Reading: 2003

Total Items = 149

Zombie — Joyce Carol Oates (+)
Put this one with American Psycho, Child of God and Texas Chain-saw Massacres. JCO is a master and for such a little book, she leaves you with a chill. Not for the squeamish.

Nice Work — David Lodge
The third and final volume of Lodge’s loose trilogy of academic mayhem. I liked this one maybe the best because it reminded me a lot of my Daughter (not quite Professor Parker) and at the same time it reminded me or me (bagged grad school to enter main-stream business and make the big bucks). All three volumes are highly recommended.

Less Than Zero — Bret Easton Ellis
The author wrote this novel while still in college and I can see why there was such applause. Even so, it’s still just another Catcher with more drugs and richer parents. Seemed like every young male would-be author wrote the same novel (remember Chabon?).

Beauty and Sadness — Yasunari Kawabata (+)
I love the prose of these more traditional Japanese novelists. The simplicity of the writing hides the depth and intensity of the emotions. Give Kawabata a try.

Genesis — Jim Crace
Well written and interesting but not special. Maybe there was more in the sub-text than I cared to search for?

The Namesake — Jhumpa Lahiri (+)
I was not about to spend $26 for this title in hard-bound but my library still hadn’t received their ordered copies so I was forced to sit in the coffee corral at B&N and read this excellent work on the QT. Why a reading group would select a title that is hardly available (is it published yet in Australia or Canada?) which is only available as an overpriced hard-bound and since it is a new title by an esteemed author it will be on a hugh library waiting list so that few people will even get a copy before the discussion time is over … geez, am I venting? Anyway, it’s highly recommended and when you see the author’s photo … well … guys might get lost in those eyes.

Vertigo — W. G. Sebald (+)
Although translated from the German, I was very impressed with this author’s prose and the overall structure of the novel was both interesting and thought provoking. I thought the pomo device of including photos, maps, receipts, etc. was very effective and helped to punctuate the narrative. I have three more novels by Sebald on my shelf and really can’t wait to read them.

American Psycho — Bret Easton Ellis (+)
I wasn’t put off by the graphic violence (compare it to Blood Meridian) but I started to get very iritated with all the endless descriptions of clothing and posh restaurants (hey, Zagats has lots of restaurants for regular folks too!). I understood the author’s need to continue the descriptions even after the point was made but they still bugged me.

The Prisoner of Azkaban — J. K. Rowling
I read this before but now I listened to the audio version while on a road trip (ten CDs). It’s much better with the dramatized voices but the writing is still weak and the stories highly cliched. Kids that can read a novel as long as this (and the next two are even bigger) should be capable of reading better quality literature.

1964 High-school Yearbook, 39th Reunion Edition — Harvard Lampoon
I’m never sure where I stashed the original 1964 High-school Yearbook and I was ecstatic when I found this hard-bound reprint with lots of extra stuff in B&N. Even though I could practically quote most of the yearbook from memory, I still had a lot of fun re-reading it and the “where are they now” additions were great. Okay, maybe you have to have gone to high-school in the sixties but this is still the best parody ever! (Michael Darling Parker, Grossmont High, 1964).

The South Beach Diet Good Fats Good Carbs Guide — Arthur Agatston, M.D.
The carb guide to carry around; I’m convinced! Memorize it!!.

Small World — David Lodge
The second volume in the author’s academic trilogy. More out loud humor than the earlier volume but following the same characters (and a few new ones) through their academic foibles.

The Girl Who Played Go — Shan Sa (+)
I really liked this one. The story takes place during the Japanese occupation of Manchuria. A young Manchurian girl is a great player of Go and she meets a mysterious opponent in the park (much like the park in Searching For Bobby Fischer). The structure and prose are excellent and the theme will assault your mind.

Waiting For Godot — Samuel Beckett (+)
I still have vivid images of the several times I have seen this play performed and they make the text that much more rich. One of the truely great dramatic pieces of our time.

Desirable Daughters — Bharati Mukherjee (-)
This book doesn’t know if it should be a chatty accounting of the lives of three Bengali daughters after one moves to San Francisco, another to Northern New Jersey and the third stays in Calcutta or if it should be a suspenseful stalker story that keeps you on the edge of your seat? The chatty version seems to win out and, although you learn some interesting things about being rich,Brahmin and Bengali, the cutthroat stalker story takes over the denouement and somehow seems out of place. It pretty well bombs at the end.

The Captain Is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship — Charles Bukowski
Well the old barfly uses a Mac to write all his novels and poetry and he praises it for allowing him to write faster — bringing the words popping out of his brain closer to the prose he is typing furiously. Despite the title, this book is clear and straightforward for the most part; the subject? why Charles Bukowski and his writing, what else?

The Flower Master — Sujata Massey
Somewhat pedestrian suspense novel without a lot of originality. However, takes place in Japan and gives a good background understanding of the environment.

The Real Life of Sebastian Knight — Vladimir Nabokov

The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art — Joyce Carol Oates
Wonderful little collection of essays, speeches, etc. by arguably one of the best living American authors. Makes me want to read more JCO.

The Elementary Particles — Michel Houellebecq
I really got into this book at first. It promised to describe the discovery of the greatest scientific event since the big bang. But then it suddenly digressed and for the next 200 pages detailed the genealogy and background of two brothers, one to eventually make this discovery. If you want a lot of semi-dysfunctional sex, then this 200 pages is for you but the scientific discovery didn’t come until the last 20 pages or so and then, despite realizing that a lot of the background information was “formative” to the new theory, the destruction of the world as we know it and the introduction and proliferation of a new species was slammed into the last couple of pages. They call it Science Fiction but I don’t think the author adequately related the 90% every day life to the 10% science. Just not sharp (although well written, albeit in French translation).

A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali — Gil Courtemanche (+)
Realistic and passionate story of the destruction of an African nation by the lethal combination of machismo and AIDS leading up to one of the most heinous racial cleansing of all time. Vlad the Impaler was a cupcake compared to these guys. So, join the white foreigners around the pool on a sunny afternoon and don’t mind the explosions near-bye … it’s only people dying.

Paperback Writer — Stephen Bly
A light, entertaining romp by, about and in the style of a paperback writer (pulp, genre fiction) that blurs several levels of fiction into a well-executed satisfying, if not terrible important, story. Note to Reading Groups: Since you never know what is “real” this book makes most book-club questions useless.

The Coming of the Night — John Rechy
A solid piece of fiction presenting everything you wanted to know about gay sex and cruising but were afraid someone might actually tell you. Well, Rechy as usual pulls no punches and develops a humorous collection of vignettes that, chapter by chapter, eventually begin to melt into the final coming together in a small park in West Hollywood. Funny, raw and well written.

Five By Endo — Shusaku Endo (+)
A small collection of five exquisite stories by Endo.

Far — Victoria Lancelotta (-)
It’s tough to find love in this mean old world; too much of a chick book for me?

Purple Hibiscus — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This view of modern Africa that may startle you, full of repression and death but with a small chance of hope in the future (interestingly demonstrated by escaping to America). Otherwise, a tragic story. Recommended.

Wolf Dreams — Yasmina Khandra (+)
How an Islamic fanatic is created. Tough story of life in Algeria full of repression and death. Fascinating and well written. The author is top-notch and deserving of international attention. Highly recommended.

The South Beach Diet — Arthur Agatston, MD
Simple and direct with theory, background, directions and recipes. The rating might best be held for a few weeks until I see how I’m doing. Note: this is carbohydrate control but not as strict as Atkins and I have a friend that now looks marvelous after she has been on the Diet for only 6 or 8 weeks.

Youth: Scenes from Provincial Life II — J.M. Coetzee

Boyhood: Scenes From Provincial Life — J. M. Coetzee

When the Emperor Was Divine — Julie Otsuka

A Man’s Place — Annie Ernaux

Out — Natsuo Kirino

Reunion — Alan Lightman

Elizabeth Costello — J. M. Coetzee

Shroud — John Banville (-)

Changing Places — David Lodge

The Ruined Map — Kobo Abe

What Was She Thinking [Notes on a Scandal] — Zoë Heller

My Cold War — Tom Piazza (-)

Butterfield 8 — John O’Hara

Hey Nostradamus! — Douglas Coupland

The Italian Girl — Iris Murdoch (+)

Structuralism and Post-Sructuralism For Beginners — Donald D. Palmer

Universal Baseball Association, Inc. J. Henry Waugh, Prop. — Robert Coover (+)

Zuleica Dobson — Max Beerbohm

Changing Places — David Lodge

Burmese Days — George Orwell (+)

A Bend in the River — V. S. Naipaul (+)

Reading Lolita in Tehran — Azzar Nafisi (+)

Springer’s Progress — David Markham (+)

The Cave — José Saramago

About a Boy — Nick Hornby

Candy — Mian Mian

High Fidelity — Nick Hornby

Confessions of a Mask — Yukio Mishima (+)

Lullaby — Chuck Palahniuk
The first half of this book had me mesmerized; unfortunately the last part and the ending just left me confused. Balancing on the edge of reality the author relates a frightening tale of death and “Constructive destruction” in the name of saving the world from an ancient curse that is disguised as a simple song in a child’s anthology of rhymes. Sick, disturbing, riveting.

Nightwood — Djuna Barnes
Written earlier in the century with an introduction by Thomas Stearns himself one is sure this is a great piece of literature. Maybe it is but I didn’t get it the first time through. I did read some exquisite prose but the thematic elements weren’t hitting.

The British Museum Is Falling Down — David Lodge
Enchanting. The story is a day in the life of a struggling Catholic grad student but the real fun is the literary spoofs that the author develops to create the story right down to a Molly Bloom ending that says “Perhaps” rather than “Yes.” Recommended.

White Noise — Don De Lillo (-)
Overly conscious writing that hits all the requisite POMO characteristics (just paste then in there, no need for narrative flow; this is POMO). Otherwise a boring loosely edited book. Is this author overrated or what?

Home Truths — David Lodge
Delightfully written. The old fashioned twist in this short novel a la O’Henry.

Hombre — Elmore Leonard
I really didn’t know that Elmore Leonard was the author of many classic western stories that became memorable western movies. I just happened upon this title and I must admit it was a wonderful afternoon’s entertainment. I remember seeing the movie in preview at the theatre in Westwood (second movie after In Like Flint) and admiring how Paul Newman wrapped the part around him until you swore he was an Apache. And the look on Richard Boone’s face when Newman asked him “How are you gonna get down that hill?” Priceless and effective both in the novel and in the film.

I’m Just Here For the Food — Alton Brown
I know, this is a cook book … but it’s not … it’s a book demonstrating the science behind cooking and it’s very very good. No less intriguing that Godel,Escher, Bach Alton Brown brings a clear and often humorous understanding to the science behind the recipes. You might call him the Stephen Hawking of the kitchen.

Reader’s Block — David Markson
I preferred the author’s similar novel called This Is Not a Novel but this work was once again a crazy romp through snippets of history with a faint plot line trying to make itself heard. It’s amazing how a novel with no characters, dialogue plot or theme is so engrossing.

Silk — Alessandro Barico
Excellent fable of the silk trade with China. A small but well constructed piece.

Last Exit to Brooklyn — Hubert Selby, Jr. (+)
Seemingly unrealated vignettes all come together in a powerful novel that will sink deeply into your head. Excellent. Highly recommended.

The Handmaid of Desire — John L’Heureux
An interesting tale of the backside of Academia. I thought there were some really funny scenes in this one and would like to see it as a movie.

The Wandering Hill — Larry McMurtry
This is the second volume of the Berrybender Narratives. I think I’m losing interest.

Ursule Mirouët — Honoré de Balzac
Balzac is a master story teller and his characters come alive. This is one of his financial stories where love and inheritance must clash with greed and financial acumen.

Sleeping Beauty & Other Favourite Fairy Tales — Angela Carter
Fascinating stories but not always the same as you might remember; Carter gives some her own personal spin (very pomo). The last chapter where she writes about the origins of the tales is excellent. Good pictures too.

Sea-Cat and Dragon King — Angela Carter
A short juvenile presents a new fairy tale. Fun.

The Magic Toyshop — Angela Carter
This little gothic was so smartly written that it surprised be that I just didn’t get it. A careful re-reading will bring out those things that make a novel worth studying but times too short to re-read. Read fast; these thinks blow await in the wind..

Their Eyes Were Watching God — Zora Neal Hurston (+)
Forget Black Studies, this book stands all by itself as a great piece of literature. The dialect might slow you down but that’s good ’cause them you’ll catch the power and the beauty of the prose.

The Lecturer’s Tale — James Hynes (+)
This book troubles me. First, it’s really three books — a farcical view of academia, a surrealist fantasy, and a serious discussion of the nature of learning and the need for teaching. Or at least it seems that way. Or maybe it’s just crap? I’m thinking a not-perfect gem.

Because They Wanted To — Mary Gaitskill (+)
An exquisite collection of intense short stories. More for me!

Kindred — Octavia E. Butler (-)
A selection at Yahoo Group BookListReaders that just didn’t do it for me. The premise is a black woman gets transferred into antebellum south when she conjectures that she has been sent to save this gent and assure that her ancestors are free in the future. It gets boring and repetitive.

The Rum Diary — Hunter S. Thompson
An early work by the author developing his journalist style (both in the story and with the story). Early Gonzo but mild.

Farewell to Manzanar — Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston & James D. Houston
A simple, yet powerful story that will help you understand the Japanese in California during WWII and their encarceration in camps such as Manzanar.

The House on Mango Street — Sandra Cisneros (+)
Definitely a classic to be read by every young adult (or older adult). Helps you to see the difficulties of growing up in the Barrio but at the same time shows how strength comes from the family unit.

Crash — J. G. Ballard (+)
A unique story that emphases the erotic beauty of torn and crushed car parts mating with mangled and bleeding body parts. Beautify, in some ways.

Crabwalk — Gunter Grass
Excellent stuff by Germany’s best writer. Grass moves in an out of his own novel with ease and stops to further develop some interesting philolophical points. The author follows his current plan which always seems to return to an investigation of WWII and Nazi Germany.

The Sea, The Sea — Iris Murdoch (+)
Not perfect but so full of excellent prose and devious mysterious ideas that you get lost in IM’s world. My only complaint is that if you read carefully and know something about the author’s background and interests, you might think she is throwing in everything but the kitchen sink. This looseness of interpretation is a fault.

Derrida for Beginners — Jim Powell
Parallels the other Derrida books but I need all the help I can get.

Picnic Grounds: A Novel in Fragments — Oz Shelach (+)
Excellent! So many passages to savour.

Introducing Derrida — Jeff Colllins and Bill Mayblin
Essentially a re-read in preparation of the Kid visiting (I didn’t want to be totally unarmed).

The Fan Man — William Kotzwinkle
In a pad with no heat down on Sullivan Street … or so the Uncle Shelby song goes. This is a fun treatment of a hipster with a plan.

Aspects of the Novel — E. M. Forster
Interesting more from an historical perspective (he refers to just having read Virginia Woolf’s latest work). Read the Kundera for some real thoughts on the novel.

The Art of the Novel — Milan Kundera
The fundamental theory as I see it is … if the work lets us see further into that thing we call mankind, then is is a novel; otherwise it’s just a limp rewrite of tired old ideas in an extended prose form. I think I understand and may have to does some re-reading of the author to see how this works. Good to see middle-european athors mentioned. Excellent comments on Kafka.

Survivor — Chuck Palahniuk
Strange and upsetting. The survivor is the last living member of a suicide cult and is therefore a valuable commodity.

Three Junes — Julia Glass
Excellently written; curiously boring. The first June was pleasant; the second sent it all spiraling. Oh wow! Another help the AIDS patient die story (can you wait?). I’m surprised the author didn’t get a little Quiddich match into the final part.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban — J. K. Rowling
Ok, the first two were okay but not another Quiddich match. Things are getting darker in the series, but it’s beginning to all sound alike and the magic is flagging. Actually not concerned about any future volumes.

The Big Hunger: Stories 1932-1959 — John Fante
Simple straightforward style of Fante. Nothing artistic, no twist or surprises, but vivid and immediate. Compare with stories by Stephen Dixon.

Oryx and Crake — Margaret Atwood
This is one of my troublesome authors but I was immediately drawn into this novel and never stumbled over her prose. The story is a slick armaggedon tale of science gone wild and the future of a human race that is selfish, greedy and pleasure driven. Wrap it up — A Boy and His Dog, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Valley of the Dolls — a very entertaining read even though it must be classified as Science Fiction. Think of it as a Stephen King with decent prose and don’t be scared off by the reviews out there.

Repetitions — Alain Robbe-Grillet
It’s been many years since a novel by R-G was published and fans of the author, no matter how hungry, might be disappointed in this one. The old R-G is in there, often through repeating elements of his earlier works, but there’s too much explanation, too much Kafaesque scenery, too much metaphor. Instead of further pushing the limits; Repetitions seems to soften the edges of past challenges. Three stars for moments of brilliance.

Cosmopolis — Don DeLillo (-)
First, understand that I am not a DeLillo fan; second, what was this book supposed to be about?

Bone In the Throat — Anthony Bourdain
The author takes the real-life character from Kitchen Confidential and plops him in the role of a young chef that will chose harvarti to hamartia. Hey, for a cook, this is a good book (I don’t know if there’s more information thrown in about cooking or about the mob. I was happily impressed.

The Rachel Papers — Martin Amis
The author’s first novel and it’s about coming of age and a young man’s sexuality. Well, duh. Actually, you can see the Martin in going to be a pretty good writer and the story is entertaining.

Unless — Carol Shields
A good friend recommended this text as something that would help me understand how women feel. She was right and I really paid attention to many of the social and philosophical asides, but even a loose collection of the best thoughts about the struggle to be a female in the current world still doesn’t make for being much of a novel. It’s interesting that I enjoyed the little contemporary references but it’s just this sort of thing that mark the text as of limited appeal.

Back Story — Robert B. Parker
He’s back and he’s bad. Spenser and Hawk rip it up in Boston, piss off the Feds and the Mob alike, and keep the fair damsels safe in a barrage of juvenile witticisms. Not the best but Spenser travels up to Paradise, runs into Jesse Stone and is impressed. Where was Sunny?

The Buzzing — Jim Knipfel
A Kolchak like story that is amusing enough to carry the reader forward but ultimately unsatisfying. Minor entertainment.

A Lost Lady — Willa Cather
A quaint yet poignant tale of life out on the prairie — youthful innocence discovers real life and grows up.

A Breath of Fresh Air — Amulya Malladi
Simply told, this story tries to investigate the various ways we love and build relationships and what can happen if they break down. Curiously satisfying.

The Great Petrowski: A Fable — Gina Berriault
This longish story is both fun and educational. Would that singing parrots would take over for demanding divas and save the rain forest at the same time.

Mrs. Dalloway — Virginia Woolf (+)
Every time I read Virginia Woolf I feel like I should spend more time reading and re-reading each and every one of her works. I know that the current critical thought leaves her a step or two below the pantheon but current thought is apt to change. A bit of an enigma on this one, though, is why would anyone want to waste too much time reading secondary authors retelling Virginia Woolf’s stories when one could just as well read the original?

Pieces of Payne — Albert Goldbarth
I didn’t exactly get it all. This novel starts out with a footnote reference in the title, and a quick peek shows that the body of the short novel is less than half it’s length — the rest is footnotes. The author suggestions either reading along or waiting until you’re finished to read the footnotes. I started reading together but finished skipping the notes and filling in later. You might say that the novel was the poetic part and the footnotes were the more pedestrian explanations. The title is a reference to a mastectomy and the bifurcated life is an overall theme.

Choke — Chuck Palahniuk
This one was tough. At times it was too much like The Grifters and other like novels and at other times it was a bit more strange and unique like the author’s earlier novels. Although referring to sex, this quote could also refer to the author’s style — “The kind of rough, messy sex where you first want to spread some newspapers.”

Life of Pi — Yann Martel
Especially at the beginning I felt that the author had gathered a lot of research and was insistent on getting it all included in the book — he wasn’t writing a novel but mostly quoting encyclopedias. However, I found the story sufficiently pleasant and interesting to overlook most of it’s faults. I did feel that parts such as the floating island were separate pieces the author stitched in to try and make his story more interesting.

Rip-off Red, Girl Detective — Kathy Acker (-)
Rating this really isn’t fair since it is a discovered early work by the author and shows its immaturity. However, it does show how an in-your-face feminist author started out and if you love to read loosely written porno detective novels, this one delivers.

Shrink Rap — Robert B. Parker
Sunny Randall again. Still sounds like a female Spenser but I’m watching for the Helen Hunt-isms to come out (there were a few).

The Honk and Holler Opening Soon — Billie Letts
All surface, nothing obscure, simple and still pleasant. A feel good book that works.

The Subterraneans — Jack Kerouac
Short, mildly interesting novel. Kerouac is fun to read but his stuff is, although influential, pretty light weight.

The Exterminator! — Williams S. Burroughs
Not as good as Queer but the comment holds true.

Queer — William S. Burroughs (+)
Burroughs gains more and more in my estimation as the years go by. I can see so much influence on younger writers that follow in the novel. People that only read Naked Lunch or The Soft Machine are missing some amazing writing.

Crumbtown — Joe Connely (~)
Disjointed but interesting overlap of reality and movies; not a real winner. I probably will not rush to read his first novel (the movie was pretty stupid).

The Floating World — Cynthia Gralla (-)
“My dreams trailed after me like children forgotten at the grocery store” — huh? This is a very loosely written story of erotica and perversion that needs a much better author. Sometimes it’s so bad it hurts.

Titus Andronicus — William Shakespeare
Who said Shakespeare had to be sublime? This is just bloody fun.

Fight Club — Chuck Palahniuk (+)
Excellent, different, easily recommended. I have to see the movie now.

The Interpreter — Suki Kim
Although this novel thankfully is less of a comparison between the east and the west and more of an interesting mystery, it isn’t very satisfying. The author needs seasoning..

Mao II — Don DeLillo
First, DeLillo is not on my favorite author’s list but I am going back and reading the titles that I missed through the years and trying to see what I might have been missing. Now that my Post-Modernism is up to snuff I hope to be pleasantly surprised.

Three Guineas — Virginia Woolf
Follow-up lecture to A Room of One’s Own.

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly — Anthony Bourdain
This is a fascinating autobiographical journey through the history of one of the most controversial and fun chefs in the world and at the same time it is an eye-opening peek into the secrets of the kitchen behind those swinging doors at your favorite restaurant. My only complaint — needs more candid snapshots. Tony may be the leader in gonzo cooking but the tiny pictures on the back cover suggest he was pretty geeky growing up.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay — Michael Chabon
First, Chabon has improved immensely over his last piece of crap and I applaud that since I was figuring he had run out of Creative Writing School assignments to publish and was just going to fade away. However, most of the comic book stuff, as interesting as it might have been, was just a short view of what anyone could learn by reading just a couple of coffee table books on the history of the comics. I also had a feeling when reading the Wow-Zam early days of high intensity imagination that went into the first comics books that the author was being derivative and I finally concluded that these scenes were very much like the scenes in Coupland’s works, specifically Microserfs. Third, there was no subtlety about the theme, or themes, of the novel; the author might as well have underlined the important points for us. This was the most obvious trigger that Chabon still has a lot of maturing to go before he writes anything even remotely great. I also believe that Chabon threw in a few kitchen sinks to make sure his text had enough meat to be considered serious; unfortunately some of the alternate themes are just appliques and don’t really move the plot forward. Relating Joe’s assignment in Antarctica to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude is certainly possible but it’s cheap and unnecessary and Sam’s homosexuality has no clear attachment to the events or themes of the novel. Here I believe the author is continuing to work out his personal relationship with homosexuality as he has in most of his earlier works.

All in all, a good book. I gave it 4 stars but that was generous; it should be better edited and that includes tightening up the themes (and probably tossing out a couple of them). I figure the author pumped 200 pages of stuffing into a good novel in the mistaken attempt to make it seem more important than it was. Sometimes less is more and more and more authors are forgetting this important concept.

A Room of One’s Own — Virginia Woolf (+)
This was a quick re-read to focus the work after I went to see a one-woman play that was developed from this text. The play Room, was interesting and very intimate at the Emory University little theatre. It makes you think (in ways that guys sometimes are lacking!)

One Hundred Poems from the Japanese — Kenneth Rexroth
I remember reading these way back in college but they are still wonderful little nuggets of thought. I’ve been a Haiku fan since High School when I first discovered poetry.

The Road to Los Angeles — John Fante (+)
This author is new to me and all the blurbs indicate he is somewhat an infante terrible of literature. I liked him a lot. He’s sort of a William S. Burroughs but a little more controlled. Now I have to dig out more of his titles and they don’t seem to be library fare so it may be costly.

The Hours — Michael Cunningham
Overly conscious of it’s seriousness, I found this one somewhat boring but I did enjoy the quality of the author’s prose. Although I don’t agree with critics that accuse the author of using Virginia Woolf to make his piece seem more important, I do wonder if it would have garnered the same readership without the tie-in to Mrs. Woolf and Mrs. Dalloway.

Prey — Michael Crichton (-)
Pure crap but damned entertaining for the most part. Unfortunately, I keep having visions of the Tasmanian Devil whirling across the desert so I might have lost a lot of the scary factor but since it was a quick read that didn’t matter much (50 pages more and I would have tossed it away prematurely since it wasn’t worth that much effort). For my friends the nerds and geeks, it’s nano-nano all the way (to Ork?).

Typhoid Mary — Anthony Bourdain
Just a little book in a little book series that gives you a good insight into the story of Typhoid Mary. But the author takes it one step further and projects that since like him, Mary was a well thought of cook, she might have had the sane deeply felt engagement with food that Tony Bourdain professes. If you don’t like the author’s flip, street-wise banter, I’m sorry; but otherwise this is a fun interlude that also gives us a little education.

Instant Karma — Mark Swartz
A fun little POMO treat that asks the question, Is blowing up the Public Library performance art ?

A Gesture Life — Chang-rae Lee (+)
Excellent. This is certainly an author to contend with and I thought the story, although dipping back into the old times in Asia, was refreshingly told. You might think of it as Ha Jin meets Richard Russo. I cared a lot for the story and the characters and wasn’t just won over by the excellent prose styling. Good stuff.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower — Stephen Chbosky (-)
Even that old groaner Catcher is a better coming of age story than this. Consistently unbelievable and dull.

The Bleeding of the Stone — Ibrahim al-Koni (+)
This “emerging voice” is from Libya and his little tale is fascinating. I give it an extra star because I know it’s difficult to translate some of this material. Very good.

The Prone Gunman — Jean-Patrick Manchette
The author is said to have saved the mystery genre in France. This noir is excellent entertainment with just enough excitement. Tough and vivid. I’ll look for other titles; maybe even try him in French.

B : A Novel — Jonathan Baumbach 
An interesting treatment, 14 views of the same character. Worth reading.

Introducing Derrida — Jeff Collins and Bill Mayblin
Just a quick introduction to the father of Deconstruction, Jacques Derrida. These visual study guides with their Pythonesque approach do quite a good job and hitting the principle points and keeping you interested.

Deep In the Shade of Paradise — John Defresne
Well, he’s Dufresne again with his usual batch of quirky, if not downright warped, characters in their Northern Louisiana environments. I wasn’t as knocked out by his earlier works as the critics would tell me but they were okay reads with some fun stuff and some spurts of excellent prose. This one is no different.

All Fires the Fire and Other Stories — Julio Cortázar
The author plays with the style and structure of each of these stories until they are unique visions. The Southern Thruway is particularly good but all the pieces are excellent. However, being earlier works some of the ironies of plot are a bit O’Henryesque.

Cocaine Nights — J. G. Ballard
This one starts out as a somewhat standard mystery on the Costa del Sol until once again paradise begins to fall apart. A very interesting premise (you have to read it for yourself though).

Painful Tales — Karel Capek
Another collection of excellent short stories from the Czech author that brought us the War with the Newts.

To Let — John Galsworthy (+)
The final volume of The Forsyte Saga. Excellent!

The Whore’s Child and Other Stories — Richard Russo
Listened to these on tape before; reading them now. Good stuff but not very exciting, kinda like his novels.

The Crazed — Ha Gin (+)
Very nicely done story about relationships and forms of servitude. I was not so enthralled with Waiting, but this is excellent.

Wayside Crosses — Karel Capek
A collection of philosophical short stories from the Czech author that brought us the excellent War with the Newts.

The Female Quixote — Charlotte Lennox (+)
The heroine of this delightful early novel lives her life (especially her love-life) as if in a French Romance until she succumbs to reality in the final confrontation. I suggest reading Don Quixote first (a far richer novel) and then compare to Pamela. Some interesting reading coming out of this period.

Ignorance — Milan Kundera
Nice but I just don’t get excited about this author. The story deals with the ignorance we all have when it relates to our memories — memories that have a tendency to change.

Agape Agape — William Gaddis (+)
A great author nearing his own death muses on the process of writing and his theory of life which he sees in the history of the Wulitzer organ. I need to read or re-read Gaddis’s earlier works.

Night Train — Martin Amis
A reasonably erudite mystery which held my interest but not much else.

Ride — David Walton
The author had an interesting structure set up with bus rides around Pittsburgh but he didn’t stick to it and reverted to a more traditional narrative with the bus rides just being extra description. Note that it is written by a professor and published by the University Press, which suggests that the title was unpublishable elsewhere. Even so, I liked this one. Try it.

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