Sunday, January 30, 2005

2005 book 9

laura esquivel's like water for chocolate
along with the last book i read, my popular materials assignment required reading a bestseller written after 1990. i noticed yesterday that the one i'd chosen had 897 pages, and my paper is due thursday. finishing the book in time was theoretically possible, but those weren't really odds i wanted to play. luckily, i did own three bestsellers from 1990+, and since i hadn't read this one since college, and since it sort of fit thematically with the rachel field novel, it seemed like a good choice.
actually, i didn't like it as much as i remembered (despite the humor of my stupid marginal notes from comp lit 101), mainly due to the ending (which i didn't remember at all). still, it's an easy and fun read, and i do like the framing device of the different recipes. some parts are downright sexy, some are pretty dramatic (in the good way), and all of it is mouth-watering. it's a nice sunday morning sort of book.

Friday, January 28, 2005

another reason i love my job

the new issue of popular music and society (28/1, February 2005) has an article called "What is Indie Rock?"

its abstract:
This article defines the music category "indie rock" not just as an aesthetic genre, but as a method of social differentiation as well as a marketing tool. Using Pierre Bourdieu's concept of "cultural capital," it draws a parallel between indie rock and high art, both of which depend upon a lack of popularity for their value, and require specialized knowledge to be fully appreciated. In its attempt to locate indie rock at the intersection of various artistic, social, and commercial phenomena, the article engages in detailed analysis of particular artists [Lou Barlow, Sigur Ros, Godspeed You Black Emperor, mainly--ed.], songs, lyrics, websites, and reviews, from which it concludes that this relatively new genre is part of an old and familiar social structure.

why didn't i write this article?!

the importance of grammar

why is the word genocide in single quotation marks in the headline of this story?

it's not like this lawmaker is the first person to call it genocide. and the use of quotation marks makes it seem like he's the only one calling it that.

it IS genocide. it's not "genocide" (please visualize extra-exaggerated finger quotation marks there) by any stretch of the imagination.

apparently the gov't is considering invading iran now, or something (i was reading during the daily show the last few nights and may have missed key points). hello, if you want to fuck with other countries, can't you go intervene in a place where people won't get as mad about it? stopping genocide is generally a good idea, in my opinion. better than invading countries and starting wars for no reason whatsoever . . .

i'm also vaguely dismayed not to see more people speaking out about what's going on in sudan. these promises of "never forget" are great, but only if you use the memories to prevent evil crap from happening again.

i guess people will always hate each other though, and always find someone else to blame for everything that's wrong in the world. maybe it's not actually possible to stop genocide--i haven't seen much in the history books to suggest otherwise.

sorry, i swear, i will stay on topic next time! but you guys know how i am about misused apostrophes and things. :) these misused quotation marks are just as annoying, at least from my current political perspective. :)

Thursday, January 27, 2005

2005 book 8

rachel field's all this, and heaven too
for my popular materials class, we had to read a bestseller written between 1930 and 1950--i suppose it's ok to count school books toward my total when they're novels. :) anyway, i was pretty excited about this one--a historical fiction potboiler sort of thing was going on. it's about this french governess--played by bette davis in the movie version, apparently--who has to deal w/ the very jealous wife of her employer. i was sort of expecting the wife to die of a fit or something--it takes place in 1844, and people always die of mysterious maladies in books from that period--but instead her husband murders her brutally, and poor french governess henriette is caught in the middle of a sensational murder trial just as the restored monarchy is losing popular support. she ends upfleeing to america just after napoleon III comes to power and there she hobnobs with the literary and political elite of the period. there was so much name-dropping that i began to suspect the story must be true--the introduction,by field, is ostensibly by french governess' great-niece--and sure enough, the acknowledgements at the end indicate that this melodramatic potboiler is based on FACT! it's a pretty interesting story--one strong, sort of sassy woman's life amid tons of political turmoil, the civil war, and the atlantic cable. pretty entertaining stuff.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

graphic novels!

very exciting news about an upcoming imprint of graphic novels. great talents--jessica abel, matt madden, sara varon, eddie campbell . . . *drool*

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

a successful mix cd/random rambling

i made this awesome mix cd a couple weeks ago, but had been unable to get it to play in my car successfully. behold! a sunny day and a drive to/from durham = the key ingredients to make it go!

here is the track listing, for the curious. this cd's theme was "songs i rated with five stars on itunes that i've never had on a mix cd before." instant sing-along classic!

1. the cannanes-astra
2. cinerama- 10 denier
3. jens lekman- you are the light
4. galactic heroes-payphone country
5. lou barlow-home
6. hutch and kathy-you're on
7. the smittens-capucine
8. comet gain-movies
9. kings of convenience-homesick
10. stranglers-golden brown
11. robyn hitchcock-sometimes a blonde
12. audubon park-tonight! the church van
13. american music club-myopic books
14. mirah-cold cold water
15. annie hayden-slip is showing
16. erie choir-favorite fotos
17. owl & the pussycat-tigers
18. pacific ocean-i tell you my heart could split
19. lambchop-sunrise

i think keith's axiom that unhappy songs are better than happy ones holds true for this cd, though some of these tracks are super-catchy and adorable (perhaps, most notably, the audubon park. seriously, i find myself singing, "and i will inch my sleeping bag/ a little closer to yours!" ALL THE TIME. dude, seriously, that is so my life! jewish youth groups had similar events, you know!).

also note: jens lekman is playing the duke coffeehouse in february. as is erie choir.

now to work on another mix cd for my dad! i think sorry about dresden may have been a little much for him last time, so i will think harder about what to include this go-round. :)

news items that make me go "grrrrr!!!!"

i know that normally i avoid posting news thingies here, unless it's about books or something, but really, i think these three stories are hints that the apocalypse is coming:

item number 1: rolling stone magazine says, "hey, sure, we'd love to advertise your hip new bible after all!" i remember this hip new bible from when i worked at cokesbury--more specifically, i remember looking at it and rolling my eyes.

item number 2: 20 members of one of the russian houses of parliament want to outlaw jewish organizations, claiming that jews provoke anti-semitic attacks.

item number 3: like madonna, britney spears is into that superneat kabbalah stuff! so to show her new supercool spirituality, she got a "hebrew symbol" tattooed on the back of her neck (confirmation from some fan site here). classy! (it would be funny if mem-hay-shin meant something like "skank," but it doesn't mean anything.)
this reminds me of a ride home on the bus last week, where two jewish frat boys were looking at the photos of one's recent trip to israel.

frat boy one: that photo is from tsfat.
frat boy two: (has obviously never heard of the city, or never heard the name spoken out loud) ts-fad?
fb1: yeah, that's where, like, they invented kabbalah. it's the center of jewish myticism. see this synagogue here? ashton kutchner was there just last week!

Sunday, January 23, 2005

2005 book 7

joan leegant's an hour in paradise
this book has it all--rabbis and mysterious siamese twins and mysticism and illegitimate children and deadbeat sons and newly religious jews and a little bit of romance (the last story was especially adorable). leegant's short stories are compelling and sweet and i enjoyed every one of them. they're all pretty jewish-centric, but of course i have no problem with that--it's pretty much just a reminder that i should call my bubbe. :)

Thursday, January 20, 2005

2005 book 6

haruki murakami's kafka on the shore
man, i love murakami. i mean, not unconditionally. i like some of his books much more than others. i loved this one up until the end, when it sort of trailed off a little. parts of it really worked, but some of it felt a little bit forced to me. still, being murakami, it's better than a lot of other books i've read recently. it's mainly about a 15-year-old boy who runs away from home, renaming himself "kafka" in the process. he's sort of hunting for his mother and sister, who left home when he was four, but mostly just trying to escape his father, who has cursed him oedipus-style. meanwhile, an old man who once fell into a mysterious coma and, when he regained consciousness, had lost his entire memory and never did manage to re-learn to read and is now pretty much a total innocent (who talks to cats) gets tangled up in some crazy stuff and soon his path and kafka's start to intersect. the story is told in alternating chapters (a la hard boiled wonderland and the end of the world, which brings up all sorts of possible symbolism), although there is one totally out of place chapter at the very end. the story didn't go where i expected it to go, whcih isn't a bad thing, but i think i was hoping for a little more resolution for kafka. still, i don't think this book merits all the mediocre reviews i've been seeing; i did quite like it (and i adored the old man's road trip with the trucker especially).

best book award ever

this award even has brackets! everyone loves brackets.

plus, three of my own top ten appear on this list, along w/ some other books i enjoyed a whole lot. ooh, a tournament! how exciting!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

los bros interview

i'm sure this interview w/ los bros hernandez has been blogged extensively elsewhere already, but i figured i'd throw the link up for anyone who missed it. also, this gives me the chance to further bitch about the treatment their work has received in these big collected volumes (which everyone but me loves, but whatever).

granted, i don't have the palomar book yet, but i don't think i'm going to rush out anytime soon--according to this interview, the whole poison river story isn't in there! i'm sorry, but luba's backstory is critical to the development of the series, and there are so many references new readers won't understand without it. the character gorgo makes little to no sense without those stories, just as one example.

i thought the locas book was bad enough, with the first few mechanics issues missing, and without any of the izzy stuff, but it's seriously a crime to exclude poison river. not only is it some of beto's best work, but it's crucial to understanding the structure of the series and of the characters' lives.


Tuesday, January 18, 2005


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
hamster 45, who seems to be a magician, waves hi from the mcr of wxdu.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

2005 book 5

david mitchell's number9dream
well, wow. comparisons to murakami are pretty spot-on, so of course i loved this book (i was expecting nothing less, considering it was david mitchell). it was interesting to see the use of stories-within-stories and dreams-within-stories here after the interesting story-in-a-story structure of cloud atlas. anyway, this is about this twenty-year-old kid, eiji miyake, who moves to tokyo to try and find his absent father, whose name he doesn't even know. as the story unfolds, more of his past is revealed--abandoned by his alcoholic mother, he and his twin sister were raised by their grandmother until his sister's death at the age of 11--and he unwittingly gets involved in various yakuza shenanigans while trying to hunt down his father. very high-drama and fun and even a little romantic! seriously, i devoured this book--it even distracted me from the akc national dog show, and i love watching dog shows (periodically, outbursts of "aww, puppy!!!!" involuntarily emerge from my lips). uh, yeah, this one is highly recommended.

Friday, January 14, 2005

2005 book 4

david b.'s epileptic
normally, for whatever reason, i don't count graphic novels toward my book total. however, this one was classed as literature at the bull's head and clocks in at 361 pages, so book 4 it is. anyway, it's a deeply personal story of how david's older brother's epilepsy affected their family--all the different treatments they tried, from massage to macrobiotics to psychotic-rage-inducing drugs--and especially how it affected david's own life and his relationship with his brother. apparently the french title (david is french) was "the rising of great evil," which better reflects the darkness and violence in the story. david, one of the founders of the l'association comic collective, uses his art to highlight the fear and imagination of a family burdened by an illness they can't cure. stylistically and topically, comparisons to art spiegelman are inevitable, but david doesn't come off the worse for such comparisons.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


there is a brilliant article on miyazaki (and his new museum!!) in the new yorker this week (it doesn't seem to be online, but a q&a with the author is here). the museum sounds amazing; japan has suddenly jumped into the number one spot on my list of countries i'd like to visit.

the holy consumption

here's an article profiling the four artists of the holy consumption, one of my daily reads (the site houses work by jeffrey brown, paul hornschemeier, anders nilson, and jonh hankiewicz).

speaking of these amazing guys, i have been dying to get my hands on a copy of jeffrey brown's wolverine meets zombies comic.

(article link from bookslut)

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
hey, my hair is browner now! hooray for moshi moshi!

Monday, January 10, 2005


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
new shoes--just in time for the first day of school!

on a completely different (and random) note, my ipod was playing the audubon park cover of ghost of rock's "old haunts" as i was walking home today--i adore both versions of the song, but really audubon park could do, like, raffi covers and i would love it--and i was thinking it would be fun if more local bands covered each other's songs. that evil weiner tribute comp last year was amazing, and i'd like to see more in that vein.

maybe the audubon park/erie choir/hotel motel/the nein/cold sides collective can start this sort of fun fucking around, since they're already in each other's bands and all.

ok, that's just my pipe dream of the day. :) carry on!

i'm off to enjoy the 67 degree weather some more . . . north carolina is the best state ever.

Friday, January 07, 2005


we just got this book at the library. it's gorgeous. so far, i've only spotted one cd i actually own, but we have a lot of these at the station.

2005 book 3

jenny mcphee's no ordinary matter
i saw a positive review of this somewhere-or-other, so picked it up today while killing time at bull's head. it's basically the story of two sisters, lillian and veronica, and how they start to make sense of their somewhat bizarre family life. lillian, a seemingly cold neurologist, gets herself pregnant by an out-of-work actor (without informing him), who soon becomes a character on the soap opera for which veronica writes. veronica begins an affair with the guy, and at the same time the sisters decide to hire a private detective to find out if their dead father had a second, secret family. lillian's pregnancy, veronica's secret affair, and the private eye's findings all lead to a pretty neat series of twists and turns, none of which i was expecting. it's kind of a light read, but definitely enjoyable and surprising.
anyway, i read it in one sitting, so obviously i was engaged.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

2005 book 2

michael ondaatje's anil's ghost
this lush and beautiful novel is primarily about anil, a forensic anthropologist who is sent to her childhood home in sri lanka by a human rights organization. of course she begins to uncover things the government--still embroiled in civil war, with massacres happening on both sides--does not want to get out. meanwhile, the novel touches on issues of family, national identity, love, and loss. the characters are all compelling and i admit to getting weepy more than once while reading. i'll definitely have to track down more works by ondaatje--i've only read the english patient before this one.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

top ten books of 2004

in the order i read them, not in any ranked order, b/c narrowing it down to ten was hard enough! i don't think these were all published this year, but these were ten books i really enjoyed reading in 2004.

i think the reason most of them are from the second 50 is b/c those are fresher in my mind. :) these are the books i'm still talking about and recommending to people, so i guess they deserve my tiny accolades.

7--February 18, 2004--Susan Fromberg Schaeffer's The Snow Fox
there was a great review of this book in the new york times a couple weeks ago, so i went and picked it up (and actually, when i got it, the dude at the regulator raved about how gorgeous the cover is). who knew someone named susan fromberg schaeffer could write such a lovely and sad novel about three people in japan nearly one thousand years ago? the major characters are a powerful clan leader and the two people he trusts and loves most--his ward/consort, the most beautiful and intelligent woman around, and his best warrior. of course the two end of loving each other, being separated, and finally reuniting (that's not giving any plot points away, don't worry, the discerning reader figures it out long before it happens). in the meantime, there's a lot of death, battling, intrigue--and poetry. there are also two personable foxes, and maybe that's a weird adjective to describe foxes, but it's apt. now i'm even more excited to knit my vegan fox stole, whenever the yarn gets here. anyway: two thumbs up and an enthusiastic recommendation! i'd say "two thumbs up anda big grin," but really i was pretty thoughtful and somber when it ended.

39--May 25, 2004--Ruth Ozeki's My Year in Meats
this is the aforementioned awesome book, which i finished in the time between doing laundry and waiting for my radio show to start. i will first give the warning that non-vegetarians might not want to read this (and vegetarians might want to give it to unsuspecting meat-eating friends to show them some of the dangers inherent to the modern meat industry). but anyway, this is a very funny and sweet novel about a woman working on making a documentary tv show in america to market meat to japanese housewives. i laughed out loud a few times reading it, especially at the end. seriously, i highly recommend this, and will probably read everything i can find by ozeki in the coming weeks.

46--June 9, 2004--Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife
the last few times i've been to the regulator, i've casually picked up this book and set it back down. it looked moderately interesting, and the main character is a librarian (i feel a certain solidarity w/ librarian characters now, and this one is even a punk rock librarian), but the title was so off-putting! i mean, really, it sounds like a bad science fiction book. but then the new york times named it one of its notable books/books to check out during that summer reading binge, so i finally capitulated and bought it. and devoured it. like a few other books i've read, it's one i wish i could read again for the first time, for the pleasure of discovering each event unfolding. i don't want to describe it in much detail, b/c i don't want to give anything away, but trust me, it's worth the read. it's a very lovely book.

77--August 25, 2004--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!

83--September 7, 2004--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!

91--October 1, 2004--David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas
wow. wow, wow, wow. this book definitely deserves the booker prize. first, let me comment on its brilliant structure--stories sandwiched within stories, like nesting dolls--or as mitchell himself writes, regarding a score being composed by one of the characters, "in the first set, each solo is interrupted by its successor: in the second, each interruption is recontinued, in order. revolutionary or gimmicky? shan't know until it's finished, and by then it will be too late . . . " (445). trust me when i say it doesn't come off as gimmicky--all the stories are tied together, and each one revolves around an entirely different world than the one before. they interrupt each other at moments of high tension, which at first annoys ("but i want to know what happens to that character!") but then i was too wrapped up in the new story to care about the one before. don't worry, it all cycles back through to a lovely conclusion.

95--October 16, 2004--Philip Roth's The Plot Against America
this is probably the most terrifying book i've ever read, and definitely roth's best (not that i have read all of his books, but still). the reviewer totally and completely missed the point. interestingly, there's biographical information on all the historical figures he uses in a postscript in the back. i can't really say anything else right now--i'm still processing the story, and how it relates to the political situation now--but that this wasn't nominated for the national book award is the biggest travesty of the year.

101--November 12, 2004--Kelly Link's Stranger Things Happen
here's another book david n. recommended--though actually, it had been on my amazon wishlist since salon reviewed it in 2001. i was glad to have the excuse to finally order it--and it was sooo worth it. these stories are creepy and lovely. link brings in some fairy tale favorites and totally skews them (most notably in "the girl detective," one of my favorites) but it's her other stories that are most memorable--i really think "the specialist's hat" and "louise's ghost" might make it hard to fall asleep tonight, and "survivor's ball" was also a doozy. and on a mostly unrelated note, the cover art for this book is pretty awesome. high marks all around, 5/5 cute star-gazing, coffee-drinking bunnies, or whatever i decided that my rating scale would be. i am really quite glad i finally read this book! don't wait three years to read awesome books, people!

109--December 4, 2002--Miriam Toews' A Complicated Kindness
wow, wow, wow. this book was really, really good. it's about a young mennonite girl whose older sister ran away from home, and whose mother left shortly thereafter, and now the girl and her father are falling apart at the seams. i don't really want to say anymore about the plot, b/c it unfolds slowly and i don't want to give any of it away, but, i don't know, i like the books about teenage rebellion and angst that aren't all trite and boring. nomi is going through a crazy spiritual and familial crisis in this story, on top of all the regular teenage crap. anyway, toews really blew me away with this book--the writing is simple and honest and lovely. i'm definitely going to look for her other novels now.

111--December 15, 2004--Marilynne Robinson's Gilead
this novel is a letter that a dying pastor is writing to his young son, detailing his life and family history and his complicated relationship with his best friend's son, who happens to be his namesake. but you know what? nothing i can say to explain it will really get to the heart of what a great book it is, so next time you're at a bookstore, pick it up and flip through it, and if it seems appealing, you should read it. i'd give it five coffee-drinking bunnies, or whatever my ratings scale is.

honorable mention/authors i read (bunches of) books by and really enjoyed: robertson davies, a.l. kennedy, ann patchett, suzan-lori parks, and . . . well, lots of others. :)

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

death of a giant

will eisner has died.

i swear i will post something besides links soon. i will probably pick up some new comics today, and i even have a new book to read.

Monday, January 03, 2005

baby action girl!

evan dorkin and sarah dyer had their baby on december 30th.


books to remember

via the bookslut blog--posted here for my own reference. :) an article listing some cool-lloking books coming out in 2005. i am most excited for harry potter, although i will probably get the ishiguro, horby, and mcewan books in hardback as well. :)

not the foer though (dammit, i really liked his first book), and definitely not the eggers.

Sunday, January 02, 2005


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy.
hamster 44 appears to be a magician!

2005 book 1

it's weird to be back at the beginning again. :)

orhan pamuk's snow
the story of a turkish poet who returns to a tiny town to investigate a series of muslim girls committing suicide--but really to try and fall in love with a woman he once vaguely knew--and whose writer's block suddenly ends, this novel derails a little as a smarmy actor helps lead a political coup during a big snowstorm. there's a lot of conflict b/w the westernized actor and various political islamicists, with the poet caught in the middle. there's also a lot of speechifying. the body of the story is good but some of the political elements take center stage for far too long for my own taste, and the conceit of the story being narrated by the poet's friend after the poet's death (which is never satisfactorily explained) has potential that it never reaches. however, i did love the phrase "heart full of oatmeal" to describe the poet, and may have to try and use that in my own conversations.