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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category
Posted by austinburns on June 1, 2006
Ok, so I finished this book a couple of days ago and have been trying to find it's meaning. So far, I haven't been very lucky. I read it because Slate's podcast is going to be discussing it later this month. It starts out at the main character's funeral, so you know he's dead from the get-go. The book meanders through his life, where he was married and divorced three times. Only one out of his three kids talks to him. He cheated on every wife he had. He alienated his brother. He didn't have very many redeeming qualities.
Am I supposed to learn from this story? Is this a cautionary tale? He didn't seem very sorry for any of his actions. He did what he did, and he couldn't change it after the fact. The only redeeming part of this book was that it was only 180 pages or so.
I'm sorry to say I can't recommend this.
Posted by austinburns on May 27, 2006
Wow. What a great book. What a weird book. What a creative book. This book is about what happens when Charles Lindberg wins the presidency at the start of World War II. He keeps America out of war and starts a sort of “Anti-Semitism lite” policy. The story centers around a young boy, Philip Roth (it’s written as kind of a memoir), and his Jewish family living in Newark. His family goes through the best and the worst of the new presidency.
Also, at the end of the book, he gives a true timeline of all the player’s involved. Great reading.
Posted by austinburns on May 22, 2006
Sarah Vowell is one of my new favorite authors. She is able to blend humor with insight remarkably well. She simultaniously loves her country while hating her president. She is able to get past that and praise why she likes America.
All of these essays relate somehow to America. Whether it's about a family Thanksgiving in New York to why the Canadian West was different from the American West (it was the mounties).
All in all, a fantastic book for anyone to read.
Posted by austinburns on May 17, 2006
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll
Really good children's novels. For some reason, I thought they would be longer. Some tidbits I found out while reading:
Most of the visual style for the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland came directly from Carroll's illustrator, John Tenniel. From the cards, to Tweedledee and Tweedledum, to the Mad Hatter, I felt like I was looking at cels from the movie when looking at the pictures in the book.
Second, I found out that it's unlikely that Carroll was taking drugs at the time. Growing up, I had heard that he was an opium addict, but that turns out to be a myth. He was a clergyman and a mathmetician. He just really liked kids and decided to write a story to entertain them.
Third, it's unlikely that Dogma's interpretation of The Walrus and the Carpenter (that it's an indictment of organized religion), while a valid interpretation, was probably not the intention of Carroll. Besides being a clergyman, he supposedly gave his illustrator three options that would fit the meter of the poem: a carpenter, a butterfly, or a baronet. Tenniel chose the carpenter. So, it's unlikely that the carpenter had much meaning.
Overall, great read. It was a pretty quick read, but it was good.
Posted by austinburns on May 13, 2006
Slate's book club selection for June is Everyman, by Philip Roth. I'm going to wait until it's closer to read this. It isn't very long. I also picked up Roth's last book, The Plot Against America. I'll probably read that first to get a good frame of reference.
Maybe I'll try to find a local book club to join so I can actually take part in discussion rather than just listening to a podcast.
I wonder where I can find one …
Posted by austinburns on May 13, 2006
What a great book! I've been trying to go back and read some of the "classics" and this one was definitely worth it! Randal P. McMurphy (RPM) is such a great, manic character! And Chief Bromden is great. I saw the movie a couple of months ago, and it was fantastic and stayed suprisingly close to the novel. A lot of the Chief's hallucinations and theories about the Combine were left out of the movie, but they nailed each of the character's personalities. Jack Nicholson doesn't look anything like McMurphy was described, but he acted exactly how McMurphy acted. I'm glad that most of the story stayed intact. Just as shocking and just as fun to read as it was to watch.
This book is a masterpiece and is highly recommended!
I just bought 4 books at B&N, plus I had two or three lying around waiting to read, but I think I'm going to tackle Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass next. Bring on the classics!
Posted by austinburns on May 4, 2006
The book was very interesting. The main character is a neurosurgeon who is spending his day off, a Saturday, doing various errands. But the book isn't about any of these errands. It is more about a forty-odd man coming to terms with a post 9/11 world. It's set in 2003, right before the war in Iraq. There's hundreds of thousands of protesters in the streets of London, and all of these things come together in the end. The novel is also about cause and effect and about how one little decision can change the outcome of a lifetime.
I started reading the book after Slate's podcasts were advertising a book club podcast that was about to get going. Their first book didn't interest me, but I remember almost buying this book when it came out. Now it's in paperback and it's lovely.
I agree with the reviewer who advises you to read the last 100 pages in one sitting. This is necessary. The last 100 pages fly by and they are well worth it.
Highly recommended reading.
Posted by austinburns on April 15, 2006
Naked Pictures of Famous People by Jon Stewart
A book consisting of humorous essays written by Jon Stewart (before he got Daily Show famous). An overall enjoyable book, but some of the essays are hit-and-miss. Most of them are gems, though. I especially enjoyed The Recipie since he just hosted the Oscars and all. Check it out if you're into satirical humor!
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
Sarah Vowell is a contributer to NPR's This American Life and she also provided the voice for Violet in The Incredibles. That being said, this book is about Sarah's fascination with three presidential assassinations in American History, namely Lincoln's, McKinley's, and Garfield's. She points out many lovely and odd facts, like how Robert Todd Lincoln (Jinxy McDeath) was present at all three of those assassinations (and one wonders where he would have been if he were alive for Kennedy's). She tracks down the lives and motivations of the assassins and what became of them after they did their deeds. She also makes comments on the parallels between history and today. This is a great book for anyone, you don't have to be a history nut to like it. Highly recommended.
Thank You for Smoking by Christopher Buckley
I decided to read this book when I saw a preview for the movie coming out. I wanted to read the book before I saw the movie. This book was fantastic. Great satire on lobbying as a whole, but it really makes you think about who has a say in what we do. It is pretty scathing of politicians who want to make decisions on behalf of the American public. Ultimately, this novel is about personal choice and the power of argument. As the main character says, "If I argue correctly, I am never wrong."
I have a few more books that I am in the process of reading, so I'll post those as I'm done with them. I hate doing these big catch-ups, and I'm going to try to be more punctual in my postings.
Posted by austinburns on March 15, 2006
Just finished Dracula and I was happy that it was as good as I've heard. It's a bit anti-climatic, but the book is quite scary in places, and I can imagine how it would have been in the 1800s. The sexual metaphors and the anti-Christ themes were particularly interesting.