Shilling Shockers

Mar 21
#15: Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman.
I had to go searching for my specific cover because so many of the covers put out for this book are awful.  This is important business here and I got no time for a ugly cover.
I only watched a few minutes of the Neverwhere show, because it was so comically bad-looking and I didn’t want that to taint my imagination when I read the book.  And the book is indeed filled with all kinds of great images that I would love to see done up right but which I somehow doubt the miniseries does.  By the end, I confess that I was a little bit over reading that someone smelled like night and silver knives and ennui or whatever. Neil has his schtick and that’s fine, but it stops working after awhile.  I did, however, enjoy myself overall—I kept reading all evening even though I kept telling myself that I had more important things to do, which is all I ask from a book.  So far I think it’s my favourite Neil Gaiman, although I have Stardust sitting on the book pile.
Cursory counting of the book pile reveals that there are seventeen books to get to.

#15: Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman.

I had to go searching for my specific cover because so many of the covers put out for this book are awful.  This is important business here and I got no time for a ugly cover.

I only watched a few minutes of the Neverwhere show, because it was so comically bad-looking and I didn’t want that to taint my imagination when I read the book.  And the book is indeed filled with all kinds of great images that I would love to see done up right but which I somehow doubt the miniseries does.  By the end, I confess that I was a little bit over reading that someone smelled like night and silver knives and ennui or whatever. Neil has his schtick and that’s fine, but it stops working after awhile.  I did, however, enjoy myself overall—I kept reading all evening even though I kept telling myself that I had more important things to do, which is all I ask from a book.  So far I think it’s my favourite Neil Gaiman, although I have Stardust sitting on the book pile.

Cursory counting of the book pile reveals that there are seventeen books to get to.


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Mar 14

Completely Unprepared

I was going to post something rather crotchety about Rabbi Alan Lew’s memoir One God Clapping: The Spiritual Path of a Zen Rabbi but then I looked at the website for his synagogue, which is full of much better things he’s written for sermons and talks, and found out that he died in January. He was not that old and I always rather liked his writing so I found it a little shocking.

Nevertheless I will say this: This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared is a great book about Jewish spirituality (as far as this gentile is concerned, anyway) but the memoir really is not.  If I’m reading your book because you are a Zen rabbi, please start with the Zen and then get on with the rabbi, because I am not interested in where you were when Kennedy was shot or what your various failed relationships in college were like.  I’m sure they affected you spiritually but c’mon, give me a break here.

So there, I did say something crotchety.  I feel bad but I must speak the truth.  May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.


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Mar 12
#13: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer.
I’ve had this on my shelf for a while but for one reason or another I didn’t start it.  I should have a long time ago—it’s a wonderful read, fast-moving and nostalgic in some way, like books used to be when you were a kid and you loved them more.  9-year-old Oskar Schell’s father died in the World Trade Centre and left behind a mysterious key and the name Black, which sends Oskar on a quest to find the lock the key belongs to, visiting all the people in New York City named Black.  Oskar is precocious and yes, annoying, but in an intentional way.  It works.  There is also the narrative of Oskar’s grandparents, his grandfather who slowly lost the ability to speak one word at a time before he met his wife, and his grandmother who wasn’t really the woman his grandfather wanted to marry—I usually hate stuff like this, action far removed from the main plot and centering around relatives of the protagonist, but in this book Oskar’s mute grandfather was my favourite part.
It will make you cry a lot, though.  Just saying.

#13: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer.

I’ve had this on my shelf for a while but for one reason or another I didn’t start it.  I should have a long time ago—it’s a wonderful read, fast-moving and nostalgic in some way, like books used to be when you were a kid and you loved them more.  9-year-old Oskar Schell’s father died in the World Trade Centre and left behind a mysterious key and the name Black, which sends Oskar on a quest to find the lock the key belongs to, visiting all the people in New York City named Black.  Oskar is precocious and yes, annoying, but in an intentional way.  It works.  There is also the narrative of Oskar’s grandparents, his grandfather who slowly lost the ability to speak one word at a time before he met his wife, and his grandmother who wasn’t really the woman his grandfather wanted to marry—I usually hate stuff like this, action far removed from the main plot and centering around relatives of the protagonist, but in this book Oskar’s mute grandfather was my favourite part.

It will make you cry a lot, though.  Just saying.


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Mar 8
#12: Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf.
Not my cover, but hey, shoutout to Vanessa Bell.
Reading a book where you dislike one of the main characters is pretty frustrating.  I hated Septimus Smith more, I think, than I was meant to hate him.  I pitied him; the descriptions of madness and the fury at the incompetent doctors made for excellent sequences of writing; but I never felt that even healthy the guy would have been an attractive character.  When he finally offed himself I was greatly cheered and went downstairs to make myself a fresh pot of tea in celebration.  Finally Rezia has a chance, I thought.  I’m perplexed at the introductory note which calls his suicide a “sacrificial” act (he seems to be just trying to defy the doctor), and maybe I’m just too dumb to get that end of the plot.  I loved Richard Dalloway and wanted to hear more about him; I liked Peter despite his being a douchebag and enjoyed being in his pompous little head.  Clarissa, of course, had the best material all around and was wonderfully well-realised: a three-dimensional character who nonetheless had made the right choice in husband, who loved life and took it as it came, and loved the people from her past as well.  I do not at all see the parallel between her and Septimus, unless it’s that they’re total opposites.  Once again, I am dumb, since everyone else seems to see it.  Why am I reviewing these things?

#12: Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf.

Not my cover, but hey, shoutout to Vanessa Bell.

Reading a book where you dislike one of the main characters is pretty frustrating.  I hated Septimus Smith more, I think, than I was meant to hate him.  I pitied him; the descriptions of madness and the fury at the incompetent doctors made for excellent sequences of writing; but I never felt that even healthy the guy would have been an attractive character.  When he finally offed himself I was greatly cheered and went downstairs to make myself a fresh pot of tea in celebration.  Finally Rezia has a chance, I thought.  I’m perplexed at the introductory note which calls his suicide a “sacrificial” act (he seems to be just trying to defy the doctor), and maybe I’m just too dumb to get that end of the plot.  I loved Richard Dalloway and wanted to hear more about him; I liked Peter despite his being a douchebag and enjoyed being in his pompous little head.  Clarissa, of course, had the best material all around and was wonderfully well-realised: a three-dimensional character who nonetheless had made the right choice in husband, who loved life and took it as it came, and loved the people from her past as well.  I do not at all see the parallel between her and Septimus, unless it’s that they’re total opposites.  Once again, I am dumb, since everyone else seems to see it.  Why am I reviewing these things?


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The list thus far…

We’re up to 11!

  1. Dance Hall of the Dead, Tony Hillerman.
  2. Amphigorey, Edward Gorey.
  3. 12 Days on the Road: The Sex Pistols and America, Noel E. Monk and Jimmy Guterman.
  4. Modigliani, James Martin Gray.
  5. Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters, Robert Beverly Hale.
  6. Why Do They Kill Me?, Tim Kreider.
  7. Klee Wyck, Emily Carr.
  8. Emily Carr and Her Dogs, Emily Carr.
  9. Art and the Sacred, Sister Wendy Beckett
  10. Housekeeping vs. the Dirt, Nick Hornby.
  11. Good Omens, Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

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    Mar 7
    #11: Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch: Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett
If, like me, you like one of these authors and hate the other (I’m partial to Neil) you will like approximately half of this book.  Apparently Neil wrote most of the first half, which is the part I liked, while the second half dragged onerously and was full of stupid, condescending, dated jokes. But then there were some maggots from Neil, so I pressed onward to the end.  I skipped a few pages that looked entirely devoid of entertainment and I don’t feel guilty.

    #11: Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch: Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett

    If, like me, you like one of these authors and hate the other (I’m partial to Neil) you will like approximately half of this book.  Apparently Neil wrote most of the first half, which is the part I liked, while the second half dragged onerously and was full of stupid, condescending, dated jokes. But then there were some maggots from Neil, so I pressed onward to the end.  I skipped a few pages that looked entirely devoid of entertainment and I don’t feel guilty.


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    Mar 5
    #10: Housekeeping vs. the Dirt, by Nick Hornby
I’ve previously read Nick Hornby’s first book of monthly essays on books (books bought and books actually read in one month), The Polysyllabic Spree, as I got all three of the books for Christmas and I enjoy them quite a bit.  There is, however, not much to say about them: if you enjoy Nick Hornby novels you will find his style engaging and human and funny; if you enjoy books about books then you’ll like these books.  About books.  I am reading them to bolster my confidence in my ability to concentrate on paper books, since they go down fast and easy.

    #10: Housekeeping vs. the Dirt, by Nick Hornby

    I’ve previously read Nick Hornby’s first book of monthly essays on books (books bought and books actually read in one month), The Polysyllabic Spree, as I got all three of the books for Christmas and I enjoy them quite a bit.  There is, however, not much to say about them: if you enjoy Nick Hornby novels you will find his style engaging and human and funny; if you enjoy books about books then you’ll like these books.  About books.  I am reading them to bolster my confidence in my ability to concentrate on paper books, since they go down fast and easy.


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    Feb 16

    By the way:

    Gave in, am only counting anthologies of tiny picture books as one book.  The real list thus far:

    1. Dance Hall of the Dead, Tony Hillerman.
    2. Amphigorey, Edward Gorey.
    3. 12 Days on the Road: The Sex Pistols and America, Noel E. Monk and Jimmy Guterman.
    4. Modigliani, James Martin Gray.
    5. Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters, Robert Beverly Hale.
    6. Why Do They Kill Me?, Tim Kreider.
    7. Klee Wyck, Emily Carr.

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    Tempting me and yet:

    Problems concentrating.  Am reading awful Sid Vicious biography just because I thought it would be easy and pad out my numbers even though as you can see it isn’t doing the job.  Following are books on my Soon-I-Hope List:

    John Stubbs, John Donne: The Reformed Soul
    Antoine du Saint-Exupery, Wind, Sand, and Stars
    Thomas King, Green Grass, Running Water

    Books I really should finish because I liked the beginning but just got distracted (see above):

    Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz (yes, STILL)
    Chaim Potok, My Name is Asher Lev (yes, STILL)
    Fagles’s Odyssey, with which I hope to reread Joyce’s Ulysses this year

    I want to tackle Finnegans Wake this year too and the book is on its way from Amazon.  Perhaps this person with problems concentrating is just asking for trouble! Perhaps she wants it anyway.  Shoot me if I don’t at least try.


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    Jan 23
    Raphael: Study for The Transfiguration
#9 - Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters, Robert Beverly Hale.
The above picture, you will be happy to learn, is in this book.  I cannot stop looking at it.  I don’t know how precisely to review a book like this for you—my mother is an artist (it’s her book that I picked up) and assured me that yes, these are solid techniques for developing draughtsmanship.  I think they seem tiresome, which means they probably do work.  The author is always snarking about how awful his beginner students always are, which I guess is supposed to be encouraging but really dude try to be classy.  Anyway let’s all just enjoy Raphael.
And because people of my generation can’t mention Renaissance artists without remarks like this, YES HE WAS MY FAVOURITE NINJA TURTLE OKAY.

    Raphael: Study for The Transfiguration

    #9 - Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters, Robert Beverly Hale.

    The above picture, you will be happy to learn, is in this book.  I cannot stop looking at it.  I don’t know how precisely to review a book like this for you—my mother is an artist (it’s her book that I picked up) and assured me that yes, these are solid techniques for developing draughtsmanship.  I think they seem tiresome, which means they probably do work.  The author is always snarking about how awful his beginner students always are, which I guess is supposed to be encouraging but really dude try to be classy.  Anyway let’s all just enjoy Raphael.

    And because people of my generation can’t mention Renaissance artists without remarks like this, YES HE WAS MY FAVOURITE NINJA TURTLE OKAY.


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