Sunday, September 30, 2007

A few Sunday items

It's hard to tell from the trailer whether it will be any good, but the Signal is getting some buzz.

If you like free online games but want something a bit meatier than most, have a look at this.

George Packer has some good news about finally helping the Iraqis that have helped our Army and State Department.

Pop Songs 07 writes about Pavement's ode to REM and disagrees with SM about Time After Time.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Oh my

Are you female and peeved that you are unable to stand and safely pee? Well, check out this sales pitch for the Shenis (yes that is she-nis). Check out the website for Shenis poetry and the Shenis rap. Be careful, some strangeos (and perhaps your sysadmin) might consider this erotic as it features actual product use.

After the Wedding

The Danish film After the Wedding is a bit too lengthy and free with the quick cuts, but it provides a well acted, surprising story about the difficulties of confronting multiple obligations. Mads Mikkelsen, best known in the US as Le Chiffre, is Jacob, a Danish aid worker living in India. He is sent back to Copenhagen to finalize a major donation. Upon his arrival, the donor Jorgen, a seemingly aloof businessman delays the signing and offhandedly invites Jacob to his daughter's wedding. A surprise at the wedding leads to a vexing request from Jorgen.

I found the two male leads compelling and deciding which is the true protagonist isn't easy. They both have bad choices to make, but both make reasonable ones, with costs to each of them. As a study in obligation I think it works quite well.

On the downside the movie at two hours is about 20 minutes too long. The director is fond of mood setting shots, including a motif of living and dying nature, that is laid on a big thick at times. She also goes a little crazy with quick cuts, which I found distracting.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Letting my geek flag fly

Some years ago, Brunching Shuttlecocks published the Geek Hierarchy, which details the geeks who are looked down upon by other geeks. While it's not mentioned, somewhere low on the list must go People Who Play Four Hour Games about war between Sauron and the Free Peoples. Yes, along with other board games, I am happy to spend an evening playing War of the Ring.

Haters will laugh, but there is great tension in trying to hold back the Orcish hordes. In this game both Legolas and Gandalf died before the ring was destroyed. This game has to be good otherwise we wouldn't put up with the rules. I've played three times and I only just know think I can play it correctly.

All of this makes me want to go back and read the books, my memory of the story is confused by the movie, methinks.

Movie blogs

There are lots of good ones out there, but AMC has put out a few of note: Sci fi Scanner, Monster Fest, Shootout Blog, and the Future of Classic.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I guess they know, I'm not no company man

Have a gander at this disturbing trailer for Midnight Meat Train. Pluses include creepy look and feel and Vinnie Jones is the bad guy. Minus is that this is a Clive Barker story. I can't speak to Barker as a writer, although I think I read some of the Books of Blood back in my heavy horror reading days.

What I can speak to is the crappiness of Barker-based movies. Nightbreed is a true stinker and once you get past the gore of the Hellraiser films, there really isn't anything there either. To be fair, it is not as if the Stephen King-based movies have people cheering in the aisles.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Caligula would have blushed

Lydia Lunch's Paradoxia is a voyeur's delight, consisting of shocking stories from Lunch's history as a Magellan of sexual exploration. The tales, purportedly from her past and one hopes at least partially embellished, are varied and would give the editors at Penthouse pause.

The book is subtitled "A Predator's Diary," and this isn't exactly true. The classic vision of predator is a killer that hunts on weak victims. In her case, the appropriate image is the T-Rex battle of Jackson's King Kong. Lunch styles herself as essentially male in her aggressive, conquering sexuality and she tends to form with relationships with people as aggressive as herself. The results are often unpleasant. When she does get busy with the weak, she takes an almost mothering approach. Although she says that she always leans toward the bad side, this means the socially out of bounds, rather than the evil.

Lunch's prose is often appealing clear and unadorned. When describing sex, she gets appropriately over-heated, but she occasionally gets overblown when describing the mundane day to day of life on the fringes.

NYT loves Portland

I don't know if you have noticed, but the New York Times loves Portland, take a look at this article on the PDX dining scene. Long time Portlanders may grumble that they are portrayed as yokels who eyes were opened by outside wisdom, but aside from the that, it should please people.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Escaping the reading doldrums

I in one of those reading doldrums where nothing is working. I started New Stories From the South 2007, but found that short stories weren't clicking. I also tried P.J. O'Rourke's book on Adam Smith, and while it was funny, it just wasn't hitting the reading spot. These were both library books, and for me at least, the bar is not set very high for taking these home.

With new books, I tend to be certain about a desire to read them in the next few months. As it happens it might be years, but purchasing a new book requires an urgent element for me to buy it. Used books are the chance buys, the books that are probably worth it, but may end up going back to the store. With library books I need only the tiniest hint of a desire to read the book to take it home. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. I am happy to do this, as often enough I find a gem. The downside is, I often end up with a pile of books I don't want to read, at that time at least.

Anyway, I found my groove with Thunderstruck, the follow up to Devil in White City, and Paradoxia, a autobiography of sorts by rocker-poet Lydia Lunch. So far it makes Motley Crue's The Dirt look it was written by clean living Ian McKaye. It includes a strange theory as to why the Coke bottle shape has changed over time.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Akashic books 10th Anniversary Event at Powells

On October 7 at 7:30, Akashic Books, the mission of which is the "reverse-gentrification" of the literary world, is sending three authors to Powells to celebrate it's tenth anniversary. Chris Abani, author of Song for Night (which I reviewed here, ) Joe Meno, author of the re-released Tender as Hellfire and Felicia Luna Lemus , author of Like Son. Abani's reading should be riveting, as his prose slips from beautiful image of home or the outdoors to the horrific realities of war.

With three readings in one, you are bound to hear something you like, between a youth soldier lost in war-torn Nigeria, a coming of age in New York story a trans-gender tale a daughter who fulfills the family destiny as a son.

Tears of Autumn

The Tears of Autumn is a sober cousin to the paranoid 1970s spy films like Three Days of the Condor and the Parallax View. Like them it investigates a conspiracy, in this case the assassination of President Kennedy, but reveals it more a case of policy failure and politics as usual than the dark-forces-a-work view prevalent at the time.

Like many other books, this story features CIA operative Paul Christopher who believes that he knows who killed Kennedy and why. When he is not allowed to investigate, he resigns to pursue his theory. While this sounds cliched, it plays differently. Christopher is blocked for trivial reasons by the more powerful and he proceeds to investigate by having conversations with the right people and conducing simple, non-violent covert action. Don't look to McCarry for tales of a mild-mannered superheroic spy. Instead look at how spies use intelligence and manipulation to get what they want.

The assassination story is well constructed and is complicated by actors who are unaware of each other. Like so much of McCarry's stories, it has the great feel of reality, perhaps because of the often mundane details. The manner in which the assassins cover their tracks is not through high tech means, but simple process that makes sense once explained.

This novel has relevance today as a key part of the action is the tension between long time professional government employees and the powerful politically appointed policy makers. There is a tension in all administrations, but as is becoming all too clear, some administrations simply ignore professional advice and input when it doesn't suit them.

If you like spy novels, you owe to your self to read Charles McCarry. For more have at look at my thoughts on Secret Lovers and the Miernik Dossier.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The song that encapsulates the 90s

NBK and I were debating which song most defines the music of the 90s. I submit that it is Fastball's The Way. NBK posits that is Life is a Highway by the Lunatic Fringe Guy.

It keeps calling me

Note: This post is about the sequel to Descent and as such contains spoilers regarding the first book. Go read Descent if you haven't already.

The way Descent, one of my favorite thrillers of all time, ended, I didn't think a sequel was really possible. It seems weren't quite as finished as we thought at the end of the previous book. Deeper, the sequel, begins with Ike, one of the main characters of the first novel being drawn back into Hell. Hell, or the Subterrain, as it is called is the center of the novel. This vast underground world was discovered in the prior novel. The discovery prompted a war between humanity and the creatures, the source of many of our myths, living there. Humanity won and the Subterrain is populated with settlers, ragtag armies, lost scientific expeditions, bizarre cults, and Chinese and American armies playing hide. And what would Hell be without Lucifer?

With all of that, it sounds fairly ridiculous. As it happens, it works quite well as the focus is on the grim struggle for survival in an underground world. The plot follows two stories underground and one above ground. Underground, a mother leads a crusade to rescue her kidnapped daughter. Ike's wife Ali, a trained linguist and experienced explorer, leads a smaller group to attempt the same thing. Aboveground, the United States and China engage in increasingly dangerous saber-rattling over control of the Subterrain.

It helps to go in realizing that this is clearly the middle book of a trilogy. The book ends with most of the above plots resolved but with dramatic developments that set up the next book. Keeping that in mind, I am happy with this book. I think this is Long's best book since Descent. It nicely balances the epic view with personal experience. Context setting and world creation is important in this sort of book, but Long doesn't overdo it. He also manages to create a decent amount of suspense as to what is driving the plot.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I heart Multnomah County Library.

I posted this item on PDX Pipeline about the Read for the Record event Sept 20 at the Multnomah County Library. The very same day the Central Library is holding a Keep Portland Weird Event. What a place!

Update: Ummmm, that would be OCTOBER 20 for Keep Portland Weird. I think perhaps we need a Help Tripp Pay Attention Day as well.

Just a drive into the dark stretch, long stretch of night

Ken Bruen's The Guards features a stereotypical noir anti-hero in story true to the noir spirit. The hero, Jack Taylor, is a alcoholic and former policeman who cleans himself up, only to fall again. He has trouble with women, including his mother, and he is incredibly erudite, which allows Bruen to namecheck favorite poets and writers, in particular mystery writers. We've seen this character many times before, but the story is fresh enough to allow us to overlook it.

While recovering from one binge and preparing to commence another, a grieving mother asks Jack to investigate the supposed suicide of her daughter. He eventually does, bringing woe onto himself and many others. The mystery is eventually solved, although not truly by his own efforts. Mysteries often feature a colorful, tough guy character who serves to deliver the violence that would our hero look bad. The colorful tough character is here, but he is as dangerous to Jack as he his to the villains.

While Jack is stereotypical, watching his failed relationships with people is tragic and moving. His attempts at romance fail by his own actions, he fails his friends and can't tell who his true friends are. While Bruen doesn't dwell on it, a poignant meeting with his estranged mother, is terribly sad and illustrates Jack's culpability in his own outsider status. In many novels of this type, there is an element of romance about the lone wolf, there is none here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Give something new a try

Although I have much love for Interpol, I am really not that into their videos. The link between the song and the video is often tenuous at best. Have a look at the new one No I in Threesome. Given the plaintive nature of the song, I suppose the video is a warning. If you ask your lay-dee if another can join you in the sack you are going to be a lonely old man. This one is in the spirit of C'Mere. That song about unrequited love features nature boy and the snow fairy. Longing for the unobtainable I suppose.

The pinnacle of Interpol video goodness is Obstacle 1. The urgency of the signing is matched by the manic dancing of sweater girl. This video's evil descendant is Evil, which features the scariest dancing puppet of all time. Slow Hands is OK. The action is slowed and sped up, which emphasizes the high tempo wonder of the song. PDA is decent, it's a sort of frenetic combination of the Ring and a Peter Gabriel video.

It's time the tale were told

There is much debate about whether Iraq is or is near a state of civil war. Internecine violence is among the most horrible as it quickly moves to attacks on civilians. Although set in what appears to be the Biafran War or some future sequel, Chris Abani's Song For Night is a harrowing examination of the effects of civil war on children.

The story is told from the perspective of a boy solider. Radicalized by the murder of his mother by members of another ethnic group, the boy signs up as mine hunter. When he wakes up after a mine explosion, he crosses enemy territory in hopes of finding his unit. Along the way, he tries to make peace with what he has become. Essentially a good person, he has participated in mass atrocities, although he has also tried to stop them. On a macro level, this is the story of war, the good commit evil. The question is whether they themselves become evil for it.

The boy character is well developed. He alternates between a soliderly world weariness and a desire to curl up in his mother's arms. There are times when he appears to be a bit too wise, for a child so young. While we can certainly expect him to be well versed in weaponry, tactics and the way people react to violence, he occasionally puts forth social analysis that would be beyond the education of a young child. These instances are rare, but they do jar a bit.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Robert Jordan, RIP

Robert Jordan has died. Now there are many reasons to dislike the Jordan books, known as the Wheel of Time, among which I would point to his teenage wet dream portrayal of women and relationships, his use of a single action (tugging a braid, dice rolling, etc) as a character indicator, and of course the fact that the later books are thick as phone books without anything of consequence occurring within them.

These negative points must be balanced with by the fact that Jordan sold a lot of books and helped re-invigorate a moribund fantasy market, with a number of genuinely fresh ideas. We might not have the rich fantasy scene we have today without the work of Jordan.

And of course, we may never know how the Wheel of Time will end.

Rock Photographer at the Ace Hotel

This is last minute, but Pat Graham, author of Silent Pictures, will be signing books at the Ace Hotel tonight at 5:30. The book features concert and backstage footage taken primarily in the 90s of indie rock acts like Fugazi and Modest Mouse. It should be fun.

Friday, September 14, 2007

What about the voice of Geddy Lee?

In one of Pavement's finest moments, the question is asked as to whether Geddy Lee talks like an ordinary guy. Well apparently Broken Social Scene is the fact checkin cuz, as seen in this video, which has Geddy Lee judging the voices of various BSS members (and in a bit of video referencing this video clearly borrows from the Yo La Tengo Rock School video.) He does in fact talk like an ordinary guy.

Weekend trivia

To entertain yourselves while I camp at the lovely Cape Lookout State Park, you might want to answer these trivia questions. I am shooting for hard, but not so hard as Jimmy's at Beulahland (although question six is straight from Beulahland.) Email or post your answers below. No Internet use allowed.

1) With which number album did Danzig stop using numbers in the title?

2) What are the names of the main character elves in a Year Without Santa Claus? Bonus, what former Portland band shares a name with another character?

3) Which war was ended by the Peace of Westphalia? In what year was it signed?

4) What is oxygen's atomic number?

5) What is the longest river in Europe?

6) In what country would you find the Rub' al Khali? What is it called in English?

7) Who is the current prime minister of Germany?

8) Necco, the candy maker, is a contraction of what name?

9) Who appeared in all of the following films? Alien, Singles, Steel Magnolias and the Rookie.

10) What is the publication order of the following Stephen King books: Tommyknockers, Carrie, Cell, 'Salem's Lot and Insomnia.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Let's put our heads together, and start a new country up

You may have tired of reading of Iraq, but I recommend you read Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life in the Emerald City (now in paperback.) The book's focus is on the Coalition Provisional Authority, the American agency that ran Iraq for the first year following the invasion. It's a hugely depressing story of mostly well-meaning people making horrible decisions as they try to turn a wrecked country in a first world liberal democracy with Milton Friedman's dream economic system. We see people closing state run companies that employ thousands with no recourse, attempts to privatize drug sales while hospitals lack generators and of course the disastrous de-Bathification policy.

These policies probably never would have worked, but the Administration didn't help by hiring a bunch of C listers. Like the Maoists, the CPA believed that people were Better Red than Expert. Leading figures in their fields were kept out and barely qualified (often barely out of school) people were given critical roles. The single most important policy initiative of the decade was treated, well, just like Katrina. Critical roles given to ineffective people.

At a macro level, the failure of the CPA reinforces the myth that the Defense Department is the only foreign policy organization that works. The US already over-relies on the military (read Bacevich) and this experience might validate that approach in some ways. The US needs a balanced foreign policy that takes advantage of the capabilities of State, the CIA, the Defense Department and others. It just needs to ensure that skill is more important than political loyalty.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Here be dragons

Imagine a novel that takes the World War 2 rivalry between the RAF and the Royal Navy and then places that context in the Napoleonic era. Now, replace the airplanes with dragons and you have Naomi Novik's novel Her Majesty's Dragon. I'd heard good things about the book, but it was Peter Jackson's decision to option the book for a film that clinched my reading decision.

The story starts with a British naval boarding party seizing a dragon's egg from a French frigate. The captain of the ship is chosen by the dragon to be its rider and the Captain soon finds himself transferring from the Navy to the Aerial Corps. Much is made of the cultural clash, with the Navy man shocked at the loose ways of the airedales and even more shocked that some of the officers are women!

As a Napoleonic era novel, there is of course combat and it is well described. The dragons are crewed like WWI fighters with hand bombs and personal firearms used to attack other dragons or the enemy. Of course there are also claws and the occasional breath. The combat is actually de-emphasized as much more of the novel is about training and the bonding that comes to dragon and captain.

While a bit light, this is certainly entertaining and will appeal to non-doctrinaire fans of the Aubrey-Maturin series as well as fantasy readers.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next novels (which are great fun) feature a police force which can enter novels in order to prevent literary crimes, such as the kidnapping of Jane from Jane Eyre. It would be nice if books were also a punitive option. For example, these filthy (both literally and metaphorically) individuals should be sentenced to 20 years in a Chester Himes novel.

I'm pretty sure Albini wrote Pigeon Kill and Seth with people like these in mind.

Making good friends with you

Ooooo, take a look at this very early Pixies promo vid for Tame. I like the longish Black Francis hair. The Pixies were never that known for videos, but through the power of YouTube here is some Pixies fun for your enjoyment.

Monkey Gone to Heaven - on Letterman for the reunion. - original video here.

Velouria - This is the hopping on rocks in slo-mo video that host Dave Kendall (what's he doing now? Working on something called Porn Valley) dissed.

Digging for Fire - Not all that exciting aside from the Kim Deal getting dressed in leather part.

Alec Eiffel - Really good song, really bad video. Making good videos doesn't make no SENSE.

Here Comes Your Man - An attack on the notion of videos.

Tell me why why'd you have to lie

If not for the fact that perusing Sky Mall was my alternative, I might have put down the Lies of Locke Lamora. Set in fantasy version of Venice at the height of its wealth and power, the main characters are the jolly sort of thieves who steal for the sheer love of it and shout out things like "What! Ho! The merry chase begins!" I normally find happy go lucky thieves intensely tiresome, but the story is so good , that my reservations were quickly overwhelmed.

At first the story appears to be a serious of capers in which our intrepid anti-heroes rather handily relieve the wealthy of their goods. The story becomes one of political intrigue in which the gang, named the Gentlemen Bastards, find themselves in between the city's crime boss, the spy master and a rising star in the criminal firmament. The tone changes to become less light hearted and more violent, although never at the level of the grimmer fantasy writers, like Martin, Mieville or Erikson.

The novel has an odd structure. It alternates between the main story and the past history of Locke Lamora and the Gentleman Bastards. Normally, I would expect this past story line to set up some confrontation or revelation, but it really just exists to show how the criminals became so adept at theft. Perhaps realizing that the main story line is more interesting, the past story chapters get shorter and shorter as the story progresses.

This is a minor complaint though, the story's plot takes such fun and interesting turns that this is a must for fantasy turns. Take a break from the grim and try this one.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The unceasing tide of books

For my weekend visit, I had four tasks. Number one was to attend my friend's wedding. Number two was hang out with some other friends. Number three was to eat a Five Guys burger. And number four was to hit the Arlington Goodwill book rack. Why that place? With flat prices of $.170 or less and donations from the most educated citizens in the USA, it is hard to go wrong. For less than the price of a six pack of Lagunitas, I walked away with the following.

Book Lust by Nancy Pearl. How can I write a book recommendations blog without stealing other people's recommendations?

The General's War by Trainor and Gordon. The team that brought you Cobra II tells you what's what about Gulf War the First.

Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Dana. Dana was a sort of 19th century Ted Conover. He was an educated man but signed up for the rough world of the sailor and then wrote a book about it.

Utopia by Lincoln Child. He writes a fine thriller.

The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard. It won an award and her a good thing or two.

The Gates of Africa by Anthony Sattin. I'd never seen hide nor hair of this one before, but it reminded me of Barrow's Boys so I took the chance.

Whoreson by Donald Goines. I've always wanted to read Goines, and who can resist a title like that one?

Maybe I will read one or two of them this year.

Best spy novels ever?

Charles McCarry is one of our most under appreciated living authors. Its shocking that he is not as well known as Le Carre or even Furst. McCarry served in the CIA and his background shows in the details of his spy novels. His first novel the Miernik Dossier is a terrifically engaging work recommended to anyone who likes literary thrillers.

While the story, involving the trip of Polish official who may or may not be a spy to Sudan is excellent, the book shines in its verisimilitude, even in its organization. The book is portrayed as a dossier concerning a case. It contains reports from the main characters, analysis by their superiors, transcripts of surveillance reports and other documents. This handily dodges the problem of the omniscient observer, as well providing a fascinating look at how intelligence agencies communicate with and use intelligence assets.

While the main character, a CIA operator named Paul Christopher, is reasonably certain that some of his associates at his cover employer are from friendly agencies (the British and French) he is unable to identify himself as he has no clearance to do so. All three Western spies watch the Pole Miernik for signs of a spy's tradecraft, as they try to determine if he a Polish agent or a true defector. The process in itself is fascinating, but becomes quite interesting, when they have to decide whether to facilitate a trip to Sudan, where he may or may not be trying to arm an insurgent force.

McCarry's follow on novels depict Paul Christopher's rise in the CIA's Directorate of Operations (now the National Clandestine Service.) I will be reading all of them.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

A pair of classics

Late to the game as usual, I just read the Road. It's an astounding book, rarely have I been so gripped. I read it far too quickly and will have to read it again to fully digest it. This was a natural follow on to No Country For Old Men. In that book, the main character lamented the shift to a darker more violent world unfit for old men. The post-apocalyptic world of the Road isn't fit for anyone, populated, so it seems, only with the cruel.

McCarthy's descriptive power serves him well, as he paints a destroyed world lit only by the thinnest of hopes. There is a strong sense of the Biblical in the book with the main character (spoiler alert) serving as Moses. Parents may feel the book hits too close to home, but the father-son element just bound me closer to the story.

I recently mentioned to a friend that I thought Ingmar Bergman was over-rated. She tut-tuted and told me I needed to see the Virgin Spring. So I did, and she is right. The film, a story of innocence, vengeance and redemption is beautiful and bleak. The emotional power of the film is great, which makes the blasphemous remake Last House on the Left look like the warm bowl of piss that it is.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Laughs for the kids

We churn through a lot of books at the library and every once and again we randomly hit gold. My wife brought home What Did You Put In Your Pocket? and it has been non-stop giggles since. The book was written in the 50s by Beatrice Schenk De Regniers and has been re-issued with new illustrations. The School Library Journal found the illustrations too childish and distracting, but my kids enjoy them. Even more so, they love a story about someone who spends a week cramming messy substances (ice cream, molasses, pudding, etc) into his pocket. If your little ones laugh at messiness, this one will be a winner.

Sometimes I'm blogging where all the other people write

Were you aware that the Cure song Charlotte Sometimes is based upon a novel? And the Cure never told, or provided financial thanks to the author. Read the tale here.

Joanna reminds us of a candy long forgotten, the sugar filled plastic fruit. For me, this is a bit too much like Fun Dip.

Want to get yet another take on how the last six years have been really bad for the country? Read this.

Now it is not a big deal that a plane flew over the US with live nukes. This is normal, what is news is that a B-52 flew with live nukes and no one realized it. Still this Wonkette bit is worth reading for the title and the image. Fans of Cold War confrontation will be cheered by this news.

Why was Car Jamming never a single? It's so much better than Should I Stay or Should I Go.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Gonna make you burn, gonna make you sting

McEwan's Black Dogs was written in 1992 and follows up the Cold War Innocent with a story that includes both the beginning and the end of the War. It is far more metaphorical than its predecessor, using the story of a failed marriage to show how we react to horror. In 1946, a young pair of newly married socialists travel to France where the bride has a run-in with a pair of malevolent black dogs. Their contrasting reactions destroy their marriage. These reactions, in one case spiritual and in other hyper-rational are stand ins for societal reaction to pure evil. And in their cases, the evil is the suffering caused by World War 2. The black dog manifest itself in the story in other ways, such as the all too common recourse to violence.

We learn about the details of their lives from their son-in-law who lost his own parents at a young age. He wants to write a biography of these people, perhaps, because he never knew his own parents. As usual with McEwan, he captures the inner lives of people wonderfully, and his narrator tries to breakdown the differences between internal perception and external reality.

While McEwan's prose is wonderful as ever and his theme is worthy and well explored, I didn't enjoy this book as much as Atonement, the Innocent or Enduring Love. That's not to say it isn't worth reading, just set your expectations accordingly.

A neverending tide

I've been in a reading funk the last few days. I started a number of books, but couldn't get into any of them. In times of such trouble, it is best to turn to stand-bys, and I went with Ian McEwan's Black Dogs. Of course, my inability to begin a book did not stop me from acquiring new ones. New books include

House of Chains by Steven Erikson. The very definition of epic fantasy, this ten book story spans multiple continents and churns through a number of characters. Decidedly not for everyone, but for the fantasy reader, it is a winner. Thanks to Brack for this one.

Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. One the most talked about books of last year. This looks like a more positive and comprehensive Fast Food Nation. Found at Costco.

The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright. Pulitzer Prize winning account of Al Qaeda up until 9/11. Those 25% off Borders coupons are too hard to resist. It was this or Aunt Hagar's Childrenand that one will likely be next.

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. I've wanted these sci-fi short stories for some time and this Sandstorm review fired my interest. I was in Powells and saw they had a used copy. I couldn't say no at that point, right?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Kid fun in PDX

There are two upcoming book events to note for kids. The first is that Mount Hood Railroad (located in Hood River) is running a Little Engine That Could party on the weekends of Sept 8 and Sept 15. I took my then three year old to a Thomas Party and it included a train ride, lots of games, music and movies. It's a good time for the little ones, and it will get you out into the Gorge.

At 1:00PM on September 22nd children's author Daniel Kirk will appear at the Beaverton location of Powells. He illustrated one of my kid's all time favorites, Chugga-chugga choo choo, and wrote books like Moondog and Cat Power. Sorry indie rockers, the latter features actual cats, rather than moody, heartfelt lyrics.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

A few items

Man is Denis Johnson's Vietnam epic Tree of Smoke getting some buzz. Check the NYT, (Good morning and please listen to me: Denis Johnson is a true American artist, and “Tree of Smoke” is a tremendous book, a strange entertainment, very long but very fast, a great whirly ride that starts out sad and gets sadder and sadder, loops unpredictably out and around, and then lurches down so suddenly at the very end that it will make your stomach flop) and Esquire. The LA Times takes a more moderate view. Anyway, keep your eyes on it.

In my recollection, The Mist is my favorite Stephen King story. It has the build-up, the scares, the human foibles and failures and a wonderfully ambiguous ending. I somehow forgot the whole religion angle upon which the trailer for the upcoming film. This makes me wonder about books that I fondly remember. How much is due to my reaction at the time and how much would it differ now?

Is there really an anti-pie trend about the land, as this column claims? If so, people need to get their hands on Ken Haedrich's Pie book.