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.

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.

R.I.P. Dave Niehaus, 2010
12/30/2010, 4:08 pm
Filed under: Sports, Words | Tags: , ,

Dave Niehaus passed away in November, at the age of 75. He was the voice of the Seattle Mariners for all 34 years of the existence of the franchise.

Sometimes the most insipid proceedings are made extraordinary in the hands of a skilled storyteller. Dave Niehaus was the voice of the Mariners from the franchise’s first pitch. That voice will never be unraveled from the fabric of Seattle sports. Dave was the Mariners, Dave was baseball.

Here’s a nice montage of some of Dave’s most memorable calls:

And, of course, The Double:

For other Mariners milestone news from 2010, read my post on the retirement of Ken Griffey, Jr., here.

09/26/2010, 9:07 am
Filed under: Words | Tags: , ,

Oh, for the love of RadioLab. If you haven’t subscribed to (and gone back to listen to every previous episode of) the RadioLab podcast, I pity you. There, I said it. If you are unfamiliar, RadioLab takes relatively scientific topics, dissects them, and scrutinizes them from all angles. There is fantastic audio post-production and an accessible story-minded approach (like a Discovery Channel This American Life). Check out for downloads, additional stories, and some accompanying videos. Here is the companion video for the episode, “Words.”

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.

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.

Faulkner’s Lectures
07/15/2010, 12:37 pm
Filed under: Books, Words | Tags:

Something painfully time consuming, but truly rewarding, has been brought to my attention. Enormous thanks are in order for Biblioklept, who posted a link to the archive of William Faulkner lectures from his time as writer-in-residence at University of Virginia. There is an incredible wealth of lectures, readings, and Q&As available here (audio and transcripts). Enjoy.

On Ken Griffey, Jr.
07/13/2010, 11:14 am
Filed under: Sports, Words | Tags: , , , , , ,

[I know that the retirement of Ken Griffey, Jr. is old news, but Nike aired a farewell commercial during the Home Run Derby last night, so I figured now was a good a time as ever for this post]

Ken Griffey, Jr. was seventeen when he signed his first Major League contract with the Seattle Mariners after being drafted in 1987. I was five when he made his debut two years later. But by the time he was the best in the game, I was a budding sports fan and The Kid, already crowned by some as the Greatest Ever, was on my team. And the significance of such a scenario can’t be overstated. Junior was a marketing machine: shoes, t-shirts, posters, a fantastically enjoyable video game, a candy bar, appearances on The Simpsons and The Fresh Prince, hundreds of commercials. And he was Ours. His swing was poetry, and his passion for the game was unparalleled.

The absolute purity of that swing, the recklessness with which he threw himself after fly balls in center field, the constant smile on his face. All aspects integral to the hero that saved baseball in Seattle and got the Mariners the state-of-the-art stadium they play in today. It’s also that reckless abandon that contributed to his several injuries–injuries that prevented him from playing for much of the 2000s. But that willingness to sacrifice his body to make a catch made him a star and exemplified his passion for the game. He broke his wrist to make an incredible catch during the legendary (in Seattle) ’95 season–a catch, I can proudly brag, that I saw in person, from high, high up in the Kingdome bleachers that smelled like peanuts and beer, my glove in hand. He would return later in the season and be a part of the biggest play in the history of the franchise, pushing the Mariners past the Yankees and into the ALCS (known simply as “The Double”).

It’s easy to look back now and talk about what could have been. Had Griffey stayed healthy, he would probably be the all-time home run champion. Without steroids. And the fact that his career has been riddled with injuries is testament to the fact that he had a clean career: Most players who used performance-enhancing drugs did so to stave off time on the disabled list, while building their bulk in the process. Number one on the list (Barry Bonds) is a known steroid user, as are number six (Sammy Sosa) and the still-active number seven (Alex Rodriguez). Griffey retired at number five, all-time. And all the talk of what could have been, where he would be on this list had he never been injured, is fairly tragic, but it’s nothing compared to the sensation of watching the The Greatest in his prime, with all that hope and possibility ahead.

So the announcement of Griffey’s retirement mid-season was truly bittersweet. To have a slower, older Girffey back in Seattle the last year-and-a-half has been both exciting and absolutely frustrating. But for Junior to retire mid-season is only further proof of his passion for the game and respect for the team. He knew it was time to pack it in and give his team another roster spot, so he quietly stepped down. In five years he will be in the Hall Of Fame in Cooperstown, and surely there will be a statue in Seattle soon.

Nike has always had fantastic ads and this one is no different. It aired, so appropriately, during the 2010 Home Run Derby:

Finally, here’s a wonderful highlight reel (including the wrist-break and The Double) of The Kid who was destined to be the greatest (played at Safeco Field the day he announced his retirement):

Fair and Balanced Infromation
04/01/2010, 9:39 am
Filed under: Advice, Words | Tags: , ,

Taken from Teabonics (discovered at HTMLGIANT).

03/27/2010, 8:09 am
Filed under: Words | Tags: ,

A fascinating photo was snapped in September over the shoulder of President Obama. Here, we get a glimpse at Obama’s meticulous editing of a speech he gave to a Joint Session of Congress. The photo was uploaded to The White House’s Flickr account, and has popped up in numerous blog posts lately (I found it at The Book Bench). Take a look:

Read a bit of a write-up on the photo at The Atlantic.

Bigger version of the photo here.