Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Three Things

October 19, 2007

What I liked about going to the library today:

1. In the New Releases shelf: The Complete Idiots Guide To Astrology. The third and sixth word in that title are redundant.

2. Complete whackjob Janice Dickinson’s memoir, No Life Guard on Duty was shelved and labeled under Fiction.

3. After searching for what seemed like minutes, I finally found the book I wanted to read. Given the selection of the Antioch library, that was no simple task.


Why Can’t Johnny Read?

September 6, 2007

I met a friend for lunch today in Brentwood.   What is it about Brentwood that brings out the genocidal maniac me?  I’m hip to Williamson County being where good Republicans go to die provided their credit checks out.  That isn’t the issue.
There’s just something about these damn Stepford wives tooling around in SUVs while chatting with their Stepford wives pals on the cell phone that makes me want to shoot someone in the face.  One crazy bitch, late for tennis lessons or something, cut across three lanes of traffic on Franklin Rd. right in front of me.  She didn’t have to interrupt her conversation about how hard it will be for Brantley to get into a good pre-school to do it.  I know this because she came close enough to hitting me that I heard the entire conversation.

After lunch, I hit the Borders bookstore.  I currently have nothing on my reading list.  The last book I finished gave me the heebie-jeebies, so I need something to get my mind off of it.

The offending book was The Stolen Child.  I recommend it unless you are the kind of parent that freaks out if your child is not within your sight at all times.  After you read this book, you won’t be able to see a missing boy scout in the woods or an Amber Alert without thinking that the kid was snatched by hobgoblins and replaced by a changeling.

I perused the aisles for at least an hour.  My first choice was Christopher Hitchen’s latest.   It would be a safer idea to bring home a sack full of Nazi porn.   The Mrs. doesn’t take kindly to god-bashing around the house.  I value my life more than my beliefs.

After an exhaustive search, I couldn’t find a copy of Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS, so I went home empty-handed.


Get Your Finger Out of It

November 2, 2006

Many of you try to ignore the music business like The Scene tries to ignore bloggers.  Truth be told, you have plenty of good reasons to simultaneously ignore and wish it would go away like when Grandma stinks up the downstairs bathroom.  There’s a new book coming out that chronicles the birth of Nashville’s best known export.  A Shot In The Dark:  Making Records in Nashville 1945-1955 describes how some local small bidnessmen got the bright idea of recording the gospel, R&B and Country acts that were part of the vibrant local music scene of the period.  Included with the book is a CD with twenty representative songs from the period.

It will run you $65 if you get it from Vanderbilt University Press, or you can get it from Amazon for about $25 less.  There is a related box set from a couple of years back that retails for around $250.  This book is a far better deal.

Co-produced by the Country Music Hall of Fame, the book not only makes the birth of Music City come alive, but also provides an in-depth discography for the Steve Buscemian 78 archivists out there.

The companion CD makes it a must-buy.  The music is fantastic.  Hat’s off to whoever selected these cuts. My personal favorite is by Randy Hughes, the King of the Rude Country Song.  His song, Birthday Cake, has been taught to my step-sons, much to the chagrin of Mrs. Sarcastro.  

 With Christmas coming up, this Shot in the Dark will make a great gift for the history or music buff  on your list.

Dial Z For Zombie

September 17, 2006

In anticipation of our hour and a half delay and subsequent three hour flight yesterday, I bought a book to keep myself  occupied.  I had already brought a book for such an eventuality.  Unfortunately, that book is Race and Culture by Thomas Sowell.  I’m interested in the topic and I like Sowell, so there shouldn’t be any problem, right?  After the first couple of chapters, it reminds me of a P. J. O’Rourke quote about social science, "Folks do lots of things. We don’t know why. Test on Friday. "

Perhaps I’m not giving the book a fair shake, or maybe I am.  I haven’t read enough of it to figure out which.  It is one of those books that begs to be put down.

A book that begs to not be put down, if that is even close to making sense, is World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks.  Without a doubt, Max is the best thing that Mel Brooks has produced since Young Frankenstein.

As Brooks acknowledges in the acknowledgements, the book is a mix between Studs Terkel’s The Good War, General Sir John Hackett The Third World War, and the films of George Romero.  All three of which I encountered as a teenager and remember with delight.

The book walks the thin line between Swiftian satire and outright jabs at the current state of affairs around the globe.  Between our government’s leviathan responses to disasters to the pathetic and unfortunate obsession with celebrities, no sacred cow is left uneaten. 

I finally finished it around midnight.  Brooks creates a comedically plausible world where the Israelis and Palestinians beat their swords into zombie killin’ swords instead of plowshares.  Frankly, I can’t think of any other way for them to put aside their differences than a zombie plague.  In many respects, the zombie war solves a lot of society’s woes by upsetting the apple cart and killing hundreds of millions of people.  You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

What I didn’t like was the reference to those who survived in zombie infested zones after being abandoned by the government as LaMoes.  Pronounced with a long A. That’s short for Last Man On Earth types.  That term is offensive to those of us who expect to be abandoned by the government in zombie infested areas.

So, stock up on food and ammo. And remember, always put one in their brains, kids.

Barry’s Cherries

September 1, 2006

Todd A put a copy of Barry’s Cherries on my front porch, rang the door bell and ran off.

I’m a fan of Todd’s stuff. He doesn’t fall into the trap (thus far) of turning his protaganists into his alter-ego. Unless, of course, his alter-ego is a fifty-something, portly, balding, straight-to-video film director.

In lieu of a plot synopsis, possible spoilers and heavy-handed literary criticism, I’m just going to arbitrarily name-check the cultural references from the book.

The Facts of Life
Soft-core Porn
The Ramones
Unfunny Comedians
Shania Twain
Kristin Priesol
Abby Titmouse
Celebrity sex tapes
Top Gun
All The Rage
Sara Evans and her amazing Breasts
Dick Trickle
Scott Baio
Yvonne Craig
A Grease homage
And of course, Tom Waits…
…With just a whiff of Boogie Nights.

Get yourself a copy.   The price is reasonable and you will enjoy it.  I did.

Gabba Gabba Hey. 

Blue Collar Robbery Tour

August 24, 2006

This is the last damn book review before starting Barry’s Cherries.  I swear.  (Although, I could finish The World is Flat, which I started reading on the Tucson trip and then put down when I got back.  I’ve only got 170 pages or so left…)


From what I understand, Paramount Pictures has a freed up a lot of their money that was heretofore earmarked for the Church of Scientology.  So, they may now need some new projects for the summer movie pipeline. 

Here’s my pitch:  A group of dimwitted yokels rob Loomis Fargo of $17 million.  The inside man flees to Mexico with $25,ooo, clinging to  the vain hopes that his cohorts and the girl who was pretending to be in love with him will send him the rest of his share.  The unemployed hillbilly mastermind and his wife move out of their trailer and immediately buy a $635,000 house full of velvet Elvis paintings, tiger skin stair runners, a $43,000 diamond ring and a wooden Indian.   All the while demanding that the others keep a low profile and not flash a lot of money around.

Many of you may remember that story.  It is recounted in Jeff Diamant’s book Heist!:  The $17 Million Loomis Fargo Theft.   Diamant was a reporter for the Charlotte Observer.  His style can be generously called "reportorial".  Less generously, it can be called boring.   Imagine reading a 242 page newspaper article.  The story itself is fascinating.  The crooks are colorful, to say the least.  The humor potential is limitless.

With the right tweaking, this story could be turned into a hilarious blockbuster caper-comedy.  Cast Larry The Cable guy in the role of the self-important criminal with obnoxious spending habits and questionable tastes in home decorating.  Get Thomas Lennon and the Reno 911! gang to fill out the rest of the culprits and to write the script.

Despite the lack of snakes and paucity of planes, it is sure to be a hit! 

Back To School Reading List

August 18, 2006

A few weeks ago, Todd A was kind enough to forward me a copy of Barry’s Cherries for reviewing purposes.  Promises were made and money was exchanged.  I have yet to uphold my end of the bargain.  I’ve had a backlog of books to get through first.  This is not a reflection on my anticipation of reading Mr. A’s sophmore effort, but rather a reflection of my poorly thought out reading priorities. 

In a semi-related story, the bedridden Kitty Coble is always on the prowl for something good to read.  This might help you pass the time, KC.

Coble has already been disturbed by my after-lunch unhinged and disturbing review of Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk.   For some reason, descriptions of a writer’s retreat rife with starvation, murder, sexual abuse, cannibalism, aut0-eroticism, and a horny progeria kid don’t go well with a plate of Mothership BBQ. 

The book has three things going for it.  First, it weaves several short stories together into an overall ugly tale in an original and inventive way that doesn’t feel completely forced.    Second, all the characters were apparently named by Aunt B.  We rarely learn their real names.  Instead, the stories are about Comrade Snarky, Reverend Godless, and The Earl of Slander.  Lastly, the cover of the paperback glows in the dark if you shine a flashlight on it.  It is the creepiest damn thing ever when glowing that luminescent green.  Perfect for scaring ones step-children when telling them ghost stories.

A couple of weeks ago, Joe Powell was guest-hosting over at NiT.  He started up a discussion of Robert Altman’s masterwork, Nashville.  Hell, he posted two discussions about the film.

I got a hold of Jan Stuart’s  Nashville Chronicles: The Making of Robert Altman’s Masterpiece.  It  many respects, it is very illuminative.  For example, one understands that Altman could be an unrelenting prick, when he wasn’t smoking weed and drinking scotch.  Then he was just a regular prick.

What I found problematic were the little factual errors.   This is one of the more glaring examples, "A tall, black skyscraper with funny black wings has gone up in Nashville in the twenty-five years since Robert Altman came to town.  Called ‘the bat building’ by the locals, it is one of many bank and hotel concerns that now rival the Equity and Life building for dominance of Nashville’s bursting skyline."

There are five things in those two sentences that are just plain wrong.  Stuart goes on to describe the "spankingly renovated Second Street".  Sure, these are small errors, but they betray an Altman-esque sloppiness that pervades the book.  

Lastly, The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Man by David Maurer is a nice, but somewhat tedious look at the pervasiveness of the Long Con in pre-World War II America.  This book was the inspiration for the big hit of 1973, The Sting.

Maurer is a professor of linguistics by trade and focuses on the argot of the confidence man.  Unfortunately, he name drops the big time players of the day without bringing them to life on the page.  More entertaining is when reading the descriptions of some of the short-cons, you realize that people still fall for variations of these scams.  

Someone needs too send Mary Winkler a copy. 

Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey

June 7, 2006

I’m re-reading Penn Jillette’s novel Sock.  The chapters are short enough that you can finish one on the toilet or right before bed.  This passage jumped out at me, (oddly enough while on the can) with the talking heads of cable news on in the background. 

Maybe you can’t see this. Maybe you have to be a crazy monkey to see this.   There’s some election.  Let’s say it is for president.  And the third-party candidate gets enough percentage points in some poll so that the meat puppets have to deal with her.  This is hypothetical, so let’s make it a woman.  It doesn’t do any harm to be progressive and fair in fiction.  So they say, "Nancy Lord has to convince the electorate that she’s a viable candidate.  She has to show them that she can really win." Who are they talking to?  Who is "they"? Who is the electorate?  That’s us, right? (By "us," I mean "y’all."  They’re not counting sock monkeys.)  So, it’s saying,  "She has to convince you that she has a chance to win with you." Well, if we want her, we vote for her and she wins.  Her "chances" don’t matter.  The media don’t want you to "waste your vote" by voting for a loser.  But you can’t waste your vote voting for a loser you want.  You can waste your vote only by voting for someone you don’t want.  You don’t want the winner.  Don’t waste your vote on someone who’s going to win.  He doesn’t need your vote; he’s going to win.  Keep voting for the lesser of two evils and things will just keep getting more evil.  That’s game theory that even this monkey understands. Who are they talking to?  Meet the new boss same as the old boss.

Keep that in mind come November.  


Spring Reading

March 31, 2006

Here are a couple of books that may interest those of you with library cards or unused gift certificates from Christmas:

Thomas Jefferson:  Author of America by Christopher Hitchens.   For a drink soaked Trotskyite, this dude sure knows his way around American history.  I’m a big Hitchens fan.  His appearances on cable television pundit shows and essays in Slate are always informing and entertaining.  This book is part of a series called Eminent Lives.  At 208 pages it isn’t by any means exhaustive, but hits all the high points while making it clear the true impact that Jefferson had on our great nation.

Hemingway’s Chair by Michael Palin.  The former Python and world traveller brings us a slice of small town English life and one particular Hemingway loving resident in particular.   If you are familiar with his other works, you will see his distinctive brand of humor displayed throughout.  The ending needs work.  All of his books are available online free at his website.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.   This book is going to haunt me for a while.  Let’s not get too worked up and overly enthusiastic, but this novel is to Afghanistan what To Kill A Mockingbird is to the American South. Rumor has it the novel is in pre-production for translation to the screen.  Damn, it better be half as good as the book.   There are at least three places in the book where I loudly exclaimed "Holy shit!", after reading.  There is really only one reveal that occurs that made me say "Saw that one coming."  It is tragic, beautiful, funny and highly illuminative overall.

Next on the reading list:  IRS Form 1040


Girl’s School Confidential

March 2, 2006

Todd A forwarded me a copy of his novel Being Good the other day.  As honored as I was to be bestowed such an, uh, honor, in the back of my mind the little voice wondered "What sort of lame shit is this going to be?"  Let me tell you, dear readers, not lame shit at all.  Pretty damn good shit.

Kitty Coble has a review here which sort of scratches the surface of the plot and gives those who don’t like their stories a little bawdy and ribald an excuse not to read it.  Those particular elements of the story however, aren’t the main ingredients, but rather the seasoning of this fine literary meal.  I will throw in a few keywords that should pique the interest of the intended audience (diners):


Strip Bars

Private Girls School

Faculty Lounge Politics

Goat Rodeos 

What I admire about the book is an identification with Slav O’Se, the not so humble narrator.  He is a fully three dimensional character and will remind the reader of someone they know in their life.  Slav is a great and noble bastard, like many of us.  He is an reliable unreliable narrator in the tradition of Holden Caufield, Patrick Bateman, and Tyler Durden’s alter ego Jack.

It is a short read, clocking in at around 160 pages.  Perfect for reading in the car on a trip from Nashville to Atlanta, the setting of this amusing tale.  By the time you finish the book and cross over I-285, you will have a thirst for not only some good beer, but a little fun.