Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wild Horses, Wild Dreams
(Lindy Hough, 301pp)
I bought this after falling into the long unpublished essay written by her husband, Richard Grossinger, on his very complex patrimony. Reading this book of poems was just a way to triangulate into the mysterious/moist/beckoning body of work of Lindy Hough's daughter, Miranda July. Miss July's emotionally raw, searching work, delicately expressed via maximally twee situations, is distinct from her father's open anxiety & energy, as it is also unlike her mother's light demotic poetry.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Anton Chekhov - A life
(Donald Rayfield, paused after 2 hours)
Interesting to find out that Chekhov's bad grades would have barred him from ever working for Google. The remote world of tsarist Russia is explored inside the tortured family dynamics of Anton. I could imagine reading the whole of this very long biography, but it just seems too weird to spend more time on an author's biography than I have yet to spend on his oeuvre.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Nick Tosches reader
(Nick Tosches, 500pp, only skimmed)
Potent and interesting writer. The encounter he has with George Jones fascinated, and his reporting uncovers just how Klans-people inhabit the twon George grew up in. I didn't have time to read enough of this. I have an APB out on his "Country: The Twisted Roots Of Rock 'n' Roll."

Monday, August 22, 2011

RadioLab podcasts
(Jad Abumrad & Robert Krulwich, 40+ hours)
I feel as if I can celebrate a siyyum, as I've just made it through the back log of RadioLab podcasts. The approach these guys take is often immensely rewarding, even when they're speaking on topics I'm familiar with. Favorites include: Words, Parasites, Stochasticity, The Ring and I, Stress.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Stuff of Thought
(Steven Pinker, 9:36)
Phenomenally lucid exposition of how language matters, and how the language of thought can be seen through cognitive science. Loved Pinker's description of Google as being in the business of selling noun phrases, and his wry observation that plurals appear to cost more than singular nouns. The book opens with the legal wrangling over the insurance of the World Trade Center, and the $3.5 billion question whether the attacks were one or two events. Every page shimmers with intelligence (and not nearly as jokey as his earlier compendium, How the Mind Works.) There's even an inscribed love note to his current partner, Rebecca Goldstein, when he mentions asking his new friend the meaning of "sidereal."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Alice in Wonderland
(Lewis Carroll, read by Cory Doctorow)
Great fun, and a boon from the gift economy that Cory Doctorow participates in. He does a fine job narrating, and even sings the Lobster Quadrille.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Pale King
(DFW, just read the end notes)
I carry no brief for the most prolix and self-indulgent of authors, one who I've continuously attended to, but whose verbal tics have repeatedly repelled me. I find it revealing that Jonathan Franzen, his best friend, believes that DFW killed himself at least partially as a career move. There was almost no chance I'd want to read a sustained instantiation of boredom. What I did enjoy were the notes on architecting the book, the little scribbles that could not themselves be spackled into a novelish editorial feat. In the notes to himself, DFW reveals a little more humanely the aims and plans he harbored.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Confidence Man
(Herman Melville, 11 hours, stopped at 9)
This Librivox recording got me much further than I ever reached with the book on paper. The concept of a multifaceted faker has some rich veins, but it's also an oddment. The reader, mb, by the way, is quite gifted at conveying the hysteria and near panic in the text.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio
(Bob Dylan)
I've now listened to the first 30 of these, and there's so many ahead. It's quite surprising to learn how much he esteems Western Swing. Every episode is full of interesting angles, and it's a pleasure to discover that he's renewed his contract to churn out more. Bob Dylan could make these shows for the next 20 years, and not exhaust his profound knowledge of the wellsprings of music.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

San Francisco Then & Now
(Eric Kos, 144pp)
Interesting, although the pictures don't usually evoke a sense of surprise at the disparity. Even when it's clearly the same horizon and landscape, the change over time presents two different worlds, rather than making it seem as if one's discovered the hinge of destiny. Fun, and I did learn that Maxfield Parrish has a mural worth checking out in SOMA at the Palace Hotel.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

You must go & win
(Alina Simone, 244pp, skimmed)
I pre-ordered this, based on these two slender rationales: 1) Alina Simone is an amazing singer, emotional almost to the point of hysteria, whose velvet voice bursts with raw power; 2) the book publisher was the illustrious Farrar, Straus & Giroux, so it ought to be good. I now adduce that she may well have mesmerized an editor with her charismatic wiles. (Neil Gaiman blurbs the book as well, & again, knowing her personally may have caused him to not notice the words on the page.) Her prose is not at all distinguished, and as proof, let me just quote the dedication to her (experimental philosopher) spouse: "For Josh: I couldn't love you more if Jesus flew out of your mouth." I'll leave it to another hermenaut to find an intelligible way to parse that. Trust the song, not the singer....