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December 30, 2004

Jonathan Lethem

I just came across Men and Cartoons: Stories a book by Johathan Lethem purusing the book page at Salon. They describe the book as " a sort of appetizer tray of Lethem characters: there are superheroes, regular Joes, detectives, academics, and evan a suicidal sheep." One of the benefits of having a premium membership at Salon is the ability to download mp3's of stories and songs they are writing about. I listened to "The Glasses" one of the stories in the collection and it convinced me I'd better order the book. Salon is subscription only but I believe you can get a day pass. And speaking of Lethem If you haven't read Motherless Brooklyn let me recommend that you put it on your short list, It is the story of a private eye that has Tourette's syndrome, nuff said....

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December 29, 2004

Is there Hope for Rational Argument?

Schopenhauer didn't think so. Have a look at this review of his The Art of Always Being Right. Schopenhauer's sardonic little book, laying out 38 rhetorical tricks guaranteed to win you the argument even when you are defeated in logical discussion, is a true text for the times. An exercise in irony and realism, humour and melancholy, this is no antiquarian oddity, but an instruction manual in intellectual duplicity that no aspiring parliamentarian, trainee lawyer, wannabe TV interviewer or newspaper columnist can afford to be without. update: It looks like the book is based on Schopenhauer's The Art of Controversy which is available online. Thanks to reader Tim for the link....

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December 20, 2004

Villages by John Updike

Villages is not Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, though it certainly does share the humanity of a small town. Haskells Crossing, Massachusetts is the site of John Updike's latest where the story begins with Phyllis and ends with Julia. I can't help thinking that this and many of Updike's novels are autobiographical. We have our memories and he has his, but he shares. Like I said it begins with Phyllis and then John shares a tour of Owen's one night stands, his desire and his cock in hand. I read Updike not so much for the story as for the beautiful sentences he writes and once again he delivers. Like this, what a beautiful description. She tugs at him; she twists his head in order to kiss his mouth. But his lips are puffy and numb with sleep, and in his anesthetized state, his nerves misaligned, it feels like an attempt to suffocate him; it rubs him, as people used to say, the wrong way. After a few minutes more of lovestricken fidgeting, white he stubbornly fails to respond, protecting the possibility of returning to his precious dreams, Julia relents and rises from the bed, and Owen gratefully stretching himself into her vacated side, falls asleep for another hour or two. Or this description of Owen in the fast and lane on the receiving end of a blowjob One-night stands had their underside of sorrow, but had he ever been more crazily happy, more triumphantly himself, that when Mirabella was blowing him while he sped at ninety miles an hour into the flat nvada desert, straight into the rising morning sun? There was just space, in the rented tangerine Camaro, for her head to fit between the steering wheel and his sucked-in abdomen. The honeyed sensations in his prick, hard-used the night before, were mixed up with what he imagined her sensations were in that confined space, as the westward-bound cars materialized in the morning glare and flashed past at a combined speed that made the Camaro shudder and suck toward the middle of the highway. The highway was a thin ribbon beginning to show trembling puddles of mirage as the sun settled to baking the miles of lilac-gray vegetation on either side; distand cattle lowered their head to graze. he knw a twitch of the wheel would annihilate them both and Mirabella knew it too but kept giving him exceedingly welcom sensations, including, with a twist of her head of bleached and teased hair, warm kisses on his naked abdomen, his button-down shirt rumpled and pulled up. Under his caressing fingers her shell of curls felt stiff and sticky, from too much spray. when he glanced down, he saw slant sunlight piercing her hair so the chalky pin of her skull shoed through, the defenseless epidermis of it, skin on bone, and he had to fight losing his erection in the suppressed shock of the sight. And his metaphors are always fresh like ... god killed Phyllis, as a favor to him: from this blasphemous thought he seeks to shield himself with the fancy that Phyllis, the beautiful math major, had crossed herself out the way a redundant term is dropped from the denominator and the numerator of a complex fraction. Recommended. Villages by John Updike...

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December 13, 2004

Catcher Catches Hell, Again

More right-wing we know what's best for the rest of you news. Hey Andrea, go fuck yourself. What exactly is it Andrea that is not appropriate for teenagers? Holden Caulfied is in many ways a pretty typical teenager. A little naive, questions authority and thinks his parents are a little touchy. Come to think of it Andrea he was talking about you. Lighten up and I'll retract the go fuck yourself comment. Just kidding. Teen's mom rekindles debate over novel Since its publication in 1951, J.D. Salinger's novel about adolescent angst, "The Catcher in the Rye," has been a regular on the American Library Association's list of most controversial books. The latest debate about the coming-of-age story of 16-year-old Holden Caulfield is playing out at Noble High School in North Berwick. Andrea Minnon of Lebanon said she had never heard of "The Catcher in the Rye" before she learned that it was on her 14-year-old son Spencer's freshman reading list. After researching the book online with her husband, she concluded that it espouses immoral ideas that are inappropriate for freshman-age students. Now she wants it removed from the freshman curriculum....

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December 11, 2004

Short Reviews

I've finally finished reading a few books in the last couple of weeks. The Plot Against America is Philip Roth's latest novel. This is the best effort by Roth that I've read in a long time. It has the added bonus of letting you relive the feelings you had just a month ago when George Bush was elected president. The book is a fictional history of World War II America It is 1940 and Franklin Roosevelt is running for re-elction against the isolationist Charles Lindberg who gets the nomination when the Republican convention is deadlocked. Lindberg is elected and the country begins its decent into a fundamentalist christian hell. The story traces the impact of the election on a Jewish New Jersey family. Great characters and a compelling plot line make this a must read. Chance is the book on statistics I posted links to a review earlier. I recently finished reading it and must say that it exceeded my expectations. It was not too simple and it was not too complicated. Goldilocks says it was just right. Highly recommended. The Final Solution is Chabon's latest offering. The story is a homage to Sherlock Holmes but doesn't quite work. The irascible old man would have been better without the Holmsian overtones, but the writing was superb. Take these two paragraphs where Chabon describes a bombed-out London, and the old man's feelings about it. They were across the river now, and found themselves caught between and towered over by two high red trams. Rows of staring faces gazing down at them with inquisitorial indifference. Then the trams split off east and west respectively and, as if a pair of water gates had been lifted, the flood of inner London rushed over them. They had bombed it; they had burned it; but they had not killed it, and now it was sending forth growths and tendrils of some strange new life... After his long absence from the city over which had once exercised his quiet brand of domination, he had seemed to expect that it would, like the world when we depart it, would stop changing, would somehow cease to exist. After us, the Blitz! And now here he was confronted by not simply the continued existence of the city but, amid the smoking piles of brick and jagged windowpanes, by the irrepressible, inhuman force of its expansion. Wait for the paperback on this one....

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December 5, 2004

Take A Break Or Not

I'm going to spend the day reading Philip Roth's The Plot Against America Reading is good, reading fiction is better, but if you really need your daily internet fix here are some links you might find interesting. Bring Back Lawn Darts Are You Going to Miss Dan Rather Re-Stock Under God The Zoomquilt In Our Time BBC Radio 4 The Quiet World thanks riley...

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December 4, 2004

My Lazy Ass

100 Notable Books of the Year and I haven't read a single title from the list. Damn politics and my lazy ass, I've got to get back to one of life's more important endeavors, reading fiction. Non-fiction you say, nope haven't read any of those either though I have started The Ancestors Tale by Richard Dawkins. update: There's more, another list from the Guardian of notable books from 2004....

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November 28, 2004

Book Lists

Book lists, oh how I love those lists and here is a particularly cool one from OCLC a worldwide library cooperative OCLC Top 1000 Complete List With cool links by zip code to a library near you. Thanks to Crooked Timber for the links...

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November 22, 2004

It's Just A Theory

I found this great post at Fallacy Files Weblog a site everyone should have bookmarked. The post explains the different definitions of theory and why it's important in the discussion of Evolution and Creationism. Just the Facts, Ma'am This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered. A suburban Atlanta county has adopted a sticker that is placed on public school textbooks which deal with evolution. A lawyer for the county says that the sticker "provides a unique opportunity for critical thinking." Indeed, the sticker itself provides the first such opportunity. The sticker claims that evolution is not a fact, but a theory. This is the error, frequently made by creationists, of confusing two different meanings of "theory". One is the colloquial meaning, and the other is scientific. In the colloquial sense of "theory", the words "theory" and "fact" are contrary, that is, both cannot be simultaneously true of an idea. So, in this sense, the "theory" of evolution cannot be a fact. However, in the scientific sense of "theory", "theory" and "fact" are not contrary. The scientific "theory" of evolution is both theory and fact. Update: Let me recommend you listen 32'58 to an Interview of Richard Dawkins on his new book The Ancestors Tale - A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution from NPR's Talk of the Nation Science Friday. Now this just in from Gallup two thirds of Americans are ignoramouses. Third of Americans Say Evidence Has Supported Darwin's Evolution Theory Almost half of Americans believe God created humans 10,000 years ago Only about a third of Americans believe that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is a scientific theory that has been well supported by the evidence, while just as many say that it is just one of many theories and has not been supported by the evidence. The rest say they don't know enough to say. Forty-five percent of Americans also believe that God created human beings pretty much in their present form about 10,000 years ago. A third of Americans are biblical literalists who believe that the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word. Link Further reading on topic: A design for life Spiked Online...

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September 5, 2004

Barked At His Dick

Checkpoint by Nicholson Baker is a short 115 pages of dialogue between Ben and Jay. Jay is set on assassinating the President. Ben is a voice of reason. Does he succeed? What is reasonable when you have a nut job in the White House in a time of crisis. Does Ben convince Jay not to carry out his plans? Does he join him? Jay: They say, in hushed tones, they say, "some of the Prisoner Have Died." Well, what the fuck? Yes, some have died. Some have been packed in ice and spirited away. But more than ten thousand Iraqis have been killed in this war. It's off the charts. Tanks firing on apartment blocks. Morgues and hospitals filled to capacity, blood splashed on the walls. None of it is secret. It's known, it's been reported around the world for a full year, and yet there's no outrage about that, there's no scandal. What, that? Oh, that's just the war. I mean, standing naked with a hood over your head while a dog barks at your dick, okay, that's horrible, but having a missile hit your house is a hell of a lot worse, because you may be carrying your own kid out of the rubble. I certainly wouldn't advocate the assassination of the President of the United States, even one as fucked up as George W. Bush. I will say however that at the very least he deserves a hood over his head and a dog barking at his dick, and a national call for him to return to Crawford Texas on November 2nd....

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July 3, 2004

David Sedaris On Letterman

David Sedaris is a funny man. I enjoy his stories. I read "Me Talk Pretty One Day" some time ago. Recently Apples Music Store had a sale on audio books and I purchased a copy of his "Live At Carnegie Hall" and was reminded that his stories are even better when read out loud. Last night David Sedaris was a guest on the Dave Letterman show, they bantered for a bit Mr. Letterman providing the setups for David Sedaris' humorous anecdotes. The best part however was when he read from his latest book "Don't Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim" a book I recently finished reading and recommend. Here is the Letterman interview a 9 minute 2.1MB mp3 and here is a clip 1 minute and 31 seconds 356K from the Carnegie Hall recording. There are two additional audio excerpts from "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim" at NPR...

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June 15, 2004

Lichtenberg and the Little Flower Girl

Lichtenberg and the Little Flower Girl by Gert Hofmann translated by Michael Hofmann. You really ought to read this book. It is the best fiction I've read in a very long time. "Lichtenberg laid his book on his middle table. He pushed it around this way and that, until it was lying comfortably.."...

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May 13, 2004

Reading List

The following list is making the rounds, and since I'm a real sucker for a list I've joined the fun. The rules: highlight (or bold) everything in the list that you have read, and rejoice in the fact that there are so many good books left to read. The list itself is below the fold so to speak, so click on continue reading if you're interested in what I've read and what I've left to read....

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February 18, 2004

The Classics

Do you love to read? I do, and not just the latest bestseller, though I ocassionaly read the book everyone is talking about. I read more fiction than non-fiction. I tend toward the classics of which there are ample to provide a lifetime of reading. I keep a list of what I read. It often provides a point of departure for a discussion of reading with other lovers of the written word. I have discovered new authors and shared my favorites with others enriching the experience for both of us. I was surprised recently when I got an email from Edwin Frank an editor for the New York Review of Books as a result of his finding my list in a google search. I'll just let you read what he wrote. Dear Norm Jenson, I was led to your site by a Google search for mentions of William McPherson's Testing the Current, which I'd just read and admired. I notice you are a fan of Simenon, and I thought that I'd bring your attention to the reissues--in substantially improved translations-- of two of his psychological novels--Dirty Snow (formerly, The Snow Was Black) and Three Bedrooms in Manhattan--in the classics series I edit for The New York Review of Books. Indeed the whole series might be of interest to you. It exists to bring back or newly translate a wide range of fiction and non-fiction titles that have been neglected of late. The whole list can be seen at our website: www.nyrb.com. Keep up the good work (on all fronts). All best, Edwin Frank *********** Edwin Frank Editor, NYRB Classics The New York Review of Books 1755 Broadway, 5th Floor New York, NY 10019 Phone: 212.293.1639 Fax: 212.333.5374 The usual way we webloggers receive links to commercial sites is through comment spam, so I was pleased that Edwin took the time to write to me personally, In one sense his letter is commercial, but in the larger sense it was of one reader to another sharing a common interest.. Thanks Edwin and to the other lovers of the classics check out their website, I found much of interest to me and believe you will find it of interest to you.....

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