Friday, February 02, 2007

Vacation Book Report #4

Mistler's Exit
by Louis Begley

*** 1/2 out of five

I read Louis Begley's Wartime Lies when it first came out but hadn't read any of his later novels. I did not know that he wrote About Schmidt (later made into a memorable film with Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates).

Mistler's Exit
is a short book, about a powerful New York adman who had just learned he has terminal cancer. Rather than tell his wife and son, he takes a solo trip to Venice where he is somewhat surprised to find he is never alone. It's beautifully written. Definitely the point of view of a rich powerful man, which is interesting to me because it's so other. Enjoyable.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Vacation Book Report #3

A Million Little Pieces (2003) by James Frey

0 (nil, nada, nothing, zero, zilch) out of five

I was aware of the controversy about this book, that the author sold it as a nonfiction account of his six weeks in rehab, but much of it was either totally aggrandized or completely made up. It was on the shelf here in the library so I read it. What a piece of crap. The guy makes himself the hero of his own rehab. Despite having succumbed to the terror of what he calls "The Fury", the rage that rules his life and sends him careening down the road of addiction from age 10 to age 23, suddenly in rehab he becomes all Mr. New-age, Tao-Te-Ching-reading, stand-up tough guy who irrevocably quits drugs and alcohol by sheer willpower alone, eschewing AA. Right. The conceit became larger as the book went on and he went from vomiting scumbag to righteous saviour of others.

Frey writes in a very stylized way. Every paragraph (many of which contain only a word, or a sentence) is left-adjusted. There is no punctuation other than periods, and many sentences would be marked as "run-on" by a sixth-grade teacher. There is a breathless quality to the whole book which makes me see how Oprah could have been conned. Read The Smoking Gun's take-down for the truth of Frey's little memoir.

Now that I've read it, I want my six hours back.

On to the next book.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Vacation Book Report #2

Today's book is The Ladies' Man by Elinor Lipman (1999)

** 1/2 out of 5

A light frothy romantic comedy of a novel, true to the blurb on the back which compares her writing to a 'wryly perfect New Yorker cartoon'.

Perfect for a short-attention span vacation book, although my attention did flag a few times. The book is written almost exclusively in dialogue which kept making me think of turning it into a Broadway play. The kind of dialogue that is never actually spoke in real life, smart arch sentences, clever, no stumbling or filler words.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Vacation Reading List

OK, I know I said I was going on hiatus, but you know what? I lied. I have a access to a computer and I am reading up a storm. So, here's the first book I read on my vacation:

Stuffed: Adventures of a Restaurant Family
(2001), by Patricia Volk

Rating: ***** (five stars out of five)

I love books about food and this is a great book about food and family. Volk's family ran a series of restaurants in New York City from 1888 to 1988, but this book is more about her amazing family. I loved it. I laughed and I cried. And I drove Coach Mom crazy by interrupting her book several times to read her the parts that made me laugh out loud.

A favorite passage:

Maybe you've heard of my Aunt Ruthie. She's the woman who was taken hostage in her Bronx apartment by an ex-paratrooper on August 4, 1990. It was a hot night. She left her bathroom window open. Jose Cruz climbed in and held Aunt Ruthie at gunpoint for seven hours. BRAVE, the Daily News ran under her photo on page 1. YIDDISH CHARM NAILS SUSPECT, said the New York Post. He ate all her plums, a wedge of Jarlsberg, and three nectarines before the police exchanged her for two cigarettes.

"When you go to prison," Aunt Ruthie counseled him, "Take out some books. Learn a different profession. It's important in life to get hold of yourself."

Gooch Rerouted to St. James Park

Contrary to previous reports (shame, Sports Illustrated), Oguchi Onyewu has signed with the Magpies of Newcastle. He won't play with Franck Ribery, but he will play with Obafemi Martins, and he may play with Michael Owen (swoon).

International Herald-Tribune: United States defender Oguchi Onyewu joins Newcastle on loan

SI: Gooch joins the Toon
U.S. defender Onyewu headed to Newcastle on loan

FoxSports: Onyewu joins Newcastle on loan

Independent (uk): Onyewu eager to make Newcastle move permanent

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Heading to the islands, mon, back in two weeks.


BBC: DaMarcus Beasley completes the scoring 20 minutes from time as Manchester City book their place in the fifth round

FA Cup third round: Man City 3-1 Southampton


NYTimes: Barack Obama at his fellow student Bradford Berenson’s apartment, where he watched the 1990 election returns.

Articles on Obama everywhere this weekend. Does he have the greatest press people ever, or did a memo go out amongst the corporate media?

NYTimes (Page 1): In Law School, Obama Found Political Voice

Boston Globe: (Page 1): At Harvard Law, a unifying voice
Classmates recall Obama as even-handed leader

LATimes: Early on, Obama showed talent for bridging divisions

WaPo: Harvard Experiences Sculpt Obama Appeal

WaPo: Obama Excites Entertainment Community

Sunday Times (uk): Secrets of Obama family unlocked