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Brian's Thought Goop

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Show Don't Tell: A Writer's Guide (Classic Wisdom on Writing)
William Noble
William Child
The Brothers Karamazov
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Larissa Volokhonsky, Richard Pevear
The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself
Susan Bell
Vampires in the Lemon Grove: Stories
Karen Russell
Leaves of Grass: First and "Death-Bed" Editions (Barnes & Noble Classics)
Karen Karbiener, Walt Whitman
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog
Dylan Thomas
A Bit on the Side
William Trevor
Io e te
Niccolò Ammaniti
The Teleportation Accident
Ned Beauman

Another Solid Issue of Mcsweeney's

McSweeney's #46 - Dave Eggers

One of the things I love about Mcsweeney's is that you never know what the next installment might bring. This issue was entirely made up of crime stories by latin american authors. As always with Mcsweeney's, the quality of the writing was high, the editing was spot on, and, for this volume, the translations were terrific. 

Several of the stories in the first half of the issue echoed very similar themes and situations. That in itself was an interesting window into other cultures. But, for me, it was the penultimate story that was worth the price of admission. "So Much Water So Far From Home" at times bordered on the sublime. A few stories fell flat, but none were bad. Looking forward to the next issue.

Is That You, Woody?

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories - B.J. Novak

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.  Stories flowed from one to another, tight little gems ranging from the maudlin to the absurd.  Mostly absurd.  Novak understands the idea of saying one thing and only thing in a single short story.  He sets it up, knocks it down, and then it's off to the next one.


I also love intelligent writing that doesn't reek of a thesaurus.  I don't know how much prose writing Novak had done prior to writing this book, but he has the steady hand of a pro.  Several stories reminded of Woody Allen's prose, but Novak is probably the better storyteller. 


Short stories have always been near and dear to my heart.  And yet my entire life I've heard how they are on their last breath, soon to disappear entirely.  This book reminds me how often soothsayers are wrong.

Logic Made Easy: How to Know When Language Deceives You

Logic Made Easy: How to Know When Language Deceives You - Deborah J. Bennett Not as rigorous as many other logic texts, but somewhat entertaining nonetheless. This book could serve a high level refresher in basic, western logic or as a palatable introduction if followed by deeper books after.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs - Walter Isaacson A well written and entertaining biography of an interesting person. Steve is presenting as a very three dimensional person, who is great at some things and is lacking in others. I imagine that many people will come away with more respect for Jobs and some will be disappointed at his all too human failings. I certainly feel that I understand the man better for having read this book.

The Healthy Programmer: Get Fit, Feel Better, and Keep Coding (Pragmatic Programmers)

Fortune's Choice - Stevie Woods Good book. Lucid and rigorous. Totally worth the money.

Inferno: A Novel (Robert Langdon)

Inferno - Dan Brown Dan Brown seems to be losing his mojo. Most surprising is that his usually infallible pacing is off. (The last several chapters are a torrent of too quickly tied loose ends and instantaneous character transformations that go beyond any possibility of credulity). You might like this book if you enjoy every other sentence being in italics.

One idea I had while reading was that instead of writing "Langdon remembered..". and then dumping a few paragraphs from a wikipedia article, Brown had instead donated each time a hundred dollars to charity, some charity would be very rich indeed.

On the plus side, it's a page turner and won't take long to read.

On the Road: The Original Scroll

On the Road: The Original Scroll - Jack Kerouac, Joshua Kupetz, George Mouratidis, Penny Vlagopoulos Maybe the expectations were too high, but the book just wasn't great. There were good moments, but ultimately, it was neither philosophical nor a particularly interesting journey. Just a bunch of boys hiding from adulthood and responsibility by running from things. I guess they discover actual Buddhism in later books.

The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling Rowling's writing continues to improve. She has always been able to create very lifelike characters and situate them in concrete settings. This book is no exception. And while the book does touch upon some more adult themes, real world issues of teenagers, and adult language, I never got the sense that it was gratuitous or to prove that she wasn't writing for children.

She beautifully creates the suffocating and semi-idyllic life of a small, english town. My wife commented, in the midst of our writing, that she sometimes thought about the characters in the middle of the day as though they were friends on Facebook who would be posting again sometime soon. Yes, she's that good at creating characters.

The book is ultimately about redemption-- some character's redemptions are more believable than others. But, I'm glad to have read it and look forward to her next book. (4 1/2 stars)

In My House There is No More Sorrow

In My Home There Is No More Sorrow: Ten Days in Rwanda - Rick Bass I did learn a lot about the genocide in Rwanda and a little about gorillas. Otherwise, this book is pretty weak. I'm glad McSweeney's published it as I would not have read up on this topic otherwise, but I'm also glad the book was short. I could give the guy a break for weak writing and...until I saw that he was writing instructor. And, even if the rest of the book had been up to snuff, the passage on intuition alone would have lost it two or three stars.

Why Mahler?: How One Man and Ten Symphonies Changed Our World

Why Mahler?: How One Man and Ten Symphonies Changed Our World - Norman Lebrecht Why Mahler?

The Problem Of The Soul Two Visions Of Mind And How To Reconcile Them

Hauntings and Poltergeists - William F. Barrett This was my first book by Flanagan, but it won't be my last. It was well written and quite interesting (until the final chapter, where it really ran out of steam). A solid 3.5 stars. Flanagan wrote a well thought out book on the topic of cartesian dualism vs naturalism (i.e. that mind is the brain), exploring concepts like the soul along the way. His stated goal is to reconcile the "manifest image" with the "scientific image". A noble goal. Too bad he doesn't deliver the punch at the end. After a pleasant dive through the various aspects of the topic, he tapers off. Still worth the time to read. Some really good ideas and some metaphors that I find myself using daily.

Early Cupertino (CA) (Images of America)

Early Cupertino, California (Images of America Series) - Mary Lyon Horribly written book, but I knew that going into it. I wanted the photos and some info about the founding of the town. It is unfortunately written like a high school term paper. There is no hint of a narrative or flow, just lots genealogical information regurgitated onto the page. The prose itself demonstrates a lack of mental clarity.

Unless you really want to know about the city of Cupertino, give this one a pass.

A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan I was really surprised by this book. Egan used the techniques well, without falling into post-modernist cliches. The interweaving of the characters and events really worked. Like the goopy, thick brushstrokes of an impressionist painter, we somehow see the subjects better through this type of lens.

Rather than a standard, linear storyline, Egan provides the reader with a cognitive pop as we recognize a familiar character from a previous (or future) time. The reader takes a secret pleasure in knowing something about that those in the chapter don't. This technique produces more visceral impact than I would have believed.

A hip, intelligent read.

Room with a View

A Room with a View - E.M. Forster I was surprised at how pleasant this book was to read. It was refreshing considering how much I disliked Pride and Prejudice, which initially this book seemed to resemble. Luckily, this book had likable characters, intelligence, and plenty of wit.

Guild Wars: Ghosts of Ascalon

Guild Wars: Ghosts of Ascalon - Matt Forbeck, Jeff Grubb For what it is, a media tie in, this was a very enjoyable read. Good characters, good exploration of the world, and plenty of excitement. A minor niggle was the sameness of the voices. The characters all seemed to be sarcastic at the same time or serious at the same time. There should have been more consistency in each character's dialogue instead of mirroring each other.

That aside, it is a good read for any Guild Wars fan.

The Dream of Perpetual Motion

The Dream of Perpetual Motion - Dexter Palmer Wow. I love it when a book can take me on that kind of adventure, where a real sense of danger permeates the pages, and I can't tell where things will end up. Palmer is so good that he frequently telegraphs upcoming plot points. A technique which adds another layer of creepiness to the book.

The novel was a delight to read, an alternate, steampunk world in the 20th century, where emerging mechanical men are threatening the magic of the previous generations.

I will certainly be looking forward to other books by this author.