Monthly Archives: October 2010

Happy Halloween!

I wanted to do a blog post in the spirit of the holiday, but I really don’t do horror, in books or movies. So instead I decided to post the hilarious song above from 30 Rock. It’s a favorite among my friends. And my mom liked 30 Rock, so it’s not completely random, right?

Happy Halloween everyone. I hope it’s like a spooky, scary werewolf bar mitzvah.

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The Votes Are In And Next Up Is…

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & ClayThe three comments I got (thanks Carley, Maggie, and Laura!), and the fact that I spotted the book on a friend’s shelf last night was all I needed to decide on what Michael Chabon book to read.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay it is!

Here I go again with another 600 page book. Can’t say I’m not ambitious.

Reading for Robin Crowdsources

Michael ChabonIt’s time to pick what’s next from the list, but I’m having a little difficulty. I’ve already decided I want to take on Michael Chabon (that’s him to the right), but my mom doesn’t offer much guidance. There’s so much to choose from. That’s where you come in!

Hopefully, some of you have read Michael Chabon and are reading this now. I need help choosing between the three Chabon books I am considering. Below are the titles and their descriptions. I apologize in advance for the length of this post. Now let’s get to it…

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier  & Clay:

Winner of the Bay Area Book Reviewers’ Award, New York Library Book Award Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, PEN/Faulkner Award, Los Angeles Times Book Award. Joe Kavalier, a young Jewish artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdiniesque escape, has just smuggled himself out of Nazi-invaded Prague and landed in New York City. His Brooklyn cousin Sammy Clay is looking for a partner to create heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit America – the comic book. Drawing on their own fears and dreams, Kavalier and Clay create the Escapist, the Monitor, and Luna Moth, inspired by the beautiful Rosa Saks, who will become linked by powerful ties to both men. With exhilarating style and grace, Michael Chabon tells an unforgettable story about American romance and possibility.

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union:

For sixty years, Jewish refugees and their descendants have prospered in the Federal District of Sitka, a “temporary” safe haven created in the wake of revelations of the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the fledgling state of Israel. Proud, grateful, and longing to be American, the Jews of the Sitka District have created their own little world in the Alaskan panhandle, a vibrant, gritty, soulful, and complex frontier city that moves to the music of Yiddish. For sixty years they have been left alone, neglected and half-forgotten in a backwater of history. Now the District is set to revert to Alaskan control, and their dream is coming to an end: once again the tides of history threaten to sweep them up and carry them off into the unknown.

But homicide detective Meyer Landsman of the District Police has enough problems without worrying about the upcoming Reversion. His life is a shambles, his marriage a wreck, his career a disaster. He and his half-Tlingit partner, Berko Shemets, can’t catch a break in any of their outstanding cases. Landsman’s new supervisor is the love of his life—and also his worst nightmare. And in the cheap hotel where he has washed up, someone has just committed a murder—right under Landsman’s nose. Out of habit, obligation, and a mysterious sense that it somehow offers him a shot at redeeming himself, Landsman begins to investigate the killing of his neighbor, a former chess prodigy. But when word comes down from on high that the case is to be dropped immediately, Landsman soon finds himself contending with all the powerful forces of faith, obsession, hopefulness, evil, and salvation that are his heritage—and with the unfinished business of his marriage to Bina Gelbfish, the one person who understands his darkest fears.

At once a gripping whodunit, a love story, an homage to 1940s noir, and an exploration of the mysteries of exile and redemption, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is a novel only Michael Chabon could have written.

Manhood for Amateurs:

A shy manifesto, an impractical handbook, the true story of a fabulist, an entire life in parts and pieces, Manhood for Amateurs is the first sustained work of personal writing from Michael Chabon. In these insightful, provocative, slyly interlinked essays, one of our most brilliant and humane writers presents his autobiography and his vision of life in the way so many of us experience our own lives: as a series of reflections, regrets, and reexaminations, each sparked by an encounter, in the present, that holds some legacy of the past.

What does it mean to be a man today? Chabon invokes and interprets and struggles to reinvent for us, with characteristic warmth and lyric wit, the personal and family history that haunts him even as—simply because—it goes on being written every day. As a devoted son, as a passionate husband, and above all as the father of four young Americans, Chabon presents his memories of childhood, of his parents’ marriage and divorce, of moments of painful adolescent comedy and giddy encounters with the popular art and literature of his own youth, as a theme played—on different instruments, with a fresh tempo and in a new key—by the mad quartet of which he now finds himself co-conductor.

At once dazzling, hilarious, and moving, Manhood for Amateurs is destined to become a classic.

If you’ve made it this far, congrats. Here are my thoughts so far: I know people who have read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and liked it. It, along with The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, earned great reviews. Manhood for Amateurs is the newest and the one most prominently displayed in Barnes & Noble, which probably sways me more than it should, but I’ve also read a lot of memoirs and may need a break.

Anyone have any opinions they can chime in with?

A Review of Beautiful Boy

Beautiful BoySo, where were we? Oh yes, Beautiful Boy.

I always feel a little weird reviewing someone’s memoir. It’s like I’m judging their life. But oh well, that’s why they pay me the big bucks for this blog.

Much as the subtitle indicates, Beautiful Boy is David Sheff’s journey through his son’s meth addiction. However, the book begins well before the meth addiction does. The reader gets to watch Nic Sheff grow up, from the product of a long distance divorce to a funny, caring, movie-obsessed kid.

I liked seeing this other side of Nic, or should I say the early side. Of course, knowing what the book was about, this sense of dread loomed over me even as I read about his love of music and close relationship with his much younger brother and sister. In fact, it made it even harder to read about his drug addiction knowing what I did about what the of person Nic was when he wasn’t on drugs.

Despite the horror and destruction that comes with a drug addiction in the family, David Sheff does his best to share it all clearly. He shows the pain Nic’s stepmother, little brother and little sister feel, the damage Nic does to his own body, and the never-ending worry and stress that overcomes David during this time. As a professional writer, David is able to write about these hard to write about times, and does it compassionately. Personally, I could have done with less of the scientific explanation behind addiction, but that’s just because I read books for the stories of people. This is why I am not a big non-fiction person.

The only other part of the book that I didn’t always enjoy was the repetitiveness. Nic is sober, charming, and a loving part of his family. Nic is on drugs, losing his apartment and his job, and robbing his family. Nic is sober again, and again getting his life together and bringing hope to his family. Nic is on drugs again, disappearing for days at a time and causing panic to his family. Nic is sober again again, having completed rehab and making amends with his family. Nic is on drugs again, Nic is sober again, Nic is on drugs again. So goes addiction.

It may not make the best arc for a novel, but it is real life. And David Sheff portrays it all honestly.

Bookstore Has Fun With Books

I finished Beautiful Boy! After more than a month of talking about reading it, I finally read it. But after a night of wild partying to celebrate becoming the Zog Sports Extremely Casual Kickball Champions, I was too worn out to blog about it. Okay, or it was one drink at happy hour after the game, a dinner with friends, and then sheer tiredness and laziness that stopped me from writing up a review. Either way, that’s to come.

In the meantime, fun with books! An Arizona chain of used book stores, Bookmans Entertainment Exchange, produced the cool video above of literary dominoes. I am always impressed by dominoes and this time is no different. I have to thank GalleyCat for leading me to the video, as they do with most of the fun book videos I post.

Beautiful Boy review soon… promise!

Cover Commentary

Freedom UKEver have one of those days where you really can’t think of what to post on your book blog? You know, if you had a book blog?

I was having one of those. And then I thought, everyone likes pictures! So I skimmed through my Europe pictures (I promise I will get those up on Facebook or to you via email, Adam and Dad!), and I came across the picture in the top right of this post.

It’s the UK cover for Freedom. It’s always fun to see the different covers books have around the world. What do you like better? The big “F” or the bird?

FreedomNot to be all patriotic or anything, but I’m going to side with America on this one. Birds have a major presence in the novel. And it’s pretty.

The large F, on the other hand, just seems like a strange choice.

But what do you expect from those quirky Brits. They do things a little differently: They drive on the left side of the road, they call the bathroom the “loo,” and they changed the name from T.J.Maxx to T.K.Maxx.

True story:

T.K.Maxx

Oh, those funny Brits.

That Kindle Won’t Amount To Anything

KindleI must thank GalleyCat for pointing out this great Center Networks article from 2007 that lists the 10 reasons the Kindle will fail. Practically telepathic, eh?

Among the reasons the device would never make it:

  • It’s big and ugly – it’s no sleek iPhone
  • $399 to have the privilege of then buying books to read on the device? Can I get a Fail Fail?
  • Isn’t reading about the enjoyment of reading?
  • So now I have to carry an iPod and a cell phone and a Kindle?

Nevertheless, the Kindle is still here and, you know, kind of a big deal. Amazon won’t release information on exactly how many have been sold, but estimates have the number at more than four million. Sorry Center Networks.

Admittedly, I wasn’t sold right away. The whole buying an expensive thing that allows me to buy more things seemed unnecessary. But then Amazon lowered the price and I jumped on the bandwagon. My mom held out for longer. Her rationale had more to do with the joys of holding an actual book in hand. Then I showed her mine and she was a convert. My dad bought her a Kindle and she became hooked.