Narwhal Party


Favorite Things: Sam Lipsyte
12/31/2010, 10:01 am
Filed under: Books, Words | Tags: ,

Sam Lipsyte is another author I’m happy to have discovered this year, whose writing is also very funny and often ridiculous, therefore, shockingly real. His novel, The Ask, is fantastic, and easily one of the best books I read in 2010. His skill lies in the inclusion of achingly beautiful sentences and turns of phrase into profane and often silly situations.

The Ask is satirical and clever, but never mean or without heart (The UK cover is above–it’s much more attractive than its US counterpart…). A glimpse into what Lipsyte can do:

The privileged of our generation did what they could, like the rest of us. We were stuck between meanings. Or we were the last dribbles of something. It was hard to figure. The fall of the Soviet Union, this was, the death of analog. The beginning of aggressively marketed nachos.

He also recently published a story in The New Yorker, which can be read online.
“The Dungeon Master”
is sort of, kind of about D&D and growing up.

Advertisements


Favorite Things: George Saunders
12/31/2010, 9:44 am
Filed under: Books, Words | Tags: , , , ,

One of my favorite endeavors of 2010 has been delving into the stories of George Saunders. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t find his work earlier, but this year I read his three collections, Pastoralia, CivilWarLand In Bad Decline, and In Persuasion Nation (in that order). Most of his stories are build on some strange, vague premise, absurd and funny and often unsettling. But Saunders’ power lies in his ability to create these absurd circumstances and, just when you’re getting your footing, take a powerfully human turn that is usually packed with startlingly authentic emotion and power. Most of the time, these turns are shocking, especially when they are in stories about extreme reality shows, unnecessary inventions, strange theme parks, ghosts, and television commercials. Yet he draws so much humanity out of such ridiculous circumstances.

In a recent interview with The New Yorker’s blog, The Book Bench, Saunders touches on this skill of his:

If I want the reader to feel sympathy for a character, I cleave the character in half, on his birthday. And then it starts raining. And he’s made of sugar.

Are people made of sugar? Is it raining? How often does a guy get cut in half on his birthday? Still, the story about the sugar-guy being cut in half on his birthday in the rain is not saying: this happens. It is saying, If this happened, what would that be like? Its subject becomes, say, undeserved misery—which does happen. We know that, we feel it. And maybe (the argument goes) it was necessary to make this exaggerated sugar-guy and cut him in half in order to remind ourselves, at sufficient volume, that undeserved misery exists—to sort of rarify and present that feeling so we might feel it anew.

Read the fantastic new story, “Escape From Spiderhead” from a recent New Yorker, here.



Updike on Williams
09/26/2010, 8:46 am
Filed under: Books, Sports | Tags: , ,

The New York Times has a nice write up on John Updike’s fantastic Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu–his 64-page essay on the final game of Ted Williams. It’s a fast, easy read and includes and essay on the essay, which is heralded for changing the face of sports writing as we know it. From the NYT article:

It’s not too much to say that “Hub Fans” changed sportswriting. Affectionately mocking the tradition of sports clichés (as in the title, which didn’t actually appear in any of Boston’s seven dailies at the time, but easily could have), the essay demonstrated that you could write about baseball, of all things, in a way that was personal, intelligent, even lyrical. Updike compares Williams to Achilles, to a Calder mobile, to Donatello’s David, standing on third base as if the bag were the head of Goliath.

and

What beckoned was the heroic example of Williams. He wrote: “For me, Williams is the classic ballplayer of the game on a hot August weekday, before a small crowd, when the only thing at stake is the tissue-thin difference between a thing done well and a thing done ill.” And reading “Hub Fans,” you even sense at times a hint of self-identification. Williams and Updike were physically alike. They were tall and slender, with exceptional eyesight. (This was literally so for Williams, and metaphorically true for Updike, who, as the essay demonstrates, was an uncanny observer.)

Read the full article here, and buy the book at a real-live book store, if you’d like. Highly recommended.



New Wells Tower Story
09/12/2010, 2:09 pm
Filed under: Books, Words | Tags: , ,

Big thanks to The New Yorker for posting a brand new story by Wells Tower, “The Landlord.” His collection, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, is fantastic and highly recommended.



Hype Monster: Freedom
09/12/2010, 2:02 pm
Filed under: Books | Tags: , ,

So far, I’m enjoying Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom much more than I enjoyed The Corrections. While his previous novel was huge and solid, it seemed like his disdain for his characters and his encyclopedic showmanship outweighed his skill. The new one dials back both of these characteristics, to great effect. I still have a ways to go, though…



Book Review
08/07/2010, 2:51 pm
Filed under: Books, Sports, Words | Tags: , , ,

Today, the great Jerry Rice will be inducted into the Professional Football Hall Of Fame in Canton, Ohio. In honor of Rice’s legendary career, I’ve decided to post, in full, my review of the book, Jerry Rice: Touchdown Talent, by J. Edward Evans.

[Written for my fourth grade book report]:

Jerry Lee Rice was born on October 13, 1962 in Starkville, Mississippi. As a boy, Jerry worked as a bricklayer in the summertime. In college, he was so good that they retired his number (88). In the NFL draft, the Dallas Cowboys’ head coach wanted Rice. So 49ers head coach Bill Walsh gave New England an offer that they couldn’t resist. So the 49ers drafted Jerry. Rice wasn’t good right away. In fact, in his rookie year he was terrible! Just a little time and practice made Rice one of the best receivers in the National Football League!

I think this book is very good because it tells all about Jerry Rice’s life. It even has stats in the back. Also great pictures. I’d recommend this book to anybody who likes sports.

But don’t take my word for it.



To Do List: Super Sad True Love Story
08/02/2010, 3:09 pm
Filed under: Books | Tags: , ,

This is a Book Trailer:

Note: James Franco really was his student at Columbia (recently), which is weird. But Freaks And Geeks was great, so…

This is an interview in which Gary Shteyngart says the Pacific Northwest will be the last place on Earth that people read books: via NPR’s Fresh Air.