Category Archives: Books

Obviously not hip enough

Many years ago, a friend of mine was a big fan of Thomas Pynchon,  particularly enamoured with Gravity’s RainbowI tried to read it. All 700 some pages. It is  an outrageously funny, complex and difficult read. I was within 80 pages of finishing. I’m a guy who rarely gives up on a book. I came to the conclusion that it would be impossible to resolve the insanely convoluted  plot in the last 80 pages. I put it down and never picked it back up.

The trailer for Inherent Vice a film based on the Pynchon novel of the same name, sucked me in, with the same results. Becky and I watched it with another couple and at least one person was snoring by the time we packed it in. At one point we thought, “We’ve spent this much time on it, we might as well gut it out to the end.” But then we realized that there were still forty minutes left. We went to bed.

But I knew Pynchon was loved by many of my literate friends and I decided that owed it to myself to take another look. In the course of my research I ran across a list of the great contemporary writers which mentioned Pynchon, but also named Don Dilillo. The only thing I knew about him was that my mind always went to Don LeDildo when I saw his name. So when I found a copy of White Noise at the used bookstore, I thought I’d give it a whirl.

White Noise doesn’t feel like a novel to me. It’s more like a collection of short stories with the same characters. Or maybe Saturday Night Live skits. It’s got that post modern ironic flavor that makes you feel like you’re not smart enough to figure out how good it is. Like cod live oil, I kept taking it because I thought it was good for me. It helped that it had short chapters. Some passages were brilliant, one is a riff on misinformation that starts with a simple statement and each subsequent response evokes another misconception. But then I ran into a long chapter. And I found that I was totally uninterested in what was going to happen next. I couldn’t go on.

On that same trip to the used bookstore I picked up books by Elmore Leonard and Saul Bellow. I read the Leonard book first, which is like having dessert first. After I gave up on Delillo I started the Bellow. One page in, I already knew I was going to enjoy Humboldt’s Gift more than White Noise.

I’m Tired.

New heights of putzdom were reached today. You may remember that I recently put snow tires on the car. I got steel rims and cheap plastic wheel covers, one of which quickly fell off and was never seen again. I’ve been driving around looking like a hillbilly. So I bought 4 new cheap plastic wheel covers (I don’t think you can buy just one) and went to the hardware store and bought a rubber mallet for putting them on.

Continue reading I’m Tired.

Humble Pie

Yesterday I started reading Tim O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato (spoiler alert) and also watched Julia and Julie. Let me just say I’ve been humbled. You may be surprised that I haven’t yet read Cacciato, because it really should be required reading for anyone of my generation, at least anyone who professes affinity to Literature with a capital “L.” And you might be amazed that I would be humbled by a Hollywood movie, because those of us who fancy themselves literary, cool, creative and hip, really need to distain Hollywood movies or be exposed as not being any of the former.

I’m not quite sure why I haven’t read much of O’Brien until recently. Quinn, my youngest daughter, who was blessed with an excellent English teacher, read The Things We Carried in High School and she loved it, and recommended it to me. She’s the one that gave me Cacciato for Christmas this year. The book sucked me  in immediately.

Paul Berlin, whose only goal was to live long enough to establish goals worth living for still longer, stood high in the tower by the sea, the night soft all around him, and wondered not for the first time, about the immense powers of his own imagination.

See, humbling. I’ve wondered about my immense powers of imagination. I was virtually an only child, my brother and sister were teenagers when I was born, and I kept myself company with elaborate fantasies. I learned to draw by illustrating the stories in my head. My sister, home from college, suggested that my parents take me to a shrink, because I spent so much time in conversation with my menagerie of imaginary friends, way past the age when imaginary friends are appropriate. I would go to sleep at night telling myself elaborate, juvenile adventure stories. I was an odd duck.

But I never did anything with it. I think I started my first novel at about nine. It was a historical novel, Minnesota was celebrating it’s centennial, the novel was about Henry Sibley. Of course I only got about three pages written when my attention went elsewhere, but not before I enlisted my teacher in the production of some sort of elaborate historical production. She put me in charge. It fizzled instantly when I became bored with it. To this day I have a hard time finishing projects. So I’m humbled not only by O’Brien’s beautifully woven story within a story and his superb writing, but also by the mere fact that he got it done!

Same with Julie Powell and her blog. She got it done. She set this crazy project for herself and got it done, even though she was working full time, doing the cooking and writing about it. Here I am, not employed with way too much time on my hands, trying to get this blog going and half the time I can’t think of anything to write about and when I do come up with something, it seems so stiff and forced to me. I read what I’ve written and ask myself, didn’t I used to be witty and clever? People told me I was. What happened?

Stay tuned. Tomorrow I’m going to try to analyze the situation and see if I can figure out what’s going on and what to do about it.

In the name of science

Thanks to Ed Kohler at The Deets. This lecture by Mary Roach, author of Stiff and Bonk, is ostensibly about orgasms, but about 11 minutes in, I think we get a clue about the origins of H1N1 in humans.

They must have been Yankee fans

TED WILLIAMSWorkers at an Arizona cryonics facility mutilated the frozen head of baseball legend Ted Williams – even using it for a bizarre batting practice, a new tell-all book claims.

via New York Daily News.

I…. uh….. wtf!!! Too sick for even me to make fun of.

Another sinister plot by the Fun Police

devilbabyAccording to this article on Shrink Rap children who eat candies and chocolate every day are more likely to be violent as adults. Now that certainly explains a lot. It’s interesting that “Researchers from Cardiff University found that 69 per cent of the participants who were violent at the age of 34 had eaten sweets and chocolate nearly every day during childhood, compared to 42% who were non-violent.” The theory was that children who were given what they wanted on a daily basis never formed an appreciation for deferred gratification and therefore would resort to violence if there immediate wants were stifled.

I have another theory. Of course the a high percentage of kids who didn’t eat candy every day were non-violent. They were a bunch of ninnies and twits. In my memory of childhood, violence was hardly necessary to obtain a daily dose of Hershey’s. Not if one had an ounce if charm, guile or perseverance. I mean if you couldn’t pinpoint where Mom was hiding the stash of Mike ‘n’ Ikes within fifteen minutes of it’s being hidden, you were just plain off your kid game. And if you include cookies into the category of sweets, the survey becomes meaningless. Cripes, not being able to cadge at least one cookie with a glass of milk after school has got to be a predictor of total failure as an adult. Given the fact that a glass of milk and about a half a bag of Oreo’s was a daily ritual for me, I should be spending my golden years in San Quentin.

And what about that 42% of badasses that didn’t eat candy every day. They were just pissed off all the time. I wonder how many of their violent acts were perpetrated against their Moms. There is clearly a need for more research here. Did I mention that the study was done in England. How many of the participants were shipped off to boarding schools where they NEVER got any candy and grew up to be uptight civil servants and wore bowler hats and little, neatly trimmed moustaches? Answer that one. I’ve read Lord of Flies. “He began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling.” Tell me those nut bags had candy every day. In fact, we know they had NO CANDY. And how did that work out for Piggy?

My favorite candy brand, Squirrel Nut Zippers.