Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Spotted: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

Where: Metro North Harlem Line
Who was reading? A woman in a narrow business suit sitting straight as a stick of charcoal. Her severe black bouffant resembled Darth Vader's helmet.
The cover font? Loving it.
It's a book about writing. Sort of like The Producers is a musical about making musicals (Actually, sort of like how most musicals seem to be about making musicals). 
But it's not just a book about writing. It's a book about newspapers, in this case an English-language rag out of Rome, that's put together by a rag-tag crew of lovably flawed journalists (as if that's even a career anymore). 
Which distinguishes it from the vast majority of books about writing/writers, in which the main character comes to the shocking realization that the thing they want to do with their life is write novels, and then in a wacky surprise twist, the reader discovers that the novel he or she has just completed was written by the protagonist. Didn't see that coming.
In a one-star review, Amazon reviewer "a person" demands to know: "What kind of person kills a dog when they lose their job?"
If that's not a selling point for the book... I don't know what is.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Spotted: The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas

Whenever I see this author's name... a deep-voiced audiobook narrator with a thick Castilian lisp speaks it in my head: "Alejandrrrro Dumas." See, several years ago I loaded the Spanish audio of El Conde de Monte Cristo to my ipod for self improvement reasons. And while they say the shuffle mode is impartial, I'll be a son of a gun if track 1 of that audio book didn't come on more often than an Activia ad on the Lifetime channel.
Where: Grand Central Terminal
Who was readingA stern little man who looked like a functionary from a former Eastern Bloc country. He wore a tight blue business shirt cinched at the neck by a darker blue tie. The resulting pressure gave his shorn head the appearance of an bulging sausage with thin, pink lips.
The Plot (Strand #1): A wild mob of dutchmen lynch the Grand Pensionary (which is basically like a leader only more Dutch). Based on true facts.
The Plot (Strand #2): A young man who's a pretty big deal in the world of competitive gardening gets thrown into jail and turns on his not inconsiderable charm to sweet-talk the jailer's goodlooking daughter into rescuing him.
Gradually, the two strands merge, and we come to see how they're related.
*Now a major motion picture! *circa 1964.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Spotted: The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo

On a Scale of 1 to Striking, this cover is: quite.
And the innards? Likely just as striking. Redbreast has earned quite a bit of praise since its publication in 'Ought 4 and was honored with the Glass Key award for the best Nordic crime novel. The NYT Book Review called it "An elegant and complex thriller."
In case you were wondering... It's about a recovering alcoholic detective whose investigative forays into Neo-nazi subculture shed light on WWII-era Nazi activity in Norway.
Where: Q-train
Who was reading: Nobody. The book was affixed with yellow twine to a clownishly large piece of rolling luggage. A lot of other things were affixed too, with the book nesting comfortably among several bulbously bulging Whole Foods totes.
But who was toting those totes? Was it man, woman or beast? Man. It was all man. He was tall and manly and stuff, wearing all black clothing made out of this lightweight material that was probably designed to dry quickly on account of extreme exposure to masculine musk. And then he had on these weird yellow shades, which weren't that cool really, but they made you think.
Think? Think of what? Of the many wonderful bird books that roost oh so pleasantly in my brain, chirping melodically to one another. Ka-KA! Now to put them in order.
Top 5 bird books that immediately come to mind:
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
  • Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Birds of America by Lorrie Moore
  • Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott
Could Redbreast be book the sixth? Only time will tell . . . among other things (like whether it's any good).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Fruit of All Fears: Under the Dome by Stephen King

Where: Q-train
Who was reading: A young African American woman with hair ironed smooth and hot pink nail polish smudged up all rough. 
Maybe this was a skin condition? But there were little raised semi-spheres all along her neck and jawline looking like nothing so much as goosebumps.
Oooo Goosebumps—Let's talk about that some more! Did anyone else read the Goosebumps book about the kid with the camera that took pictures of terrible accidents that were just about to happen? Say Cheese and Die it was called. I didn't sleep for a fortnight after reading it.
Anyway, there was plenty to be horrified about on that train car. Across the aisle, a crazed man had extracted a very rotten banana from his very overstuffed shopping bag and was consuming it bite by gloopy bite in tandem with spoonsful of peanut butter and margarine. 
I couldn't believe it! (wasn't butter). No offense to Stephen and no offense to those who savor the flavor of rot, but I don't think the king of horror himself could have conceived a fruit more sinister and/or vile.