Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hiding Man: A biography of Donald Barthelme
(Tracy Daugherty, 592pp)
I've been noshing on this for the last few months, and it really delivers a vivid picture of the life of one of my favorite writers. The author was a student of DB's, and the comments he makes about significant stories and the novels are very penetrating, without ever being pedantic. DB's life was sad, and the alcoholism laid him low before he was 60 (he died of throat cancer, which neither smoking nor drinking could have helped). The book studies with great insight his relationship to the New Yorker: he worked steadily to give it golden eggs, and even still, he was often in arrears, owing the White Man money for advances. His editor, surprising to me, was Roger Angell, and at times, his pieces were rejected. There's a great sense of the sadness, and the charisma. I personally wish there'd have been a little more psychodrama on the quality of his tense relationship to his father, but that topic wasn't skimped, just treated with tact.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Neutral Color Schemes
(Alice Buckley, 256pp)
I thought this might be a bone I could throw my wife, who lives in a more subdued esthetic realm. I'd much prefer Mediterranean palettes.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Women
(T.C. Boyle, 18:23)
Very engrossing, but like 2008's less involving Loving Frank, the tactic of portraying Frank Lloyd Wright involves not directly looking at his face. By refracting his genius through the women he loved, there's less hubris (only Ayn Rand aspired to outstrip FLLW with her fictional Roark). The motto that opens this book is a very apposite aphorism: "Early in my life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility; I chose arrogance." This is one of Boyle's better historical novels. My favorite of his remains The Road to Wellville, but he displays a great talent for exploring the snarls of romantic attachment. The narrative approach here is somewhat akin to the path inside the Guggenheim that I ended up taking during the recent exhibit about Wright. I went up to the 6th floor, and strolled downward, starting at the end of his life and moving back toward the origin.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Inherent Vice
(Thomas Pynchon, 14:31, stopped after 10 hours)
Not bad, and even somewhat interesting to watch Pynchon do a lighter, less heavily structured novel. There's some amusing pot jokes, a vibe of the 1960s (haunted by Manson family allusions). In many ways, it feels like a THC version of the LSD tinged Lot 49. I didn't quit this novel, I just stopped returning to follow the shaggy tail.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tough times, Great Travels
(Peter Greenberg, 182pp)
Worth a scan, but not presented in an order/organization that makes the tips accessible in just-in-time fashion. There were some tips on flying alternate airline connections (e.g., fly from LAX to London on Air New Zealand). In Sausalito, look for Caledonia street.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Adderall Diaries
(Stephen Elliott, 224 pp)
I didn't read all of this but I jumped around, looking for the naughty bits. Since my understanding of the S/M scene is not based on first hand experience, I wanted to learn more about how that subculture works. I was also hooked in by the connection to the sociopath, Hans Reiser. This book was sent to me in a round-robin of postal mail sharing of an author's pre-press copy, and that personal connection made reading this more fun.