anoceandrowning

Reviews
More
I Just Want My Pants Back: A Novel

by

Let me start by saying that I wanted to like this book. The description made it look like a more updated incarnation of McInerney's "Bright Lights, Big City." It looked like it would be amusing and interesting. Unfortunately, it was neither. Another reviewer hit the nail on the head when he said that Broadway Books was setting the bar low. This was my thought exactly. I'm going to take all of my elementary school book reports, staple them together and mail them to Broadway Books for publication. I'll be rich. "I Just Want My Pants Back" could have been good, but Rosen needs to learn to write first. His prose was too boring for my taste. His writing has no depth and no style. In the hands of a better writer, such as Dave Eggers or Augusten Burroughs, this book could have been worth reading. I couldn't force myself to care about Jason Strider and his crappy job, bad luck with sleazy women, and complete inability to understand himself. This book was a joke and Rosen should stick to writing garbage for MTV.
Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine

by

My dog's name is Max. She is a fine person to spend time with. She follows me wherever I go, eats her vegetables, and is a fine example of what a friend should be. When I saw Pet Food Politics, it got me wondering about the nutritional value of her dog food. Buying food for her is a very lengthy and involved process for me. I can easily lose an hour reading and comparing nutrition and ingredient labels. In the end, I find the bag of food that I think she'd pick if she were the one choosing. As it turns out, it doesn't seem to make much of a difference what food I pick. The same ingredients from the same places make up most of the food.Nestle does a thorough job of explaining the pet food crisis we experienced a year or so ago. She lets the story unravel like a good mystery and provides enough back story to keep the reader informed. This is information everyone should have, even those without pets. Nestle lays out the chain that leads from China to your dinner plate. Did you eat any chicken or pork last year? It's quite possible you've come into contact with the very chemicals that caused so many dogs and cats to die. Will it kill you? Probably not, but I still don't want that garbage in my body. Or in Max's.I liked how Nestle likened modern day China to the early industrialization of the United States. She makes it very easy to see why companies such as these might cut corners to such dangerous ends. My only complaint is the sources used. She admits that some of her information comes from Wikipedia and blogs, neither of which I would trust with my dry cleaning. Information on the subject was scarce and the companies weren't talking, so I guess that's just the nature of this particular beast.
The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God & Other Stories

by

A convenience store at the mouth of hell? A uterus on display at a museum? An afterlife for suicides that is just a little suckier than this one?Etgar Keret is awesome. These stories grab you by the throat and don't let up. Although they seldom exceed five tiny pages, they are memorable and powerful. His style is unlike anything I've read before.I originally heard about Keret when I saw a trailer for "Wristcutters: A Love Story." This fine film starred a man based on Eugene Hutz (Jonfren's endearing tour guide in the film adaptation of "Everything is Illuminated" and lead singer of Gogol Bordello) and had a soundtrack heavily dominated by Gogol Bordello. The movie was pretty good, so I decided to read the novella is was based on. Kneller's Happy Campers is the story about the afterlife for the suicides. Kneller, played beautifully in the movie by Tom Waits, runs a camp of sorts where insignificant miracles are a common occurrence. Totally original and unbelievably fun.I'm going to read the rest of Keret's work as soon as I can get my hands on it. I feel sorry for the guy though. On the back of the book jacket, Keret is described as being "Isreal's Hippest Young Writer." That seems embarassing to me and I hope he never learns to read English so he never knows how his publisher has classified him overseas.
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

by

In the off chance that magic suddenly experiences a resurgence in the near future, I hope it decides to pop up somewhere more exciting than England. Now, I've got nothing against England. I keep the Sex Pistols in heavy rotation. I am willing to fork over my hard earned money for decent seats whenever Eddie Izzard is in town. I'm as big a fan of gloomy weather as the next guy. But, and I'm going to be blunt here, the English are far too hesitant to do anything badass with magic. Compare Gilbert Norrell with, oh, David Blaine. Or Criss Angel. Granted, the aforementioned magicians are nothing but the common street variety vagabonds who are loathed ever-so-much by those studying "real" magic, but whatever happened to theatrics? Can I get a little sorcery over here? Gilbert Norrell serves up the magical equivalent of two-day-old dry toast. If magic is ever, for whatever reason, possible, I am hoping for an American renaissance. Blowing shit up. Lighting things on fire. Vaporizing the great state of Texas. But, no. Instead we get rain where rain should not be. Endless droning about magical theory. Walking into and out of mirrors. For eight hundred pages.You'd think that with such a lack of action, this book must offer something. Great characters, perhaps? Nah. How about poorly developed protagonists who vary only slightly from one another, experiencing the same flaws and thought processes? Maybe we'll just give Ms. Clarke the benefit of the doubt and say that Strange and Norrell were mirrors of one another, or, perhaps, foils. It's either that or focus on the fact that the characters were obsessed with nothing other than magic. And that goes for even the non-magical ones. Norrell, admittedly, was asexual (or perhaps had homosexual yearnings for his protege), but Strange was a married man. And his wife Arabella was something of a nineteenth century hottie. Is there no sex? No lovers' quarrel? No children? No...life?Clarke left out so much of what would have made this a good story. Her plot was so subtle, so well thought out, that it sort of started eating its own tail. Right when you thought it might be getting somewhere, it circled right back around to more of the same old mundane plot points.Now, that's not to say the work was without merit. On the contrary, it was rather enjoyable to read. I get the feeling that Clarke loved her book. It's evident on every page. I also read it at the right time. It's a good Halloween book. Not scary in any way, but it sets the right mood. After reading it, I started feeling as though there was something more to that wind blowing in from the north, that the trees were swaying in a rather intentional way. I liked that. It put me in a festive state of mind. And, while the characters were boring, they were boring in a fun way. Like British sitcoms on PBS in the middle of the night. There was always something to chuckle at, and I think most of it was intentional.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

by

So there’s a part in this book when Shukhov is hoping to get a little something from a parcel that one of his fellow inmates received. He expounds the greatest piece of advice I have ever heard, which is to never let your belly get excited for what you don’t have. I’m going to try to do this. When all I have at home is flour, pickles, and a bit of rancid mayonnaise, I am not going to fantasize about a delicious vegetarian sandwich from Port of Subs. Because when I leave the house to get that sub, my grandma will call because she fell down and needs someone to take her to the emergency room. I will not get my sandwich, or anything else, until late at night. By then, Port of Subs will have closed and I’ll be stuck with pickles, flour, and rancid mayonnaise and will suffer from the lack of what my stomach's mind has already started eating. I like the larger applicability of this idea. It’s the sort of wisdom the Buddha would spout out. In fact, he probably did. The point is really driven home in this book, though. Shukhov’s world is ruled by food. He has to squirrel anything extra away to eat tomorrow, when the rations may be less substantial. The guards give the prisoners enough to stay alive, but not enough to ever be full. Shukhov is in a position unique amoungst his fellow prisoners, as he will, as per his request, never receive parcels from home. He’d rather his children eat well. His actions are such a fine example of sacrifice and suffering.I was surprised at how Solzhenitsyn didn’t make the camp crazy unbearable. I mean, it sucked, but there were no holocausty horror stories. I appreciated that. This was just a single day in the life of some guy in the Gulag. Shukhov’s story was powerful in its hoplessness, but was ultimately inspiring. It’s like when people climb Everest backwards in their swim trunks. Man’s triumph over adversity, be it a Russian work camp or physical therapy after getting attacked by a tiger, is always, to me anyway, compellingly readable.And I really dug the part where Shukhov was building the wall well just because that was how he did things. Even in a place as awful and monotonous as the prison, this man’s character was not to be shaken. I look forward to more Solzhenitsyn.
To Kill A Mockingbird: Enhanced Edition

by

Harper Lee's story of a good man fighting a broken system was ridiculously good. It was good like a second jam-packed bowl of ice cream after a halfway full "I'll just have a taste" bowl. I finished it in two days, but would've finished it in one if my goddamned body didn't require sleep. Scout was awesome. She's a strong, smart female character. She's the kind of girl I want my daughter to read about. And Atticus...he's the dad we all wish we had. He's intelligent, fair, caring, and the best shot in the whole county. It's relieving to see how great life can be in such an unjust world.This is one of those books that makes me pissed off at myself. Why did I wait so long? Do yourself a favor. Don't.
The Lottery and Other Stories

by

You know, you'd think that knowing the end would make the rest of it easier to swallow. You'd think the shock factor would be taken down at least three notches. At least.Instead, knowing what was going to happen made the mundane opening details even more awful. Even more disturbing. This story leaves me with this disgusted feeling inside. I'm bothered that I'm bothered by it and I'm having a hard time fathoming that this sort of thing has actually happened. Perhaps not in this specific way (or maybe it has?), but the end result is the same, isn't it? If human cruelty and barbarism can only really be as bad as we can imagine it to be, then we're fucked. I wish I could remember my reaction to this story the first time I read it (junior high? high school?). I don't think I got the importance.I think I much preferred the other stories in this collection. Jackson had such a wonderful voice and ability. If nothing else can be said about them, these stories were written well. I really enjoyed the recurring themes involving housewives and their day to day activities. I think Jackson takes an otherwise ignored piece of America and throws it into the spotlight. I really enjoyed The Villager, in which a woman going to look at furniture impersonates the furniture's actual owner and shows it to another prospective buyer. I thought it was absurdly clever and perfectly done. Like Mother Used to Make and Flower Garden were the other two that really stand out to me. I like Shirley Jackson. I like her unique perspectives and her willingness to go places others have not. The only reasons I deducted a star from this collection were the tone and voice. It was easy to tell that each of these stories was penned by the same person. They all invoke the same sort of feelings and there seemed to be little variation amongst the protagonists.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower

by

After some school districts in my state (AZ) banned this book, I had to read it. In my experience, whenever anyone says you should not read a book, that's exactly what you should do. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming of age story, plain and simple. It is filled with drugs, sex, parties, friendship, etc. It is the sort of book a teenager can identify with, I think that's why the school boards are so scared of it. The plot is not entirely original, but the book is interesting. It is a brief read, but a good one. Anyone feeling out of touch with the lives of teenagers in our society should read this book. The characters are well developed and easy to identify with. Good book.
And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks

by and

The afterword in this book would have me change my feelings about the novel. It appeals to the adoration I have for the two gents responsible for composing this work and completely detracts from its merit.Hippos is a middle of the road work. It brings nothing new and, to be honest, isn't written well enough to warrant mention. It was probably a fun book to write and it's a terribly fun book to read, but only if you're the sort of person who is really into Beat mythology. I can see why Hippos is a fan favorite. It represents an easily understandable piece by two of literature's most notoriously difficult writers. If you gave up on Naked Lunch and you couldn't quite make it through On the Road, you'll feel much more comfortable with this book, in which two very stylistic men deviate entirely from their trademark styles.As much as it pains me to say it, this book wasn't very good. For me personally, the previous statement represents a lot of growth. If I had read this a few years ago, this review would be much different. I'd be proclaiming the authors to be saints and recommending this book to any of my hip literary friends who would listen. As the years have gone by, however, I can see that Saint Kerouac wasn't perfect. That Burroughs was absurdly intelligent, but his work is nearly impossible to decipher. This book let me down. How do I face Kerouac again? What if I start seeing all the cracks in the foundation and my favorite books of all time are no longer my favorites? Will I maintain the facade? Or will I demote a man, whose essence I swore to fucking god was somehow physically sewn into my own soul, to the ranks of R.L. Stine and Clive Barker - authors who were great at the time, but were simply a phase? I don't know the answer to any of these questions and, if I'm honest, I don't like to think about them.
Mortified: Real Words. Real People. Real Pathetic.

by

Dear Mr. Belvedere, When I was a kid (from about ages six to nineteen), I delighted in stumbling across a folded up piece of paper on the ground. Often it was a scrap of homework, more often it was a receipt, but sometimes...sometimes...it was a note. And not just any note, but a note between a couple of people I didn't know. I can't really explain the allure. There was something about the anonymity. These people could say anything, ANYTHING, and there would be no consequence. There could be allusions to fornication, underage drinking, or, hope of all hopes, rejection.I never received notes as a kid. No one wrote them to me. As such, they held an unhealthy appeal. And, for some reason, I was a bit of a voyeuristic sadist. I wanted the recipients of these notes I wasn't getting to be in pain. I wanted them to ask a girl/boy out. I wanted them to get laughed at. Do you remember in class when someone would pass a note across a row of desks? Do you remember the kid who was so excited just to touch it on its way? Yeah, that was me. And do you remember the teacher who threatened to read it in front of the class? Do you remember the kid who looked physically pained when the teacher decided she wouldn't? Yeah, that was me, too.At some point, I grew out of it. I don't know what the fuck was wrong with me, to be honest. I don't even stop to look at papers on the ground anymore, unless I intend on picking them up for recycling. Which, slowly but surely, brings me to my point:I have no idea why I thought I'd like this book.Ten years ago, maybe. Fifteen years ago, I would've pissed myself with joy. But now I think it's goofy, and not in an entertaining way. I have no interest in laughing at the dramatic and desperate pleas a teenage girl makes in her diary. I don't want to hear about the sexual exploits of ten-year-olds. I just don't.I even kind of think it's wrong for the whole Mortified thing to exist. I get the point. It's funny. It helps you to laugh at yourself. Whatever. But that's not really what it does. You're laughing at a version of yourself that no longer exists. You're laughing at some poor kid whose life is really complicated and difficult. You're laughing about the hardest times you've ever gone through. And I think there's something wrong with that. You're laughing at a kid. A kid who just doesn't know any better and who deserves your support, not your condescending adult guffaws.I couldn't bring myself to crack a smile, Belve.Later,Caris
scribd