Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Of Frog Hospitals, Cocktail Waitresses and the Ramones

A number of things to mention:

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce has made the Man Booker Prize long list.  This will help it acquire the readership I think it deserves and my hopes are high it will make the short list, to be announced in September.  Mrs. Next is reading it now and is enjoying Harold's exploits immensely.  Go buy a copy.

Recently re-read Ramones: An American Band by Jim Bessman, which I'm happy to see is still in print since it came out in 1993 and thus published well before the deaths of Joey, Dee Dee, and Johnny.  Bessman provides a capable chronicle of the band though Peter Guralnick he ain't.  Then again, they weren't the type of band or men who needed a bio that went into the detail that Guralnick did.  He writes in a simple, straightforward manner much like the music of the Ramones.  Best of all, reading it made me re-visit my records.  1-2-3-4!! indeed.

I'm currently reading Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore and I'm perplexed much in the same way I am about Paul Harding's Tinkers: why aren't these books lighting me up?  Both contain captivating stories and sparkling prose but they seem to lack drive.  Perhaps this is by design but I keep waiting for both to really grab me and with only 40 pages left in Moore's book, I'm left wanting.  (I haven't even finished Tinkers and I started that two months ago.)  Will their respective endings be what I'm after or are my expectations wrong?  I'll find out soon enough.

Went to a re-sale shop yesterday where I always find good books on the cheap.  Though pickings were a bit slim, I walked out with an old but intriguing short story collection from 1951, Love In the Time of Cholera, which I'm ashamed to say I've never read, a copy of Russo's brilliant Empire Falls, which I intend to give to a new, young friend, and Illusions by Richard Bach.  Many will poo-poo the Bach book but I'm a fervent fan and re-read it most every summer.  Since I often lend it out or give it away, I found myself without a copy recently so luck was on my side.  Donald Shimoda is a remarkable character and even though Bach is dismissed as mawkish, I just love this story.  Poo-poo all you wish.  Illusions is to me a pleasure for which I feel no guilt.

Once again, I've been the recipient of much book love, this time from my homie, 'Chele, who sent a care package from Random House, et. al.  which contains: 
  • Buddy: How A Rooster Made Me a Family Man by Brian McGory,  
  • Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead about which I'm hearing good buzz, 
  • Robin Shulman's Eat the City, which looks absolutely fascinating,  
  • The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu, about which I know nothing so I'm trusting 'Chele, and
  • Giving Up the Ghost by Eric Nuzum.  The caveat here is that it was blurbed by the insufferable Chuck Klosterman who I think is so overrated, his popularity defies all logic, and by Rob Sheffield, whose rock writing credentials are solid but who grossly disappointed me with Talking to Girls About Duran Duran.  It should have been brilliant.  It wasn't.

Most exciting is The Cocktail Waitress, the "lost, final novel" by James M. Cain.  I'm attempting to keep my expectations low since, if it's so good, one wonders why it wasn't found sooner.  Still, if it's half as good as his classic noir tales, it might be a worthy though late addition to his small but influential body of work.

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