September 20, 2005

On Books: August (really late)

Those of you who actually keep track of this kind of stuff know that I'm really late. Late with my thoughts on the stuff I read the previous month. I'll play the baby card again. Hope that flies. Without further (or, any actually) ado, here's August, in books...

Sandstorm by James Rollins. I'll say this - it didn't suck as much as some of his previous books. I know, I know - if they sucked so bad, why did I pick up this one. Hrm. Seems like another appropriate time for the baby card. I was actually seeking pure, mindless drivel. And I got it. Rollins writes very generic, bland adventure-thrillers (if that's a genre) that could easily be written by any hack, anywhere. But don't underestimate the entertainment value in cheap fiction.

Off Ramp by Hank Stuever. A collection of articles written by the Washington Post feature writer, Off Ramp takes a look at the off-beat and, occasionally, the just-plain-odd. Each and every one of them is brilliant. Now, I get the Post. It comes to my door every morning. But rarely do I flip through it. I will, now, if only to find Stuever's latest.

Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans edited by Dave Eggers. You'd expect nothing less than brilliant, funny fiction from McSweeney's and Eggers. And nothing less is delivered here. Although it's spotty in parts and, occasionally quirky and funny part ways and just become odd. But I like odd. So it works for me.

Miss Wyoming by Douglas Coupland. I get the feeling Coupland's falling out of favor, that his moment of glory has passed. Reviews of his most recent novels have been less than stellar and this once cutting-edge author might no longer be so hip. That said, Miss Wyoming emerged from Coupland's glory days. Its captures Gen X accurately and yet, as Coupland always does, he catches something else, something meaningful and true. Like Brett Easton Ellis or Jay McInerney, Coupland's fiction might forever be associated with a decade or generation. But there's nothing wrong with that.

The Task of This Translator by Todd Hasak-Lowy. You know how it sometimes takes you a little time to get the author, to understand the author's (and I'm sorry - this will sound pretentious) voice? It wasn't until I made it through the second story in this collection that I got it, that I understood where he was coming from. Hasak-Lowy is a gifted author with a quirky style who clearly loves stringing sentences together. His stories are different, as is the way he tells them. But that's a good thing.

Dude, Where's My Country? by Michael Moore. I like Michael Moore. There. I said it. Yes, he's obnoxious and I'm very well aware that he's a propagandist at heard but I like the fact that he says what he feels. But this book? Not so hot. First, Moore has good ideas but he's so cynical you feel terribly negative agreeing with him. In one chapter, for instance, he does nothing but swear up and down that corporate America has it out for each and every worker, that they don't care about you and merely want to use you up and spit you out. I don't think that's true. I'd like to give people a little more credit than Moore. I know where he's coming from - Flint, Michigan where GM packed up and left an entire community destitute - but I can't operate under an assumption like that. I'm a cynic about my politics but I've got to believe there's some good in everyone. Second, Moore's not a terribly good writer. He sometimes comes off sounding more like the editor of a high school newspaper talking smack about the principal. And I know what I'm talking about. I was the editor of my high school newspaper. Regardless, Moore raises good issues and makes some strong points.

The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas by Davy Rothbart. I'm not a short story fan. I like novels, stories with room to grow, to spread out in front of you. Occasionally, I pick up a short story collection, as I did twice in August (again, baby card, short attention span, etc...), and walk away genuinely impressed. Rarely do I find something that inspires awe, on par with the finest fiction I've read. This, however, was one of those times. Rothbart is nothing short of brilliant. I dare you - pick up this collection.

Posted by Chris at September 20, 2005 6:58 PM

I felt the same way about Moore. I consider him a bit of a guilty pleasure. And well, there ain't nothing wrong with one of those... might check out stuever's book though. N.

Posted by: Nat at September 20, 2005 7:06 PM

But...Montana is a state, and it's not IN Kansas.

I just picked up a short story collection today. "Chicago Noir" which is edited by Neal Pollack. :)

Posted by: jodi at September 20, 2005 7:07 PM

Cool. I think I'll check out Rothbart, since A) I have no life and therefore not enough free time to read a lengthy book, and B) I'm getting sick of reading my own! LOL

Oh and the pants on Mia's head? Priceless. Whatever you do, when she's about 9 or 10 months old, do NOT draw a lipstick moustache on her and then her in the mirror. Trust me on this.

Posted by: Theresa at September 20, 2005 7:08 PM

Duh! I forgot the word 'show'. SHOW her in the mirror.

Posted by: Theresa at September 20, 2005 7:09 PM

Where do you get your books from? Bookstore? Library? I felt the same way about Moore's book. His website isn't very well-written either -- more drivel and complaining. But I like his ideas also.
Thanks for the recommendations. I've added some to my library queue. I can't believe you have had time to read!

Posted by: Jessica at September 20, 2005 7:09 PM

Yeah, I'm in a total bloggers block too. Sometimes I say to myself, "Greg, just say whatever the fuck you want, it's your web site", but then other times I say, "Hah, nah, don't do that. You're too boring for that."

So, it's really just a massive weblogging pickle.

Posted by: Greg at September 20, 2005 8:11 PM

uhm, when in fuck's name do you have time to read?

Posted by: JuJuBee at September 20, 2005 9:43 PM

hmmmm...i agree with you on M.Moore - I couldn't get all the way finished with dude. Did love his stupid white men book though.

and i still love Coupland. maybe it's my Canadian loyalty, but i really enjoyed Hey Nostradamus and All Families are Psychotic. (still have yet to read his latest though).

Posted by: suze at September 21, 2005 9:02 AM

I love Michael Moore too but I couldn't get into that book at all. I'd rather see his points in a movie. ;)

Whatever happened to the book club?

Posted by: Carla at September 21, 2005 12:36 PM

How in the blue hell do you find time to read ALL of those books while working 400 gazillion hours at work and being a first-time parent?!??? Sheesh!

(Way to go!)

Posted by: ironic1 at September 21, 2005 6:16 PM