2006 Books 91 - 95

91. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Audiobook read by Ralph Cosham - Not only a fantastic adventure story, also a study of Imperialism gone very, very, bad.

92. The Privilege Of The Sword by Ellen Kushner - Kushner brings back Alec from her first book (Swordspoint) to play a major role in this third visit to Riverside, the fictional Middle Age world where there's nothing too trivial to inspire a sword fight. Alec and his relationships and feuds were all I needed to enjoy this book, but on top of that, the main plot and new characters are pretty darn good.

93. Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster - A collection fo lectures Forster gave in the late 20's on what makes a novel. Although I found some of his examples a little unreachable, and definitely disagreed with some of his opinions on certain authors, Forster's explanations on what a novel is, at it's foundation, are incredibly clear and simple. This small book could replace a lot of "the novel as literature" theory courses.

94. This Is Not Chick Lit: Original Stories by America's Best Women Writers edited by Elizabeth Merrick - Ignore the defensive first half of the title (which really makes no sense at all, when the collection's introduction is titled "Why Chick Lit Matters") and focus on the the subtitle, because that's what this anthology is - well written fiction by some very talented people, who are female. There's a broad range of stories and styles: some coming close to the genre the title says it is not, some so far away that there's barely a female in the story, let alone a relationship issue, and in between, really, really good original short stories.

95. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss - Historical fiction, mystery, coming of age and probably a couple other genres are combined to make this wonderful story, populated with original and interesting characters. Two plots run side by side through most of the book, linked only by a book that carries the same title as this book. The author does a wonderful job of slowly bringing the two stories together, and then adds a twist worthy of the very real characters she's created.


2006 Books 86 - 90

86.Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee - A college professor's midlife crisis puts him into his adult daughter's life and he discovers he's not the center of the universe. The book is dialog heavy, and in Coetzee's hands, that's a very good thing.

87.The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie - Long on humour and a little short on cognitive plot, this is what a Naked Gun movie would be like if the writers were more literate...and British.

88. Bitter Fruit by Achmat Dangor - A family in contemporary South Africa discovers that thier emotional wounds go much deeper than Apartheid. It's a very sad story, almost hopeless, but so well written I couldn't put it down.

89. Death Comes For The Archbiship by Willa Cather - Elegant in its simple, antecdotal style, this is a very fast, pleasant read. I'm not quite sure why this book shows up on so many "Best American Fiction" and even "Best English Language Fiction" lists, though. Is it because there aren't a lot of stories about the place and time Cather is writing about? I liked the book, but I’m not seeing it as outstanding in its genre.

90. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison - Set in the story of how a man can become what people expect him to be, and how it becomes easier to disappear rather than fight the expectations. This is a story of race (set in the early days of the Civil Rights movement, right after WWI), but it's still a very current theme - how people are judged and feared because they look different or act different, and the distances they will go to be accepted, even to the point of becoming someone they never were.

I should be ashamed.....

This seemed like a pleasant way to kill a few minutes. Who knew it would raise my blood pressure? Really, a B+??? I want to know which ones I missed!

Your Vocabulary Score: B+

You have a zealous love for the English language, and many find your vocabulary edifying.
Don't fret that you didn't get every word right, your vocabulary can be easily ameliorated!

Thanks to Karen King's excellent writer's blog, inkthinker for the link. I think.

Books 2006 81 - 85

81. Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman - I liked everything in the book, (including the introduction with bits of background on the writing of each story) but the tale that will stick with me is October In The Chair, one of the best ghost stories I've ever read, even if it is only fifteen pages long.

82. The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai - I can't come up with a short description of this novel, so I'll borrow something from the flap. This book "...illuminates the consequences of colonialism and global conflicts of religion, race, and nationalism." There's a great deal more going on than all that, there are loves found and lost, families made and broken, and everyone goes on some sort of journey .
83.Masters of Midnight: Erotic Tales of the Vampire by William J Mann, Michael Thomas Ford, Sean Wolfe, and Jeff Mann - Four novellas about gay vampires that are almost as much romance novels as they are erotica. The writers do come up with some original canon for their vampires, but in the end, each story is about the noble vampire willing to give it all up for the man they love.

84.The Secret River by Kate Grenville - An engrossing historical novel about a man that leads his family to become one of the early group of colonists in Australia and their experiences with the Aborigines that tried to hold their land against the homesteaders. The story is deep in characters and details throughout, and on top of that, has one of the best final chapters I've read this year.

85.Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre - A very dark comedy about the fallout from a high school massacre in a small town in Texas. The narrator, a witness and the only friend of the shooter, ends up on trial for the murders, is a natural born cynic who occasionally is very funny. But he's repetitive in his view of the world, and if it weren't for the caricatures of small town life and the media that fill out the story, it would have been a boring story.


Surprisingly Accurate

Grabbed from Hacking Netflix,

a silly survey about what movie best represents your personality type

And here I am

2006 Books 76 - 80

76. Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins - Young Adult Fiction - A simple, sweet het coming of age story with much deeper characterizations than most of this genre. It was strange and interesting reading this book so soon after reading Closer. They're both about young adults searching for some one or some thing to make them feel special, but with very different approaches to that goal.

77. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley - What can I say? I feel like a total Epsilon Semi-Moron for waiting so long to read this book. Amazing.

78. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse - The appreciation of this book most likely depends entirely on where the reader is spiritually in their journey through this life. I liked it.

79. The World of Christopher Marlowe by David Riggs - Riggs uses the New Historical approach in this biography and critical analysis. That works extremely well for a literary figure like Marlowe, a man who's life (and death) story is told more often through legend than fact. Even if you're not interested in the mechanics of Marlowe's writing, the documented details about the time, place, and people that made up Marlowe's world are fascinating.

80. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield - A story within a story about a fledgling biographer being given the opportunity of a life time to record the untold life story of a famous author. The author's story is a good read - twisted, a little spooky, very gothic; but the biographer's story seemed contrived to me - too spot on for its purpose of connecting the two narrators.

2006 Books 71 - 75

71. Don't Get Too Comfortable by David Rakoff - A collection of essays about wanting more, whether it be more beautiful, more self sufficient, more spiritual, or more included. Reading the essays one right after another was a bit much, I kept getting an image of Rakoff chortling "Oh the cleverness of me!" as he typed. Taken one at a time, they're entertaining and enlightening, especially the one about Log Cabin Republicans..

72. Closer by Dennis Cooper Dark, angsty, self-centered, violent and going places few stories that aren't simple hard core porn would risk going, this is the story of George, a young man looking for love and accepting anything in place of it; and the men who move through his life taking advantage of that need. Each chapter is told from the POV of a different character, except for George, who gets more than one chance to make the reader care about him. Once the plot actually starts to move foreward (unfortunately, almost half way through the book), it's not a bad read, if you like dark, angsty, violence leading to an attempt at a "happily ever after" ending.

73. The Innocent Man by John Grisham - Contrary to what the cover flap of this book promises, I wasn't shocked, disturbed or infuriated by what this book discloses. It's not news that the innocent are sometimes wrongly convicted in the United States. Grisham does an adequate job of relaying the story of how one man ended up on death row and another received a life sentence for crimes they didn't commit, but spends little time on why this happens - what motivates police and prosecutors to break the law in order to enforce it? That makes for a very flat, albeit detailed, read.

74. On Glory's Course by James Purdy - Everybody judges everybody in this story, set in a fictional town in middle American in 1930. With almost every taboo of that era (and this one, in at least two cases) hinted at or out-right admitted to, no character can take the high road. The plot is pure soap opera, but it's well written soap opera.

75. The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence - I was hooked on this book at the fifth paragraph. It's no wonder that the self-appointed moral watchdogs of 1915 were aghast at what he'd written. Lawrence packs more sensuality into a description of the agrarian life than most writers (past and present) could put into a narrative about a full on physical encounter.

2006 Books 66 - 70

66.The Eccentricities Of A Nightingale, Summer And Smoke and Orpheus Descending with Battle of the Angels, all by Tennessee Williams - Each of these short books contain two versions of well known plays by Williams. There's more melodrama the second time around for each story, and the female characters come into their full eccentric selves. It's interesting to read them side by side, to see how Williams edited himself, each time creating shorter plays that were more intense.

67. Eight Mortal Ladies Possessed and The Knightly Quest and Other Short Stories by Tennessee Williams - In the short story form, Williams can go even further with his eccentric charters than he can in his plays. I'd strongly recommend the novella The Knightly Quest to anyone who thinks they know the style of Tennessee Williams.

68. Running With Scissors by Augesten Burroughs (Audiobook, read by the author) - I've always been of the opinion that a memoir is not entirely true (or why not call it an autobiography?), so I have no problem thinking that Mr. Burroughs is looking back at his life through a filter of the bizarre. That doesn't make this any less funny or sad or just plain mind boggling. I don't care if everything happens as he said, I had a good time listening to him tell the story.

69. The Night Watch by Sarah Walters - I am in awe of Sarah Walters' ability to research her time period so well and not lose her story in the process. The sense of place in this book, WW II London, is worth the read, all by itself. Add some intriguing characters, crossover relationships, and one of the better uses of telling a story backwards than I've read in fiction in a long time, and this is a really good book. No wonder it was short listed for this year's Booker Prize.

70. Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson - More of a set of characters studies than a group of short stories, this collection reads like a primer for Southern Gothic. Anderson wrote a prologue titled "Grotesque" and it's the unifying theme for all the chapters - the grotesque that's inside everyone.

2006 Books 61 - 65

61. We're In Trouble by Christopher Coake - The stories in this collection all deal with how death (the "Trouble" in the title) affects the living, the people who have to go on. Some of the stories show too much restraint for my taste, but the last two, Abandon about a weekend getaway gone very, very wrong, and All Through The House , where a small town sheriff faces the facts of a murder/suicide involving a close friend, break out with some surprises.

62. A Boy's Own Story by Edmund White - This book is considered a classic in the coming-of-age category of gay fiction. It's supposed to be one of White's best works. Frankly, I'm not feeling the love. White is a great writer, but I couldn't buy into someone the age of the main character being so self aware. If there were, I don't think they would have been so unhappy.

63. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner - Every year, I chose something I haven't read off of the frequently banned books among the top 100 novels of the 20th century to read during the ALA Banned Book Week.. What can I say about this book that hasn't been said by a thousand people before me? It's classic Faulkner, hard to get into but once you're in, you're hooked.

64. Kill Your Darlings by Terence Blacker - A one hit wonder author plagiarizes a student's work to put himself back on the publishing A-List. That's the short summary. To include every thing else that is going on in the life and mind of the main character would give away a very funny and dark story.

65. Mourners Below by James Purdy - A seventeen year old boy deals with the death of the brothers he idolized, a father that refuses to mourn, and the misplaced love of people all around him. In almost all of Purdy's books that I've read, his protagonists beg for sympathy. This is one of the rare times I felt like they deserved it.

2006 Books 56 - 60

6. Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked The Gay Revolution by David Carter - A detailed account of what started out as just one of many raids on Mafia ran, illegal gays bars in NYC during the summer of 1969, and turned into an event that brought about political, legal and cultural changes in the United States. Carter includes a history of Greenwich Village, the building itself, and the back stories of many of the people who were there that first night and at the subsequent riots, and then goes on to show how the actions of people that were at the time seen as the lowest rung of the gay community empowered an entire movement.

57. Stuart, A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters - The biographical story of a mentally ill, felonious, physically disabled homeless man, told with honesty and and a lot of humor. The title refers to the way the story is told, suggested by the subject himself: to tell it like a mystery, backwards: "What murdered the boy I was?".

58. Articles of Way by Nick Arvin - George "Heck" Tilson turns eighteen years old just in time to do a full turn of duty in WWII. This short novel is not the story of a hero, or even a patriot. It's the story of putting one foot in front of the other when all your instincts are telling to stop and run away. I thought the ending was a bit contrived (Heck's life becomes entwined with Pvt. Eddie Slovak's life), but until then, it was a good read.

59. The Cottagers by Marshall N. Klimasewiski - The main plot is interesting, the sense of place is fantastic, and the characters come with enough baggage for four or five books. I wish the author had spent less time telling us about what was going on inside these characters, and more time showing us how their relationships were changing them.

60. The House of the Solitary Maggot by James Purdy - Three brothers (or maybe not), their mother (or maybe not) and their father (most likely yes) live lives that give new scope to the term dysfunctional. This is Southern Gothic gone mad. I loved it!

2006 Books 51 - 55

51.Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse - What a remarkable book! To say that it's about an artist's journey to understanding himself is a gross understatement, to say it's about a friendship of souls isn't enough, and to say that it's a parable of the spiritual vs. the physical doesn't cover it either. I really enjoyed this book, and I look forward to reading it again, because I'm sure I'm only "getting" a small part of it.

52. Rocket Science by Jay Lake - Fun science fiction set in post WWII Kansas. This story reminds me of X-Files when it was at it's best - when it had a sense of humor.

53. Moe's Villa and Other Stories by James Purdy - This has been my "fill-in" book for the last month, the book I read when I've ran out of other books or don't have time to start a new book. That I was able to stop reading it whenever something different came along tells that there wasn't much to engage me in the collection. It's Purdy's most recently published, and all through it, I was wondering if his reputation stopped his editor from doing their job. I still think Purdy at his worst is better than a LOT of what gets published today, but it's sad when a favorite writer doesn't quite hit the mark.

54. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards - I lost track of how many times I cried while reading this book. It's about loss and recovery, and that the latter doesn't negate the first.

55. You Are Not A Stranger Here by Adam Haslett - All of the stories in this collection deal with characters that are suffering emotionally. Sometimes, it is because of psychosis - in The Volunteer a woman who's break with reality occurred during the birth and death of her only child is befriended by a young man going through first love while his family fails to deal with it's own mental illness. Sometimes it is grief - in The Beginnings of Grief a young man masks the pain of the death of his parents by subjecting himself to abuse from an equally troubled fellow student; and several of the stories have persons suffering from bipolar disorder at the center. I'm not sure what Adam Haslett's background is, but he sure knows his stuff when it comes to pain.

2006 Books 46 - 50

46. Dogs In The Moonlight by Jay Lake- I almost stopped reading this short story collection after the first two works. They were incredibly strong with atmosphere (especially if you like stories set in the rural areas of Texas), and the characters were as quirky and truly southern as any I've ever read, but those first stories weren't short stories, imo, they were well crafted ideas for stories. But then I hit the first longer story, Oxygen Man, about an environmentally damaged world where people have to pay to breath, and I didn't stop reading until I'd finished the book. All of the stories deal with some form of supernatural or religious being, sometimes friendly, sometimes not, all very original and entertaining.

47. The Marble Quilt by David Leavitt - In this collection of eight short stories and one novella, only two entries stayed with me past the time it took to read them. Although Leavitt is mechanically a masterful writer, for the most part the stories in this collection lacked the intensity and originality that I think are necessary for a really good short stories. The exceptions, the stories that were still bouncing around in my head the day after I read them, were The Infection Scene, a story that weaves a character study of Alfred "Bosie" Douglas with the story of a young man determined to contract HIV that plays off the poison of Bosie's personality (using Bosie's own words from his autobiographies) against the poison of being too romantic; and The Black Box, a story of one man's troublesome journey into the grieving process when his partner is killed in a plane wreck.

48. The Page Turner by David Leavitt A coming of age story wrapped up inside the world of concert pianists. Characters come into the story when they have nothing to add, and go missing at points where you think they would be needed. The setting was interesting, but that's about all I can say for it.

49. A Journal of the Plague Year: 1665 by Daniel Defoe The most interesting thing I learned from this book was in the introduction, that this is in fact a work of fiction. Well researched fiction, but still, fiction written by Defoe almost 60 years after the event took place. I've seen this book sourced in non-fiction works on the Black Death and other epidemics, and never once did I see a foot name clarifying that no one knows how much is truth and how much Defoe made up. Once you get used to the excess verbiage of the time period, it's a fascinating read.

50. Pale Horse, Pale Rider; Three Short Novels by Katherine Anne Porter Three distinctly different stories, told in three distinct voices. The first story, Old Mortality deals with how childhood distorts our view of our families, the second, Noon Wine is about the changes a hired hand makes in the lives of a farm family (and yet, the hired hand is barely a character in the story), and the title piece about a young woman's brief love affair during the time of influenza and WWI. All of the stories are of the sneaky, get under your skin type.

2006 Books 36 - 40

36. Short Novels of Henry James -(Daisy Miller, Washington Square, The Aspern Papers, The Pupil, The Turn of the Screw) Henry James' work had shown up several times as optional choices in my academic years of reading. I never chose him because, based on the summaries I'd read, I though his plots sounded dull and cliche. Boy, was I wrong! All of his works have that twist of cruelty that makes Victorian era lit readable, no matter how over-written the dialog is. I especially liked The Aspern Papers - a story of a stalker getting his just reward.

37. 63:Dream Place, Selected Stories 1956 - 1987 by James Purdy- 27 short stories in all. My favorite was the title piece, a dark story about a brother who's not cut out to be the caretaker of his sickly younger brother. By the time you realize how the story has to end, you can't look away. There's also a bittersweet story about an young boy and his grandfather, Home By Dark, written so well it was like being right there on the front porch with the characters.

38. Cabot Wright Begins by James Purdy - This was Purdy's first full length novel to be published, and a lot of the themes that would be examined in greater detail in later books are jammed into this story about the people involved in getting a book about a convicted rapist published. It's Purdy's characters that keep this from being a total wallow in cynicism - they're the extremes of humanity.

38. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf - Once again, I discover how much I admire Woolf's observational skills and can't stand her writing. For some reason, I seem to need to rediscover that every four or five years.

39. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman - A fun read with a nice little message about the importance of stories mixed in with the usual (or unusual?) Gaiman characters.

40. The Alchemist by Paul Coelho - If you believe in yourself, everything turns out for the best.

2006 Books 31 - 35

31. The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy - Sex and booze and blasphemy are the trinity of this story. The writing style was a little hard to get used to, but once I gave up and simply went with the flow, I enjoyed this book.

32. In The Hollow Of His Hands by James Purdy- A man comes home to claim his biological son who looks exactly like him, although no one seemed to notice that little fact, including the man who thought he was the boy's father. If you can accept that plot point, you can accept any of the crazy twists in this story. This is Purdy writing comedy. I'd call it more bizarre than funny.

33. A Night Out, Night School, Revue Sketches: Early Plays by Harold Pinter - Two of Pinter's earliest works written for television and five detached character scenes. I think the first play, "A Night Out", is as good as anything Pinter wrote in the rest of his career.

34. All The King's Men by Robert Penn Warren- Fascinating characters, a plot that's a challenge to keep up with, and some insights into the human heart that are so well written they gave me goosebumps.

35. The Nephew by James Purdy - A short novel about small town life with a better eye for detail than most. The moral of the story is we sometimes know the least about the people that we think we're the closest to.

2006 Books 26 - 30

26. Out With The Stars by James Purdy - This novel was written 20 some years after In A Shallow Grave, and Purdy has moved on from searching for a reason to live to the obsession with aging. There's sloppy editing in the book, and it's repetitive when it comes to some of the narrative passages, but his characters kept me interested. The theme of the story is copped from "The Picture of Dorian Grey", not a bad place to get an idea, and at least the author's honest about his inspirations - a main character is named "Cyril Vane".

27. Eustace Chisholm and The Works by James Purdy - (Yes, another James Purdy book. I hope to read all of them, eventually.) This one is set in Depression era Chicago, with a narrator (the title character) in the mid stages of syphilis, although he seems happy enough to ignore that it's having any effect on him. Eustace also serves as a protagonist and sometimes he's an antagonist in the story. The rest of the characters can be summed up as their own worst enemies. I don't usually do warnings with books, but in this case, I will. This book had one of the most horrific, even if it was non-explicit, torture plot lines I've ever read. It seemed all too real for fiction. It's very necessary to the story, but it was hard to read.

28. The People's Act of Love by James Meek - A story of the extremes (and they're really extreme) that people go to in the name of religion, political power, and love. Set in Russia at the end of the Communist Revolution, it's Dostoevsky if Dostoevsky had wanted to sell a lot more books. I had a hard time getting into it, but when the three main characters are joined in one thread, the story gets very interesting.

29. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest adapted by Irene Trimble - I love spoilers!

30. Malcolm by James Purdy - The blurb on the back of the 1967 Avon Paperback edition says, "Malcolm is the bizarre story of an innocent young man of "exceptional beauty" discovered sitting on a park bench one day waiting for his father. He gets up and goes on a remarkable odyssey meeting improbable characters in situations that are strange, ribald, and poignant." What it doesn't say is how dark this story is, as the "improbable characters" treat Malcolm as a possession rather than a fifteen year old boy. It's a sad story, hard to read in places, but in the end, I loved every page of it.


2006 Books 21 - 25

21. You Are Not The One by Vestal McIntyre - these are some of the best contemporary short stories I've read in a long time. All are linked by the theme of people looking to fill a hole in their lives, and each story is told in a very different voice. I can't wait to see what else Mr. McIntyre writes.

22. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro - I usually have problems with fantasy/sci fi set in contemporary times, because I keep wondering how the bad things that happen could happen in our world, how we could get to the place where the story being told is remotely possible. This author made me so interested in his characters first, so that by the time the "bad thing" became a major part of the plot, I didn't care how it happened, I only wanted to know how it effected these people he'd gotten me to care about. I couldn't put the book down for the five chapters.

23. 84, Charing Cross Road and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff - I had to read these after reading "Underfoot in Show Business". The first is a collection of letters exchanged between Ms. Hanff and principally a London used book dealer; the second is her diary of her often postponed but greatly anticipated trip to London a few years after the time period of the letters. If you have any love for used books or old British Literature, I'd strongly both of them. They're very short, fast reads, so I'm only counting them as one book. Also, I read them one after the other, straight through, in one day, so they seemed like one book to me.

24. In A Shallow Grave by James Purdy - I can't come up with a few words to describe what happens in this very short but incredibly moving love story, so I'm stealing from the Independent Publisher's review, posted on Amazon.com. "Garnet Montrose is a man severely disfigured in the war, a modern leper, an often drugged prophet of the disintegration of values. Unwilling to hide in a veteran's hospital, Montrose returns to his home in Virginia. Obsessed with a childhood sweetheart, now the widow Georgina Rance, he devises an elaborate system of correspondence to woo her, depending on his "applicants" to carry letters to the lady. The relationship with these applicants forms the basis of the book. Quintus Pearch is quiet and mysterious, a wraithlike character who reads to Montrose from abstract tomes and rubs his master's feet with cynical adoration. Potter Daventry is a wild young man with twisted values and a go-for-broke attitude. Daventry courts Georgina for Montrose, then for himself. He marries her and is carried away by a freak storm. The implications are biblical in proportion; Purdy utilizes every subtlety and shading of language to enhance the demented howlings of these three lost souls. Purdy's skill consists of taking the familiar and distorting it; the results are often eerie." My opinion of the book is that it's one of the best stories I've ever read, and it's moved onto my list of books I'd want to have with me if I were stuck on a deserted island.

25. Leave Myself Behind by Bart Yates - Noah, the 17 year old boy that is the protagonist of this story, is sometimes funny, sometimes cruel, sometimes selfish, sometimes romantic, sometimes wise far beyond his years. It's that last trait that frequently took me out of what is otherwise a great story of secrets of the past and secrets of the present coming together, ripping apart one family and making another one stronger.

2006 Books 16 - 20

16. The Aerialist by Richard Schmitt -The second of the circus and carnival books I read for research, and by far, the better book. A young man runs away to join the circus....hardly an original idea. But the originality comes in the style of the story telling (occasionally changing characters p.o.v.) and that the main characters story arc isn't a clear straight line. The ending is weak compared to the rest of the book, it's hurried, as if Mr. Schmitt ran out of time and story, but the first four fifths of the book are a great trip to the big top.

17. Under the Big Top by Bruce Feiler -Another life in the circus book, this one is nonfiction. Mr. Feiler spent a season traveling with the Clyde Beaty-Cole Brothers Circus, one of the last large tent circuses. He trains (very quickly) as a clown, and drops right into what he calls the two halves of the circus, the performances and the performers. It's obvious from the story telling that Mr. Feiler loved his experience, and made a lot of friends while he was with the circus, because he's very hesitant to say anything negative about the experience. When he does, he's quick to point out positives to offset them. Rose colored glasses aside, if you've ever wondered about the day to day life of being part of a circus, I'd recommend this book.

18. Captain of the Sleepers by Mayra Montero, translated by Edith Grossman - The sense of place is perfect for a summer read - the story takes place mostly on the island of Vieques, with tropical breezes, sun filled descriptions of beaches and island villages, and a real feeling of the lethargy that hits in those kinds of environs. But there's a lot going on emotionally with all the characters, if you're willing to follow the non-linear story telling and keep track of how the two different points of view reveal the same past.

19. Underfoot in Show Business by Helene Hanff - my only regret of reading this is that I didn't read it years ago. I think I've found a new creative hero, although I'm sure Ms. Hanff would laugh at that. The stories she tells about trying to make it as a playwright on Broadway in the 40's and 50's aren't dated in the least bit, because there's always the underlying message of loving what you do is its own reward. I would have dearly loved to have met this woman, or even just followed her around for a day or so. She's an inspiration with a sense of humor.

20. Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell - if this hadn't
been so short, I wouldn't have finished it. The written dialect and sense of place are marvelous, but the story went no where for me.

2006 Books 11 - 15

11. The Front Runner by Patricia Nell WarrenWritten and set in the late 1970's, this book has a very dated feeling to it, and I thought of it as a period work. But, the further I got into it, I realized that not a whole lot has changed, that if the events of the story (young world class track star falls in love with and marries his coach) happened today, it possibly could play out the same way. That's sad, but it makes it a book relevant for our time, imo. The story-teller (the coach) get a little wordy at times, especially when explaining details of the politics and the homophobia of the AAU, but there are a lot of beautiful passages too, that make it the love story that the cover advertises it to be.

12. The Accidental by Ali SmithThis is the first Mann Booker shortlist book I've been disappointed in. (Of course, I haven't read them all, so maybe that's not saying much.) A young woman shows up at the holiday home of a family, and because no one in this family really talks to each other, she's able to stay. The story is told in five person first person - the four family members and a strange fifth voice that drops in occasionally to do a stream of consciousness thing that escaped my interest. In my opinion, the four family members don't speak in distinctive voices, so that you have to read the first page or so of every paragraph for a clue who's talking. Also, Ms. Smith's of that group that doesn't use quotation marks, and in a book with so little dialog, that annoyed me. It's not a bad book, the characters all have interesting backstories, but what they're going through in this book isn't all that interesting.

13. Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia -I'm counting this as broccoli, because it wasn't probably better for me than the amount of enjoyment it gave me, if that makes any sense. It's an epic book, a little too epic, in my opinion. There characters are drawn in great detail, nothing happens in the lives of the three main characters that we don't know about. The sense of place is what kept me reading - I really felt that I was there in there with them sweltering in the sun, enjoying the ocean breezes, suffering the heart breaks.

14. Playmaker by Thomas Keneally -Written by the man who brought us "Schindler's List", this is slightly lighter fare. The book takes place in very early colonial Australia, as fascinating place as I've ever read about. One of the men in charge of the prison colony has been given the unlikely (but true) order to stage Anton Checkhov's "The Seagull", using prisoners as his actors. Every single character in this story is worthy of having a book to themselves. (You don't have to be familiar with "The Seagull" to enjoy this work, as the characters explain the whole plot, but it helps to have some knowledge of the tone of Checkhov's works."

15. Serpent Girl by Matthew Carnahan I read this as research, otherwise I would have stopped about 10 pages in. Mr. Carnahan may have a style that passes as modern, but I thought the writing was amateurish and self-consciously "cool". If you're looking for an insider's view of life working in a carnival, it's a fast read with some good information. Otherwise, I couldn't recommend it.

2006 Books 6 - 10

6. Wake Up,Sir! by Jonathan Ames This is the first title I've culled from someone else's post, and boy...did I pick well! Whoever put this up, thank you! I've discovered a new author (and you all know what a great feeling that is) as well as read a book about characters I'd love to meet in real life, but wouldn't want to spend too much time with.

7. On Beauty by Zadie Smith. About one third of the way through this book, I was struck with the feeling that things would not end well for the family at the center of this book, and did I really want to know their story? But the Belsey family has some magnetism, maybe it's in their flaws, and I hung in there. I'm glad I did, because the it's not a bad ending, perhaps not the one expected (because a LOT happens in the last two chapters), but it is a believable, real life kind of ending. Their story isn't particularly original (husband, midlife crisis; wife, loss of self; daughter and son, establishing independence from the family) but the voices of the characters are very original.

8. Bad Dirt, Wyoming Stories 2 by Annie Proulx Annie Proulx inspires me to be a better writer. She's one of the best short story writers alive, and I'd put her up against most of the dead ones too.

9. The Extra Man by Jonathan Ames Louis Ives loses his job as a teacher in a Princeton, NJ boarding school, because of a minor cross dressing incident, and decides to start over in New York City. He also decides to continue on his path towards being a "young gentleman", using Fitzgerald and Waugh as his guides. Louis shares a rundown apartment with an eccentric elderly man who supplements his teacher's income by being an extra man (a well mannered man called upon to "even up" the male to female ratio at society events attended by rich old widows). Louis also uses the move to NYC as a chance to explore his interests in transsexuals and cross dressing. Ames' strength is creating flawed but lovable characters who live lives on the happy side of Delusion Street. Because it's fiction, they're able to stay there, happily ever after.

10. Starting Out in the Evening by Brian Morton. This seems like a simple little story about a stalker-ish women who insinuates herself into the life of a writer she's always admired, and the writer's lonely daughter. Underneath the words, it's a story about the mortality of dreams and icons and people, and why we humans keep on going in spite of knowing that nothing we can hold on to lasts forever.


Do you love movie trailers like I love movie trailers?

Movie trailers are one of the key reasons I still go to the movies. The men featured in this ad for the Hooywood Reporter Key Art Awards (whatever that is) are a part of the reason. These are the voices that tease your dreams.


2006 Book List 1 - 5

1. Chocolat by Joanne Harris. The movie is a favorite of mine, but I'd never gotten around to reading the book. For being the same basic story, they're very different. This might be one of the few times I'm glad I saw the movie first, because, with the story told first person by two different narrators, I think it's a little vague on setting and character description, but so much better on motivation.

2. Three Junes by Julia Glass. A narrative on one family, as they go through lives and deaths, told by three different characters. I can't believe this is Ms. Glass's first novel, it's so well written. Three distinct voices, four distinct settings, and they run so smoothly together, it's like being at a family dinner table.

3. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin - This book shows up on a good many recommended reading lists for the genre, so I figured, it must be good. Heck, even the people at Random House think it's a classic, including it in their "Modern Library of the World's Best Books", presumably because they thought they needed something representing gay lit. Well, all I can say is, we've come a long way baby. A long way in what is considered good literature, that is. It's a well told story, with a great sense of place, but a classic? Maybe because the story being told in such bold manner at the time made it important, but honestly, I don't think it holds up all that well. There are better books that cover the same ground. It's a good, fast read (it's a novella, not a novel) but for the amount of prestige this book has been given, I was disapointed.

4. Inamorata by Joseph Gangemi- I loved this book! It's funny but not fluffy, smart but not academic, and full of interesting characters and details. A slightly geeky but very endearing grad student gets involved with a project to disprove the talents of various psychics in the 1920s. The story centers around his part in the investigation of a young and pretty medium who he thinks might be in danger, but from what, he doesn't know. He attempts to become the romantic hero of her complicated life, even though he knows she may be a fraud and doesn't need rescuing. His brain leads him one way, his heart (and libido) another. The story is a great blend between RomCom and armchair detective story, and (much to my surprise!) one of the very few books where the dust jacket blurbs didn't exaggerate.

5. A Stroke of Midnight by Laurell K. Hamilton. Although I was never a fan of Ms. Hamilton's better known Anita Blake series, I did, once upon a time, enjoy reading her Meredith Gentry books. No more. I kept with this one out of nostalgia, waiting for something, anything, to happen that hadn't happened in the previous books. It's the same plot, same characters, same relationships between the characters, same sex scenes, same everything.

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Vote smart

A very cool site for getting an overview of what your political representives have voted for and against.
http://www.issues2000.org/default.htm "On The Issues"


Two books that would make great movies

Inamorata by Joseph Gangemi (what a great part for a young actor that can play subtle humour!)

Wake Up, Sir! : A Novel by Jonathan Ames (crazy, fun characters, and a male protaganist that may or may not talk to himself)