Adam Johnson, I learned from reading the back flap of my cherished First Edition of The Orphan Master’s Son, is a professor and lives in San Francisco. I got chills–genius is always so close and yet so far, right? I feel a stupid sort of pride in the fact that the author of such a great book lives in my neck of the woods.
I originally read this book right after it came out. I had just joined a book club and it was the very first book I read with that club; unfortunately it and maybe a couple of others were the only few books I thoroughly enjoyed over three years in the club (which in part led to the formation of the SBC). I reread The Orphan Master’s son last week and it was every bit as good as I remembered with the added oomph being that I now know so much more about North Korea (thanks, Donald Trump) than I did in 2011, and that made it all the more impressive and intriguing. Continue reading “The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson”
Who could imagine a novel about a pair of contract killers could be heartwarming and sometimes sweet? The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt is all that and also extremely funny. From the title to the last line, it is original and entertaining. It makes me want to read everything else DeWitt has written but that desire is tinged with fear that nothing else will be quite as good. Continue reading “The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt”
Steve Martin’s novel, An Object of Beauty, is itself an object of beauty. It’s got a super sexy dust cover, thick and creamy, with slick raised lettering that looks like it was cut out from a modern masterpiece. There are nicely reproduced photos scattered throughout the book of paintings and sculptures that are mentioned in the text, which is so fun for the reader to be able to instantly see the art the characters are referencing. Continue reading “An Object of Beauty, Steve Martin”
I got a copy of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History as soon as it hit the bookstore. My favorite bookstore at the time was a satellite of Berkeley’s famous Cody’s, located in the Opera Plaza on the corner of Van Ness and McAllister in San Francisco. It was the same bookstore where if you put a dollar in a glass jar you were allowed to look at Madonna’s Sex book for a minute, and there was a line for that privilege, which seems awfully quaint now, with the internet and everything. It was 1992. Continue reading “The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt”
I haven’t read philosophy since my 20s. Without a classmates and a teacher to be accountable to, philosophy is just behind math, science and cook books on my snore setting. But a girlfriend wanted to read it so I agreed to temporarily form a book club of two and let my selfish guard down slightly. She better not flake out and not read it because it’s pretty fucking tedious. But gold mining is tedious too, and occasionally the odd nugget makes the process completely worthwhile. Continue reading “On Nature, Lucretius”
The 80s are back and I can hardly believe it. There is a female editor (again, post Tina) at Vanity Fair, ridiculous volume in clothing, and a familiar new wave sound on the Sirius XMU channel, and they are giving me flashbacks. I never thought I’d worry about shoulder pads and nuclear war again, but here we are. Big Brother is one thing, but the return of Big Hair would be a real tragedy.
The news of the day, with themes of surveillance, white nationalism and American exceptionalism make it a perfect time to revisit George Orwell’s 1984. I sure hope they are still reading it in high school, although from the sound of the Parkland student speeches and youthful activism of the moment, maybe they don’t need to. 1984 made me quake in my jelly sandals in the 80s; I’m glad to see the kids of 2018 have the courage to speak truth to power. Continue reading “1984 by George Orwell”
The Sellout is one of the most entertaining and original books I’ve read in a long time. it came into my library via a book club I belonged to and was definitely one of the highlights during my few years of membership in that club. (I didn’t get thrown out of the club, but being childless and not inclined to participate in a potluck, I eased myself out of that club and into this one. In the Selfish Book Club I can now enjoy my books from a reclining position as God and nature intended.) Continue reading “The Sellout by Paul Beatty”
After my recent reread of Tom Robbins’ Another Roadside Attraction, I was apprehensive about rereading Jitterbug Perfume. I remembered it as a life changing book that I first encountered at the age of 24 when it was recommended to me by a man twice my age who, wearing a sweatshirt with Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice on the back, also introduced me to wine and food pairing (Chateau d’Yquem with magic mushrooms). He had a gorgeous Georgia drawl and a gold dragon ringed around his right index finger. He was most definitely a righteous representative of Robbins’ work. Continue reading “Jitterbug Perfume, Tom Robbins”
How do you write a report on a book by Hunter S. Thompson without sounding like a total asshole? I’m glad he’s not alive to google his name and find this blog entry (not that he would, but one of his minions might). I picture him in his prime, driving to my house, tumbler of whiskey in one hand, skull-head pipe in the other, just a finger or two on the wheel, making it from Aspen outskirts to unincorporated Calistoga in a bleary 15 hours so he could shoot out my lights personally with a lovingly polished 45 magnum. Continue reading “Hell’s Angels, Hunter S. Thompson”
It happened again: one of my heroes died before I even knew about him. First it was Chris Whitley, a musician and amazing song writer I first became aware of in 1991 when his song “Big Sky Country” was the sexiest, most memorable and poetic thing I’d heard on the radio in years and I bought the album. He was in his 30s then I think, and I thought I had plenty of time to hear him live, even though I never go to live concerts and didn’t even really think about it until I bought two more of his albums, Dirt Floor and Soft Dangerous Shores, the latter released in 2005, the year he died of lung cancer at age 45. By the time I fell in love with Soft Dangerous Shores he was dead. Continue reading “Art of the San Francisco Bay Area (1945-1980), by Thomas Albright”