Sunday, July 02, 2006

BooksFirst - June 2006

Books Read

jPod by Douglas Coupland
Digging To America by Anne Tyler

Books Bought

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg
The Lexus and the Olive Tree by Thomas Friedman
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowel


I’m stealing an idea from LabCat, which is okay because he stole it from Nick Hornby. Hornby put together a book called The Polysyllabic Spree from a series of columns where he list the books he had read and bought the previous month. Strung together they make an interesting profile of a bibliophile.

In perhaps the only way I can be compared to Nick Hornby is that I buy a lot more books than I read. I'm sure I have bought more books in June than I’ve listed here, but I do know these were definitely bought in June. We were at BigBoxOfBooks™ the other Friday night on our family activity and we had a 10% off shopping day from buying too many overpriced highly caffeinated milkshakes at the café. I perused the Buy 2, Get 1 Free table and got carried away. All these books were bought at discount. Now all I have to do is decide which one to read first. I’m open to suggestions.

I am a huge fan of Douglas Coupland going back to Generation X, but my favorite book of his is Microserfs. I am not in the IT profession, but my background is geeky enough to relate to these people. jPod is Microserfs set in a computer game company and played for metafictional absurdity. Coupland is a deus ex machina character in his own book and he deliberatley writes himself as an evil manipulator. The book is decidedly post-modern and suffers from the formatting absurdities that the digital typesetting revolution has unleashed. There is a mish-mash of font styles and types everywhere.

I think Coupland is trying to snapshot the state of pop culture in a way John Updike did with his Rabbit Angstrom books. Every chapter has at least one pop cultural simulacrum of a snack food label or an eBay auction. It’s fun and quick and makes you feel smarter than you really are if you get even half of the inside jokes. For a truly zen experince try the official jPod website.

I started reading Anne Tyler in college when the girls in the apartment two doors down all went through a binge. Now that I live in Baltimore, reading Anne Tyler is as much de rigueur as watching John Waters movies. This time around her emphasis is not so much on quirky Baltimorons as it is quirky ethnic characters, and nobody does quirky better than Anne Tyler.

The story involves several years in the lives of two families that adopt Korean orphans on the same day. One of the couples is a modern Iranian couple that still has strong ties to their home country through their reluctant matriarch, Maryam Yazdan. Much of the book has to do with the “will they or won’t they” courtship between her and the other couple’s widowed father.

I wonder if Anne Tyler has ever written an explicit sex scene in any of her novels. [Spoiler Warning:] In Back When We Were Grown-Ups, Rebecca Davitch goes so far as to put on some new lingerie in anticipation of getting busy with her new beau, but they get in a fight and she nearly literally kicks him to the curb. I think that is nearly as close as any Anne Tyler main character gets to having sexual urges and acting on them. [/end spoiler]. I’m not expecting hot and heavy prose from Tyler, but for a writer that specializes in borderline dysfunctional families, an awful lot of the family-making happens off-screen.

Since I stole this blogpost idea, that makes it officially a meme. My contribution is the catchy title. I like BooksFirst because it plays on my intent to make it my first post of every month while also editorializing about my feelings towards literature. Feel free to steal, adapt, and play with the idea. If it catches on I may have to invent some logos and buttons and ribbons. Until next month, remember to keep BooksFirst.


Anonymous said...

I read The Lexus and the Olive Branch in 2000, and its optimistic ideas on globalization and free-market solutions struck me a naive then. I imagine the past five years haven't helped the book seem more apposite.

I heart Sarah Vowell, even if she clearly has some questionable tastes.

Sarie said...

Here via Michele. I also buy way more books then I read.

Panthergirl said...

Oh man.... I wrote about books today too, including Digging to America, which I've only recently started. I am slightly sorry that I read your synopsis, because I don't like to know what happens in a book!!

I'm finding it a bit tedious, so I'm hoping things will pick up soon.

Panthergirl said...

Oh... and i'm here via michele...

carmilevy said...

I see this as sharing the literary wealth. How unique, and enchanting. I never leave your blog without my head bubbling with new ideas for extending the pwoer of the written word.

Unique Designs from Zazzle said...

i use to eat a candy called spree when i was a young lad -- which further reminds me of how i hated to get "Smarties" in my trick or treat bag at Halloween. I'm actually quite amazed I don't have diabetes. Thanks for my memory trip down sugar lane.

michele sent me.

HRH Courtney, Queen of Everything said...

Oh, I don't have that much of a backlog right now, as I don't buy so many books when school's in session. But, I'll play as best I can.
Books bought recently:
Carl Hiasssen, Basket Case
Julia Child, My Life in France (currently reading)

Books I've read:
A Long Way Down, Nick Hornby
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (my yearly re-read of my favorite book ever)

School's only been out for a week, give me time to catch up.

Anonymous said...

I also buy more books than I read.
Michele sent me

Anonymous said...

LOVED Sarah Vowell's ASSASSINATION VACATION. I wasn't crazy about Nick Hornby's A LONG WAY DOWN -- not as good as ABOUT A BOY or HIGH FIDELITY, more on par with HOW TO BE GOOD, which I was also "meh" on. Bill Bryson is fabulous -- if you haven't read IN A SUNBURNED COUNTRY, you must. Thomas Friedman is such a blowhard on talk shows that he's put me off the idea of reading any of his books. As you know, I'm a longtime Anne Tyler fan-slash-stalker, and I thought DIGGING TO AMERICA was her best book in quite a while.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you liked my idea enough to use it. I've just posted my June reading list. If any one is interested you can catch it here:

june books

Anonymous said...

What is your opinion of A Brief History of Everything? I actually had it in my hands on the weekend, but opted not to add it to my "to be read" pile yet.

Anonymous said...

Okay... so I got the book's name wrong...AND failed to notice that it was listed as "bought" but not "read", but other than that it's a fair question.

I do look forward to reading a review.

Anonymous said...

sonofcarl, I've read "A Brief History..." and can happily recomend it. In fact anything by Bryson is a joy to read. I say this not only because he's a great writer but I have read every one of his books. My favorite is "A Walk in the Woods".