(I've not been around, I've been blogging on Videogum.com and boy is my everything tired! Go there, things are good there!)
There are two excellent books I've been meaning to plug (but neither needs it, they're absolutely everywhere!) I want to write long things about each of them, but I'm exhausted, so just please take my word for it (and, you know, everyone else's) as a person who's always looking for good books to read, that you can't do better than:
Rapture Ready!: Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture
Longtime genius blogger Daniel Radosh travels the country talking to Christian bands, comedians, actors, mascots, kitsch-peddlers, etc, and getting into funny scrapes along the way. The genius of this book is the way Radosh balances his own fish out of water (for lack of a less cliched term) perspective with his genuine respect and empathy for people who don't share his worldview. That said, the funniest parts of the book are when Daniel Gets Mad. (Favorite chapter: Daniel fills in as an actor in a Passion Play at a Christian theme park, and singlehandedly tries to redeem his People from centuries of misunderstanding.)
Also, they've made a really cool site with an appendix so you can see people and places from the book.
I Was Told There'd Be Cake
That fawning "Most popular publicist" profile was good press, but it only distracts from the charm of the actual book, which is funny and original and refreshingly almost totally not about dating. If you've been waiting for a book about the inner life of a woman who thinks about Things Other Than Boys And Clothes, here it is. I read it in one uninterrupted afternoon and couldn't put it down. I still maintain that Sloane never had more than two plastic ponies in her drawer (CrosleyGate '08) but if you want a real reason to be jealous of the girl, which I clearly am, (and enormously entertained by her), read this book. Also, the website is amazing.
But don't take my word for it! Look for both of these books on Best of 2008 lists in December.
Last night I tried to explain one of my favorite childhood books, Where the Red Fern Grows (with spoilers!) to someone who had never heard of it. It's impossible to do so without sounding insane, especially if you say "crazy old mean old nasty coon" a lot, which is critical for accurate plot description, and not actually offensive in context.
If you're reading this site, you probably already know this, but if you have anyone in your life who cares about sports, Will Leitch's new book God Save the Fan: How Preening Sportscasters, Athletes Who Speak in the
Third Person, and the Occasional Convicted Quarterback Have Taken the
Fun Out of Sports (And How We Can Get It Back) is the perfect gift.
(This is also a reminder to people who were already planning to buy it to buy it today!)
(Also, genius cover by Jim Cooke!)
I'm apparently too busy consuming media to blog about it, but here is some media I've consumed recently, most of it good. (I don't get anything for this.):
Foreskin's Lament by Shalom Auslander
The Kept Man by Jami Attenberg
The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta
Juno (I went in expecting to hate it - it had some annoying tics and was kind of twee, but I think it's theater-worthy.)
The Savages (But it's not really a comedy)
Bad, Bad, Very Bad Movie:
Margot at the Wedding (you're still going to see it, you'll just wish you didn't)
But if I didn't know that for a fact, I might hate her a little after this (but don't! even her quotes came out self-deprecating. which is insane considering the medium):
Friend: "Are you jealous? Are you jealous?"
Me: "No way! She has to be a publicist!"
Sloane's very funny book of essays, I Was Told There'd Be Cake, comes out in April. (And look, even Gawker can't really find anything actually mean to say about her!)
So busy! Here are some things I've recently consumed and recommend:
* Notes on a Scandal (the movie) Yeah, it's been out a while, but wow. I would recommend it to anyone. Genius. Also, I'm not the kind of person who usually notices this type of thing, but even on my crappy old $40 craig's list TV, the use of color in this movie is amazing.
* But Enough About Me by Jancee Dunn. Don't be turned off, as I briefly was, by the subtitle. Reading the book, you realize it was slapped on there by the publisher. It's a great summer Friday read, albeit a little tidy at the end.
In his monologue last night (video - about 1/3 of the way in), Craig Ferguson told the story of the first person who introduced him to Kurt Vonnegut -- his drug dealer -- who gave him Slaughterhouse Five and said "Here, this will blow your mind."
You know what I love? I love that the entire blogosphere today (first time using that word unironically) is a celebration of Kurt Vonnegut, with the same motifs: "Kurt Vonnegut changed my life" "I remember the teacher/person who gave me my first Kurt Vonnegut book", "Kurt Vonnegut is the reason I became a writer." These things are true of almost everyone I know (at least everyone I've talked to or read today.)
Normally when someone dies and everyone rushes to make it all about themselves it's tacky and vicariously embarrassing, but not today, not this one time with this one person. Kurt Vonnegut made himself so available to his readers (and to anyone -- he could often be found sitting on a bench on a corner near the U.N., and would chat with anyone who sat down next to him) that it's the rare fan who doesn't have a personal recollection of meeting him or having his or her letter answered (at least until late in his life, KV would punctually answer any letter that contained a self-addressed-stamped-envelope.)
In a perfect world, there would be a state funeral, flags at half-staff, Kurt Vonnegut Day, all the awards his books never won (Nobel, Pulitzer, National Book Award) awarded posthumously, and a great big oral biography called 'Kurt Vonnegut Changed My Life' (okay, there will be an oral biography, no doubt about it), but in a perfect world we wouldn't have needed him as much as we did.
We all have the same story: Kurt Vonnegut changed our lives, and I think he would want us each to own that and to share our stories (or at least he wouldn't care). Here's one of my favorites today: Kurt is Up in Heaven Now (Matt Tobey)
One of John Green's fans made a video using The Sims 2 based on John's first book, Looking for Alaska.
I had never seen Sims anything before, but the video is impressive. It makes me excited for the movie Looking for Alaska, which will be written and directed by Josh Schwartz (The O.C. creator). Josh sends John mix CDs of potential soundtrack songs for the movie. How cool is that?
I've had it on my to-do list for weeks to write a thing about how there's going to be all this hype about Dana Vachon's "Mergers and Acquisitions" and that a lot of it is going to probably make him sound like this rich preppy fuck and you're going to be like "fuck that dude!" but that you should read the book anyway because it is INDISPUTABLY hilarious (okay, nothing is indisputably hilarious, but if you don't laugh out loud at least 20 times I think there might be something wrong with you) and actually kind of really down on greedy rich people (it is satire, after all), but the hype has already begun, so despite the fact that, for instance, this "A Night Out With" Styles piece makes me nauseous (then again, they all do), M&A is NOT just a book for people who, like, think watches are important and don't read books. In fact, it's not really for those people at all because those people won't catch most of the sly subtle wit on every page (though someone is clearly marketing it to them, probably wisely.)
I happen to read books, and one of my big faults that I need to work on is my lack of sympathy for people who grew up wealthy (the "born on third base but think they hit a triple" set, and whatever, fuck that, I'm never going to work on it) and I curled up with M&A on one bleak February Saturday, and didn't put it down all day, and laughed, and wished that I could write as well as Dana, and I think you will too, whether you share my reverse-classist world view or not.
What I'm trying to say is: because it's the easiest angle for media people to go with, Dana may come across in the media as a rich preppy fuck*, but he's a rich preppy fuck who can write, and I don't think anyone could credibly argue otherwise. I am truly impressed with this book and I think it's deserving of the praise and the promise and the hype. It is a much better book than it needed to be, if that makes sense.
Mergers and Acquisitions: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
* I've met Dana several times and he's an instantly likeable, affable guy and not a fuck of any kind.
It's Like Nothing, Really. (See "OVEREXPOSED: How Talented Writers Make Even Their Fans Start to Secretly Hate Them by Appearing in Every Possible Publication (Including Allure) to Talk About How They Wrote the Most Acclaimed Book of the Year Out of Boredom Because Their Hedge Fund Husbands Were Always Too Busy Buying Them Special Paints, I Can Do Everything, Straus, and Giroux; 2007)
Since this is apparently a high-traffic day or whatever, I'd like to draw attention to two awesome things:
1. A movie: The Devil and Daniel Johnston
2. A book: The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right
Robert Lanham (author of The Hipster Handbook) gives you everything you need to know about the powerful puppeteers brainwashing our most gullible citizens (ie, most of them), in his hilarious satirical guide. His website, Evangelicalright.com is a must-daily-read for me. (When I first found out about Ted Haggard, I knew Robert was somewhere (probably Williamsburg) doing the same dance of joy I was.)
"...Imagine an operating room at the start of a daring but well-rehearsed procedure and you will have something of the atmosphere of “An Abundance of Katherines”: every detail considered, the action unrolling with grace and inevitability. Green’s characters are quirky without having to gnaw soap or assemble a boyfriend from body parts. They’re also genuine enough to counter the sweetness in this novel, in which no one but the rampaging boar really wants to hurt anyone..."
John's blog (and the formula mentioned in the review) are here.
Today's guest-post on the Jane Magazine blog: my friend John Green's comic novel, An Abundance of Katherines, comes out today, so I celebrate it and offer my theory of John's writing success.
You can buy the book here. And it's really really good! Yay!
Today's guest-post on the Jane Magazine blog: 4 Books Worth Reading.
(No obscure gems here, I'm basically just bragging that I've read a lot of books recently. But I do recommend them all.)
My friend John Hodgman's hilarious book, The Areas of My Expertise, is now out in paperback. Here's a funny trailer for it that I found on Elizabeth's site:
(Co-starring Jonathan Coulton.)
When this book first came out in hardback I heartily endorsed it because I really really liked it. Since then, I've gotten email from people I do not know who also loved it. Just from a quick gmail search:
"I just got through reading "The Areas of My Expertise" last night. Holy shit, that book is hysterical and really well-written... Each time I read through a section, I'd think "Okay, that's my favorite part so far..." and then I'd read the next section and think "Nooo, this is my favorite part." - Carol
"John Hodgman: It's a little bit frightening how funny that guy
is. Kind of like when you see a kitten that's so cute you're just
certain it could take over the world if it wanted to. Very important
to always keep kittens like that distracted with balls of yarn. Very
important." - Jeff
If you haven't read it yet, get it here.
I'm about to have a lot of time on my hands, as I'm staying in town for the holidays. Lately I've been finding television as undistracting as it is guilt-inducing, so I want to spend the long weekend reading. Books. I'm making a Borders run in a few hours, if anyone has suggestions, email me! Keep in mind that I like books that are funny. My favorites this year were:
I think I want to read some funny novels and/or memoirs, so if anyone has any recent suggestions, send 'em to me! Thanks!
Francis Heaney, author of the laugh-out-loud hilarious book, The Holy Tango of Literature, is offering it for free as a printable e-book on his site. Hopefully, people will see how brilliant it is and buy a paper copy for friends as a gift this holiday. The central question of the collection is "What if poets and playwrights wrote poems and plays with titles that are anagrams of their own names?"
I was a huge e.e. cummings fan in high school, so here's one of my favorites from the book:
nice smug me
e. e. cummings
nice smug me lived in a pretty hip town
(with up so noses snobs looking down)
saks moomba vong prada
i wore my mesclun i ate my uggs
Women and men(both wealthy and rich)
opened their mouths to gossip and bitch
as many by many we spent our bucks
scarf tie hat tux
noon by drunk and cab by home
we laughed our loves and felled our rome
(gin vodka wine vermouth)i
said my shouldnts i scorned my shoulds
Women and men(both thin and tall)
glamour vogue esquire elle
smiled my jokes and slept my myth
cindy adams liz smith
Win a copy of future Daily Show guest (next Wednesday night!) John Hodgman's new VERY funny book, The Areas of my Expertise. Here's the question:
Using only the internet, can you determine from the following sequence which is the missing "hobo name?"
291. The Chamberlain.
292. The Emperor
293. The Ritual-Master
295. The Scientist
296. The Gourmand
297. The Slave-Master
298. The Treasurer
299. The Scroll Keeper
300. The Ornamentalist