August 28, 2009

Sex in books

I prefer to experience sex, not read about it. Or watch it in a movie.

In my humble, but accurate, opinion, sex is not a spectator sport. Like breathing, eating and eliminating waste, it is something you do. And I don't find much pleasure in watching people do those things, either.


August 27, 2009

Weird Texas **

** Weird Texas, Wesley Treat, Heather Shades, Rob Riggs, and Mark Moran, 2005

Our realtor gave this this to us for a house-warming gift when we moved in Oct, 2008. It's a good coffeetable book, but we don't have a coffetable, so it became the bathroom book. (You know, the book with short snippets you can skim on your visits to the throne.) As a result, it took a while to get through it.

I was put off at first because the first third of the book focuses on paranormal phoenoms, with sections labeled Local Legends, Ancient Mysteries, Fabled People and Places, Unexplained Phenomena, and Bizarre Beasts. I have little patience with what I consider vain speculations about "facts" of questionable provenance.

Finally, after months of celebrating the final stage of the gastro-intestinal process, I arrived at the sections called Local Heroes and Villains, Personalized Properties, Roadside Oddities, and Roads Less Traveled. This was the kind of stuff I was interested in and it worked well.

Unfortunately, it was followed by Haunted Places and Ghostly Tales, and Cemetery Safari, bookending the content of substance with content of little interest to me. YMMV.

August 20, 2009

The Better Angels **

** The Better Angels, Charles McCarry, 1979

Had to try another McCarry to see how he writes when he's not doing a dossier style. And the answer is, much better, but still pretty dry. However, he's got a real knack for the nice turn of phrase which pops up occasionally and makes me glad I read the book. Here are a few examples:

  • "Rationality is the enemy of consciousness."
  • She had mastered a vocabulary, but she had no ideas, only passions.
  • The table had been laid in the garden: white damask and blue china and silver as thin as an old voice.
  • "Where I come from, they've always liked a dead man a whole lot better than a coward."

There were some intriguing things about the book. It was written in the 1970s but set in the 1990s. McCarry's 90s included an atheistic, rational Republican party set on annexing Canada and building gulags in Alaska for dissenters, a religious Democratic party that imposed gas rationing and mandatory lights out for the entire country at 10pm, a Democratic president that had nicknames for everyone, much like Dubyah did, a private computer network that spanned the globe via telephone lines, and female fundamentalist Muslim suicide bombers with explosives implanted in their bodies blowing themselves up at US national monuments. (And at the Alamo!)

On the other hand, there was too much sex in it for my tastes. The book was also laden, almost turgid, with backstory larded in as early as page two. Not the pacing one expects from a political thriller in this millenium.

But, overall, a decent, if not must, read.

August 10, 2009

Quotes From Stuff I Like - Gardner

I found some quotes from stuff I like jotted down in a notebook the other day and thought I'd share some of them with you. Here's the first batch, a small, numbered, single-barrel batch.

On Becoming a Novelist, John Gardner

p. 42. Teaching creative writing, one constantly hears students say of their work, “I am trying to show . . .” The error of this is obvious once it’s pointed out. Does the twenty- or twenty-five-year-old writer really have brilliant insights that the intelligent reading public (doctors, lawyers, professors, skilled machinists, business men) has never before heard or thought of? If the young novelist’s answer is an emphatic yes, he would do the world a favor by entering the ministry or the Communist party. If I belabor the point, I do so only because the effect of English literature courses is so often, for a certain kind of student, insidious.

p. 43. One of the great temptations of young writers is to believe that all the people in the subdivision in which he grew up were fools and hypocrites in need of blasting or instruction. As he matures, the writer will come to realize, with luck, that the people he scorned had important virtues, that they had better heads and hearts, than he knew. The desire to show people proper beliefs and attitudes is inimical to the noblest impulses of fiction.

August 6, 2009

The Everlasting Man **

** The Everlasting Man, G. K. Chesterton, 1925

I read this book because The Number One Son has been raving about it for years. Well, he can have it. (In fact, I stole it off his shelf, and as soon has he gets back from his trip, I'll sneak it back on his shelf.)

Chesterton is a genius, and master of the paradox, as can be seen in his Father Brown stories, which are excellent. I'm told this book was dictated, which could account for the turgid style, but that is no excuse. If you want folks to read 200+ pages of small type, like I did, you owe it to them to edit the thing after you dictate it.

Worth reading if you like this sort of thing, which I probably did back in the day, seeing as how I read all 5 volumes of the collected works of Francis Schaeffer and other similar stuff a few decades ago. Not my kind of reading any more, however. I'm less patient as I have less time left to read.

August 3, 2009

Tom Waits

From the Songs you won't hear on the radio files:

I first saw Tom Waits on Saturday Night Live in 1977 doing Eggs and Sausage. Interesting, but not my vibe at the time. (Here's a funky accapella version I've never heard before. With French subtitles, no less. Like, I dig it, man.)

The first time I was blown away by Waits was when I heard Tom Traubert's Blues on the radio in the late 80s. The song was released in 1976, but it took a decade to get to me. Hey, I was busy.

Our feature song from Waits for this issue is Hold On. (Sorry, ebedding disabled.) The video leaves out my favorite verse.

God bless your crooked little heart / St. Louis got the best of me / I miss your broken china voice / How I wish you were still here with me / Well, you build it up and wreck it down / And you burn your mansions to the ground / When there's nothing left to keep you here / When you're falling behind in this big blue world / You got to hold on

To get Mr. Wait's vibe, check out this live version of The Piano Has Been Drinking on Fernwood Tonight followed by some sardonic couch chat.

Waits has done his share of psycho videos and (in my humble but accurate opinion) completely unlistenable music, like half of the Bone Machine album, which won a Grammy, go figure. (I can't find examples online of the truly horrific parts.) But his moody stuff, like Alice [lyrics] and Invitation to the Blues [lyrics] (with some nice banter and a side of Johnsburg, Illinois), is leviticusly deuteronomous, the coughing fan notwithstanding.