Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Reading While Riding: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Excellent weather has temporarily interfered with the blog, as I've been biking to work instead of taking the subway. Although I have yet to see anyone reading a book on his or her bicycle, I imagine it's only a matter of time—especially with handy products like this Performance Book Caddy on the market!

"Boy, that last chapter sure ended on a cliff-hanger."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spotted: Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

Where: N-train
Who was reading: A boy like a yearling calf, with gawky hands and a schnoz he hadn't quite grown into yet (O' the pain of adolescence!). I'd be surprised if he'd seen any woman naked, let alone Juliet.
What about the book? Love that spine. So eye-catching. Less sure about the front cover though, I thought ear-buds were used to better effect on Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.
But what about the stuff inside the book? It was pretty good, I mean, not bad. Basically it's the story of a guy who's kind of getting on in years but is super-obsessed with this one band, and he drags his girlfriend along on sort of a band-related pilgrimage, etc.
If you're in the mood to read a super-over-the-top music fan novel... I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson is a lot more enjoyable.
Or if you want something that's still about music, but meatier... A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan is an excellent choice.
But sometimes, you're not in the mood for music, sometimes you're just in the mood for Nick Hornby. And if such is the case, by all means pick up Juliet, Naked

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spotted: Drippier by Amy Hui

Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock
A note on the title: Despite my best efforts, I can't seem to find any record of the book in question. It's possible that I misread the title or the author, but a part of me refuses to believe this. A part of me desperately wants it to exist somewhere out there. The binding looked pretty unprofessional—Kinko's Job-esque, even—so my money is riding on self-published.
Where: Q-train
Who was reading: A young woman with ramrod-straight posture. She wore a jaunty English-looking coat and rain-boots that could easily pass for riding boots.
Things that could be described as drippier:
A nose, relative to an elbow.
An ice-cube, relative to a cube of ham.
A fountain pen, relative to a piece of chalk.
An incontinent squid, relative to most things.
April, relative to May... hopefully.
    What I imagine the book is like: Exactly the same as Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye except with popsicles instead of girls.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    Eat your words!

    First it was interior designers using books as silly decorations—never intended to be read—and now this: a restaurant with walls built of paperback books. Gah! How would the restaurant biz feel if I went and built a bookstore out of perfectly seared slabs of bluefin tuna or filled my (imaginary) swimming pool with truffle oil? Now that I think of it, this is starting to sound less like revenge, and more like yuppie Hansel and Gretel....

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    Spotted: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

    Where: Green/yellow line, D.C. metro
    Who was reading: A youngish man with shortish hair and a lollipopish thing in his mouth (a lollipop). He had a tiny backpack that didn't look like it could even accommodate the tome in his hand.
    How far along was he? His place was marked with an index finger, and it looked like he'd read a very respectable 500 pages or so.
    But did he have a second finger marking his place in the endnotes? No. So maybe the whole thing was an elaborate fraud.
    Is that book really worth it? Dude, I don't know. Lollipop Kid made it 450 pages past my best effort. I will say that Brief Interviews With Hideous Men and A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again are two of the best short-story and essay collections, respectively, I've ever read.
    You think that kid's seen this bit of fun? This is the first page of Infinite Jest, right? From what I've read , DFW wouldn't have necessarily argued with a lot of these criticisms.

    Sunday, April 17, 2011

    Gotta Love that Ellen Raskin

    From editor Ann Durrell's introduction to The Westing Game:
    "She loved the chutzpah of New Yorkers because she had it, too. When she was asked to read aloud and excerpt from The Westing Game on a program at the New York Public Library, she chose Chapter 14, including the part where Theo sings the third verse of "America the Beautiful" to Angela.She rehearsed by singing it out loud on the subway, figuring that if she could sing it there, she could certainly sing it before a friendly audience of librarians. She could and did."

    Thursday, April 14, 2011

    Spotted: Bossypants by Tina Fey

    Where: B-train
    Who was reading: A comely young lass in a sea-green pea coat, with waves of light brown hair cascading around her shoulders. (Can you  tell I'm fixated on the ocean today?)
    So far, Fey's lighthearted memoir, has gotten a heckuva lot more press love than most celebrity bios. But then Fey is more literate than most stars.
    Wrote the New York Times: "It’s a spiky blend of humor, introspection, critical thinking and Nora Ephron-isms for a new generation."
    And Splitsider provided some intriguing insights into the books contents: "Tellingly, Fey’s proudest professional moments are the ones in which she acts as the engine for collaboration. . . . Fey’s fascination with personalities, like her interest in putting women more in the forefront at SNL and balancing the 30 Rock writing staff with "four Harvard nerds, four performers-turned writers, two regular nerds, and two dirtbags" is not part of some abstract sociological exercise. It’s a management technique to aggresively make something as funny as possible."
    What's with those photoshoppy forearms on the cover? "They're Alec Baldwin's feet." said Fey in an interview.
    Of course then USA Today had to go and be a total buzzkill, pointing out that they actually belong to an unnamed model. Perchance the book's designer? That sort of thing has been known to happen, although I don't know any designers with such meaty meat-hooks.

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    Christine Feehan takes an Erotic Look at Leopards in WILD FIRE

    Where: N-train
    Who was reading: A woman with one brow raised high above her eye, and one gold-rimmed spectacle dangling far below it.
    From the author’s website: The heat of passion—and danger—rises like jungle fire in the all-new novel of the leopard people
    Called on a dangerous assignment, leopard shifter Conner Vega returns to the Panama rainforest of his homeland . . . He carries the scent of a wild animal in its prime, he bears the soul-crushing sins of past kills—and he’s branded by the scars of shame inflicted by the woman he betrayed. Isabeau Chandler’s a Borneo shifter who’s never forgiven Conner—or forgotten him. The mating urge is still with her, and when she crosses Connor’s path, passions run like wild fire.
    But what’s so sexy about leopards? I mean hasn't that been done before? 
    And since when has there been this dichotomy between animals we consider attractive vs. those that repulse us? I, for one, grow tired of the under-representation of the reptile family in erotic shapeshifter fiction.

    Monday, April 11, 2011

    Spotted: Lords of the Atlas by Gavin Maxwell

    Subtitle: Adventure, Intrigue, and Mystery in Morocco, 1893-1956
    Where: N-train
    Who was reading: A tired looking man in a yellow graph-paper print oxford shirt. Not bald per-se, but the hair atop his head was decidedly worn—like he'd had a few too many noogies.
    So maybe he's planning to leave this hair-loss inducing town and scamper around the mountains of North Africa for a while. After all, Lonely Planet includes LoTA on their list of stuff to read before traveling to Morocco.
    By the author of: Ring of Bright Water, in which Mr. Maxwell describes his days living in a highland cottage, keeping otters as pets.
    He kept otters as pets? How cute is that? Is it this cute? No, definitely cuter.
    "To call it a travel book," wrote Geoffrey Moorhouse of LoTA, "is as inadequate as calling a camel a quadruped.
    To say that Mr. Moorhouse enjoyed the book... is as inadequate as saying that pet otters are merely passable in appearance, or that the work of Jonathan Franzen is only mildly overrated, for instance.

    Thursday, April 7, 2011

    Welcome to THE JUNGLE by Upton Sinclair

    Where: Q-train
    Who was reading: A lengthy woman folded stork-like into a seat that was a tad too small for her. Her plumage was much redder than any stork I’ve ever seen, redder, even, than the *killing floor of a Chicago slaughterhouse.
    *"It’s not really a floor. It’s more of a steel grating that allows material to sluice through.” (Simpsons reference)
    Did you know? That The Jungle provided an impetus for the formation of the Food and Drug Administration? Not that President Roosevelt was at all eager to align himself with a commie muckraker like Sinclair (more on that).
    Did you also know? That the FDA does not test cosmetics before they go on the market? And we’re not just talking lipstick. Cosmetics are loosely defined as “articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body...for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance.” That includes toothpaste and soap!
    And while they do have the power to recall toxic cosmetics, those FDA-holes have only done so a handful of times since the organization was born scores and scores ago.
    In light of this information: Please email me if you wish to purchase a bar of the all-natural beeswax and olive oil soap I made over the weekend. Expect exorbitant prices.

    Tuesday, April 5, 2011

    Hobbit reader uses the subway to get "There and Back Again"

    Where: Either the N or the Q—my recollections of this morning are kind of fuzzy
    Who was reading: A tall man with strangely protuberant veins. His mouth twitched rapidly as he read softly aloud to himself.
    So Tolkien is pretty cool… but a part of me suspects that he traveled forward in time to steal all his ideas from Terry Brooks' Shannara trilogy.
    If this reader were an inhabitant of Middle Earth… he’d be tricky to place. Too tall to be a hobbit. Too short to be an ent. Too ruddy for an elf, and not ruddy enough for a herdsman of Rohirrim. Definitely not cheery enough to be Tom Bombadil… Maybe a younger, less evil version of Saruman?

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    Spotted: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

    Where: Q-train
    Who was reading: Woman with a vast wool scarf wound around and around her neck, giving the impression that her head floated atop a fluff of black cotton candy.
    Black cotton candy = licorice flavor? I'm queasy just thinking about it.
    Fact: This book has been enthusiastically recommended to me by several persons of taste.
    Fact: I have gone so far as to carry a copy to a variety of hemispheres (2).
    Nevertheless… I have not read this book. I have not even pretended to have read it to impress others and appear more educated.
    Why on earth did I pick up Madame Bovary first, allowing Bel Canto to fester in the luggage on that fateful journey to South America? I'm not quite sure, but I suspect my undergrad self believed Flaubert would be most effective as a tool to impress others and appear more educated. 
    So even though the publisher says:"[it's] about love and opera, and the unifying ways people learn to communicate across cultural barriers in times of crisis" I may never know first hand the contents of the book. Just as I will never know what was running through the head of the woman in the scarf that looked like black cotton candy as she sat on the Q train reading Bel Canto.

    Friday, April 1, 2011