Thursday, September 30, 2004

david mitchell and ross grady

are my two favorite writers of the evening. i've been wrapped up in mitchell's cloud atlas, and would have raced through it by now if i hadn't been so busy this week (*cough*gunbound*cough*). suffice it to say that there's a new development every time things get crazyintenseamazing, and the wait to see how it ends makes me want to eschew sleep forever till i finish the darn thing.

also, ross grady. is one of my favorite local resources and i want to immortalize his words here (without permission, but credited to him, so i hope that's good enough for internet-etiquette), b/c saturday night (sorry about dresden, cold sides, the nein, audubon park @ 506) is going to be an amazing show with four amazing bands, and grady totally nailed it:

Indie-rock show of the week; four bands committed to the neverending project of taking the modern popsong structure and poking enormous holes in it with whatever implements come to hand. If you're only going to see one rockshow this year, then what the fuck is wrong with you?

If you've already seen a few dozen rockshows this year, then this is your baby, your best chance to walk away at 1:45 a.m., reeking, in love with rockmusic again.

Actually, you could walk away about 2 minutes after Audubon Park's opening set & already be in love. David Nahm's pop songwriting is peerless, and unlike too many other songwriters, he knows the best gift to the songs is an uneven layer of squirrelly, scrabbling noise smeared on top of them, guaranteeing they'll sound as fresh and new on the hundredth listen as on the first.

I've forgotten why I'm play-feuding with The Nein, particularly since they're actually four of the nicest guys I've met in the 12 years I've lived around here. Not that that's any reason to call off a good mock feud. Wankers.

Cold Sides have gone from conceptual two-man "quiet" four-track side-project, to Brooklyn-topping post-Gang-of-Four punk/funk/disco gods, to blitzed-out delay-pedal scree-loop-dub-ism, all in the space of a handful of years. It's fair to say that anytime they've come close to true mastery, they've preemptively moved on, and that's about the only impulse I can think of that's really worth rewarding.

Sorry About Dresden make the kind of two-guitar indie-rock that would make the young girls pee their pants if the young girls weren't all stoned out of their minds, lying on the floor watching their teen boyfriends play XBox & ignoring the Jay-Z on the stereo.

audubon park, i love you!

sincerely, your devoted fangirl alicia

Monday, September 27, 2004

the daily show really IS a good news source

according to this article, daily show viewers know more about the presidential race than the viewers of any other news/comedy show. or whatever. it's an awesome story (link courtesy of christina).

and speaking of the daily show, i picked up their book on america on friday and have been flipping through it over the weekend. it's laid out like a middle school textbook, only, y' know, goofy and wrong. :) so far my favorite bits are samantha bee's "do you mind if i tell you how we do it in canada?" info-boxes. very educational!

Sunday, September 26, 2004


sex columnist amy sohn reviews sex books in the new york times this week.

i liked her first novel well enough, but i have to say her new one doesn't interest me.

book 90

i would have posted this earlier, but fasting for yom kippur made it hard to concentrate so i only just finished . . .

william gibson and bruce sterling's the difference engine
ok, i'm going to come right out and say that i didn't love this book. the story was pretty good, had a lot of potential, but it really jumped around a little too much from character to character, and then you'd never see the earlier characters again for 300 pages. i think this would have bothered me less if the book wasn't written in a pseudo-nineteenth-century style, with pretention and fraudulent delicacy (like after one sex scene, the girl is sore "down there." she also has a "mound of womanhood"). i did like the bits about leviathan mallory a lot, but he does sort of fade out of the story. everything is sort of all tied together at the end, though the last twenty pages (of fake news articles and weird personal reflections and whatnot) really lost me.

it's not that this book was bad. i think i was just disappointed, since it had such a cool idea, but its execution just didn't do it for me,

thanks for lending it to me, though, georg. i hope my comment didn't offend you!!

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

book 89

lemony snicket's the grim grotto
new lemony snicket EEEEE!!!!!!!! ok, seriously, this book does not disappoint--it's full of tense moments and vocabulary lessons and danger and wordplay and adventure and literary allusions, just like the first ten books in this series. and before you start saying that young adult books shouldn't count toward my total, i'll point out that this book is over 300 pages, which surely works out to over 100 pages of boring ol' adult book. and anyway, who cares what you say?! this blog was MADE to rave about lemony snicket!

so yeah, i really love this series and chapter 11 is harrowing (a word which here means . . . ok, you get the idea, hee) and exciting and wonderful and dark just like all the others. now when does book 12 come out?

book buying bliss

ok, so you know how i have that severe book addiction? well, i just discovered that the bookstore on campus has a pretty great selection (i was going to hit branch's later, but then remembered that i signed the car-free day pledge)--i took a quick break to pick up the new lemony snicket and came back w/ a.l. kennedy's book of short stories (which i haven't been able to find anywhere!) and an order for david mitchell's cloud atlas (which seems sure to win the booker prize). they also have a pretty good graphic novel section, though my loyalty remains to second foundation.

having a pretty good selection a one-minute walk from my workplace is definitely going to cause me some financial problems.

i don't mind living on macaroni and cheese though, as long as i have good books to read. i can't wait to get home now!!!

(don't think i'm a total social reject, though--i'm probably going to see hero tonight, finally.)

in work-related news, i tried to convince the library head to order some magnetic fields (b/c, you know, the guy who writes the lemony snicket books is in magnetic fields) but i don't think he trusts my judgment. :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

jon stewart's america

hey, the daily show book came out today. the reviews on amazon are pretty hilarious--here are my favorites so far:

Reviewer: D@N (Sn Jose, CRC) - See all my reviews
I rated this 1 star because I have not read this book yet and cannot make a comment on it. What I do find interesting is the fact that the book is named after a CONTINENT and yet it's all about the United States (who's flag in on the cover). I find this extremely insulting to all true Americans; from Canada to Chile, Argentina and everywhere between. I'm sure it's a good book, but they should've called it USA.

Reviewer: BanBush-PromoteShaving "kabalevski" (IL -USA) - See all my reviews
.. i'm sure glad they canned that kilbourn guy....
.... this book kicks ass -- but.. have you ever read it... on weeeeeeed?

there are also some more-serious reviews of the book that use phrases like "government bureaucracy and the execution of democratic principles."

Sunday, September 19, 2004

book 88

david maine's the preservationist
so, this is just pretty much a straight novelation/retelling of the noah's ark story. like the red tent, but (slightly) less female-centric. also, the word "rut" is used a lot, and maine uses dashes instead of quotation marks to indicate dialogue (which annoys me. is it meant to show antiquity? like, this story is so old, it PRECEDES quotation marks!). anyway, it's not like this book was bad or anything--the first bits had some humor, and all the wives are pretty great characters. still, there's not much you can do when you're adapting a biblical story. i mean, noah's got to get drunk and naked in there at some point.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

other blogs talking about comics

bryan lee o'malley (of scott pilgrim fame) posted a link to a blog entry comparing his two graphic novels. personally, i could have done w/ a little less of the blog-writers's introspection, but i imagine if i wrote real reviews they would probably be just as me-me-me. actually, my favorite part of the entry is bryan o'malley's comment--be sure to scroll down and read it.

i'll point out here that lost at sea and scott pilgrim are two of my favorite graphic novels, probably for similar reason's to this girl's--who hasn't ever felt out of place, adrift, soulless, especially as a teenager, and who can't enjoy scott pilgrim's adorable, wacky, lovely little life?

i was trying to decide which one i liked better, or would recommend more to someone. lost at sea makes me cry and scott pilgrim makes me laugh. i'm not sure which is better . . .

Friday, September 17, 2004

book 87

jincy willett's winner of the national book award
how thrilled was i to see that this book had come out in paperback this week? not just because it was the subject of a question in book nerd trivial pursuit (sadly, not a question i got, though i did smirk and say, "ooh, this is on my amazon wishlist!"), but because i'd heard such great things about it. and it really lived up to all the raves. it's about twin sisters--the narrator is a librarian (seriously, what's with all the librarians in my books lately? i swear it's not deliberate--is it a sign that i'm on the right career path? ;) ) and her sister is a larger-than-life sensual mailwoman. we find out early on that the narrator's sister has killed her husband, and then it's just a great novel--really fun, and even the secondary characters are hilarious and loveable, or hate-able--to show us how and why this came about. really, i couldn't wait till tomorrow to see how it ended.

oh yeah--the title refers to all the writers and wannabe writers that appear in the book.

some things are better than a good night's sleep.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

book 86

ellen gilchrist's the courts of love
this was the first collection of gilchrist's stories i ever read, the one that inspired me to go get her collected stories and some of her other books. and a lot of the stories hold up on second reading, especially most of the nora jane stories (the first ten stories all revolve around a character named nora jane and her family) and the two stories that deal with animals (a small bear and a badly injured dog, respectively). the animal ones are actually my favorites--she really captures the complex emotions between people and their dogs. or maybe it's just that i like dogs a lot.

attention geeks!

well, if star wars fans fall into the "geek" category.

anyway, the october issue of sound and vision magazine has an interview w/ george lucas, done by carrie fisher. i like carrie fisher, and her introduction is unsurprisingly humorous, and of course she does deviate some from the questions s&v gave her to ask him (which is the lamest thing ever--and these questions are sooo lame).

i will warn you that there is a really gross anecdote about her father's sex life and medical supplies, so read it at your own risk.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

an addiction is born

Today I would like to tell the story of how I got into comic books. It’s not that I didn’t read comics as a kid—I read all the Archie-type books, and my brother’s Batmans and X-Mens. But in retrospect, I can safely say that most of those comics sucked in the mid-80s, and so I didn’t get all that excited about it.

When I was in high school—I think sophomore year or so, when I was just 16—I had this totally geeky friend, Jason F. He was really into musical theater and comic books—like, sooo embarrassingly nerdy! Of course, this was the height of my Rocky Horror/Goth phase (*cringe* don't laugh!), and he was a Rocky-goer, so we hung out sometimes. One time I was over at his place, probably making fun of his comics, when he told me I didn’t know what I was talking about. “Just read this, and see if it’s stupid!” he said, and handed me the Dark Knight Returns (I originally wrote “threw” there, to highlight his exasperation, but I am fairly sure he took good care of his comics and would not have thrown them, ever).

I was totally blown away by the story—it was so DARK and interesting, and best of all, Robin was a GIRL! “Are there other comics like this?” I asked as he dragged me away to wherever we were going that day. I never did read the end of that comic until I got my own copy years later.

Since those were the dawn-days of the internet (did I still have a Prodigy account then, even?), I searched around online until I found Jeff Mason’s site. Back then, Indy Magazine was mostly a mail-order comic book business. I emailed Jeff asked if he knew about any comics that had girls in them, as main characters, maybe even real-ish girls, and if he did, could he mail them to my best friend’s house? (I had some inkling that my mother would think reading comic books was too weird for a teenage girl.)

By the way, i paid for all this with babysitting cash wrapped in notebook paper, so no one could see that the envelope was full of money and steal it.

He kindly mailed me the first issues of Strangers in Paradise and Action Girl, some Paul Pope THB stories, and some minicomics (also, the Crow graphic novel—like I said, I was trying the Goth thing). SiP and AG especially amazed me-—Sarah Dyer’s column in the back of AG even listed LOTS of comics that had girls in them! But fearing parental disapproval, I didn’t actively seek out too many more comics.

Until I got to college! My friend Guttridge from high school also went to PSU, and took me with him one day to the fabulous Comic Swap (he was getting some Tin Tin stuff). I sort of looked around and then hesitantly asked the bald, sunglasses-wearing guy behind the counter what he thought girls might like. He helped me find the first SiP trade and also suggested Sandman and Squee and, of course, Love and Rockets. After that, I went almost every week to get more recommendations from Damon and Kris, and even started drawing my own little comics in my journal.

Then, of course, came my 15 minutes of fame processing the Murray Collection at Duke and my newfound allegiance to Second Foundation/Chapel Hill Comics.

Now I’m working on parlaying all of this comic book geekery into a career, or at least a final project for my reference class. :)

philip roth

the new philip roth book is coming out in october, and after perusing the lengthy excerpt from the guardian (link via bookslut), i have to say that i'm really looking forward to reading it. i'm not a die-hard roth fan by any means, but his reimagining of america looks dead interesting.

meanwhile, i've been re-reading some ellen gilchrist, but her anti-arab stereotypes are annoying me even more than last time. sometimes it's hard to get past them into the meat of the story.

hopefully i'll be picking up some of your recommendations soon! i'm really excited to check out some of them . . .

music library tidbit of the day: here, CMJ stands not for college music journal, the magazine of college radio stations everwhere, but for computer music journal, which is published through MIT. vive la difference!

ps forgot to post this yesterday: a huge YAY for arcade fire's 9.7 on pitchfork! yes, the cd IS that amazing, and the live shows are even more so. come back soon, arcade fire!

Monday, September 13, 2004

the best academic journal ever

is called popular music. volume 23 issue 2 is a particularly entertaining specimen, featuring stories on living troubadours, "'so slide over here': the aesthetics of masculinity in late twentieth-century australian pop music," and one on "the current status of world music in the UK," which informs us that the WOMAD festival had "a delightful 'vibe.'"

there are also some really interesting book reviews. the music library, unfortunately, does not currently have the last party: britpop, blair, and the demise of english rock, but we do have caetano veloso's tropical truth: a story of music & revolution in brazil.

my job is fun!

Saturday, September 11, 2004

ny times/spiegelman/etc

the new york times offers a pretty dead-on commentary of the new spiegelman book.

also, they have a great article on isaac bashevis singer, whose collected stories (three volumes of 'em!) are due out soon. i'm afraid to look the price up . . .

Friday, September 10, 2004

book 85

ariel gore's atlas of the human heart
aimee recommended this book to me a few weeks ago, and i finally picked my ordered copy up today and pretty much read it straight through. basically, it's a memoir of gore's teen years, where she picked up and went to china, and then traveled the world. it's all very heart-wrenching and beautiful and hard. my only complaint is that occasionally she'll, like, define words (the derivation of "free" comes up a few times). is this to highlight her youthful thoughts? it does read like a bad freshman comp paper, where they have to write about materialism or something, and their introductions will all say, "what is materialism? webster's dictionary defines materialism as . . . "

but otherwise, it's really a riveting story, and sort of horrifying because it's true. when aimee recommended it, she said she thought it was a good book about turning points, and would be a good read for someone starting something new in life. i think this is an accurate assessment.

art spiegelman/in the shadow of no towers

i finally got the art spiegelman book this morning, and once my sangria-making misadventures had ceased, i sat down to read it. now, first let me say that it's one of the most visually arresting books i've ever seen--it's large-format, with thick caroard pages like a kid's book, and his strips appear sideways, so they're just the right size. it's great to have them in a book--you can really notice the details of the art more than you could in a newspaper or on his powerpoint presentation. plus, the content is incredible--the few strips i hadn't read were really compelling, and the second half of the book contains an essay about him finding solace in old newspaper strips (very similar to his talk at duke), along with full-scale examples of the strips that inspired him.

i basically think everyone should go buy this book, b/c not only is it the new art spiegelman, but it's really important to reflect on the issues he raises in these heady pre-election months. great timing, art!

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

book 84

holy crap--only 16 more and i hit 100. seriously, give me recommendations! lend me books! i must meet my goal!

david bezmogis' natasha and other stories
these stories all revolve around the berman family, russian immigrants to canada who are trying to adjust to their new lives (short stories that all revolve around a family are some of my favorites to read--very ellen gilchrist!). one is forced to wonder how autobiographical these stories are--the author himself came to canada from latvia as a boy. of course, the stories themselves are so well-written and homey that i quickly got caught up in them and stopped thinking about bezmogis. all of these stories are great, but the title story is particularly compelling, as the main character spends a lazy summer smoking pot and foolin' around with his uncle's new stepdaughter (i kind of don't like that the book jacket calls them cousins, since that makes it seem a lot more incestuous than it really is). the family relationships here are all very vivid and tangled, just like real life, and the only story that falls flat for me is the one about his grandmother's death, which for some reason is interspersed with the main character's trip to california to research a boxer. the final story, about elderly jews trying to get apartments and trying to keep their lives going, hit close to home and is probably my favorite of them all. so, yes, in case you can't tell, this book definitely deserves all the praise being heaped on it, and i highly recommend it.

not book related . . .

but a great story nonetheless:

secret cinema discovered in the catacombs of paris. (link via metafilter)

my favorite part is that there was a secret stocked bar next to the secret cinema, complete w/ "a pressure-cooker to make couscous."

also, the new issue of bookslut went up yesterday, which is book related, and which is always worth reading (especially the great review of book 77, here, and the column mocking planned film adaptations of books/comics, here).

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

book 83!

susanna clarke's jonathan strange and mr norrell
this book is being touted as a cross between harry potter and jane austen, or as harry potter for grownups. i suppose comparisons to harry potter are inevitable--the main characters are magicians, plus it really does hit that epic note that harry potter hits as well. the jane austen thing i get less, partially b/c i'm not really an austen fan--i think that's just due to the time period (1806-1817, more or less). but this is all beside the point! the point is that for me, this book lived up to all the raves i've been reading (or skimming, so as not to be overly influenced by any reviewers). yes, i told myself i'd stop reading at 11 b/c i have class in the morning, and then 11 came and i said, well, another half hour, and it kept on like that till finally i said, screw class, i want to know how this ends NOW!--as all the best books have made me feel. i can wholeheartedly recommend this to any fantasy lovers, any history lovers, anyone who loves a good story with interesting characters and lots of surprises and a satisfying feeling all around. it's 782 pages but it does go quickly! or maybe i'm just a nerd!

Monday, September 06, 2004


of course all the triangle locals know about the starlite burning down, but maybe you don't know about the rebuilding efforts! click here for info and to make donations, all to save the starlite!

Sunday, September 05, 2004

random things

--just watched art spiegelman's talk at the strand--thank you, c-span book tv! it looks like the book is a large-format spiral-bound, which should suit nicely. i have to wait till wednesday for my copy and i'm not sure i can make it!

--4 or 5 of the top 100 downloads on itunes are from the garden state soundtrack. go zach braff! also re: zach braff, his brother has a book out now--i saw it yesterday--which apparently also features a psychologically cruel father (according to one review i saw, and darn if i can't remember where, it's less "zany" than garden state). yeah, now everyone is definitely going to wonder about their home life . . .

book 82

isaac bashevis singer's shosha
long weekends were made for rereading old favorites, and this story certainly falls into that category for me. it's a demented, tragic love story, the kind no one seems to write anymore. the main character of course is a writer who has semi-abandoned his strictly religious upbringing, and whose companions include other writers, weird actresses, communists, and the title character--a childhood friend who never grew up. pretty typical for pre-WWII warsaw. :) i'd say that this novel is less mystical than a lot of singer's shorter works, but of course many of the characters engage in frequent conversations about god, mediums, ghosts, and the like. anyway, it's hard to pin down this sort of story without giving too much of it away, so let me just note that it's one of singer's classic novels, and i'll leave it at that.

Saturday, September 04, 2004 has posted their editors' picks for the year--interesting, since it's only september. here's their fiction list--surprisingly, i've only read two of them: mcsweeney's 13 and the peanuts 1950-1952 collection. interesting choices there, i have to say.

cynthia ozick

the latest cynthia ozick novel (and her first in several years) is reviewed in the new york times sunday book review this week.

best line in the review? "You want to go to Target and buy a red-string cabala bracelet to charm off evil eyes." awesome.

her novels are sort of hit-or-miss for me, but i'm looking forward to reading this one.

random cynthia ozick thing: in college, i was convinced my history 102 lecturer was her daughter. but really, that's kind of a weird question to ask someone, so i never found out if it was true. (although, thanks to the magic of the internet and finding this site, i really do think my lecturer was ozick's daughter.)

other notable reviews:
--jonathan strange and mr. norrell, which has been on my amazon wishlist for over a month and which i thought wasn't coming out here till november--though i believe the uk release date is this week, which (along w/ the new a.l. kennedy novel), may merit an order from

--the and bear in mind section, which comments briefly on snow, cloud atlas, and persepolis 2.

Friday, September 03, 2004


picked up some good stuff this week . . . most notably a new anthology from the actus tragicus collective (based out of tel aviv), with two etgar keret stories and an excerpt from the new art spiegelman book. i was also pleased to see that carla speed mcneil has finally republished her finder/mystery date miniseries as a graphic novel--those are the issues that got me into that series! i can't wait to reread them. they are pretty sexy, if i recall correctly.

also notable: the rosetta 2 anthology, with new stuff from matt madden, jason lutes, paul pope, and craig thompson; the new issue of street angel; the final issue of love fights; the new y the last man (all about hero!); the new caper (which sucks so much. i personally wasn't that enthralled by the addition of gun-toting porn stars, but i guess i'm not the target audience anymore); and the new grant morrison book, we3, about a dog, cat, and bunny who are turned into weapons by the government. i'm not sure i'll bother with any more issues of that one.

fave of the week: the dead herring actus tragicus anthology--i really like the art and stories here.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

book 81

e.l. doctorow's the book of daniel
i picked this up at nightlight on monday, having heard more-or-less good things about it. the owner guy was raving about it when i paid, so i was really looking forward to the story--it's a fictionalized account of the rosenberg trial and its effects on the rosenberg kids (here, a boy and a girl--i think they had two sons--and i have to say, i'm really wondering what happened to them now!). anyway, this is an enjoyable book, totally character-driven. my only beef is really the narrative structure--first of all, it constantly changes from third to first person, sometimes within paragraphs, some sentences just trail off, and in general the style is very disjointed (i suppose this is meant to highlight the fragile mental state of the main character). in addition, it does go off on political rants every now and then (the action shifts back and forth from the 1950s to the late 60s), but not in any meaningful or compelling way. it's like when you skip the 76 pages of annoying speech in an ayn rand book to get back to the main plot (only it only goes on for a few pages at a time here, and the plot is more interesting than an ayn rand book--which isn't really hard). now, all of this is not meant to indicate that i didn't like this book, b/c the premise alone is worth reading about. i just wish doctorow had approached this a little bit differently--this really could have been an intense and moving book, but it just didn't get there for me.

the onion/comics

i've been enjoying the occasional comic book coverage in the onion. they mentioned a couple of my recent favorites in this latest installment: scott pilgrim and carnet de voyage.

From the decidedly un-Japanese land of Canada comes Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life Vol. 1 (Oni) (Buy It!), which suggests what might happen if Peter Bagge had transplanted his Hate slackers into a Japanese romance comic. Written and drawn by Bryan Lee O'Malley, this first installment of an ongoing series follows the eponymous wide-eyed 23-year-old as he hesitantly dates a 17-year-old Chinese-Canadian high-schooler, plays in a band, pals around with a gay roommate, and possibly finds true love in the form of a pigtailed delivery woman with seven "evil ex-boyfriends," one of whom shows up for a climactic battle. O'Malley has a crude but charming command of manga grammar, and the simplicity helps sell the story of a bunch of well-intentioned people who are too old to act like irresponsible kids, but still too young to know how to act any other way...

i think more emphasis on the endearing cuteness and fun of scott pilgrim was necessary, but otherwise they nailed it.

speaking of comics, art spiegelman's latest comes out on the 7th. i read one of these in the forward, a jewish newspaper out of new york, and was blown away, and then christina and kate and some others and i all saw him speak at duke in the spring and were pretty much all in love with him by the end. this work is really amazing--how he processed the aftermath of 9/11 is a powerful story--and it's coming out just in time for the election! i'm just wondering how the format will work--he designed these to be full-page comics in a regular-size newspaper, and the art isn't always traditionally sequential--sometimes his stories are vertical, not horizontally paneled. but no matter how it's arranged, i really expect it to be great.