Wednesday, August 29, 2007

It takes three to Tango, apparently (not that there's anything wrong with that)

I was talking to someone not long ago who asked "Who bans books anymore?" Well, here is the state of things at the moment:

This is just the kind of crap we don't need but that people need to be aware of.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Rock On by Dan Kennedy

After having some success as a music writer and a McSweeney's cool kid, Kennedy tells how he became an unlikely marketing guy at a major record label and how he was always waiting to be exposed as the fraud he thought he was. (Been there--that's how I became a book publicist. Still waiting to get found out myself.) It's not an unlikable story but it seems to lack the punchlines Kennedy thinks he's putting out there. While reading Rock On, I kept waiting for the big laugh that I thought was just around the corner but was only occasionally rewarded with a sort of knowing chuckle. It does show the absurdities of working for a huge international record company but it lacked the fun I thought this book was going to be. Being a McSweeney's cool kid must be enough to get published and get blurbs and get signed to good houses like Algonquin but I still don't get it and I never have. So what does that tell you? Fans of McSweeney's will be rolling in the aisles over this one, and I will be surrendering my lunch money to them. History repeats.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

Over the years, Steve Martin has become a really accomplished actor and writer and many people don't remember him as the arrow-through-the-head, banjo-playing, King-Tut-inpersonating, Wild and Crazy Guy whose stand-up career was what made him famous first. However, like the voiceover from an episode of VH1's Behind the Music, at the height of his stand-up success, Martin walked away from it all and, aside from delivering opening monologues on Saturday Night Live over the years, he never did stand-up again. Here Martin looks back on how his career began (at Disneyland, at age 11, selling park maps) and what an unlikely success he became. He was part of a new breed of comics yet was unlike any of his contemporaries and that was part of the reason success eluded him for so long. In the book, Martin says he hadn't really examined this part of his life for many years as he distanced himself from his stand-up roots but this is a loving look back. This won't be out until January 2008 but will do well, esp. among guys my age who were in grade school and listened to his records over and over and over, memorizing his bits, some of which were a little over my head but hilarious nonetheless ("Grandpa bought a rubber!").

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde

My limited abilities as a writer can never seem to concisely synopsize the elaborate plots that Fforde so masterfully conjures but I can say this—brilliant again. Thursday Next is a wonderful character that I have grown to love after a few books of merely admiring her immensely. This is the series for book people and is crammed full of literary jokes, clever turns of phrase, smart sub-references and above all, action. Fforde makes James Bond look underbred and illiterate and he seems to get better with each book. I just can't imagine how. Still, I'm always delighted to read his work and heartily recommend them to anyone who'll listen.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

What can I say that hasn't already been said? All I can say is thanks to Jo Rowling for this wonderful work and all that has come as a result. I'll miss the stories and the characters we've come to know as we watched them sort of grow up in public. I really doubt we'll ever see kids and adults line up at midnight to get their hands on any book and I doubt bookstores will ever see the excitement that accompanied these books ever again. We have witnessed a phenomenon that changed publishing and that changed history.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Flight by Sherman Alexie

Alexie is kind of a love him or hate him author. At least that's what I've found over the years. I love the guy's writing and can even stand him in person when he can be arrogant and condescending but he is also funny and usually pretty insightful. If you've never read Alexie before, I can't decide if this is a good place to start or not. Flight is his first new novel in several years and it's neither great nor a disappointment—just incredibly okay. The story revolves around a teenager named Zits, an Indian kid whose has been shuffled from broken home to foster home and is in danger of being lost to a broken system. Suddenly, as Zits is about to commit an act that will haunt him for the rest of his life and condemn him to becoming a sad statistic in that broken system, he is transported in time and place to different events in Native American history. While there, he inhabits different host bodies and sees things through another person's eyes but also has the ability to change events. On the plus side, it is very funny in parts and Alexie really nails the "teenage-ness" of Zits. On the down side, it all ties up a little too neatly—sort of a sci-fi ABC Afterschool Special with a happy ending and a few history lessons.