Thursday, April 29, 2010

Oooooo, new Interpol

You can go the Interpol website for the MP3 (as I did) or you can just click on the YouTube that someone immediately put up (could disappear of course.) This one is less about the hooks and more about the atmospherics, which means it sounds like Turn Out the Bright Lights. Good times.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Heading to Chicago

I will shortly be off to Chicago for the weekend. I will be meeting up with some good friends for eating, drinking, game watching and bookstore visiting. I've never been there so I am quite excited. Right now, I am wrestling with the dilemma of which books to bring for the flight. Right now I am thinking Fussell's Wartime, a creepy looking Robert Silverberg called Book of Skulls, the lovely Netherland (which I started) and Quietus, a book that I fear may be too long for its own good.

Since I am going to Chicago, I thought it fitting that I read the Third Rail by Chicago native Michael Harvey. More on that one later today or tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Say it ain't so Stephen

Well, he can't, as he is dead, but I am sad to hear allegations that Stephen Ambrose made up interviews with Dwight Eisenhower. These purportedly fake interviews were essential to his books on Eisenhower. The New Yorker has the details. Yahoo has an overview of the coverage. I imagine people will now pore over his books to find more examples of dodgy research. This makes me sad as I have greatly enjoyed many of his books.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A record speedy book abandonment

I usually give a book 50 pages to hook me (100 pages if it is a fantasy novel, for some of those the first 50 pages is the prologue.) I picked up the Raw Shark Texts and read this on page one:

The shudder-hacking violence of no air then too much knocked me dizzy, sent the floor tilting away under my fingers. Static behind my eyes bacteria-swarmed dangerously towards another blackout and, snow blind and shaking, I pushed my wet mouth down tight into the palms of my hands, trying to pull controlled, steady breaths through my fingers -

Done on page one. There is no way in hell I can stand to read that sort of cutesy playful language, especially when the book is at least partially inspired by one of the greatest waste of trees, the House of Leaves. As Harris noted earlier, the literary world is trying to convince us that purposefully obtuse writing is good and that if you don't like it, you just aren't smart enough. I'll just be old fashioned and look to writers like Ian McEwan who can actually tell a story and use language to communicate emotion and understanding, rather than over the top metaphor and pop cultural allusion.

NB, I also put down a genre book as well. CJ Cherryh's Foreigner. She really needs an editor on that one.

I just saw Kick Ass

It's pretty awesome. You get McLovin, Nic Cage doing his best Adam West, a filthy mouthed 11 y/o girl who is great with a knife and lots and lots of violence. There are no big thoughts in this movie, there are no lessons, no growth in character, no subtle commentary on crime, the media, our infatuation with violence and explosions. In fact, I imagine some will be repelled by the cavalier attitude towards mayhem, especially by the idea that a father raises his daughter by training her to be a killer to seek vengeance.

The movie is really two movies in one. It starts with a goofy guy who gets the notion that he should become a superhero. He has a rough go of it and comes to find he would rather be a regular guy again. Since the movie has promised us ass kicking, the second part of the movie involves a real superhero father and daughter team.

There are lots of fun little details, like the use of social media by superheroes and the idea that a popular hangout is a combination malt and comic shop. Essentially if you like cartoonish violence that is very well presented, you will like this movie. If you think violence has been made too easy in our times, watch out for this one.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The new Vampire Weekend single

I like it! More than the last one too. I guess I will see these guys live again. Check the video for Jake Gyllenhaal as a hard drinking tennis player and the RZA as a tennis judge.

When books are really cheap

My kids school held a library fundraiser this week. It works like this. The kids bring in books from home and when they get hit benchmarks they get a prize (200 books gets you a popsicle party, 500 gets you a bookmark and so on.) The books sell for a pittance ( $1 each) and all the cash goes to buy new books for the school library. So it was my parental duty to pick up a stack, right? I did walk away with a small amount. Just six books. I picked up Monster of Florence, a Bryson book on Shakespeare, a book about Frederick the Great, Jesusland and a few others.

Who knows when I will read all these books, but really that rarely bothers me. The number of unread books I own rarely enters into my buying calculus. The key factors seem to be my desire to read the book, the possibility of never seeing the book again (which includes forgetting to look) and the cost. A low cost, as in a dollar, means that I even the barest chance of wanting to read it will lead me to pick up the book. After all, if I don't like it, I can lend it to someone else or trade it in at Powells.

I like the idea of having lots of books from which to choose, but the reality is less attractive. I end up forgetting what I have already purchased and often just grab the nearest book on the shelf for the next read. I stuff books in various corners of the house and forget they exist. Some get hidden behind the latest acquisitions. And then the stack of library books beckons with its urgency.

The thing is I like buying books for the sake of buying. Just exploring the piles and stacks of books, looking at the covers, and imagining the read build up to pleasurable time spent. Buying cheap books is like buying a lottery ticket. There is chance (a better one that the lottery!) you will get something out of it, but in the mean time you had a little cheap fun.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Reading the new Hampton Sides

The new Hampton Sides book, Hellhound on His Trail, is not only great, it compares well to his incredible Ghost Soldiers. His earlier book told a little known tale of a joint Army Ranger/Filipino guerrilla operation to liberate US servicemen from a Japanese prison camp. He took a fresh story and told it incredibly well. Hellhound on His Trail, also describes a lesser known aspect of a terrible event. His new book is about James Earl Ray, the assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr.

As the center of the book and the driver of the narrative, it is a little odd that we do not see the name James Earl Ray until page 321 of the book. In his preface, Sides alludes to Shelby Foote's belief that historians should borrow the novelist's way of writing. Sides takes that advice and writes like the very best of the crime novelists. Ray, who Sides depicts as a criminal driven by his angry racism, his shattered family life and a peculiar desire to lead others on chases, was given to creating multiple fake identities. So for the first 3/4 of the book, Sides refers to him as Eric Galt, the name Ray took after breaking out of prison.

Sides' use of novelistic technique of pacing, and building suspense makes the non-reveal of Ray's true name feel like a big reveal. Reading how the FBI manages to piece together his history and his past, I felt a bit of vicarious triumph when they found out who he really was.

The other major character, of course, is Martin Luther King, Jr, who at the start of the book is flagging and flailing, looking for a way for the Civil Rights movement to gain momentum. He is anxious to being a poor person's movement in DC, but becomes involved in a garbage worker's strike in Memphis. Sides provides enough background to show the tensions within the movement without slowing down the brisk pace of the story. We are all aware of the terrible symbolic and social impacts of King's death, so Sides focuses on the things we might forget. With mounting dread, we see him joking with friends as he prepares for a dinner, all while Ray readies his rifle. We also see his young children try to grapple with what has happened to them.

The focus here though is on Ray. I was unaware of his flight across the country and then into many more. He was under the belief that he could find ideological sympathizers who would help him join up with the Rhodesian military.

Don't look for conspiracy theories in the book. The only one of note is related to a St Louis lawyer named Sutherland who is believed to have put a bounty on King's head. Focusing on the Ray's actions leaves space for the conspiracy minded to fill in motive and assistance if desired.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The new Hampton Sides

So I started reading the new Hampton Sides book, Hellhound on His Trail, which concerns the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.* In a later post, I will talk about the book itself, which is great and stands up well to his prior work. At the moment, I want to mention how relevant the book feels today. King's killer appears to have been already damaged and filled with hatred towards King and African Americans in general.

It didn't help though that the Wallace campaign and it allies beat the drum of saving the country for the white man, all the while claiming that King was some sort of stooge of the Soviets bent on destroying the US of A.

The whole feel of the time is frighteningly similar to ours. The drumbeats of panic and fear pulsing from the Tea Partiers, with their outlandish claims about Obama and their over the top rhetoric remind echo what people said about King. You can't say that you are trying to help white America anymore, of course. Instead you say "real Americans."

My fear is that all of this atmosphere will trigger a reaction from some new James Earl Ray. This is not a new sentiment, but the book certainly makes it seem that much more of a threat.

*Full disclosure: The publisher sent it to me. Thanks!

Monday, April 19, 2010

What Hath God Wrought

I'm not well read on early 19th century American history. I've always vaguely thought of it as the "Age of Jackson" (thanks to seeing, but not reading Schlesinger's Age of Jackson, and kept it at that. Then the Oxford History of the United States put out What Hath God Wrought, the now penultimate release from the series. I adore these histories, the best known of which is probably Battle Cry of Freedom, one of the best histories I have ever read. My instinct is to buy these books as they come out. They are really a bit too long for a library check out and I like collecting them. Still, my limited interest in the subject matter left the book unread for a year.

Having some time on my hands, I picked it up last week and wrapped it up within a week. Like most of the other books in the series, the book is clearly written and engaging. They are written for generalist audiences by experts in their era. In this volume David Walker Howe takes the reader from 1815, as the War in 1812 ends as the time of the Founding Fathers begins to recede, up to 1848 with Polk's massive national expansion via war and diplomacy and the Seneca Falls Convention.

One of the things I have pondered is how the US of the Civil War, which seemed so big and complex, arose from the coastal enclaves of the Federalist era. Howe explains all this via the great debates of the era. One centered on the notion of internal improvements, which we might today call infrastructure development. One nationalist strand of thought argued that the US should invest in these improvements for security and economic reasons. Another, which focused on the cotton trade with England, fought vigorously against it. This group, of course, was also that which defended slavery. As Howe shows, the argument they made was not focused on states right, but on the desire to maintain a slave based economy, as it made owners of people quite wealthy.

There is a lot more in the book, particularly about how communications and transport technology made it possible for a country to exist over such a large area as the United States. Readers today will feel many uneasy comparisons with today's politics, especially comparing the Mexican war with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the role of regional politics in shaping and distorting national debates.

Like all giant history books, you still need an interest in the era to read this one. The reason I think this era is worth knowing is that it helps explain the road to the Civil War, the debates about how involved the state should be in the economy, how the country began its shift to diversity and how the national economy developed.

Authors sipping the haterade

Man, authors can be mean to each other. Here are the top 50 disses of authors by other authors. I disagree with this one, but I like how it is phrased.

4. Edgar Allen Poe, according to Henry James (1876)

An enthusiasm for Poe is the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection.

(via Vulture)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Walter Kirn disses Ian McEwan

I haven't read Solar, although I suspect I will sometime soon. Walter Kirn, no slouch as a novelist, thinks I better not though:

According to the perverse aesthetics of artistic guilty pleasure, certain books and movies are so bad — so crudely conceived, despicably motivated and atrociously executed — that they’re actually rather good. “Solar,” the new novel by Ian McEwan, is just the opposite: a book so good — so ingeniously designed, irreproachably high-minded and skillfully brought off — that it’s actually quite bad. Instead of being awful yet absorbing, it’s impeccable yet numbing, achieving the sort of superbly wrought inertia of a Romanesque cathedral. There’s so little wrong with it that there’s nothing particularly right about it, either. It’s impressive to behold but something of a virtuous pain to read.

That's either brilliant or nonsensical, I'm not sure which. The full review is here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Keep these Books Well Stocked Away

I am struggling through a book right now that I don't like and would like to put down but I can't. Not because I don't want to (as stated above, I do want to), but because I feel like I'm not supposed to. Or shouldn't.

Why? Because the book received such rave reviews that I feel like I must be a moron or missing something for not liking it. I'm scared that someone will see it on my shelf and ask me what I thought about something that occurred more than one-third of the way through, and I'll have to admit I didn't finish it and thereby be branded a rube.

I do this a lot. I find that I "like" something that reviews or public opinion or preconceived notions tell me I'm supposed to like. For example, the Mercedes SUV. I don't like its look and I doubt it holds enough cargo to be useful as an SUV. But I feel like Mercedes made it so it must be ME. Obviously, it's my personal shortcoming that prevents me from liking it. So I like it.

Ditto certain books. I guess I'm not ashamed anymore. So, the book to which I referred above is Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. Time magazine named it one of the most important books since 1923. First off, I find it a little too self-aware and self-indulgent and overblown. It's like the 915-page, literary version of La Villa Strangiato by Rush. Which could be the point, but I'm not sure that makes it better (I don't buy the "it sucks because it's parodying things that suck in this world, not because it actually sucks - you're missing the point"). I also find that the dizzying use of endnotes - purposefully, per the author, designed to break up the flow of the novel - irritates me. For the same reason - i.e., I guess I'm too dense to realize that being irritated is exactly the point the author was trying to make, and I should therefore appreciate being irritated and not enjoying the book. Finally, I'm not terribly impressed by the imagery anyway. Maybe it's one of those "I'm so dense that I think I'm smart but I'm actually dumb" things, but a lot of the presumably clever material is boring. Like the fact that the new North American mega-country is named the Organization of North American Nations. To me the ONAN part was apparent from the full name, but every chance he gets, he puts the acronym in the reader's face. I get it.

Anyway, I'm laboring through it and it's frustrating me. Any others out there?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Oryx and Crake Part Deux

A few years back, Margaret Atwood released Oryx and Crake, one of the greatest literary speculative fiction novels I have ever read. Last year, she put out The Year of the Flood, a book which features two minor characters from the first book. It is not a sequel, but takes place at essentially the same time as the earlier book. This sounds odd, and it is. Most people reading it will have read Oryx and Crake, either because they like Atwood or they learn this is a follow on book. So the ending is already known. You even know some of the characters.

Still, the book is different. The earlier book focused on intellectuals in the upper social strata. This one deals with people of faith trying to survive in an increasingly cruel world. The particular faith is a Christianity blended with nature worship. The saints are the likes of Dian Fossey and Rachel Carson, those that tried and sometimes did protect the natural world. The faithful, called the Gardeners, have a strict vegetarian and recycling lifestyle, which makes sense in a world where the most popular burger chain is Secret Burger. The name refers to the mysterious nature of the source of the meat.

To be honest, I wasn't much taken with the overall story. It was OK. What I did like was Atwood's writing, her portrayal of the characters, and the details of the world she constructed. The tone is a rebuke to our consumerist world, which pays little heed to the destruction of the environment, the peril of the growth of corporate power and our isolation from each other.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bacevich on Moyers

He is back on Moyers, talking about Afghanistan this time. He has a new book coming out this summer.

Scribble, scribble, scribble, eh, Mr. McCarry?

One of life's minor pleasures is reading a book that has been on your shelf for years. I have had Charles McCarry's Old Boys for six or seven years. It's not that I didn't want to read it, but it was the first McCarry I acquired. Having bought it, I realized it was a series book and that I would have to go about purchasing the, then out of print and hard to find, earlier books. I spent some time tracking down used copies and then Overlook Press reprinted his books. So, I've now caught up and could read this one.

Reading these books in order is important. Even more than the Ian Fleming novels, there are important subplots that span the books that will be ruined if you read them out of order. The earlier ones you can probably read out of synch, but you should hold off on Old Boys, until you have read a few of the earlier ones.

McCarry's books are old school spy novels, which makes sense as he was an old school spy. The main characters are not Jack Bauers or even James Bond's, but instead are skilled in subterfuge and ferreting out information by means other than torture. The plots are often elaborate, and this book is no exception. There is so much going on that it might seem a bit much. The plot starts with one retired spy gathering some retired friends to find the missing Paul Christopher, the hero from the first books. Loose nukes, family history, terrorism and the new Russia figure heavily.

What also figures heavily is one of the better subplots from any of his books, and one of the cleverest conspiracy theories I have ever read. In addition to looking for Paul Christopher, the characters are hunting for a text which claims that one of histories great events was actually a covert operation. If you buy the arguments of a certain 18th century British historian, it would make for the biggest case of blowback of all time.

The book is a bit sprawling, but bits like the covert op make it a lot of fun.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

How did I not know Hampton Sides has a new book.

I love, love, love Hampton Sides' books. Ghost Soldiers is the sort of war book that people that hate war books will love. Blood and Thunder is a bit more dense but still great. His latest, Hellhound on his Trail, is about James Early Ray, his pursuit of MLK and then the FBI's massive manhunt for Ray. Must read this.

Never tell our business to strangers

America loves crime stories. If you ask people which is the finest movie ever made, they are likely include the Godfather as a contender. Crime novels are well represented in the 2009 bestseller list as well. I don't think that America likes criminals as a group, but, as Walter McDougall argues in Freedom Just Around the Corner, America does like hustlers. The sorts of people who bend the rules to make a buck. Whether a criminal is appealing depends on the crime. An artful theft excites many, and so does vigilante justice.

In her memoir, Never Tell Our Business to Strangers, New York Times writer Jennifer Mascia talks about coming to terms with her family's criminal background. Her family moved a lot and she had a vague sense of what her father. He eventually went to jail, and she learns that he was involved in both the drug trade and in killing for the Mob.

The parts I liked best where those where she wrestled with who her parents were. How her mother could stay with someone who she knew was involved in terrible crimes. Her mom, by the way, like others used the Schwarzenegger defense, he only killed bad people. The main thrust of the book is how she finds her path to reconciling her love for her parents with her own moral code.

On the downside, the book is a little long and those who aren't looking for family stories to go with their crime will need to be patient. Thanks to Blue Dot Literary for giving me the chance to read it.

The next big book that will annoy many and please many

Tom Clancy has a new one coming out. It's called Dead or Alive and, according to the Amazon blog, is about terrorism. I'm sure the pub date of December 7 is significant. Anyway, it could be good. I still think Red Storm Rising is one of the greatest hypothetical war books ever.

The book has a co-author as well, which makes you wonder how much of it is Clancy. Clive Cussler has done quite a bit of this lately too, as has James Patterson. It's like Rembrandt and other painters who branded paintings their own, when they were principally painted by studio painters. I don't mind it really, as long as the book is good. The authors have an incentive to maintain the brand, so they should be able to keep the quality up. That said, I suspect the farmed out books are precisely tuned formula machines designed to please the fanbase. Not that people go to people like Cussler looking for literary experimentation, but it can be stripped so thin that you can see all the moving parts.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Chabon's essays

I am reading Michael Chabon's Manhood for Amateurs. Of course, it is wonderful. You get the excellent essay, the Wilderness of Childhood, on kids and the need to have creative space. He talks about relationships, being a parent, defends a more Christ-rich Christmas and has lots of other takes. He has an absolutely wonderful piece on Legos, at once prosaic and thoughtful.

There are few better stylists out there today, but reading these makes me wonder where the next novel is. I should be grateful for the ones we have, I know, and I can always re-read Kavalier and Klay, but damn it would be good to read a new one of his.


Wow, that some Lost episode last night. When it is Desmond-centric, it will be awesome, that much is clear. It is also clear that I should probably not fire up Fringe on DVD right after Lost. Even though the quality of the show is improving, (I'm on season one) it's no Lost.

Check on this spot on video critique of Attack of the Clones. It's made by a mumbling angry fan, but he has REALLY thought about it. By the way, this is part of nine part video rant series. This one is about how Lucas ruined lightsabers and the Force.

I've given up on Wolf Hall. It is a wonder of research and detail, but I just can't find myself engaged.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Trying out Fringe

One of the weightiest decisions of our era is in which TV on DVD sets to watch. The time suck is tremendous, but the payout can be excellent. Some shows are obvious. I would include Band of Brothers, the Wire, and Lost. Depending on taste, you can add Deadwood and Battlestar.

Thanks to my love for the late lamented X-Files (the early years at least) I decided to try out Fringe. I just finished episode six and I can tentatively vouch for it. If you are not familiar with the show, it is about a team employed by a shadowy arm of the Department of Homeland Security, that investigates "fringe science" which is part of something mysterious called the Pattern. Like the X-Files, each week there is mysterious activity, which the team investigates. Unlike the X-Files, so far at least, EVERY case is tied back to the Pattern. That irritates me a little.

JJ Abrams is the producer so he has brought some Lost formula to the show. Like Lost, it keeps piling on more questions, with nary an answer in sight. You can tell they are going to drag out just what this Pattern is forever. It has Lance Reddick (yay!) For the fantasy nerds, you get Denethor (AKA John Noble) On the whole, we don't get the character standouts we got with Lost.

It also differs from the X-Files. While that show's boogieman was a government-led conspiracy, this show's, appears at least, to be corporate, which fits the times of course. Much of the fun of the X-Files was in the way that it used urban legends. I was so happy when they based an episode on La Chupacabra. Lost gains much of its power from its teasing ties back to mythology. With this show, you get a bunch of ideas that sound like weed induced brainstorms.

All that said, I enjoy it. The stories are peculiar, but I like them. The characters aren't great, but they work. The show is set in Boston, which means we aren't looking at New York, Vancouver or LA yet again.

Formulaic, but tasty nonetheless

I've come to think that formulaic is not a terribly useful descriptor for books. You can be formulaic and terrible, like say James Patterson, or formulaic and awesome like James Lee Burke. Burke's formula is fairly simple. Hero Dave Robicheaux faces a mix of crooked New Orleans cops, mobsters, arrogant rich people, and the odd crazed right winger. These folks are screwing over the locals and Robicheaux investigates, usually beating down three or four people, with the help of his violent friend Cletus. It takes awhile for him to figure out what's up and he generally gets a decent, if flawed, resolution.

That said, his books are wonderful reads. Half of the books are invested the side stories of his characters. The relationship of Dave with his wife and his adopted daughter are real and are integrated into the plots. His bad guys are perfectly sleazy, the kind of people that drive you up the wall, but in this case are also deeply engaged in crime. Burke's portrayal of Lousiana is part a love note to a people and a place and part a lament at what they have let happen to it.

Over the weekend, I read Purple Cane Road, one of the later books in the series, in just one or two sittings. This is one of his better ones overall. It is fairly lean with a straightforward plot. While trying to help out a woman on death row, Dave hears bad stories about his long missing mother. Namely that after she left him and his father, she became a whore and was killed for it. This does not bring out the best in Dave. Blocking his path to the truth are a bizzaro hit man, the Mob, a passel of old enemies and maybe even leading politicians in the state.

Friday, April 02, 2010

A little late, but here are some Easter books for the weekend

If you are looking for a good Easter book to share with the kids, here are two our kids like. Just the thing for a last minute Easter basket gift.

The Easter Egg - Jan Brett. Brett already has an pile of Christmas books, so how about Easter? You get the usual touching story, along with all the additional stories going on in the side panels. We have read this one every day this week.

The Country Bunny and the Little Golden Shoes by Dubose Hayward. An oldie (1939) but a very goodie. This one tells the tale of a young mother bunny who longs to be one of the five Easter bunnies. By raising her 21 children well, she demonstrates she has the character to be the Easter bunny, more so than the flashy bunny aristocrats. The art is lovely as well.

I do believe it was a horror film

If you like horror movies and want something a little different, Dead Birds might fit the bill. The title is a little odd. At one point the camera zooms in on a dead crow and the screen goes red. This one works on the victims kinda deserving route. The movie is set sometime in the Civil War, somewhere in the fairly deep South. The first establishes the protagonists as a nasty lot. They ride into town and rob a bank, in a particularly brutal manner. This scenes also lets you know that the director likes him some gore.

The group then goes to their hideout, an abandoned house deep in the woods. The leader knows its abandoned because the soldier than owed it died. Turns out terrible things were afoot at the house and the story takes a turn to the Clive Barker. Things get sticky and icky and there are even a few nice little scares. The Civil War setting was novel and allowed for a few nice diversions and character touches. I thought the ending was a nice touch as well.

If you don't like horror movies, skip it, you will be bored and/or disgusted.

Thursday, April 01, 2010


I have a friend who works in the intelligence community. As part of her job, she testifies to Congress. She moans about the crazy questions, but I didn't get a good sense of how crazy. This story paints quite the picture. Great response from the expert.

This is one of my favorite bit's of comedy. Jay Mohr doing a Walken impression about dogs. It's old and everyone has a Walken impression, but it is among the funniest things I have ever heard. Better even than this Walken and Nicholson doing Willy Wonka.

Woah, the new Nick Cage movie looks pretty good.

If this were real, it would be totally sweet.

Nicholas Sparks=Tucker Max

Nicholas Sparks, noted author of shitty books, thinks there is someone you just gotta read. Who? Nicholas Sparks. Promoting the latest of his books to be turned into Hollywood dreck, Sparks lays it on the line for USA Today.

Whose books are most like Sparks'? Hmmmm, how about that journalist fellow who spent time in Cuba?

Sparks pulls the one beside it off the shelf. "A Farewell to Arms, by Hemingway. Good stuff. That's what I write," he says, putting it back. "That's what I write."

In case you are thinking he misspoke, he also compares his work to that of Shakespeare, Austen and Sophocles.

You know who sucks? Cormac McCarthy.

"Horrible," he says, looking at Blood Meridian. "This is probably the most pulpy, overwrought, melodramatic cowboy vs. Indians story ever written."

Let's get real. Not one of Sparks' books is good enough to wipe McCarthy's ass. The hubris is astounding, but he's not done.

Sparks' favorite tale of youth? "I think A Walk to Remember," he says, citing his own novel. "That's my version of a coming-of-age." He pauses and adds: "You have to sayTo Kill a Mockingbird is an all-time classic." (emphasis added)

The man is without shame.