Sunday, January 04, 2009

2008 Recap - Printed Words

Ernest Hemingway - "A Farewell to Arms"

I did enjoy reading about WWI prenatal care, with Catherine's attempt to keep the baby small by drinking beer. However, as I mentioned earlier this year, I was not impressed by my first Hemingway exposure.

Ernest Hemingway - "A Moveable Feast"
Hemingway should really not have derived so much pleasure from the suffering of others, for his own self-portrait here is so innocent, straightforward, and he-manly that it forces the reader to doubt him and therefore his version of others.
"On this evening I was sitting at a table outside of the Lilas watching the light change on the trees and the buildings and the passage of the great slow horses of the outer boulevards."

No! NO YOU DIDN'T, PAPA HEMINGWAY, because no one has ever wached the light change on the trees, in Paris or elsewhere. There's poetic license and there's OUTRIGHT LIES, sir, and you are lying.

"There were no baby-sitters then and Bumby would stay happy in his tall cage bed with his big, loving cat named F. Puss. There were people who said it was dangerous to leave a cat with a baby. The most ignorant and prejudiced said that a cat would suck a baby's breath and kill him. Others said that a cat would lie on a baby and the cat's weight would smother him. F. Puss would lay beside Bumby in the tall cage bed and watched the door with his big yellow eyes, and would let no one come near him when we were out and Marie, the femme de menage, had to be away."

No! TELL ME YOU DIDN'T, PAPA HEMINGWAY! Tell me you are lying again, because you are sucking all the romance out of post-war Europe...

George Orwell - "Down and Out in Paris and London"

...and this semi-autobiographical tale of workers' and tramps' conditions in the 1920s sucked all the romance out of pre-war Europe. We look back on historical eras and dream about how wonderful it could have been to drink at speakeasys with Gatsby, not realizing that it was wonderful for the rich but difficult for most everyone else. Life among the rich is always romantic. Real life, among real people, much less so...

George Plimpton - "Truman Capote"

...Case in point, the biography of Truman Capote, a strange-looking, strange-sounding man who turned his talent into fame, and made little use of his talent after he was famous. We call that "wasted talent", but if you were given the choice to sit beside Andy Warhol in Studio 54's sex dungeon or sit behind a typewriter in your office, which decision seem a waste?

Elie Wiesel - "Night"

Brief and powerful, there's not much to say that its Nobel Peace Prize doesn't.

Joseph O'Neill - "Netherland"

Can an ordinary plot be made extraordinary by restructuring? Would "Reservoir Dogs" be less appealing if told linearly? Is this a good book?

Alipete asked me to read it after she disagreed with the NYT's end-of-the-year best list, and we've agreed that it is not a great book. If anyone could enlighten us as to why it is held in such great esteem, we would be thankful.

In the meantime, after this and "The Emperor's Children", I think it would be wise to avoid NYT-lauded novels which are set in NYC.

Paul Shirley - "Can I Keep My Jersey?"

I introduced myself to Paul at the library book sale, where we were browsing the very cheap offerings. Kim and I hung around to listen to him talk about his book, which I then purchased, read, enjoyed, and passed along to Floyd, who once guarded Paul in a 3-on-3 tournament.

Chuck Palahniuk - "Diary"

If I had paid to read Diary, I may have been disappointed. Since I took it from Matt's bookshelf, I have no regrets. I did its job, keeping me entertained during yet another summer conference in Atlanta.

Adam Haslett - "You are Not a Stranger Here"

These were good short stories, but I can only remember the plots of two. I used to be more excited about short stories. Now, I don't even read McSweeney's every day.

Cormac McCarthy - "No Country For Old Men"

The novel is slightly less suspenseful than the motion picture, but provides an illuminating, cathartic final act that went unfilmed. It's the first thing I've read that is perfectly summarized by its movie tagline: There are no clean getaways.

David Benioff - "City of Thieves"

The compelling tale of two boys trying to find eggs during the siege of St. Petersberg. The less you know about the book, the more highly I recommend it.

William Vollman - "Rising Up and Rising Down"

Abandoned. This was an abridged paperback, and I think the parts I was interested in were cut out.

On The Shelf

Nick Hornby - "Fever Pitch"
John Hodgman - "More Information Than You Require"
Sarah Vowell - "The Wordy Shipmates" (audiobook)
Scotty Fitzgerald - "The Beautiful and Damned"
Michael Chabon - "The Adventures of Cavalier and Clay"
Borders - $30 gift card


Floyd said...

It wasn't a 3-on-3 tournament. It was real basketball with refs and everything. And Paul Shirley's team was a bunch of tall, awesome white guys that used to play D-1 or were All-Americans at Washburn and shit and they beat us soundly.

Should I read "Night?" I'm just about exhausted trying to get through the first hundred pages of "Infinite Jest," and don't know if I have the willpower for the last 900.

dn said...

Sure. It's a straightforward, this-is-what-happened account with very little heavy-handedness. Any library would have it. It will take you as much time to check it out as it will to read it.