Saturday, June 24, 2006

"...women's total instinct for gambling is satisfied by marriage.” - Gloria Steinem

I returned Anthony Bourdain’s Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones; it felt like a ragtag collection of essays that just wasn’t that compelling. The first couple essays I sampled didn’t make me want to read all of it, not in the least. I will keep an eye out for a used copy, but it wasn’t worth the full hardback price to me. And does anyone know if he and his wife Nancy got divorced? His other books are all dedicated to her, and he generally mentions her, but I am noticing that this book was NOT, and none of his current bios mention her anymore. Very sad.

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I finished Meg Wolitzer’s The Position last night. I was very sad to see it end, I haven’t enjoyed or been so thoroughly engrossed in a novel in a long time. Possibly since reading Kate Atkinson’s Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Wolitzer is a steady and solid yet nuanced writer who develops even her non-sympathetic characters beautifully. Reading this book and watching its plot, as it were, unfold, was a beautiful and peaceful experience; you were clearly in the hands of a master.
I borrowed Surrender Dorothy from the library, but, like Laurie King’s, Jane Austen’s, and Josephine Tey’s novels, I will ration Wolitzer’s novels, saving them for when I need them. And I MUST own this, anyway, along with all her other stuff.

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My boss lent me Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never let Me Go, which is good; I am enjoying reading it so much more than I thought I would. I didn’t want to come back from lunch, I could happily have stayed curled up in the armchair at Starbucks, latte in hand, reading, for the rest of the afternoon. It’s immensely more readable than his other stuff that I have read, Remains of the Day and parts of Unconsoled.
Knowing the plot twist renders the novel actually that much more disturbing, much like knowing the plot twist in “The Sixth Sense” left me scared, crying, and wracked with sorrow for Haley Joel Osment’s disturbed and haunted little boy. However, I can see how powerful the revelation of the secret could turn out to be as well.

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I got completely bogged down in HP Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness - much as I felt reading Jonathan Lethem’s Girl in Landscape, I just don’t find other, ruined civilizations all that terrifying, even if they are, as one review of Mountains suggested, indicative of “the fragility of human life.” Uh, ok. Reading the newspaper indicates daily the fragility of human life; squidlike, hex-pedal aliens do not. But that’s just me.

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I bought J. Maarten Troost’s Getting Stoned with Savages, his follow-up to Sex Lives of Cannibals. I am looking forward to reading it, maybe after the Ishiguro. I have a feeling I am going to need something sort of light after finishing that.

Or maybe I will tackle Ken Follett’s Whiteout. I haven’t read any Ken Follett since slogging through Pillars of the Earth on my mom’s recommendation, but Whiteout’s got killer viruses! And people bleeding out of their eyes! And sexy biohazard-suited scientists! In a race for their lives! Trying to save humankind! Because we’re fragile! See above!

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Is anyone else reading J. Robert Lennon’s story in July’s Harper’s, “Happyville”? I like Lennon; the first book of his I read was Light of Falling Stars; not as memorable an airplane-crash book as Rafael Yglesias’s Fearless, but good. Then I read his The Funnies, which was okay, but not great. And then I kinda forgot about him. But after reading this month’s installation of “Happyville,” I think I should go check out his other two novels, On the Night Plain, and Mailman (although the latter’s reviews make it sound like Confederacy of Dunces, which I found one of the most annoying books I have ever read).

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I leave you with this:
Primo on the porch, on a rainy day, with his new-from-the-library books.

18 comments:

Joke said...

Actually, Tony Bourdain mentions his wife in a few of his essays in The Nasty Bits.

The problem with books of this nature is their uneven nature. It's hard to have a "level voice" when one essay is written for Maxim and another written for Gourmet. Just the way it is.

Me? I enjoyed it not so much because it's a lovely forest, but because many of the trees were enjoyable. (That said, many were out-and-out clunkers.)

I specifically enjoyed his Woody Harrelson piece (seeing how he and I are fully in sync as re. Woody Harrelson) and the one on fast food and his snippet of fiction which I thought was (for him, anyway) full of gentle light.

YMMV.

-J.

Badger said...

Tony and Nancy split about a year ago, I think. He was dating Paula Froelich for a while but I think they've split, too.

I have no idea how I know this shit.

I am enjoying The Nasty Bits very much, so far. But I'm not very far into it.

I LOVE that he dedicated it to Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee.

What did you think of Girl In Landscape? I haven't read that one yet.

pghgurl said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sarah Louise said...

Babs, you don't read 24-7, I know, but it sure seems like it! I'm reading Romantically Challenged, I finished listening to Back When We were Grown-ups, and my purse is overflowing with half-started books. Wait, is that something to be proud of? Small purse--I can do that too! And I got the Book on Tape of Kitchen Confidential. I'll let you know--I have one more tape of the current BOT in the car before I start KC.

And J, what is YMMV?

telfair said...

Wow -- this is like a goldmine of good book recommendations...

Thank you!!

Amy A. said...

You have a very beautiful porch. Thanks for the book list.

julia said...

There are days when I dread reading your blog. This is one of those days. Why? Because you list all these books and most of them sound great, so I have to add them to my list. And my list? It's an ever-expanding Excel file because I'm a freak and actually take the time to do things like that.

Thank goodness we have a decent library in this town. I know where I'll be Monday morning, with my spreadsheet in my hot little hands.

I'm such a geek.

Sarah Louise said...

sexy biohazard-suited scientists! In a race for their lives! Trying to save humankind! Because we’re fragile! See above!

Glad I came back for a second read. You crack me up, Babs, you really do. I can't wait for your review of this book.

In other news, I finished Romantically Challenged. Very Good. Off to start The broken bowl, to see if it's just you that doesn't like it or if it's just a bad book.

Gina said...

I liked Mailman. It's similar to Dunces, yes, but not so much that I think you'd be annoyed.

Tony Bourdain is a good writer, but reading him puts a chip on my shoulder, because I feel like he'd take one look in my kitchen, sneer, and stalk away.

Carolyn said...

I agree with you that the newspaper daily shows the frailty of human life.

Sometimes I just set it aside when there are too many depressing articles.

As for book reading, I am woefully behind on that.

Joke said...

FWIW, I always took Bourdain's sneerage as directed at people who cooked halfassedly, or inferior stuff. More about the software than the hardware. I mean, he sneers at Emeril & Charlie Trotter.

-J.

BabelBabe said...

Badger - who the hell is Paula Froehlich?

And who are Dee Dee et al?

AND I liked Girl in Landscape well enough. It was a quick read, and very stark.

Joke said...

OMG, BabBab! The Ramones!

-J.

jess said...

I liked Never Let Me Go. I wonder what it would have read like if I hadn't known the twist - harder to get into, maybe, but spookier.

I've added a couple more things to my holds list...I love authors that need rationing.

Love the picture.

Cari said...

Looks like the perfect place to cozy up and read a book...especially on a rainy day.

Peg said...

Great pic -- I feel like I'm there, but more than that, that's *me*, on a summer afternoon, with my library treasures. Only we never had a very cute cat.

This was a great book post. I've been back at least twice to cull recommendations.

And, saddest of all, I've finished Locked Rooms. Kate Martinelli will have to do until the next one.

Lazy cow said...

Love the porch. Ot's my dream to sit on a porch like that, drinking cocktails and reading.
The library has two Meg Worlitzer's waiting for mem, thanks to you. And I've asked them to get Sex Lives too. I'll just have to stop showering to find time to fit it all in.

MrX said...

In my opinion, Gambling is something that every human being has the right to do, and politicians should keep their nosesout of what people do for entertainment or within the comfort of their own homes.