Monday, January 18, 2010

2009 Recap - Printed Words

(In chronological order)

Fever Pitch
How much do I like Nick Hornby? Enough to read his reflections on soccer. I have no interest in the sport, and was surprised find much of it interesting -- much of Fever Pitch can be related to sports fandom in general.

More Information Than You Require
I loved John Hodgman's first book. I thought it was so funny that I transcribed a bit of it. Jeff (Texas Jeff, not Minnesota Jeff) read it too, and we talked about it one night. He said, "I liked it, but after I read it I thought, 'What was the point of that?'". Perhaps this sequel book of fake facts was less funny than the original, or perhaps Jeff's argument precluded continued enjoyment of such nonsense.

The Wordy Shipmates (Audiobook)
I have experienced all but one of Sarah Vowell's books through auditory means. I will always associate this one with driving to and from work in spring of '09, when I was going in on weekends and my mind and timesheet both reflected overtime. This mostly bland history of the Puritan colonies was a good way to shut of my brain and zone out -- probably the first time in history someone used tales of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to unwind.

The Beautiful and Damned
I started this Fitzgerald novel on my 30th birthday, right when Kim was moving in. What better time to read about a aimless, assholish male in my age group who struggles to win a bride, then disintegrates under the lightness of his own being? It's lesser Fitzgerald, but still quite good. And it may make you re-think how far society as truly regressed - here were Ivy Leaguers of the 1920s, sitting around hotel ballrooms, drinking, trying to score, (some of them) putting off adulthood, (some of them) living off inherited wealth. What has changed in American youth culture in the last century, other than we now film this behavior for television broadcasts?

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
This was the first "airport book" I've read. I assume reading it was similar to reading a Ludlum Bourne novel or what have you. I was somewhat surprised to see the appeal of an action-oriented book -- I always assumed the wiser move was to wait to see Matt Damon kicking ass with a rolled-up magazine and exploding shit with a toaster plus a magazine, rather than to read about an explosion. "And then the whole place blew up. PCHHSSSSOOOMMM!!! Jason Bourne leapt into the air as he jumped away from the fireball. 'That was a close one,' he said lustily to his very attractive female companion." Yuck, right?

Wrong, it turns out. Kind of. This book is a mystery with occasional doses of action throw in, so I guess my Bourne comparison was dumb. If only this keyboard had a delete key. Anyways...
I was as caught-up in page-turning during this novel as I ever have been. At its best, it was wildly entertaining. Upon finishing, though, the experience had soured. Friends who've also read it have shared similar feelings. Spoiler-laden dialogue with Alipete begins now - skip to the next novel recap if you like:
The first 20-30 pages were a jumble of legal/business terms, Swedish lingo and European history nonsense. Bo-ring. But this Vander guy just dropped the murder bomb, so, like our boy Blomkvist, I'm intrigued. And enough with the misspellings. Am I right?

I was very confused why they translated every word except for “Jail”. There’s one spot where the translation is “Tinker’s Cuss”, instead of the correct “Tinker’s Damn”.'s starting to get better. Salander, man. What a badass.

...Oh man, it's really getting good. I had to stop reading for the night because I was afraid it'd give me nightmares. It still might...

You’re in love with Lisabeth. You’re going to get a dragon tattoo and pierce everything. And move to Sweden.

I have something like 20 pages to go. I stayed up much too late reading last night despite my fears of nightmares and night-time intruders. Man, this book got twisted. Anyway, I'll probably finish on my trainride home.

Since you’re almost done, I’ll begin my questioning: Did it bother you that Blomquist gradually turned into James Bond, and Salander the female equivalent of James Bond? I would have preferred our heroes had fewer superpowers.

What, specifically, are you thinking of? I liked Blomkist's detective work -- piecing together clues with the photos, tracking down random people from the parade, etc. Totally far-fetched, but pretty clever. I thought Salander's "skills" were a let-down. So she's a hacker? Big deal. Early on, Armansky set up her "gift" to be something great, and I was imagining some sort of mystic intuition. But she can copy a hard drive. Great. The photographic memory twist was OK. And I still do not completely understand what she was doing traipsing around in fake disguises. Stealing Wennerstrom's money, I assume?

Note: I may not be able to interpret your question correctly, as I have never seen a James Bond movie and do not know what he's capable of.

“James Bond” is a British spy, known for his cunning, wit, sophistication, and charm. He sleeps with several women in every book/film, usually because they throw themselves at him, but sometimes he forces himself upon them (see Goldfinger. No, really, you should see Goldfinger. Or Casino Royale, at the very least. Jump in on this reboot, kid.). But you can ignore that last part in regard to the Blomquist comparison.

Being Sweden’s greatest hacker AND having a photographic memory AND being a master of disguise seemed a bit much to me. I thought the story was more compelling when they both were more “normal”.

Done! This James Bond fellow sounds intriguing; maybe I'll give him a chance.

Is it just me, or did the book totally fall off the rails after the Vanger mystery was solved? Blomkvist telling his magazine staff to pretend as if they're going under just to dupe some guy? Please. That was ridiculous. And having our girl Salander fall in love?? Sure, it was great that she made some emotional breakthroughs, but come on.

The end of the book was a wreck, which is especially strange since it’s the first of a trilogy. Do we have anything else to say about this book? Is this book club over? It was fun while it lasted.

Agreed. Book club over.

Elliott Smith's XO
This was a "I need a cheap item to qualify for free Amazon shipping" purchase. It turns out there isn't a lot of interesting things to say about how one of my favorite albums was recorded, so the author spends most of the book attempting to interpret Smith's lyrics. Even for me, a guy who enjoys lyrics, a gentleman that fails to find the meanings of even my favorite songs, this book is pretty unnecessary.


Adrienne said...

I can't read Sarah Vowell anymore. I had a dream a few years ago that I was in prison and she was my cell mate and kept trying to put the moves on me while saying vulgar things.

You do not want to hear someone with a voice like Sarah Vowell say the things she did.

You might think it'd be like South Park. You'd be dead wrong.

dn said...

That is the best/worst thing I have ever heard.

Vanessa said...

Getting caught up on my blogs during snow day so sorry it's delayed.

The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo. Okay, the hook was pretty good, missing / dead girl and Blom having to disapear for a while.

But I agree with your James Bond issues -- he was essentially "perfect" -- hip, fit, liberal journalist who has affair with hot smart coworker but her husband is okay with it? Who needs flaws?!

The other issue I had was it was about 200 pages too long. All the effing family history, holy jesus, and none of it mattered. While I was slogging through it, I was like, wow, this is going to be a really complicated book to need to go this far, no, he just left in the stuff a good editor would cut.

I have a lot of feelings about this book, but don't even get me started on "Her Fearful Symmetry"