Reading Report, March 2024

Books Acquired:
You Glow in the Dark, Liliana Colanzi

Progress Made:
Great Jones Street, Don DeLillo
Lou Reed: The King of New York, Will Hermes
Loaded, Dylan Jones

Books Finished:
With Friends Like These…, Alan Dean Foster
Who Needs Enemies?, Alan Dean Foster
Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro
Welcome to the Monkey House, Kurt Vonnegut

Props to friend of the blog Delano, who reminded me that I’d yet to finish Klara and the Sun. That was low-hanging fruit, and the ending was good — bittersweet, but not nearly as sad as Ishiguro had hinted it might be.

Welcome to the Monkey House was pure joy, the kind of book where you have to remind yourself to slow down and savor it. One day at a cafe I read three stories in a row and felt like an absolute glutton. Finishing it completes my dive into Vonnegut’s short fiction, so I think Mother Night is next.

(more…)

Reading Report, February 2024

Books Acquired:
Loaded, Dylan Jones

Progress Made:
Great Jones Street, Don DeLillo
With Friends Like These…, Alan Dean Foster
Lou Reed: The King of New York, Will Hermes
Loaded, Dylan Jones
Welcome to the Monkey House, Kurt Vonnegut

Books Finished:
Midworld, Alan Dean Foster

Hello dear readers, I hope you’re all having a Super Tuesday.

I officially had it with the rain today. Now, my publicly stated policy is that I am pro-rain; it is always needed in our drought-bedeviled state, if not so much here in the oft-sodden Northern lands. And philosophically I stand with Lennon on the matter of weather: It is what it is, and you should find a way to enjoy it rather than bitching.

But every year there comes a day, right about this time, when I stand and shake my fist at the sky, shouting “Enough already!” I always feel a little better afterward, however foolish and futile the gesture.

Which is neither here or there, I know. Sometimes you just have to get something off your chest.



Don DeLillo’s 1973 novel Great Jones Street, which I just acquired in January, begins like this:

Fame requires every kind of excess. I mean true fame, a devouring neon, not the somber renown of waning statesmen or chinless kings. I mean long journeys across gray space. I mean danger, the edge of every void, the circumstances of one man imparting an erotic terror to the dreams of the republic. Understand the man who must inhabit these extreme regions, monstrous and vulval, damp with memories of violation. Even if half-mad he is absorbed into the public’s total madness; even if fully rational, a bureaucrat in hell, a secret genius of survival, he is sure to be destroyed by the public’s contempt for survivors. Fame, this special kind, feeds itself on outrage, on what the counselors of lesser men would consider bad publicity — hysteria in limousines, knife fights in the audience, bizarre litigation, treachery, pandemonium and drugs. Perhaps the only natural law attaching to true fame is that the famous man is compelled, eventually, to commit suicide.

(more…)

Reading Report, January 2024

Books Acquired:
When the Game Was War, Rich Cohen
Great Jones Street, Don DeLillo

Progress Made:
Welcome to the Monkey House, Kurt Vonnegut

Books Finished:
The Crow Road, Iain Banks
Ashes to Ashes, Chris O’Leary
Ringo: With a Little Help, Michael Seth Starr

I finally finished Ashes to Ashes yesterday; I’d been saving the last few pages for a rainy day, and it was rainy as fuck. I did not go out, like seemingly half the town, to try and catch a glimpse of where Paul Thomas Anderson is filming his new opus in Northtown Arcata, opting instead to maintain my dryness and dignity.

I had forgotten that the first time we heard “Blackstar” was in the trailer for a long-forgotten TV show, The Last Panthers. This is not a clip from the song we know; it’s a fragment of an alternate version created specifically for the purpose:

O’Leary says that “Visconti and Bowie took a verse from the third section of ‘Blackstar’ and added different guitar tracks and effects than on the album.” He also says that about a minute was edited out of the album version so that it could be sold as an individual track on iTunes.

(more…)

Reading Report, December 2023

Books Acquired:
The Velvet Underground and Nico (33 1/3), Joe Harvard

Progress Made:
Ringo: With a Little Help, Michael Seth Starr

Books Finished:
Cyber Way, Alan Dean Foster
Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, Alan Dean Foster
Bagombo Snuff Box, Kurt Vonnegut

In his introduction to Bagombo Snuff Box, Kurt Vonnegut says:

A short story, because of its physiological and psychological effects on a human being, is more closely related to Buddhist styles of meditation than it is to any other form of narrative entertainment.

What you have is this volume, then, and in every other collection of short stories, is a series of Buddhist catnaps.

I think 23 Buddhist Catnaps would have been a better title than Bagombo Snuff Box, which has a certain elan but tells you nothing of what lies within. It was a great read, though. My experience of the book was just as Kurt describes his experience of the Saturday Evening Post as a teenager:

While I am reading, my pulse and breathing slow down. My high school troubles drop away. I am in a pleasant state somewhere between sleep and restfulness.

Over and over I would crack open Snuff Box and time and space would drop away. Only once it was over would I return to the cafe or the sofa or whatever. I was bummed to finish this book. A rereading of Welcome to the Monkey House is probably next.

(more…)

Reading Report, November 2023

Books Acquired:
The Crow Road, Iain Banks
Sixty Stories, Donald Barthelme
The Black Hole, Alan Dean Foster
Cyber Way, Alan Dean Foster
Midworld, Alan Dean Foster
Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, Alan Dean Foster
Star Trek: Log Two, Alan Dean Foster
With Friends Like These…, Alan Dean Foster
Who Needs Enemies?, Alan Dean Foster
Mind Games: The Guide to Inner Space, Robert Masters and Jean Houston
The Modern Drunkard, Frank Kelly Rich
Apricots on the Nile, Colette Rossant
Ringo: With a Little Help, Michael Seth Starr
Bagombo Snuff Box, Kurt Vonnegut
Welcome to the Monkey House, Kurt Vonnegut

Progress Made:
Cyber Way, Alan Dean Foster

Books Finished:
The Black Hole, Alan Dean Foster
Look at the Birdie, Kurt Vonnegut


So, yes, I fell off the book-acquisition wagon pretty hard this month. But there were very good reasons for all of them, I swear.

How did I come to stockpile seven (7) books by the journeyman sci-fi author Alan Dean Foster? Well, recently I went down a (black) rabbit hole relative to the 1979 Disney movie The Black Hole, which I knew I saw when it came out but remembered very little about other than a crushing sense of disappointment. Could it really, I wondered, have been that bad?

(more…)

KV Story du Jour

In honor of Kurt Vonnegut’s 101st birthday today, I’m taking a break from the ongoing Bowie thread to talk about something I just read.

The first story in Look at the Birdie, “Confido” — which was written, but not published, sometime in the early 1950s — is about a handyman who works for a company that makes hearing aids. In the course of tinkering with microphones and speakers, he accidentally invents a machine that talks to you. He describes it to his wife like this:

“What is it every person really wants, more than food almost?” Henry had asked coyly, showing her Confido for the first time. He was a tall, rustic man, ordinarily as shy as a woods creature. But something had changed him, made him fiery and loud. “What is it?”

“Happiness, Henry?”

“Happiness, certainly! But what’s the key to happiness?”

“Religion? Security, Henry? Health, dear?”

“What is the longing you see in the eyes of strangers on the street, in eyes wherever you look?”

“You tell me, Henry. I give up.” Ellen had said helplessly.

“Somebody to talk to! Somebody who really understands! That’s what.” He’d waved Confido over his head. “And this is it!”

After this conversation Henry goes to work, leaving Ellen alone with Confido — who, it turns out, is a horrible gossip with an endless string of snarky things to say about the neighbors. When the kids come home from school, she is still in her housecoat, knee-deep in slander.

(more…)