Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Yiddish Policemen's Union (2007)

A new and as-yet-unnamed bookclub is in the forming stages, and our first reading choice is The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon (2007). The only other of Chabon's books that I've read is Werewolves in Their Youth (which google shows me I even wrote about on Spacebeer back in 2006). I really liked that book, and I'm not sure why I hadn't read any more of him (especially The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay -- can I borrow that from somebody?).

I really liked The Yiddish Policemen's Union as well -- briefly it is the story of an alternate universe where instead of settling in Israel, Europe's displaced Jews are given temporary control over a portion of Alaska (this was a real plan that in our version of reality did not have a lot of support). They build a large city, everyone speaks Yiddish, and a couple generations come and go. Then the US decides to take the territory back and the people are once again without a homeland. Our hero is the police detective Meyer Landsman, and even though his department will cease to exist and all his open cases will be thrown out after Reversion, he just can't stop working on the case of a mysteriously murdered man who was assassinated in the same fleabag hotel that Landsman calls home.

I won't say too much more about it since half the people I know are reading this right now and I want to save some juicy tidbits for bookclub, but I will say that I think the book works well as genre fiction (which we all know I love) and as a more "serious" novel (which I also love). I also think that what I wrote a couple years ago about Werewolves in Their Youth is actually pretty applicable to this book too:

Everyone is getting divorced, splitting away, and growing apart. But then, somehow, they end up clinging to something or someone new, or falling back into the same relationship that went so bad at the beginning. Rather than being depressing, the stories are more dark and weirdly hopeful, even when nothing works out by the end.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Harriet the Spy (1964)

Because Choo is awesome and also buys many books she somehow ended up with two copies of Louise Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy (1964). This means that now I am the proud owner of the extra copy. Yay!

Like many a young girl, I loved this book when I was a kid. And even though I'm a horrible journal writer, it made me attempt to keep one on many many many occasions, and may still be responsible for my lack of control when it comes to buying new notebooks that I then proceed to never write anything in. I know for sure that it inspired game number two in my list of weird games I made up as a kid.

The book is still pretty awesome, although I don't think I picked up on all of Harriet's flaws when I was a kid. And she (and her family, and her neighbors, and her friends) is pretty flawed -- just like people are in reality (except me). I also didn't pick up on some very odd scenes. For example, in the second scene of the book, Ole Golly -- Harriet's nanny -- whisks Harriet and her friend Sport away for an unannounced visit to Ole Golly's mother's house. Harriet's family is rich (that is why they have a nanny), and Ole Golly's mother is poor. But she is also a little touched in the head. And the whole potential lesson of being grateful for what you have and thinking about others is kind of lost in the weirdness of the situation.

Later in the book Harriet's mother asks her if she "went to the bathroom" as she is leaving for school and Harriet yells back "no" and hurries to class. Then she has a day at school where things happen, including her overhearing some other girls talk about her while she is in a bathroom stall. Then she runs home:

First she went to the bathroom because she hadn't in the morning, and when she was sitting there she wrote in her notebook:

I LOVE MYSELF


Okay, Harriet is taking a shit, right? I love that.

[There is a good article about the book here, which also includes a little plot summary and some lovely quotes.]

Friday, September 19, 2008

Reformatting

I still love Kitchen Nightmares, and Gordon Ramsey will always be a secret boyfriend (although after some searching, it looks like I never officially posted about his secret boyfriend status), but what bonehead changed the old format where Gordon would take his shirt off about halfway through the episode and change into his chef outfit while confiding to the camera about how fucked up the restaurant was and how he hoped they could pull it together before the end of the night? Because I miss that part...

[Also, I am an information professional, but I could not find a picture of Gordon Ramsey with his shirt off. That is why I made the Gordon Ramsey / Daniel Craig (also a secret boyfriend) mash up you see above. Can you tell I don't have Photoshop? That is all Paint, baby!]

[Also, I'm home sick from work today. Is this a good use of my time?]

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Requiem, Mass. (2008)

The lovely Milk and Cake loaned me (with the help of the US Postal Service), her advance reader's copy of John Dufresne's new novel Requiem, Mass (2008), because good readers need to stick together.

This book initially seems like one that we've seen a million times before -- the narrator had a troubled, and yet hilarious, youth growing up in a crazy family that ultimately loved one another even though they were falling apart. Dufresne likes to play the "is it a memoir or is it fiction" game and so the narrator, naturally, is also the author of the book. But is the author the narrator? And does it matter?

A nice balance to the childhood memories in this book is a peek at the narrator's present day life. I actually liked these sections a little better than the crazy family stuff -- in them the narrator seemed more real, and less like an entertainer trying to distance himself from his childhood by making fun of it. Of course, the childhood sections are also very readable and often quite funny -- but without the present day action to temper them, the book would be exhausting and a little too light.

I liked this book overall (except for the ending which I liked, but felt was a little forced). And if you are a fan of the crazy childhood memoir/fiction genre, I don't think you will be disappointed.

[Anyone want to have this copy? I'd like to keep the loaning system going...]

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Eggstatic

My neighbor / work friend keeps some chickens in her backyard, and after a few casual discussions of how wonderful fresh eggs are, she very nicely gave me a dozen. I'm not that great of an omelette-maker, but I threw together a couple of them with these eggs yesterday and they blew my mind. Fluffy, rich-tasting, and one million times better than any omelette I have ever had before. Yay for backyard chickens!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Man Within (1929)

The Man Within (1929) is Graham Greene's first published novel, and it really shows. While this psychological semi-thriller is ultimately redeeming, overall it is pretty heavy handed, plodding, and occasionally rather dull.

The Man Within is the story of Andrews, a young man who was orphaned after his long-suffering mother died while he was in boarding school, and his hated booze smuggling father was shot on his own ship. Andrews is met at school by the enigmatic Carlyon, his father's first mate who is a stereotypical heavy with an unusual romantic side that quickly becomes Andrews' only friend. Andrews joins the smugglers, but later double-crosses them, turns them in to the police, and finds himself on the run from his former friends and the law (which is where the book starts). And that is where he meets the girl -- alone in an isolated cottage with her dead guardian/lover in a coffin on the table.

The characters are mostly one-dimensional (and their other dimensions are laid on thick), and the dialogue is pretty stilted, but Greene still manages to find some poetry and interest in the life of his cowardly and self-critical protagonist. And, as a person who loves some nice structure, the ending is just about perfect and potentially redeems the rest of the book.

That being said, I can't wait to read some more Greene. I realize that this is an early work and isn't representative. I hear he is great....

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Cords: Or how I may be an idiot, but AT&T was pretty okay

Warning: boring story ahead!

So last night just before Dr. M was going to bed, our DSL stopped working. Bleh. I woke up and checked some connections and turned the modem on and off with no response. In the morning I got up a little early, did all that again, and then called the AT&T tech support number. The guy had me do all the things I'd just done again and then put a work order in to the line technicians to check the line. After a couple hours, they called and I talked to a different help desk guy who said the line was fine, but they would like to send someone over to the apartment to check the line inside and do some troubleshooting. Yay! Dr. M and I worked it so that at least one of us was home all afternoon. Thank god it wasn't me when the technician came and figured out that the problem was the little connector I had hooking two phone cords together (since our modem is far away from our phone jack). The little guy had cracked and wasn't holding together all the way. So even though I totally wasted AT&T's time and a bunch of my own energy, the technician guy was nice about it and gave us a free really long phone cord so that we don't have to use the connector deal any more.

And now, even though I had productivity plans for this evening (cleaning the bathroom! writing about this book that I read awhile ago!), I am worn out from reassembling all the computer bits and re-hooking up the wireless router so instead I'm going to have a drink and read a new book. Zip!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Great Outdoor Fight (2008)

You read Achewood, right? Well, then you know the wonder of the Great Outdoor Fight story arc (start here, read on, never stop). Did you know that those strips, along with some exciting supplementary material, is now available in a real life actually published hard cover? It is! The Great Outdoor Fight by Chris Onstad (2008) tells the story of Ray, who finds out he is the son of a past winner of the famous Great Outdoor Fight and decides to enter the Acres himself and test his strength against 3000 men. The strips look great in print form, and the supplementary material is fun, detailed, and does not disappoint. It is also a beautifully designed book. I even like the way the cover feels. I am extremely enthusiastic about this.

[Buy it here! It only costs $10.17! Do it!]

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Photo identification

Oh shit, you made the Incredible Hulk mad! Now he's going to punch you!

Or maybe not...