courage, and obtain the assistance necessary, to share his thoughts and his story before he passed away. It is a wonderful sad book.
Last weekend the NBA All-Star game was held in New Orleans. It’s been a while since the national spotlight shined on New Orleans. Heck, it has been too long since I’ve been there myself. No matter where I may live, New Orleans will always be home. I missed the festivities last weekend, so I was interested in checking out the “media reaction” to the weekend and the City’s progress.
First up, here’s the local flavor, courtesy of Chris Rose of the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
Maybe some folks are getting tired of the New Orleans self-love thing. Maybe some folks feel like they’re going to scream if they hear one more time how much more interesting this place is than anywhere else in America. I’m not one of those people. And I don’t think anyone at the New Orleans Arena Sunday night was either…But they love it [New Orleans culture] all the same. They love us. Almost as much as we love us. And they’ll all be back, everyone of them, whoever “they” are. Because they have danced at the center of the universe.
Yeah you right! – as we say in NOLA. Sure. He’s biased. Here’s Bill Simmons from ESPN:
They were happy to have us and we were happy to be there, and that’s what life is really about. Did the weekend accomplish anything other than painting a few schools, planting a few gardens, raising some much-needed money and making the city feel good for a few days? I say yes. Everyone who traveled here for All-Star Weekend will think about returning someday, not because they feel bad, but because it’s New Orleans and it’s ready for us again. Skip your next Vegas trip and convince your friends to spend a wild weekend in the French Quarter. Don’t do it for charity, do it because it will be fun. And it will.
Start making your Jazz Fest plans now.
The Tournament of Books has announced their long list for the 2008 contest. The Tournament starts on March 7th, and brackets will be posted soon. In the meantime, Powell’s has discounted all of this year’s contenders.
The New York Review of Books has two excellent essays that are well worth your time. In the first, author/bookseller Larry McMurtry reviews Custerology by Michael Elliott. In the second Brian Urquhart, former UN Under-Secretary, reviews Surrender is Not an Option by former US Ambassador to the UN, Michael Bolton.
Comics author Jason (I Killed Adolph Hitler) is writing a new strip, Low Moon, for the New York Times Funny Pages.
Do you find yourself wishing that you were romantically involved with a self-involved crapheads? Did you read Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead and think to yourself, “Wow, Howard raping Dominique, that’s a love story for the ages?” If so, there’s a dating service just for you. (via Paper Cuts)
Speaking of comics, Jonathan Lethem is the author a new comic series, Omega the Unknown. You can read the first installment here.
Ellen Forney, the illustrator of Sherman Alexie’s Diary of a Part-Time Indian, has a new collection of definitely adult drawings. The book, Lust: Kinky Online Personal Ads from Seattle’s The Stranger, is a collection of drawings that Forney posted on her blog each week that were based on real personal ads.
Our book club selection this month was The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty. I was looking forward to reading the book because I had never read anything by Welty and felt that I should have. This was her novel that won the Pulitizer Prize in the early 70′s and I had absolutely no idea what the book was about.
Based on the title, I assumed at least one of the characters in the book would be optimistic. That was not the case at all and our book club was quite puzzled over the title of this book. All of the characters were depressed and sad. Our group also felt that the book was more of a short story than a novel and in fact, while doing some research, we found out that it did start out as a short story and then Welty turned it into a novel.
This is a very Southern tale set in Mount Salus, Mississippi. The main character, Laurel, has come to be with her father, the Judge, while he undergoes surgery in New Orleans. Also present, is the Judge’s second and much younger wife, Faye, who is the antithesis of Laurel’s mother. The first half of the book takes place in the hospital and moves very slowly. The tale just meanders along during the Judge’s recovery until things go wrong and the Judge dies.
The second half of the novel is where things get interesting. Laurel and Faye return to the home in which Laurel grew up to bury the Judge. Faye is a crass, lower class, money grubbing woman who first claims that her entire family is dead but then has to backpedal when her family shows up from out of town for the funeral. Her family is a caricature of lower-class, white southerners who will show up for any type of melodrama and take over the party. Laurel and her friends (she calls them the Bridesmaids), are disgusted by Faye but take little action to do anything about it. They are a throwback in time and Laurel, herself, takes a backseat and allows Faye to control everything and doesn’t seem to care that Faye is going to throw out all her childhood belongings and memories.
There is not much that happens in this book but to me it was a good character study of the South in the 1960s. Outward appearance, dignity and your place in society were held above everything else. I wish it had been a short story and don’t really understand why it won the Pulitzer. Many in our book club did not like it at all but I found it to be a quirky, Southern tale with little action but depth of character.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie won the National Book Award in 2007 for Young People’s Literature. It’s too bad that the book will be pigeon-holed in some quarters as a “kids book”, because many actual adults that might have enjoyed it won’t give it a chance. True Diary deserves to be widely read by adults, kids, and anyone else that appreciates a great story.
True Diary is a semi-autobiographical tale. I’m not sure which pieces of the book make it “semi-.” The story is about a nerdy Indian boy, Junior, who is struggling to make sense of the poverty and despair surrounding him on the Spokane Reservation in Wellpinit, WA – which is also the hometown of the author.
Junior has that vague sense that his life is going nowhere, when one of his teacher appears at his door on what Junior assumes (for good reason) is a discipline call. Instead, the teacher reaches out to Junior and urges him to fight his way off the reservation:
“All these kids have given up,” he said. “All your friends. All the bullies. And their mothers and fathers have given up, too. And their grandparents before them. And me and every teacher here. We’re all defeated.”
Mr. P was crying.
I couldn’t believe it.
I’d never seen a sober adult cry.
Junior takes his teacher’s advice and enrolls in a all-white high school located well outside the reservation, only to become an outcast both at home and at school.
There is a bit of an Atlanta connection in the book. A bumbling rich guy known only as “Billionaire Ted” shows up in the middle of Junior’s grandmother’s funeral with some important news — only the news is completely mistaken. And Billionaire is dressed in high end Indian garb that none of the assembled could possibly afford. Classic Billionaire Ted – if its the same guy that I’m thinking of.
The novel somehow manages to tackle the grown-up issues of poverty, alcoholism, racism, death, and intolerance with grace, wit, and charm. The illustrations by Ellen Forney that appear throughout the story, drawn on notebook paper and “attached” with tape, are excellent. More than mere adornment or attempts at “cute,” the pictures add to the emotional weight of the story by appearing to have been drawn by a teenage boy wrestling with his emotions.
In his monthly book column in The Believer this month, Nick Hornby says:
If you see Sherman Alexie’s novel getting a beating somewhere — in the ring, at a racetrack, or anywhere else you’re likely to see books competing — then demand a urine test, because somebody’s cheating.
Yeah. What he said.
A rant: While reading this book, I happened to watch the classic Disney movie Peter Pan with my daughter. Have you seen it lately? The scenes involving the Indian tribe in Neverland may be among the most racist caricatures that I’ve ever seen in a movie. With the exception of Tigerlily, all of the Indians are large, burnt orange, and heavily wrinkled people who say “Ugh” and “How” a lot. Tonto comes off as Sir Laurence Olivier in comparison. The movie also features the song, “Why is the Red Man Red?” and banter like “The red man is cunning but not very intelligent.” Ugh.
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks has received a lot of positive press and the subject was definitely right up my alley. A couple of years ago, Brooks won the Pulitzer Prize for March which was not a favorite of mine. I was hoping that People of the Book would meet my expectations. And it did. I really liked this book – the subject matter, the writing style, and especially the way the book was laid out.
People of the Book tells the story of the Sarajevo Haggadah. A Haggadah is the book that is read during the Passover seder that tells the story of Passover. The Sarajevo Haggadah dated back hundreds of years and was illustrated with medieval illuminations, which was very unusual for a Jewish religious book of that time period.
The story begins with Hanna, an ancient book expert, who is asked to do some restoration and write an essay about the Haggadah after the war in Bosnia has ended. The book was saved by a Muslim librarian while Sarejevo was under siege and is now going to be put on display at a National Museum. While Hanna is doing her restoration, she finds some interesting artifacts in the book (a butterfly wing, drops of wine, salt, a white hair) and these artifacts are the device through which Brooks tells her story.
Each artifact takes the reader back to a certain time period in history with the family that was in possession of the Haggadah. The story goes back in time, so we start in Sarejevo in 1940, then go back to Vienna in the late 1800s, then to Venice in the 1600s, Tarragona in 1492 and finally Sevile in 1480. Between each historical section, the book switches back to Hanna and her own story.
The historical sections of the book were the most engrossing. Each period in time demonstrated the importance of books and their impact on civilization as well as the religious diversity throughout Europe in each of these periods. Each individual story always had a Jewish family’s life intermingled with that of either a Catholic or Muslim depending on the location and time period.
Even though each subsection was little more than a chapter, Brooks did an amazing job of educating the reader about the city during that time period. Through her description of clothing, past-times, servants, etc, you really felt like you were immersed in the lives of the families that had the Haggadah. Each story unfortunately ended violently with one group of people pitted against each other. It was fitting that the Haggadah ended up in Sarajevo, which had suffered appalling ethnic cleansing in the 1990s, because all the historical periods that Brooks describe end up suffering some form of ethnic/religious cleansing. The book is the artifact that survives the human violence even when its owners do not.
I was least interested in the story of Hanna. She is the daughter of a brilliant, Australian surgeon who finds out her own secret family history in the course of researching the Haggadah. I found her and her story a little dull and superfluous to the rest of the story.
Brooks’ description of the Haggadah was so rich that I felt like I could almost feel and smell the pages of the manuscript. When I finished reading the book, I wanted to go visit the Library of Congress and just look through some really old books and try to envision their story and when they were written and where they have travelled. For anyone who has a love of books as well as history, People of the Book will be a very satisfying read.
The Georgia Center for the Book is hosting an event with Charlie Cobb tonight. Cobb is the author of a magnificent new travel guide to the American civil rights movement, On the Road to Freedom: A Guided Tour of the Civil Rights Trail. What makes this book special, in addition to Cobb’s great writing, is his own insider history as one of the unsung heroes of that movement.
Cobb was a student at Howard University when he was drawn into the black freedom struggle. He ended up taking a few years off from his studies in the early and mid-1960s to organize rural blacks and register voters in the Mississippi Delta. His analysis of the situation African Americans faced in that part of the world helped convince the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (the group with which he was affiliated) to invite privileged white students into the state as volunteers for the monumental Freedom Summer project.
Cobb was the first to suggest the creation of the Freedom Schools, the parallel institution that taught a value system diametrically opposed to the one taught in Mississippi’s segregated public schools. The Freedom Schools were the enduring legacy of the Mississippi movement and only the most important development in American public education in the last half of the 20th century. But you won’t learn too much about the Freedom Schools, or about Cobb, from most American history books. (There are some exceptions: He has written about his story here, and a few historians of the Mississippi Movement, like this one have written about his organizing in some detail.)
The Georgia Center for the Book couldn’t be easier to find or get to. It’s in the Decatur Public Library, one block off the square and one block from the MARTA station. Tonight’s event features a great writer AND a significant historical figure. Two for the price of one!
The Columbia Spectator picked the third book in their ongoing series, 50 States of Literature. They haven’t given up yet. This time around the state was Alaska, and the accompanying book was one that I have not heard of before: The Man Who Swam with Beavers by Nancy Lord.
You can check out the other selection in the Quixotic journey here.
In the absence of anything else to read, I just picked up and finished The Dead Fathers Club, by Matt Haig, which was sitting on our bookshelf. I almost bailed on it within the first couple of pages, because Haig wrote the book in the voice of a British youngster (I think he’s in sixth grade or thereabouts), with no punctuation other than periods, question marks, and exclamation points. Hence, not only the absence of Oxford commas, but the absence of commas altogether. And no quotation marks.
It reminded me a little bit of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, both of which use various literary and printing techniques and devices to come off as unique; however, I liked both of those books and wasn’t immediately smitten with the lack of commas and quotation marks in this one. Couple that with the use of common vernacular that is not common to me (because it’s British), and it made for some slow going early on. I was determined to see it through, because my wife thought I’d enjoy it by the time I finished it.
The story itself is basically a rewrite of Hamlet. Boy’s father is killed, boy’s uncle takes up with boy’s mother, boy talks with ghost of dead father, boy vows revenge on uncle who father’s ghost says murdered him, etc., etc., etc. However, some of the methods Shakespeare used in his work aren’t used to such brilliant effect here. Please see the Wikipedia overview of Hamlet, and every time you see “Hamlet”, replace it with “Philip”, spruce it up to make it take place in this millenium, and you pretty much get the outline of the story. Boy not sure how reliable his father’s ghost is, boy has second thoughts about killing his uncle, discussion of putting poison in peoples’ ears, showing a play/movie to the suspected uncle to see his facial expression to determine guilt — it’s all here. Without much more. The end is different, but in my humble opinion not different enough to merit a rewrite of the Bard’s tale.
The only reasons I could recommend reading this book are (i) that you’ve forgotten what happens in Hamlet (or never read it to begin with) and want to learn the story more quickly than slogging through Shakespeare’s longest play, or (ii) you want to read it to see how many parallels you can draw to Hamlet. That’s pretty much it.
Phil Kloer gives BGB a shout out today in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s The Book Page blog. It’s not every day that we get a mention in the Big Media world, so thanks, Phil, for taking the time out to point people our way. Bonus: We can use quotes from the post as blurbs, movie poster style.
The AJC says that Baby Got Books…
“has good taste!!!!!”
is “a competitor!!!!”
“…just another spot where more people like to yammer about books!!!!!!”
It may have been more useful to you had I mentioned the Little Shop of Stories Valentine’s Day Fancy Nancy Fancy Story Party before it happened, but I forgot. It was a big hit with the pre-school set. The kids wore their fancy clothes, heard fancy stories from very fancy story tellers, and enjoyed fancy snacks and fancy drinks afterwards. Fancy.
Fancy snacks from a fancy gal
Back to being pro-active…
There is something going on this weekend for all tastes. Of course, Wordsmiths has a day of music (and some bonus poetry) in support of the day’s big reading. McSweeney’s contributor Dan Kennedy will be reading from his hilarious rock-industry memoir Rock On beginning at 7:30 at the store in Decatur (full details).
You may also want to check out the 38th Annual Atlanta Open Orthographic Meet. The annual spelling bee for adults is a nerdtastic good time. I can not recommend it highly enough. — It’s a spelling bee WITH BEER — However, I’ll be missing it for the third consecutive year. Our own Dr J made it to the semi-finals one year, and we’ve been resting on our laurels ever since. The Orthographic Meet is Saturday the 16th at 7PM at Manuel’s Tavern, 602 N. Highland Ave. 30307. “Come early to eat and to find a seat.” Bring your OED.
If your tastes run a little darker, the Alcove Gallery & A Cappella Books will be co-hosting a reading of Infernal Device: Machinery of Torture and Execution by Erik Ruhling. Alcove’s Chris Warner says this evening receives an “adult” rating. Musical guest is the eclectic Hubcap City.