Sunday, January 27, 2013

About Books: Holidays On Ice by David Sedaris

Horribly Boring Book Corner: Holidays On Ice by David Sedaris

I am a literature addict.  A desperate fiend who can, despite the pressures of job and marriage and fatherhood, devour TWO fine pieces of literature in a one-month span.  Ssssssmokin'!

The fine print:  I started Holidays On Ice in December.  And it's only 166 pages.  And each page is the size of a Thank-You card (like the ones I haven't written to people yet because who has time to be polite and properly thankful when there are books to read?).

This is the first David Sedaris book I've read.  I've read and heard essays by the guy and found them delightful.  The blurbs on the back of this wee tiny book were bursting with colorful praise.  I, regretfully, am not.

Like any good breakup: it's not the book, it's me.  I laughed myself silly at least three times, which probably means the book is worth the price.  But overall, I just can't really endorse the book as a whole.

Sedaris does a fantastic job weaving tales that shed light on himself and his family, and the real and unreal things that happen to him from childhood and beyond.  There is a shameless and quite funny wrongness about these tales that is truly delicious, but often veer from edgy to mean in just a few paragraphs.

This is where he loses me.  His satire of us as Americans begins (in almost any story) with a recognizable situation  which gets ridiculous and funny in a way we all recognize (if we're willing to admit it), and then continues getting worse and worse until he is treading firmly in the area of "This isn't funny anymore, can it please end now before it gets any worse", and then it doesn't actually end there.

So: if that's your thing, this may be your book.  It's not my thing, but it is my book because I bought it.  And I will likely re-read several of the stories.  But I can't endorse the entire work.  I am breaking up with this book, but hopefully we can still remain friends.

Again, it's not you, David.  It's me.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

About Books: Carte Blanche: The New James Bond Novel  by Jeffery Deaver

Horribly Boring Book Corner: Carte Blanche: The New James Bond Novel  by Jeffery Deaver

I have now successfully read one book so far this year; you are now successfully reading my review of reading one book so far this year: Carte Blanche: The New James Bond Novel  by Jeffery Deaver.  

It took me awhile to write this small review mainly because nobody seemed to like it on Amazon, but I liked it and it chipped away at my self-esteem a little that nobody else seemed to think it was as cool as I thought it was and I guess I’m a little bit weak-minded, okay? The main criticism of Deaver on Amazon is pretty much this: “While Deaver tries to imitate Ian Fleming, the book just isn’t very engaging and Deaver’s a big fat failure”.

Hmm.  As a kid I read every single James Bond book Ian Fleming wrote, and I distinctly remember a little bit of that not-riveting-ness with Fleming as well.  

Maybe it was that the more Fleming wrote about food and wine and spy kit and the particulars of awesome cars, the more he got away from the narrative - but I still read every single word, so it’s not like it spoiled my reading experience, it more just made me long for and Aston martin, which I had never seen as a kid.  Well, okay, so Deaver does a lot about wine and and food and cars and spy kit and it’s just as disengaging as Fleming, only not any more or less so I guess the big criticism is that Jeffery Deaver isn’t Ian Fleming, which is also true of most other people I know.

I am also not currently Ian Fleming, but I like to compare myself to him in that I

  1. am also named Ian and
  2. like Fleming, wanted to play James Bond in movies, but nobody else wanted me to.  Also,
  3. he had a house named Goldeneye;I had a fish with the same name.  

We were practically blood brothers, Ian Fleming and I.

While I was reading Carte Blanche I bored my entire family  by saying “Wow!” a lot because I felt Deaver had a real hang of how Fleming wrote and a good spin on the Bond character even if he brought some of Bond’s attitudes forward in time from the Neanderthal 60’s to the teen-of-the-century (what the hell are we calling this decade?).  Bond is no longer as cruel and heartless as he was in the Fleming books, but he’s still swingin’, Baby!  He still gets the girls and he still drives fast and he’s still smart and violent, so Licence to Envy achieved for this reader.

I feel the Fleming estate chose their writer well - not like the last guy they chose (Raymond Benson, who seemed most like Ian Fleming in that they are both dead, as far as I can tell from Benson’s writing style).

My only beef with Deaver were the GOTCHA! surprises - where Bond is hanging by one fingernail over a pit of man-eating crocodile-eating piranhas, three seconds before the bomb explodes, and the chapter ends on a cliffhanger . . .

And the new chapter begins with some version of “But what the villain didn’t know AND NEITHER DID THE READER BECAUSE THERE WERE NO CLUES WHATSOEVER TO FIGURE IT OUT, is that Bond's ally Dr. Deus Ex Machina was waiting in the wings with some man-eating crocodile-eating piranha repellent and an extremely delicate crane which daintily and lovingly rescued Bond by his last fingernail, enabling Bond to race away like he was never hurt in the first place and capture the bad guy while tastefully tonguing the girl who started the book by hating him.

These brought me out of the story long enough to give the evil eye to the current page, shake my head, and keep reading.  Once I may have involuntarily said, “Grrr . .  .”, but that’s about as strong as my criticism got.

The book is a reboot (in effect the very first James Bond novel ever!  Again.), a great place to start, and a fun place to play for awhile.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Breakfast at the Reddoch Howse

[Wife]: I got this great grinder so it's easier to make cinnamon toast!
[Son]: that's an interesting grinder design. It's like a little plastic vortex of pain and destruction.
[Daughter]: The chunks on the bottom were given a longer prison sentence. They have to watch all their cell mates get mutilated and eaten.
Me: Why would cinnamon and sugar be in prison?
[Daughter]: Because they're evil.  Yet . . . sweet?
[Son]: Like college girls.
Me: And a lot of old women.
[Wife]: Wait -
[Son]: Geez, Mom, did you buy this from Mitt Romney?  Is he selling GRINDERS FULL OF WOMEN?!
[Daughter] (beginning to use the grinder on her toast): Yay, cannibalism!
[Wife] (head in hands)
Me: Hon, I think you need a chaperone when you grocery shop.