For fifty pages, I was hooked. Henry Skrimshander is a small-town kid with an almost supernatural sense for playing shortstop. He’s discovered at what might have been the last game of his career and recruited to play for Westish College, a small D III school in Wisconsin. Under the guidance of Mike Schwartz, the Westish teammate who discovered him, Henry rises into the ranks of the nation’s best college players. His future seems bright and assured.
Then we’re introduced to Guert Affenlight, the President of Westish College. He’s an interesting guy, but his story doesn’t really have as much to do with Henry as Henry’s roommate, Owen, and there’s Guert’s daughter, Pella, who’s fleeing a failed marriage. Also, Schwartz is having some problems figuring out his life after graduation.
The writing is solid throughout, the characters are convincing and likable enough that I never felt totally dissatisfied, but I often found myself pushing through chapters wondering when all of this was going to get back to Henry, because (surprise) his bright future might not be such a sure thing after all. Unfortunately, Henry’s perspective and his trials on the diamond occupy less space as the novel progresses, and the work as a whole suffers for it.
A pervasive sadness oozes from this collection of semi-linked short stories. This book is a short, grim affair with most of its stories centered around poverty and violence, and most of its characters lacking education or, often, perspective. All this, bolstered by Woodrell’s sharp, atmospheric prose, makes for a very strong collection. … Continue reading »
[On occasion some of the spam we get is too good not to share. So this column is where we do just that. Follow it here.]
We get a fair amount of spam in our comments. Most of it is banal, trying to sell SEO services with awkward, Google-translated text. But we get occasional gems. Here are the 10 best so far, presented in no particular order and without further comment. For many (see the “dingo skin” entries) your guess is as good as any as to what they are translating and why. Read them out loud as poetry, it makes the whole thing even better.
Enjoy! (Heads up, the last one is PG-13.)
Summer 2011 Spam Slam
10. They kill roosters For those silly feather cheap hair extensions?! Genuinely?!
9.The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it’s still on the list
8.Lifes not all beer and skittles
7.I cannot consider we should be working in loincloths made of dingo skin, as good as were excited to routine. Just after we understand it may be well calculating, will probably be fine. 6.ssssssssssssssfsdfsdfsdfd ssssssfsdfsdfsdfdssssssfsdfsdfsdfd ssssssfsdfsdfsdfdssssssfsdfsdfsdfd ssssssfsdfsdfsdfd ssssssfsdfsdfsdfd ssssssfsdfsdfsdfdssssssfsdfsdfsdfd ssssssfsdfsdfsdfd ssssssfsdfsdfsdfd ssssssfsdfsdfsdfd
5.Spammers are such assholes, I ponder if anybody ever clicks on their hyperlinks?
4. Please help me. Two days ago I was working 3rd shift at work and a dude came up to my register to pay his food ticket and he went into his pants pocket and brought out a $1 bill and said, “This is all I have in my wallet. I do not have the remaining cash to pay you.” Then he did the most amazing thing. He instsantly turned the dollar bill into a visa card. OMG I went home and got on google and found the magic trick video BUT I ain’t paying twenty nine dollars to know the secret. Can you figure the illusion out?
3. What an incredible green area rug! It could be an ideal surprise for my personal pal’s forthcoming (Hallow’s eve) special birthday. We appreciate you all the fantastic tips that you share.
2. I really don’t feel we should be dressed in loincloths made of dingo skin, quite as good as we’ve been from a position to discover. The second we understand is usually genuinely worth understanding, it astounding.
1. I was feeling my encounter obtaining comfortable as I imagined how his wang had moved further inside me than any 1 actually did before. And this guy had a entire body and a wang bigger than any man I’ve experienced prior to. The evil within my body created me do issues, which can trigger an huge really like affair in that extremely moment. I tried to talk to him whilst teasing him with my attractive african ass. I could see that he experimented with to steal a glance at my lovely black booty. After I found the proper time, I by no means hesitated to offer him a flirty and lustful looks.
“Musical” novels usually don’t do much for me, but this one has potential, starting with the vivid title and progressing to semi-sideways compliments like “This is not a book a young man would or could write.” Changó is centered in Albany but ranges as far afield as Cuba, grounded in a worn-out reporter and the wealthy Santerian he fell in love with while she was plotting an assassination. I’m afraid the music writing, which looks as bland as always (“He switches keys and ups the tempo, just a little, and ba-boom goes that left hand, the power of it, he’s on a ride, six choruses and counting,”), will keep me from pulling the trigger, but if that’s not one of your pet peeves, give this one a look. [Get this book]
An English major named Madeleine is writing her thesis about the Victorian “marriage plot,” in which a novel follows the trials and tribulations of a man and woman trying to get hitched. At the same time, Madeleine herself is caught up in a love triangle along with an unstable manic depressive named Leonard. Sounds lackluster, though Adams is bullish on it. And Leonard is based on David Foster Wallace. So there’s that. [Get this book]
The Kid, who was featured on the equivalent of To Catch a Predator, lives under a Miami overpass with several other sex offenders, because they can’t find a house in the city that’s more than 2500 feet from children, and that’s just the beginning of the Kid’s problems. Building a novel on a sex offender character who is, at best, “sympathetic but distasteful” is a tall order, but it sounds like Banks does well with this. [Get this book]
Outlaws, Inc., by Matt Potter, reviewed by Tim Warren (Washington Post)
Warren objects to a few of Matt Potter’s more colorful decisions (like his wearing guns for his author photo), but says the story at hand “fascinates” even when it’s up against the vulgar glee Potter takes in his subject. Because that subject is a group of Soviet cargo plane pilots who smuggle guns for warlords and terrorists under the cover of NGO aid missions. Not exactly the moral gray area of Lost Memory of Skin, but it sounds like it’s not without its charms. [Get this book]
Ninetendo’s Super Mario character is easily the most iconic video game character ever created. Mario games were and are still to some extent so popular that you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’s never heard of them.
Nintendo has a talent for that kind of ubiquity (cf. the Wii’s popularity with senior citizens), and on Mario’s shoulders the original Nintendo Entertainment System made “Nintendo” synonymous with “videogame” for a decade or more. Unless you were one of those kids with a Sega (sorry), your house was probably as likely to have an NES as a VCR. If it didn’t, you certainly had friends who had one.
Someone gave my grandfather an NES when I was 4 or 5. It had Super Mario Bros. (like lots of other adults he pronounced it Mare-E-Oh which drove me nuts), the combo pack with Duck Hunt and Track Meet (remember that weird PowerPad?). I was soon obsessed. More than two decades later, Nintendo games still have a significant claim on my leisure time staked out. I likely play more video games than most people my age–but that’s hard to guess, because in the past few years the rise of geek chic has made videogames socially acceptable.
So essentially, this book is a history of a toy company that’s been siphoning my money for almost 30 years and will probably continue to do so for a long time to come. It makes for an interesting story primarily because (and I’m admitting a weakness here) of how hard it is for Nintendo to do wrong by loyalists like me (I have a Virtual Boy in my closet). It’s a curious success they have, one I’m sure other companies wish they could achieve. I certainly don’t have the same rabid devotion to Random House. … Continue reading »
[Find previous installments of JABBIC here. You can suggest covers we should use, or volunteer to write a blurb, by emailing us here.]
JABBIC is back! I know we said it’d be back for the summer …but we sort of forgot. To make up for it, we’re doing a special extravaganza edition. We got eleven of our contributors to take a look at the cover of Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness and write us a summary of what it might be about. We’ve mixed the real book’s blurb in with them below. See if you can guess which is real, or just pick the one you think should be the book’s plot.
1. When Samantha’s ailing mother is forced to move in with her daughter, she comes with some unusual baggage: her long-time helper monkey and Samantha’s old childhood friend, Alonzo. For Samantha, it’s a strange reunion, one that calls into question her memories of her mother, her one-time friend, and her unbelievable early years. It’s a situation that will test Samantha’s ability to help anyone at all–especially herself. Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is a sad, funny look at family (and a monkey) through time.
2. When six-year old Hannah’s father went away on a business trip, she didn’t expect him to return with “monkey business.” A 1960′s free-spirited animal exchange program filled her San Francisco neighborhood with lions, tigers, and yes–monkeys. Her new brother Alphonse might be the feature of every playground but Hannah is going to show this damn dirty ape that America is no zoo. Or is it?
3. Alexandra Fuller imagines the impossible with delightful fancy in her new novel, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness. Rebecca had a childhood most would kill for, growing up in the lush rolling hills of a wealthy North Carolina family, attending all the right schools, and meeting all the right people. When her father, an importer of exotic animals, introduces her to the chimpanzee Allison, Rebecca knows she has found a best friend for life…or so it seems. Years later, as a socialite living in Manhattan’s upper east side, Rebecca spies a very familiar-looking primate in the Bronx zoo while taking her daughter for a play date, and suddenly a rush of repressed memories come flooding back, but none answer the question, whatever happened to Allison? Fuller’s masterpiece takes the reader on a boozy journey through half-remembered meadows of regret, exploring the topical themes of paternity, bestiality, genetic engineering, and neo-Darwinism as they have never been probed before.
4. Dr. Samantha Calloway is a scientist who studies memory loss in the elderly and patients with certain brain injuries. Samantha also has some memories of her own she’d like to forget, starting with her parents and the farm she was raised on and a pet chimpanzee named Charney. Somehow she cannot remember what happened to Charney, and what she does remember bothers her, and Samantha is driven to drink. The more she drinks, the more vivid her memories of Charney become, rich, fantastical snippets showcasing his intelligence, creativity, and human-ness. After awhile she’s torn between the scientific quest to find a way to prevent memory loss and losing herself completely to a recollection built on questionable truths.
5. In Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness Alexandra Fuller braids a multilayered narrative around the perfectly lit, Happy Valley-era Africa of her mother’s childhood; the boiled cabbage grimness of her father’s English childhood; and the darker, civil war- torn Africa of her own childhood. At its heart, this is the story of Fuller’s mother, Nicola. Born on the Scottish Isle of Skye and raised in Kenya, Nicola holds dear the kinds of values most likely to get you hurt or killed in Africa: loyalty to blood, passion for land, and a holy belief in the restorative power of all animals. Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is as funny, terrifying, exotic, and unselfconscious as Nicola herself.
6. It’s summer 1963, and the zookeeper’s daughter, Audrey, is turning three. An elaborate celebration, the biggest birthday party ever, has been in the works for months. The big day arrives, but is soon marred by a tragedy that forever changes the town of Midborrow. Now nearing 40, Audrey is haunted by vague memories of that day – what happened, and what does it have to do with the faded photograph of a baby chimp she found concealed in the family Bible?
7. From the New York Times best-selling author of Death Spares Not the Tiger & Gown Syndrome: One Woman’s Struggle, Alexandra Fuller’s latest historical thriller is set to take the literary world by storm. Set upon William Randolph Hearst’s palatial pleasure barge, The Oneida, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is a classic locked-room mystery of the highest order. Featuring a glittering cast with far less glamorous motives, the novel examines the lifestyle of 1920’s Hollywood high society and, in the process, exposes one of its darkest secrets. Who killed Thomas Ince?
8. How much can one girl learn from an ape? Olivia’s best friend since childhood was Kumba, a chimpanzee at the wildlife reserve in Zaire run by Olivia’s parents. Now, years later, Olivia returns to her parents former employ from London. She reconnects with her old friend, now an elderly chimp. Fuller’s poignant story or compassion and loyalty tugs at the heartstrings, and shows us there’s a deeper communication than language.
9. After an undercover assignment gets her hooked on a designer drug called Mneme, vice cop Melanie Starks finds herself haunted by vivid hallucinatory memories. Most disturbing is the giggling 6-year-old version of herself that keeps showing up—herself as she was before her childhood was ruined by a horrible crime that she has no memory of. When she gets assigned to a bizarre new case involving a carefree young girl who’s the spitting image of herself as a child, Melanie gets the feeling that the whole thing might be an elaborate Mneme trip, but that only makes it more important to get some answers.
10. What would happen if you bought your amnesiac daughter a drunken monkey? Alexandra Fuller explores themes of memory, nostalgia, and loss in her new memoir, a sequel to the wildly-popular Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight. While grappling with issues of non-remembrance, Fuller fondly reflects on what she can recall about her South African childhood and her pet chimpanzee, Buster—a companion who helped her become the writer, and person, she is today.
11. Suzanne Robbins has spent her entire life – all 34 years of it – in Shreveport, Louisiana. Her five sisters have grown up, gone to college, married, and moved away. Meanwhile, Suzanne dreams away her days, spending most of her time in the garden behind her house. One night Suzanne looks out her window and is amazed to see a young girl and a lively chimp dancing together under the moonlight. Too timid to investigate, Suzanne stays hidden in her home. But night after night she sees the pair enjoying the garden she works hard to create during the day. Finally, Suzanne can’t take it anymore. She tiptoes her way out of the house and is swept up into a world that she can barely believe exists.
12. In 1974, Emily Brewster is forced to move to Tanzania to live with her paternal grandfather, Bruce, after both her parents are killed in a car accident. Her grandfather owns a coffee plantation at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. The first weeks are tense between Emily and her grandfather; he has only seen her in pictures and has never enjoyed the company of children. Emily is afraid of his rough hands and the wild look of his beard. One day he takes her on into town to buy clothes and food when they come upon some children playing with a baby chimp. Emily begs and pleads for her grandfather to buy the baby animal, and seeing a smile on her face for the first time since her arrival he relents. So begins a friendship between Emily, her grandfather and Mr. Nickels the chimp that brings them all together, as the world around them changes. As Emily grows up on the edge of a jungle so far away from Ohio, as Bruce grows old and loses his land and wealth to revolution and Mr. Nichols yearns for the jungle that is all around him.
[At the end of each month, Aaron surveys the comics he read, celebrates the best, considers the rest, and takes stock of what it means to be a contemporary comic fan. Follow "The State of My Pull List" here.]
[Note: this month's Pull List is mondo-big, so it'll be broken up into three pieces. This is the third part. Part one is here, part two is here.]
On the eve of the DC relaunch I thought it appropriate to say goodbye to the titles I read regularly from the publisher. Some of them will return in a month as new #1s, while others are slated for relaunch towards the end of the year. Still others seem to be gone for good – two of which are among my favorite books of the year (one of which is Xombi, this month’s Spotlight book).
Batman and Robin #26
Batman and Robin concludes a solid run with issue twenty-six, written by David Hine and drawn by Greg Tocchini and Andrei Bressan. I wasn’t too fond of Tocchini’s work in previous issues of this title, but it seems more appropriate to Hine’s reverie for Dada and Surrealism. Bressan’s style doesn’t match Tocchini’s at all, and the dual artist approach suggests that this was rushed in at the last minute while other creators worked on the relaunch books. Hine deserves better – I hope there’s room for his absurdist take on superheroes at DC in the months to come. And I’m excited for Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s return to the title next month. … Continue reading »
I’m not exactly sure why I’ve been reading time travel books lately, but so far I’ve benefited nicely. Much like The Map of Time–though it is a very different book–The Revisionists mixes just the right amounts of elements from different genres to make for an exciting and compelling read.
Zed is from the future, a future that purposefully obfuscates its own history. Books are only allowed in print for so long before being utterly obliterated from the record. When a person dies, the government scrubs all trace of their existence down to seizing photographs and belongings from the their loved ones’ possession. Faced with such a situation and left with nothing to lose, Zed, who works as an investigator for the government, accepts an assignment to travel back in time in order to protect the Perfect Present. … Continue reading »
I usually try and leave politics out of what I write on the Internet but I’ve got to say, I really, really hate Sarah Palin. Moreover, I think anybody who looks at her and sees a legitimate Presidential candidate suffers from significant brain damage. So I love lines like this:
“The time has come to strike the tent,” McGinniss begins the closing chapter. “[N]o matter how much my book sales might benefit from a Palin presidential campaign in 2012, I sincerely hope that the whole extravaganza, which has been unblushingly underwritten by a mainstream media willing to gamble the nation’s future in exchange for the cheap thrill of watching a clown in high heels on a flying trapeze, is nearing the end of its run.”
Reamde, by Neal Stephenson. Review by Tom Bissell (New York Times).
I know Nico’s toiling away at this one, so look for a C4 review in the near future. In the meantime, Bissell does a great job of both making me want to read this 1000+ page work and demonstrating how to write a readable, entertaining review. If you know anything about Stephenson’s work (admittedly, I know little), you know how hard it would be to summarize the book in a couple sentences. It’s crazy, and it’s about a computer virus. Says Bissell:
If you are a Stephenson fan who believes “Snow Crash” and “Cryptonomicon” (1999) are his greatest novels, “Reamde” will come as very good news, for in many ways it can be read as a thematic revisitation of those excellent precursors. Once again Stephenson is asking us to think about virtual worlds and information storage; once again, by God, he makes reading so much fun it feels like a deadly sin.
Watch for Nico’s review to see if you’re up to the task of reading this tome. I suspect it’s worth the time.
I’m pretty sure the Most Interesting Man from the beer commercials is so popular because he fits into the world adventurer mold made famous by good ol’ Papa Hemingway. Hemingway fascinates people in part because his life sort of condradicts itself: he went everywhere and did every macho thing you can dream of, he wrote himself into immortality, he retired to the tropics. He seemed to be an epic success story, and yet he was a depressed alcoholic, who eventually killed himself with a shotgun. There are tons of Hemingway biographies out there, and here’s another. But I like the angle of vulnerability and conflict this book appears to take (hence the subtitle):
…the record is clear that an author who supposedly was terrified of homoeroticism understood that Gregory’s obsessive need to wear women’s clothes was linked genetically to the elder Hemingway’s own penchant for gender-switching, role reversal in lovemaking, and the fetishism underlying his fondness for dying and cutting women’s hair to make them boy-like.