Category Archives: Books are cool

Don’t Burn After Reading!

After a long literary dry spell, I have begun reading some books again. I’ve always been a fan of reading. If Levar Burton taught me anything, besides not to take his word for it, reading is a great way to relax and forget your own miserable boring life ( mine anyways) and enter worlds of imagination and wonder. This is probably why I mostly like books with some element of fantasy or creative fiction in them, if only a dabbling. No Abe Lincoln biographies or ruminations on the intricacies of the dung beetle please.

Here is a rundown on some of my newly collected and conquered works.

I used to work in this cafe, connected to a book store that often had signings and readings. This cafe made sandwiches named after authors. Our ham on rye was called the Bukowski and so forth. When Tom Robbins was in town, I made him his own nom de plume sandwich, a turkey and jack cheese with extra mayo, just the way he likes it I was told. I know. Big deal. Wup de doo. Get on with it already.

Jitterbug Perfume is right up there with my other favorite Robbins extravaganzas. It takes place over centuries, involves the secrets of the human condition, and generally plays out as hilarious as it is intriguing. The main body of the novel deals with Alobar, an ancient king destined to die, until he decides that’s basically bullshit. He, along with his love Kudra, lives out the centuries immortal and young, after learning some monk’s techniques of course. Those monks, is there anything they can’t do?

Cut to the present where a host of characters are all intertwining across the globe, all after a mysterious scent, as this books main subjects are beets and perfume you see, and everything culminates in a fantastical and enjoyable read. I loved it. If you’ve never read Robbins before, start at Still Life With Woodpecker. But then move onto Jitterbug Perfume. It’s really very lyrical and poignant.

Four bookmarks out of five.

I have been eating up Dick like crazy lately ( ummmm there’s gotta be a better way to say that) I mean Phillip K. Dick of course. He’s already considered one of the most influential and important writers in any genre, let alone Science Fiction, so my praises are like a handful of dirt on a mountain of accolades. But here goes.

Now Wait For Last Year is one of best books concerning time travel, interplanetary war, and the strains of marriage I’ve ever read. It centers on Eric Sweetscent, love that name, an anti forg surgeon-meaning he specializes in replacing dead or dying organs with artificial ones-being called into service for the Commander in Chief of the freaking world. This guy, Gino Molinari, aka the Mole, is losing a war against one planetary race while being in an unfornatate alliance with another.

Basically, there’s also this drug that allows you to move through time and the parallel universes that exist and Eric starts doing this. He travels into the future and then returns once the drug has worn off, though he seems to return, oddly, one year into the future. Long story short, he is the key to fixing the intergalactic shit storm we’re involved in and winning the war. Can he do it? Will he do it? Find out for yourself.

NWFLY is as brilliant as anything I’ve read so far of Dick’s. The story is absolutely addictive and compelling. I found myself just mesmerized through the whole thing, not able to put it down. Dick’s novels and stories all encompass a visionary quality, as if he was actually there relating events. It’s the best of SF as far as I’m concerned, and this is at the top of that list for sure.

Side note-If you have a chance, download or otherwise get yourself a copy of A Scanner Darkly on audio book, as read by Paul freakin’ Giamatti! It’s basically the best thing on this planet if you’re too lazy to read or just love hearing that gruff stuff over the course of 12 hours.

Five bookmarks out of five.

This book sucks! N is for Neck? X is for X? How about G is for Get the Fuck out of here!

Zero bookmarks. Take that educational art book aimed at 8 year olds.

This is some fucked up shit right here. Having only read Volume One of the Books of Blood (there are three) I can tell you without a doubt that Clive Barker is one sick puppy. As if Hellraiser wasn’t proof enough. The stories contained in here are gruesome, depraved, and sometimes comical accounts of butchery, demons, and a whole town’s worth of blood rushing at you.

Maybe the most recognizable yarn in the collection is “The Midnight Meat Train” since it was made into an awful movie about a year ago. It’s truly disturbing and twisted, but much more creepy and ominous than the film made it out to be. My favorite story is “The Yattering and Jack” about a demon tasked with menacing a poor widower until he snaps. The problem is this Jack character is the most clueless, dim witted, befuddling opponent the Yattering has ever faced. Or is he? It’s a power struggle the likes of which I’ve never seen, and a story I read over and over. Some of the other stories are decent, it’s just all very bizarre stuff. I mean really fucking out there. Not sure if I’ll take on Volume Two or Three, but my interest is peaked. Like a kid who’s covering his eyes in the gory scenes, only to split his fingers open and peek anyways. Nightmares be damned!

Three bookmarks out of five.

Full Disclosure- I’m still reading Kafka On The Shore, but I wanted to talk a bit about Murakami. This is one of the last Haruki Murakami books I have yet to read. And considering he’s got about a dozen printed in English, that’s saying something. So far, it’s a lot like his other novels. A young disaffected man goes off searching for something he can’t quite put his finger on. He meets some mysterious women, sits around reading and listening to music (Murakami is a music fiend!) and there’s a sub plot involving mass hypnosis and talking cats. So, yea. It’s shaping up to be a great read.

Murakami has such a unique way with language. Maybe it’s his inclination towards rhythm in his writing or the fact that it’s translated from Japanese, a very different literary structure from English prose for sure, but Murakami’s books are so different from anything else I’ve read. They are usually very simple stories, with incredibly relatable characters, living out these surreal dream like scenarios. I’d imagine Murakami being in a sort of trance while writing, everything coming out super zen. It kind of always puts me in that place, a calm and peaceful mood, when I’m reading him. I walk away a bit dazed, but very satisfied.

Rating reserved until after completion.

So that’s about it. If you have any recommendations, I’m always looking for a good read. Let’s get lit!

-Charlie

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The Abortion

I have just finished reading The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966 by Richard Brautigan. It struck me throughout the story of how lovely (and yes the word lovely was floating through my head like a grandmother’s approval) it would be if more people read it, or saw this as a major motion picture.  I am compelled to write a little on it and the problem of this kind of moral message in mainstream America.

Brautigan is the author best known as the last of the Beats, an unofficial title stemming  from his works in the 60’s and 70’s, most notably Revenge of the Lawn and Trout Fishing in America. These works are bizarre and funny stories taken out of seemingly daily ritual and mundane life to reveal the deeper pains and joys of the human experience in modern time.

The Abortion (published in 1971) is a relatively simple narrative about extraordinary events being tasked in routine and measured ways.  The main character is a librarian and caretaker in a unique library in San Francisco. This library accepts all books by their authors, though none of the books have ever been published. And they’re never borrowed out. Our narrator attends to this depository 24 hours a day, accepting works throughout the night and recording the entries with a love and dedication. His compatriot, Foster, lives in the hills of Humboldt, where books that no longer fit the small space are transferred and interred in the caves there. These two odd men are perfect foil for one another, and the narrator’s new girl, Vida.

The events of the book evolve around the new relationship and Vida’s eventual pregnancy. The couple decide, on advise from Foster, to have an abortion performed in Tijuana, Mexico. The potential for disaster and a strong anti abortion stance is available, but the story is told directly and calmly, yet with an emotional undertone (just not a hysterical one). At no point is there a terrible tragedy or misfortune. The Mexican doctor is a gentle and professional man, their trip to Mexico is eventful but never dangerous or scary. The procedure is completed and the couple return to San Francisco, albeit at the sacrifice of the librarian postion our narrator held. (Read it.)

All through the book, I wanted to see this related as a film. I think the anti abortion comedies and the pregnant while coming of age movies had their chance, why not the pro choice films? I am trying to think of a film that tells the story of a woman thoughtfully going through with a procedure, all the while dealing with the consequences to her own life and her future in an adult manner. Films like Juno, Knocked Up, even the general pro lifeness of Away We Go all take the idea of having children as a mystery we all want to solve and experience, a task that will only benefit the family and the world.

Juno walks into a terribly outdated and offensive representation of a clinic, complete with a teenage receptionist? What? And one protestro, who is the only minortiy in the film and a weirdo to boot. She takes exactly 45 seconds to decide she’d rather have this baby then fill out those damned forms already!

Away We Go has a couple confirming that they’re fuck ups upfront and then traveling cross country (who’s paying for those flights?) to find the right home for their baby. I don’t think the idea of abortion ever crosses their mind. Though the idea of them fucking up everything else in the life is acknowledged. Hmmm. And even Sarah Palin admitted she considered abortion, if only for a fleeting moment.

Knocked Up has a professional and intelligent(?) woman foregoing her new lifelong dream career and assured personal happiness to go through with a pregnancy that erupted from a night of irresponsibility with a stranger who happened to be Seth Rogen.  What a family line to get involved with. His dad looks like Egon,  and he looks like, well, like Seth Rogen. What chance does that kid have?

All I’m saying is that Hollywood has no problem telling us a teenager can cope with high school, personal life and a child with wit and charm, not to mention a never ending line of family and friends to support her. Why not do the same with the other side of the coin?

Oh, yeah. They probably don’t want to get shot.

Just sayin’

-Charlie

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