Thursday, October 25, 2007

Leonard Pitts on Dumbledore

I really like reading Leonard Pitts' columns and I thought this one was especially good.
If you have time, take a look.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England by Brock Clarke

It seems as though people really like this book or they really don't. Thems that don't get kind of pissed when they hear the people who really liked it say they really liked it. Odd. Me? I really liked it.

Oh, I wasn't crazy about how things resolved and kind of saw some of it coming but I'll trade that slight dissatisfaction with the number of times I laughed out loud or reread a paragraph because it provided me one of those breathless moments I love when I read, something that hasn't happened in a while (great line on page 157 about fathers and sons, for example). Clarke shines throughout the book with what becomes a strange detective story and a cast of oddball characters in odd situations. And did I mention it's funny? I think it's deserving of the attention and acclaim it has received. Others would disagree but the book evokes a reaction or a feeling one way or the other and that is testament to his skill as a writer. I've read books I liked and others I didn't but 6 months later, I couldn't tell you what they were about. Love or hate Arsonist's, I think it'll stay with you for a long time.

Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician by Daniel Wallace

I hail the return of Daniel Wallace who started out strong with the clever and touching Big Fish (read it if you haven't and never watch the movie) way back in 1998 but who I'd lost track of despite reading everything he publishes. The tale is a period piece that makes it's way through the Depression and into the world of the carnies and freaks and the family they create among themselves. It is a wild ride, rich in detail and sentiment though perhaps just a tad too long. However, the ending was satisfying and it's a title I recommend. Fans of both Water for Elephants and Carter the Great will enjoy this one. Welcome back, Daniel. I missed you.

Foreskin's Lament by Shalom Auslander

Not for everyone but for the appropriate audience, I think this really hits the mark. Auslander grew up in an Orthodox Jewish household and he writes of his struggles to "recover" from religion and how it still affects him now, a married man, a father and a writer. There are a lot of opposites at work in this work.

His family life was messy; they all lived in the shadow of the death of a brother, Jeffy, who died at 2 years old yet Shalom and his living sibs don't seem to get the attention from their parents they need. His mother's side boasted a long line of rabbis and certain sense of entitlement and his father was an irascible drunk who could build things (Jews don't build things; they buy things from goyim who build things). Young Shalom feels a tremendous responsibility to try to hold the fragile state of the family together but it's far too big a job for a young teenager and the situations are too long broken for him to fix. From there he swings like a pendulum, first further from his religion and then back to strict observance. Rinse. Repeat.

Some of it is hilarious and some of it just makes you incredibly sad. Auslander could have been profane for the sake of it but I disagree with critics who say so. Sneaking off to the mall in the next town to eat un-Kosher food reminded me of a friend I had growing up who would smuggle me Twinkies during Passover and we were hardly Orthodox. The story of bargaining with G-d about the Stanley Cup or living as a young married couple among other Orthodox Jews that weren't questioning their own faith were all very real examples of what it must be like to not only question how you were brought up but the fundamentalism that goes with such strict observance.

Ahoy, Albus!

All those Englishman--of course one of 'em's gay!
Bravo t
o Rowling for saying it in public.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Well, there's certainly no sophomore jinx with this guy. He's the real deal and this follow up to the surprise best-selling The Kite Runner is every bit as good. The story has us back in Kabul and centers around two women, Mariam and Laila. I'm not going to go into too much detail because there are a zillion other in-depth reviews of the book that you've probably already read. In fact, you've probably already read the book like a zillion other people on the planet (except for my sister--Sandy, quit fooling around and go buy both of his books and read them. Now.).

I'll say this though: I think he writes women beautifully and that's no small achievement. Smaller in scope than Kite Runner, but equally moving, Hosseini crafts a beautiful work by telling the story of two women who find what they've lost (family) in each other. The ending was a nice surprise, as well. If you're a book snob like me and don't tend to read books that become HUGE bestsellers, get over it. Hosseini is going to be around for a long time.

Man Booker Prize announced

The Booker was announced and it looks like an interesting list and winner but I don't think I've read any of the short listers. More lameness on my part. Go to a bookstore and buy you some books.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A note on lameness (my own)

If you are one of the eight people that might actually know this blog exists and somehow remember to occasionally check to see if I have actually deigned to write something about what I've read and can still stand it, first off, I thank you.

Second, I owe you some reviews. I believe there are four books I've read and one I'm hoping to finish shortly that I need to add to the blog plus reviews from older annual lists that I plan on adding. The rub is I've either been too busy to post or when I sit down to write, I'm utterly uninspired. Bear with me as I try to find center since I seem to have books coming out the yin-yang.

Now, back to your regular programming.

And now for a book that actually saves a life and has nothing to do with the Kite Runner.

Since that Kite Runner story was bumming me out, I thought I'd post this about a book we publish that helped a person get rescued from an injury.

Read on:

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Kite Runner movie could kill someone

I know that sounds crazy but read this article from today's New York Times:

In a chilling turn of events, the child actors who play the leads in the upcoming Kite Runner film adaptation are reportedly at risk of great harm or even death. The studio fears that rival ethnic groups in Kabul will react violently, especially to a pivotal rape scene, when the film is released. Paramount is delaying the release of the film and government officials are looking to move the boys and their families to another country where they will be safe.

I'm just flabbergasted by this. Kind of makes Hosseini's amazing novel ring that much truer.