Sunday, August 29, 2004

book 80

philip pullman's the amber spyglass
this is a nice wrap-up to the his dark materials series, lots of action and excitement and romance and stuff. of course, the weird religious themes can be a little much (they've put of several religion grad students i know), but it's still a good story based on the characters alone. even the supporting characters are great; it's impossible not to fall in love with all of them. i always feel like this story would make a good movie, but of course i doubt it'd get the funding with its barely veiled anti-church sentiments, and it's impossible to tell the story without referencing genesis.

book 79

philip pullman's the subtle knife
i had every intention of reading the second two books in the his dark materials trilogy between classes this week, but of course some stories just can't be put down, even if you've already read them! this second volume introduces will parry, a boy from our world trying to find his long-missing father, and continues the adventures of lyra and those who are protecting or pursuing her. ugh, i'm sorry, i can't concentrate on this--i got about 17 bug bites at the arboretum yesterday, and the itching is unbearable. benadryl cream, take me away!

Friday, August 27, 2004

book 78

philip pullman's the golden compass
sometimes, a nice way to wrap up the week is to sit quietly and reread a classic. so that's what i did tonight. i imagine i'll work my way through the rest of the trilogy between classes and whatnot. this first one is a great set-up--lots of adventure, interesting characters, and intrigue, and the idea of daemons is really an interesting one. the latter two get a little more overtly anti-church, but none of the theological theories are really apparent in this volume. anyway, i really like this trilogy a lot (though i kind of like pullman's sally lockhart books better--i guess they remind me more of the books i read when i was younger. but they're very different sorts of stories, which only highlights pullman's talent as a writer). i'm looking forward to re-reading the next two, b/c i really like the will parry character. of course, commentary on him will have to wait till i actually have finished it. :)

Thursday, August 26, 2004

darn that shirley hazzard

so remember how i didn't really like shirley hazzard's book the great fire, b/c it was insipid? well, it's one of the booker nominees! lame! seriously, that book sucked. i just lost a ton of respect for whoever awards that prize.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

book 77

john harwood's the ghost writer
i started this book before class today and only reluctantly put it down to learn stuff. i was glowing with the joy of reading it, planning to rush straight home after school to finish it, and then blog about it with heavy use of the adjective "brilliant." ok, the initial thrill has worn off a little, but still, this was a pretty fucking great book. there are new twists and turns constantly, and even though i guessed the big twist at the end, it was no less satisfying. the title is pretty apt--and it's a very creepy story. oh, i think the thrill is back again! this was so worth buying in hardback!

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

book 76

binnie kirshenbaum's history on a personal note
here's a book of short stories by a chick who has apparently been made to feel alienated about her judaism, b/c several of the stories harp on it. there are some worth reading though, like one about a cocktail waitress who gets pregnant and moves to the suburbs, and three about a travel agent and her best friend, and another one i really liked but can't recall very vividly right now and the book is in my car atop my freshly-washed and still-warm laundry, so i can't really tell you the details. don't mind me--i haven't eaten in a while and can mostly only think about sushi at the moment.

book 75!!!

ernest hemingway's the nick adams stories
when i was in high school or thereabouts, someone (a man, older? i don't remember now who it was, though i can nearly visualize the handwriting) gave me a list of recommended books. i'd read a few of them but others i'd never heard of; i imagine i worked my way through the list one summer. one of the items was "ernest hemingway--the fifth column and the nick adams stories" and somehow i found a book that was just the nick adams stories, including some that had not been previously published. i remember liking the stories--i generally like short stories that revolve around an individual or a family, and here i'm thinking of some of ellen gilchrist's books--but hadn't read it since whenever it was i initially read it. and hey, i still liked it! my favorite two stories are two that had never been published--a lot of the published nick adams stories deal with fishing or with war, and i like best the one about nick running away with his younger sister and the one where he and his young adult friends all go swimming. anyway, the nick adams stories are pretty much hemingway lite, which is not a bad thing on a sunny day.

Monday, August 23, 2004


i realized tonight that a lot of my recent reviews have been pretty negative. here are twenty books i would recommend--keeping this list to 20 was pretty difficult, so if you've read all of these, i certainly can recommend more.

margaret atwood, cat's eye
peter beagle, the last unicorn
a.s. byatt, possession
michael chabon, the amazing adventures of kavalier and clay
michael dorris and louise erdrich, the crown of columbus
jeffrey eugenides, the virgin suicides
jonathan safran foer, everything is illuminated
neil gaiman, stardust
glen david gold, carter beats the devil
william goldman, the princess bride
mark helprin, winter's tale
john irving, a widow for one year
yann martel, the life of pi
lorrie moore, birds of america
haruki murakami, hard-boiled wonderland and the end of the world
audrey niffenegger, the time traveler's wife
amos oz, elsewhere perhaps
ann patchett, bel canto
tom robbins, skinny legs and all
a.b. yehoshua, the lover

book 74

shirley hazzard's the great fire
so i got the book nerd edition of trivial pursuit last week, and christina and i were looking at some of the cards during our radio show--she was quizzing me while i ran the board, mostly. and there was a question about this book! my eyes widened at the coincidence as i practically gasped, "that book! it's in my bag RIGHT NOW!" i hadn't started reading it yet and was amused by the intersection of question and locality. but now i've read it. sigh. it did not live up to its trivia-related fun fate. one of my major problems w/ the story was the high language involved--not just the author's narration, but all the characters spoke in this ridiculous poetic style. i mean, the main girl character is frequently called "a changeling" or "a mermaid" by the male characters. b/c yeah, in 1947, that's really how men described pretty girls. also, the major plot of the story--it's about a thirty-something british guy macking on a 17 year old australian girl in post-war japan--just didn't ring my bells. the subplot, about the main character's old friend doing some job or another in hong kong, was a lot more interesting, and nothing really happened there either. i was going to cite examples of the ridiculous dialogue, but now i don't even want to reread the annoying prose to amuse my three readers. i started to wonder if there would be some big tragedy keeping this stupid couple apart, like, say, a GREAT BIG FIRE, but there wasn't. in fact, i don't remember any fires in the book at all. i guess it's a metaphor for hiroshima, even though that's only mentioned like twice, since discussing a 17 year old girl's "silver eyes and hair" is a lot more relevant. except, you know, not.


i've seen a few posts* over the past week berating the current issue of the independent weekly. normally i'd ignore this sort of thing, but i'm feeling outspoken tonight and it's been bothering me a little. now, i personally have no strong feelings about the indy one way or the other--i pick it up every week and read the music coverage and the missed connections (now creepily re-titled "i saw you"), and that's about it. (so i didn't even read the article all of you seem to find so offensive, though i did look at the captions of the pictures which showed people i knew.)

i guess what's bothering me about these blog entries is: if the indy angers you that badly, why don't you do something more proactive than getting all outraged about it online? i mean, they're probably doing the best they can. if you think they ought to do a better job, you could always offer to help them.

of course, half the point of blogs seems to be to have a forum to express one's outrage at whatever one finds so outrageous, and so maybe my entire point here is moot. i guess i just think that if there's something that really bothers you and you have the power to make it better, why not give it a shot? i mean, it's one thing to bitch about dubya--there's not much we can do about him till election day. but the indy? it's such a small, localized thing--i'm sure they'd be happy to have volunteer writers or whatever.

and thus endeth what will probably be my only political commentary ever on this little site.

* hmm, i swear i remember another post about this, but can't currently find it, which defeats the purpose of my entire post, b/c georg's post is really not very savage. please pretend you read lots of blogs mocking the indy this week and then my own annoyance/outrage makes sense.

Friday, August 20, 2004

comic book geekery

mmm . . . today is all about real food and comics. here's what i've been reading:

--love and rockets 11--i wanna see ray and maggie have a conversation!
--blue monday 2--girls masturbate? what?!
--y the last man 25--"you will know i am the lord when i lay my vengeance upon you!"
--fables 28--no comic book is complete w/o an issue involving nazis
--powers 3--retro girl reincarnate!
--dc: new frontier 5--i heart the martian manhunter.
--plastic man 9--i might stop buying this.
--batgirl 54--librarians save the day!
--batman the 12cent adventure--setting up some big new bat-world crossover mishegas
--batgirl 55--part of the big new bat-world crossover mishegas
--why i like bugs--adorable minicomic by dan moynihan
--yeah, it is!--xeric winner from a year or so ago--really neat art.
--scott pilgrim's precious little life--lives up to the hype (it was discussed at length on the 6:35 message board.). aka: i just adore bryan o'malley unconditionally.
--kyle baker, cartoonist vol 2--better than plastic man
--paul auster's city of glass adaptation--gorgeous art, kinda noir, lots of fun.
--li'l folks--predates peanuts! big-ass book! in-depth commentary!

maybe i'll comment on these further, and maybe i won't! nyeah!

as always, comments are welcome--geeky or not!

fave of the day: scott pilgrim. b/c i love bryan o'malley. *swoon*

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

four hamsters for me at the station! (thanks to lisa for snapping the picture.) seriously, who is giving these to me? won't you confess so i can bake you something? Posted by Hello

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

book 73

donna tartt's the secret history
having more-or-less enjoyed the little friend and being faced with a bookstore with a poor fiction section, i grabbed this the other day for the plane ride home. its story of five classics students killing one of their friends (don't worry, they tell you that on page one) seemed awfully familiar, and i was half-wondering where i'd read a book like this before. on page 102, it hit me--i've read THIS book before! i have no recollection of when or why, and until page 102 would have sworn that the first i'd heard of donna tartt was when the little friend was released. weird! if you have any information on when i read this book (it was published in 1992, so god only knows), please tell me, b/c it is driving me nuts.

so yeah, i was a little distracted from page 102 on. let me assure you that the whys and hows and what-happened-nexts of this collegiate murder make a pretty riveting story. very, uh, what's that movie w/ the really long shot at the beginning? rope? yeah, very that.

Monday, August 16, 2004

book 72

frank b. gilbreth and ernestine gilbreth carey's cheaper by the dozen
so my sister bought the steve martin version of this story on dvd yesterday, and i was trying to express my frustration that they'd made such a sweet story into such a goofy-looking movie (not that the book doesn't have goofy parts, but goofiness was way different in the 1920s). anyway, since this had been one of my favorites when i was growing up, and since i hadn't read it in probably 8 or 10 years, i took a quick glance at the ol' bookshelf and spotted it immediately. a sign! i reread it before bed last night and its sweetness and fun still hold up--i mean, it hasn't been out of print since it was first published in the 40s, so i wasn't surprised that i still loved the book. my favorite part is still the scene where the kids smoke one of the older sister's boyfriends out of a tree while he attempts to be a peeping tom. and i still get a little weepy when their much-loved father--one of the great fathers of literature!--dies suddenly of a heart attack. if i hadn't been so sleepy i'd have read the sequel last night too.

Sunday, August 15, 2004


reread harry potter and the goblet of fire this afternoon. decided, again, that it really is the best harry potter book (though book 3 remains my favorite). was pleased to notice that the wand error at the end has been corrected for my parents' paperback version. finished reading in time to watch a cute girly movie with my mom and sister. mark ruffalo is one of my top three celebrity crushes. yay for vacations.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

book 71

i feel obliged to preface this book w/ a brief anecdote about why on earth i read this book all the way through. so tonight after dinner out w/ the family and with the steelers game on tv, i announced that i needed a book. unfortunately, my mother's recent book purchases are generally mysteries ("r is for rigor mortis!") or chick lit books (by the way, has anyone else noticed that over 50 percent of chick lit books feature legs or high heels on the cover?). she promptly handed me three chick lit books, informing me that good in bed is really good, and even my sister read it and loved it. i, being me, mocked the selections. my dad called me a book snob and needled me until i agreed to read the damn thing. and the fact that i had to write this big paragraph justifying this book proves that i am indeed a book snob. so what else is new?

jennifer weiner's good in bed
ok, i mean, this book doesn't totally suck. it's probably better than most chick lit. i just don't have an interest in reading about a fictional character who constantly harps on her weight and her singlehood (perhaps b/c i harp on my singlehood myself--i mean, i cringe when i hear myself saying these things, so do i really want to escape into a novel where this is the primary discussion? uh, no!). it's also entirely predictable--she's oblivious to the interest of the one guy who's nice to her, she becomes friends w/ a movie star, and by the final third of the story, the entire thing has devolved into hopeless melodrama, but you just know that by the final ten pages it will all be worked out. weiner is not a bad writer really, and there are some funny and sweet parts--the slightly overweight main character is a sarcastic (jewish) reporter and gets in some zingers, and the bits about her lovable dog were great, and the nice guy is really nice . . . but blah, blah, blah, i guess i'm too picky (or too unwillingly to enjoy something so saccharine) to really get into chick lit.

book 70

give our regards to the atom-smashers (edited by sean howe)
this essay collection starts out less-than-promisingly, with a piece by jonathan lethem retreading the same old stuff about jack kirby and stan lee. actually, a surprisingly large number of these essays discuss the early marvel years--you'd think the editor could have chosen either more women, or more people from a wider age range. weirdly, two authors also mention rick moody's the ice storm, but geoff dyer's discussion is a lot more relevant than lethem's. still, most of the stories were well worth reading--i chuckled by way through the one about tintin, greatly appreciated the one about renee french, and adored the one on terra from the teen titans. this is definitely a must-read for comic book nerds, but probably not worth buying in hardback, so borrow it from me if you're dying to read it now. :)

Friday, August 13, 2004

book 69

only read one book on the way here--the plane ride was pretty bumpy, which is not conducive to a good reading experience.

jhumpa lahiri's the namesake
a chapter of this appeared in the new yorker a year or so ago, and since i've had good experiences w/ novels that have appeared in the new yorker before, i picked this up for the airport. i was not disappointed in the least--lahiri really seems to capture the identity struggles of a first-generation american, and though her story is very bengali-specific, i think anyone with recently immigated relatives can relate to her themes. dealing with unusual names is certainly a problem that transcends culture. anyway, i read this book straight through and really enjoyed the story and its characters. a few of the end-paragraphs seemed a little forced, but otherwise i thought this book was very deserving of all its praise.

now, of course, i'm low on books. my mom is trying to get me to read something called good in bed. good thing i have give our regards to the atom-smashers squirreled away!

Thursday, August 12, 2004

book 68

calvin trillin's american stories
this collection of some of trillin's new yorker pieces from the mid-80s does capture his unique, dry humor, but also highlights his more serious side as a writer. the essays range in topic from ben and jerry's battle against haagen-dazs to a small-town sexual-abuse-related murder to a duke student's tragic death in china. of course, some of these stories seem pretty dated (especially the ben and jerry's one), but trillin's skill still makes reading them worthwhile. i think this book is out of print (i picked up my copy at nightlight), so feel free to borrow it from me! or you can get his new book of dubya-related humorous poetry, and let me know how that is.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

magazine reading

i finally read the new(ish) issue of heeb this afternoon (after experimenting w/ chapel hill buses and before a nap--how nice to have some time to myself!). i really enjoy this magazine--the photo-essay on guilt was pretty great, as is the "whole megillah" section. the cover article (on jewish guilt) kind of dropped the ball, though, and steve almond's short story was eh. still, i am a big fan of this magazine--except, of course, for the name, which makes me cringe every time i buy it or mention it. i'm just not the sort of person who thinks reclaiming racial slurs and making them hip is a good idea. not that i could think of a better name, but ugh.

sorry for the lack of book postings--i've been saving the few books i have piled up for the flight to pittsburgh. i always get to the airport two hours early, in case of security snafus, and then generally get to spend the time reading and relaxing pre-flight (except when the security guards feel the need to grope me to see if my boobs are real, or are perhaps secretly bionic weapons, and then my reading time is significantly less).

Saturday, August 07, 2004

book 67

david guterson's our lady of the forest
there are few common elements among guterson's three novels--the spirituality of nature, maybe, and the narrow-mindedness of small towns (perhaps exaggerated here--do oregonians really use the phrase "jew you down" and mentally mock hindus?). his in-depth characterizations are also notable--here, the main characters are a sixteen year old girl having visions of the virgin mary, her skeptical friend carolyn, the local weak-willed priest, and a mean-spirited local macho type. the visionary remains mysterious throughout (though her terrible childhood is detailed--are there any books anymore where characters aren't badly abused as children? reading two in one day is unpleasant), but the other three, even the cruel local, are all interesting and sympathetic characters. of course, they all come together as a huge number of people flock to the tiny town as pilgrims, and wackiness--and a catholic church inquiry--ensue(s). ok, there's not really any wackiness. but like all of guterson's books, it's an ultimately satisying read.

book 66

it's such a nice sunny afternoon--i had to go outside to read! unluckily, i left the book i was reading at ooh la latte last night--good thing i had some library books in my car. :)

nora okja keller's fox girl
this book wasn't especially stunning, or exciting, but it was entertaining enough to read on a sunny day, despite its fairly dark subject matter. it's about two girls growing up in korea (after the korean war, i assume), one the daughter of a prostitute who follows in her mother's footsteps, the other her best friend, who is more well off at first. it focuses on the fairly seedy lives of the children abandoned by GIs and their efforts to get away from "america town," the area surrounding the army base. yeah, there're no great life lessons learned and nothing particularly profound happens, but it's not a bad book by any means.

time to head over to durham to reclaim my guterson book . . . or maybe i'll eat a creamsicle.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

see those pearly whites? that's how much i loved mergefest! Posted by Hello

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

book 65

a.l. kennedy's everything you need
i am seriously bummed that the chapel hill library seems to only have two books by kennedy and now i've read them both. she's really brilliant at characterization--her characters here are all fairly eccentric writers living on an isolated island, and even the minor figures are memorable and interesting (especially the lovable dog!). the main thrust of the plot is that a young writer comes to stay in their writers' colony and is unknowingly connected to one of the other writers there (this relationship is revealed early on, and i think most readers would pick it up even earlier). kennedy's own writing is lyrical, yes sometimes harsh, and difficult to read for its harshness. not that i wouldn't wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone, because i do.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

djing 3 aug 04--top ten @ 10

djing is kind of boring w/o christina, so i will now join the ranks of those with online playlists.

song title/artist/album title
I = new playlist
II = older playlist
(#) = top ten
(R) = request

(10) every day you've been away/bebel gilberto/bebel gilberto
(9) soft south africans/the homosexuals/astral glamour
(8) avoid disconnect/the ghost of rock/the ghost of rock
(7) playa azul/los amigos invisibles/the venezuelan zinga son vol. 1
(6) diana ross/the concretes/the concretes
(5) what you want/tracy + the plastics/culture for pigeon
(4) space mambo/little tempo/fire blender
(3) indictment/antibalas/who is this america?
(2) painted forest fire/radar bros./old enough to know better
(1) mad mock goth/the fall/real new fall ep
smiles and frowns/snowglobe/our land brains
(I) lazy daisy/north elementary/lose your favorite things
willie/the snitches/star witness
chicks don't fall in love with me/leprikonsi/russendisko
i don't know what you've got (but it's got me)/percy milem/goldwax story vol 2
the ignorant version/adrian sherwood/never trust a hippy
(I) coco pilots/infinite livez/bush meat
turn it up/ugly duckling/taste the secret
sex, god + money/neulander/smoke + fire
(I) miss you/to rococo rot/hotel morgen
what NY couples fight about (freat. kurt wagner)/morcheeba/parts of the process
what the snowman learned about love/stars/heart
hand to phone/adult./resuscitation
orange blossom/minikon/minikon
i just had the best time/the maybellines/chatfield holiday
nerd boy/rocketfire red/year of the red
(I) sure, bert/mystic chords of memory/mystic chords of memory
pop promotion/gerhard narholz & jurgen jaenner/music for tv dinners: the 60s
living in space/david kilgour/frozen orange

and dude, when did the coke machine go from 65 to 70 cents? i totally had to run upstairs for a nickel so i could get lemonade-in-a-can.

speaking of powers:

there's a pretty good article about the series here (link via bookslut).

i would actually disagree that the series is apolitical--but of course, the author hadn't yet read the past two issues, where deena wakes up from her coma to discover that powers have been outlawed. i'm really interested to see where it'll go from here.

Monday, August 02, 2004

book 64

tim richardson's sweets: a history of candy
i bought this book a couple weeks ago, overjoyed to have 382 pages about candy to read! the first half is a fairly well-done history of candy, and reading all these ancient and not-s0-ancient comments on sugary things is pretty entertaining. the second half (which focuses on the last century, more or less) is a little less thrilling--or maybe my interest in candy waned! nah. anyway, one of the problems i had with this book was that richardson will briefly mention some grand sociological issue (deplorable working conditions on cacao plantations, or the gendering of candy marketing), which i think actually undermines his work. if he had solely focused on the history of sugary goodness, this would just be a fun and fluffy history book. by bringing up these other topics and then droppin them, he makes his work seem both incomplete and irrelevant (when really it could be a pretty useful tool for social historians as well as a fun read). also, because the man is british, i've never heard of half the candies he raves about (he mentions his favorite, something called a rhubard and custard, at least 15 times). i could conceivably use this book as a shopping list for the next time i head to southern season, though . . . and of course, he does debunk the story that the baby ruth bar was named for grover cleveland's daughter, so it's all worth it.

anyway, i'm going to stick to fiction for the next few books.

kochalka-stuff and other comics

once again, 2nd foundation (which seems to have officially changed names to "chapel hill comics") has tested my willpower and won.

this weekend i finally caved and got the big fancy american elf/james kochalka sketchbook diary book, even though i own the first 4/5s of it! but it's neat to read it all at once--i for one am really glad he's stuck with the project. his little anecdotes really capture the rhythms of daily life. i think all married people and new parents especially should check this out, as it addresses family life in a more realistic way than most books.

other purchases: the new caper, the new powers, the new SiP, the new luba, and another little japanese illustrated storybook.

i'm going to be bold here and say that i have been somewhere between annoyed and disappointed in strangers in paradise lately. i mean, it's one of the comics that got me into comics back when i was 16, so i feel a certain loyalty to it, and, sure ,the story has its ups and downs over the years, but i'm really seeing a lot more of a downward turn than usual these days. the worst offense is the novelization of some bits--which in theory makes the action move along more quickly, except that terry moore always novelizes the preceding panels. why?? and i'm sorry, but his writing translates to comic book form much better than regular novel form. his work is totally potboiler and lame. it reminds me of danielle steel (so wonderfully mocked in this new york times article. my favorite line: "Ms. Steel shies away from the selfish, ruthless, shameless home-wrecker type, preferring something more genteel. She would rather focus on inadvertent fabulousness, as in: "She had never paid much attention to the impact she had on men, she was always too busy thinking and talking about a variety of topics." That syntax makes sense only if you notice the 62 other titles on the current "Also by Danielle Steel" list and realize that the author hasn't much time to sweat the small stuff, like periods and commas."). it's unbearable to read.

i'm not really enjoying the new caper storyline either. it all revolves around a hand in a cooler and there's a lot of random action-movie-style gunfire, which just doesn't do it for me.

powers and luba were pretty good though.