Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Shed Chic: Outdoor Buildings for Work, Rest, and Play
(Sally Coulthard, 208pp)
Fun to page through, but the writing struck me as too lush. The images evoke dream refuges, running away in a gypsy caravan, or crafting your own eco-shed.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Red Hook Road
(Ayelet Waldman, 14:21, listened to about 8 hours)
Tear jerker novel, strangely lacking in grip. I don't think this novel was a success. Some of the images read as if they were stage directions for a screenplay. I wanted to follow the thread, but found my attention restless and indifferent toward the survivors.

Monday, September 20, 2010

(Salman Rushdie, 5:47 out of 8 hours)
This has always been my favorite Rushdie, and encountering this fragment of the book on cassettes, I got a chance to re-assess. It's still an engaging book, and it's characterization of Pakistan's fanatical bombers was 20 years ahead of 9/11.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

One and the Same: My Life as an Identical Twin and What I've Learned About Everyone's Struggle to Be Singular (Abigail Pogrebin, 276 pp -- stopped at 70)
Very entertaining book, by an identical twin, about the issues and emotions surrounding being a twin or two. The biggest advice to parents: Make sure to have some one-on-one time with each of the kids, no matter how much they might resist this.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Paris dreambook : an unconventional guide to the splendor and squalor of the city
(Lawrence Osborne, 200pp -- Skimmed)
Pretty old (1990), and only one chapter really intrigued me, the one about Turkish Baths. 20 years later, the Islamist undercurrents are darker, so it's hard to know if it's still advisable to seek out these spots for a massage.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

(Jonathan Franzen, 580pp and 24:14)
As a pilgrimage, this Sept 1st, I drove down to hear Jonathan Franzen launch his book tour at the Capitola Book Cafe (just south of Santa Cruz). Santa Cruz is apparently a good enough place for birding to draw Franzen away from NY for part of every year. The Corrections is my favorite book of the noughties. As but one tiny validation of Franzen's magisterial intellect, his 2001 novel described a music startup called "eigen-Melody", and at that very moment startups in SF (moodlogic, e.g.) were using those very statistical techniques to develop a music preference engine. Freedom is a very fine novel, running across a thousand themes woven into an engaging tapestry. It is a superb novel, even though it's not quite as delightful as the Corrections. After finishing the novel, and re-reading the opening chapter, I still have a haunting doubt: Is it plausible that the lengthy embedded autobiography could be such a virtuosic work? It's written by Patty Berglund, the jock star/stay at home mom at the center of the novel. Throughout her parts, self-conscious references are made to "the autobiographer." But in almost every way, Patty Berglund's ability to conjure up a scene is as artful as Franzen. I kept thinking of DFW's story, Mr. Squishy, which he published under the pseudonym, Elizabeth Klemm. Other than the female name, David Foster Wallace inflected almost nothing to merit the beardlessness of his pen name. Franzen does a better job, to be sure. Even if I don't find the ventriloquism of Patty Berglund to be perfect, it's a small imperfection. Probably the reason I give this book 4.8, rather than the full 5 stars, is that I'm less enthralled by the topics this novel is confected from (infidelity, sports, independent music, birding, ZPG, the evils of the coal industry).