Friday, November 6, 2009

New releases

Some of my favorite authors released new books this fall. Chuck Klosterman put out a book of essays about pop culture entitled Eating the Dinosaur; Augusten Burroughs published a collection of autobiographical Christmas stories called You Better Not Cry; John Irving's Last Night in Twisted River is rumored to be his best novel since Cider House Rules, and R. Crumb just released an illustrated version of the Book of Genesis.

Since I have not finished reading all of the titles yet, I will copy & paste some old posts about the authors' prior works. Tune in next week for a review of the new Irving novel.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman

Klosterman, Chuck. Downtown Owl: A Novel. New York: Scribner, 2008.

I was very pleasantly surprised by Chuck Klosterman's latest book, Downtown Owl: A Novel. While I'm a HUGE fan of Klosterman's autobiographical works about his adventures as a rock journalist, I had my doubts about his foray into fiction. His most recent nonfiction book, Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas, concludes with a very short story that just didn't grab me.

Downtown Owl is a perfectly crafted apocalyptic tale about life in a small North Dakota town. Each chapter is told from the viewpoint of a different character, mainly by Mitch the introspective high school jock, Horace the widower, and Julia the new teacher in town. I was amazed by Klosterman's ability to see things through a woman's point of view. In his memoirs, he comes across as being a bit of a self-absorbed womanizer.

If you like Jancee Dunn, Nick Hornby, and Dave Eggers, you will love Chuck
Klosterman. I highly recommend all of his books:

Klosterman, Chuck. Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas.
New York: Scribner, 2006.

Klosterman, Chuck. Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story. New York: Scribner, 2005.

Klosterman, Chuck. Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto. New York: Scribner, 2003.

Friday, September 5, 2008

R. Crumb

R. Crumb Conversations is a collection of interviews with the iconic artist, Robert Crumb. At first, I thought the book was going to be a bit dry and academic. It has more words than pictures, and it reads more like an oral history transcript than a gritty biography. As I read on, I decided that this is a good thing. Without the distraction of illustrations, it is easier to focus on the essence of his artistic vision and life philosophies. The book also provides an excellent history of the psychedelic comic revolution of the sixties and seventies.

Crumb, R., and D. K. Holm. R. Crumb: Conversations.Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.

Crumb is most famous for his Keep on Truckin' logo. However, he was cheated out of most of the proceeds. To make up for this injustice, please buy his books from the official R. Crumb website:

Calt, Stephen, R. Crumb, David A. Jasen, and Richard Nevins.
R. Crumb's Heroes of Blues, Jazz, & Country.
New York: Abrams, 2006.

Crumb, R., Gary Groth, and Robert Fiore. The Complete Crumb. Westlake Village, CA: Fantagraphics Books, 1987.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs

Burroughs, Augusten. Possible Side Effects. Sydney: Hodder, 2006.

I just finished rereading Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs. Although this book of memoirs didn't sell as well as Running with Scissors or Dry, it's still one of my favorites. I love that the opening paragraph is about the author's first crush, an Eastern Airlines Stewardess. (I'm partial to stories about stewardesses because I used to be one myself.)

Burroughs describes himself as having a mean brain, and his sense of humor can be a bit caustic. For instance, he admits that he prefers watching medical TV shows in England because they are taped live, so he's more likely to actually see someone die. (He's a sick-o, but I love him.)

Like Randy Newman, Burroughs isn't afraid to express his disdain for short people. Check out his description of the
Skidmore Holiday Inn elevator:
The ceiling was low, which made me feel hugely tall. A short person would be extremely happy in this elevator, I thought, because they're always looking for ways to feel better about their deformity.
Once I spotted Burroughs walking his bulldog in the Upper West Side. I didn't bother him, though, because I didn't want to invade his privacy. I think I was also a little afraid of him.

His next book, A Wolf at the Table, is due out this April. I really can't wait. For now, I get my
Augusten fix by visiting his blog and rereading his old books. Visit your local library where you can read his books for free!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Hotel New Hampshire

Irving, John. The Hotel New Hampshire. A Henry Robbins book. New York, NY: Dutton, 1981.

Planning on doing some traveling this winter? Be sure to carry along a good, thick book. If you're stuck waiting on the tarmac, you'll want to have more to read than just an old copy of SkyMall and the aircraft safety card.

I recommend packing a copy of Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving. This warped tale of taxidermy, incest, and international espionage will keep you entertained for hours. It's considered to be an American classic, too.

By the way, please don't be afraid to take library books on vacation with you. If your trip is extended for some unforeseen reason, you can probably avoid late fees by calling the library or renewing your books online.

Coming next week:

Irving, John. Last Night in Twisted River: A Novel. New York: Random House, 2009.