Showing posts tagged books

My normally messy roommate-for-six-weeks cleaned up before going out of town the other day. The only items remaining on the coffee table: a blue Sharpie, an oversized novelty lighter, and one of the stranger coffee table books I’ve ever seen. I guess this is what passed as voyeuristic/sociological ephemera (and other fancy words) before the internet came along.

The powers of the kings of Morocco and Lesotho are limited by their country’s constitutions, but no such check seems to be placed on Africa’s last absolute monarch, King Mswati III of Swaziland, who has ruled in an authoritarian — and eccentric — style since 1986. In 2001, he signed a decree banning newspapers, stating afterwards: “I must admit that when I signed this decree, I did not read it at all. I just signed it.” Another decree banned women under 18 from having sex, in an attempt to combat the country’s massive HIV problem, but just two months after imposing the ban, the king himself broke it in marrying his ninth wife, who was just 16 — for which he fined himself a cow.
1000 Ultimate Travel Experiences: Make the Most of Your Time on Earth, published by Rough Guides
My books are water; those of the great geniuses is wine. Everybody drinks water.

Mark Twain.

Nice maxim and all, but what’s up with that subject-verb disagreement, MT?

Right now more than 13 million Americans are out of work. To put that into perspective: If you were to lay every unemployed American end to end, they would let you, if you paid them.
From AMERICA AGAIN: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t, which I bought myself for Thanksgivingkwanzaaka, and which is consistently hilarious
A respected dentist who lived in a wealthy suburb of Cincinnati and attended his local Methodist church every Sunday, the author of this book originally found sex surprisingly boring and unfulfilling. And it wasn’t just the Ohio women. He often described his sex life as “cumming without really orgasming.” Then one day he tried something different and experienced an intensely pleasurable orgasm — he had drawn the handlebars that would soon spread to faces around the globe. As he informed others of his amazing discovery, he became known to sex experts everywhere as “Dirty Sanchez.” But this first patented move was only the beginning. “Dirty Sanchez” gave up dentistry and now dedicates himself full-time to discovering exciting new eye-popping, heart-stopping sexual positions.
Author bio for Dirty Sanchez’s Guide to Buck Nasty Sex, the book I stumbled upon the other night and ended up buying for today’s white elephant exchange. DS’s descriptions of the “heart-stopping sexual positions” in the book are even more absurd than his bio. (I learned what 'micturition' means, among other things I’d rather have not learned.) 
I just love this picture in so many ways.

I just love this picture in so many ways.

(Source: BuzzFeed)

Many years ago, in an era when the phrases “boob tube,” “idiot box” and “vast wasteland” went unchallenged as television descriptors among the Discerning Classes, I sat in a pool of prospective jurors on a case involving a fancy jeweler. Aiming, apparently, to assess whether we were likely to confuse the actions of real-life rich people with those on “Dynasty,” the defense lawyer asked each of us, “Do you watch TV?” “Nah,” swore a majority of my exceptionally discriminating citizen peers. “Just a little.” “Maybe some ‘Nova’ from PBS on a black-and-white TV.”

Had counsel tried that line of questioning today, odds are she would have gotten a very different earful…. Today, those same potential jurors are more likely to say they don’t go to many movies (see above re “boobs” and “idiots”), because they’re home watching good television, much of it on cable rather than network TV. We’re in a fascinating moment in the creative cycles of popular culture, when television — O.K., fine, the best of television — is embracing complexity, subtlety and innovation in storytelling with an exciting maturity. We’re in a moment when the intricate structure and deep character development in long-form dramas can stand up to comparison with great literature. We’re in a time when going to work for what the brilliant British television writer Dennis Potter once called “the medium of the occupying power” is a high calling.

Lisa Schwarzbaum, in a review of Difficult Men, by Brett Martin, in this week’s Book Review.

I was only allowed to watch a few hours of tube per week growing up, when most TV really was insipid and banal. My father indeed referred to it as the boob tube; “Why don’t you read a book,” he’d say to me whenever he found me watching. Now he watches for hours every night, including several of the shows Martin discusses.

No doubt about it. The best TV is now the audio-visual equivalent of the best literary novels — a medium that allows us to follow the characters for years, to get to know them as well as we know many of our own friends and relatives.

(Source: The New York Times)

Found this tattered copy of Oliver Twist on my parents’ bookshelves. It’s unclear how old it is, exactly (and Pops Wolman was no help in the matter), but the copyright page implies it was printed c. 1950. The price? “6s. net per volume,” whatever that means.

Apparently my dad used it to keep stamps from his stamp collection flat, which I suppose is as good a use for Dickens as any.

Riding on horse, driving plane steering wheel, sea liner, driving powerful (truck), Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov not just demonstrates wonderful physical shape and high professional skills in every business, he fixes in people’s minds the image of modern (strongman), who has to do a lot. He must be well-educated, physically strong and esthetically erudite.

Turkmen president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, likening himself (in the third person) to Turkmenistan’s national symbol, the hardy Akhal-Teke desert horse, in his book The Flight of Celestial Racehorse.

I highly recommend checking out this photo essay about Turkmenistan, which is beautiful, hilarious, and tragic all at once. It reminded me of one of the most memorable articles I’ve ever read in The New Yorker, Paul Theroux’s 2007 feature on Turkmenistan and its nutjob former “President for Life,” Saparmurat Niyazov.

The best way to enjoy Baz Luhrmann’s big and noisy new version of “The Great Gatsby” — and despite what you may have heard, it is an eminently enjoyable movie — is to put aside whatever literary agenda you are tempted to bring with you. I grant that this is not so easily done. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s slender, charming third novel has accumulated a heavier burden of cultural significance than it can easily bear. Short and accessible enough to be consumed in a sitting, the book has become, in the 88 years since its publication, a schoolroom staple and a pop-cultural totem. It shapes our increasingly fuzzy image of the jazz age and fuels endless term papers on the American dream and related topics.

Through this fog of glib allusion and secondhand thinking, the wistful glimmer of Fitzgerald’s prose shines like the green light at the end of Daisy Buchanan’s dock. If “The Great Gatsby” can’t quite sustain the Big Ideas that are routinely attached to it — a fact that periodically inspires showboating critical contrarians to proclaim that it’s not such a big deal after all — it nonetheless remains a lively, imaginative presence.

A.O. Scott is the second-best film critic writing today.

(Source: The New York Times)

Hello Michael,

(Your book(s) asked to write you a personal note - it seemed unusual, but who are we to say no?)

Holy canasta! It’s me… it’s me! I can’t believe it is actually me! You could have picked any of over 2 million books but you picked me! I’ve got to get packed! How is the weather where you live? Will I need a dust jacket? I can’t believe I’m leaving Mishawaka, Indiana already - the friendly people, the Hummer plant, the Linebacker Lounge - so many memories. I don’t have much time to say goodbye to everyone, but it’s time to see the world!

I can’t wait to meet you! You sound like such a well read person. Although, I have to say, it sure has taken you a while! I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but how would you like to spend five months sandwiched between Jane Eyre (drama queen) and Fundamentals of Thermodynamics (pyromaniac)? At least Jane was an upgrade from that stupid book on brewing beer. How many times did the ol’ brewmaster have one too many and topple off our shelf at 2am?

I know the trip to meet you will be long and fraught with peril, but after the close calls I’ve had, I’m ready for anything (besides, some of my best friends are suspense novels). Just five months ago, I thought I was a goner. My owner was moving and couldn’t take me with her. I was sure I was landfill bait until I ended up in a Better World Books book drive bin. Thanks to your socially conscious book shopping, I’ve found a new home. Even better, your book buying dollars are helping kids read from Brazil to Botswana.

But hey, enough about me, I’ve been asked to brief you on a few things:

Your Order # is: 12189506

We provide quick shipping service to all our customers. You chose shipping, your book should arrive within 7 - 14 business days. At this time, we are not able to offer tracking on these shipments.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact my friends at Customer Care by submitting a ticket.. If you could please include your order number (12189506) that would be very helpful.


Eagerly awaiting our meeting,


The Book You Ordered

The purchase confirmation email I received from Better World Books after buying a book there.

Witty, indie, and altruistic, with good prices to boot. What’s not to like? I’d wholeheartedly recommended them if it weren’t for the fact that I never received the order. (In their defense, it was shipped to China. And they gave me a refund. But still.) Anyway, probably worth giving ‘em a shot. At the least, you’ll receive a quirky email or two. 

'The Sense of an Ending' is a short book, but not a slight one. In it Julian Barnes reveals crystalline truths that have taken a lifetime to harden. He has honed their edges, and polished them to a high gleam.
Liesl Schillinger’s, on The Sense of an Ending, which I just finished. The ending is a bit anticlimactic, but I agree with her assessment otherwise. Highly recommended, and you can knock it off in a day.

(Source: The New York Times)

We are child-­proofing our wireless access only to find that, like children, we can still figure out how to get the cap off the bottle.
Alex Mar, in the Times Book Review's essay, “One Hundred Hours of Solitude.” It’s nice to know Franzen, Chabon & Co. suffer from the same fuckin’ problem as the rest of us…