One of my good old friends had a lot of time on his hands...and sent me this book review.
When I was snatched off of the streets and put behind bars (for your safety and mine) I accelerated my book reading, because smoking and praising Allah gets old. Here is what I thought of some.
-Classic! Skip parole if you have a few more pages.
Hurry up with making license plates to read.
-Good. Don’t trade a meal for it, but if yard is closed, go ahead.
-Fair. In case of solitary confinement only.
-**** on paper. Burn this book.
1984, George Orwell: This is on many a reading list, and for good reason. It is eerily prophetic in its portrayal of the future (which is now the past, but in actuality the present). The book is also underrated as a romantic comedy. Excerpt: “What did you think of me when you first saw me.?” “I hated you. I wanted to rape you then kill you.” Hilarious!!!
City of Gold, Len Deighton: WWII spy novel. It’s OK, a two-star really, but I gave it the third in light of the fact that now, whenever I am completing a crossword puzzle, I know who ‘Author Deighton (3 letters)’ is.
The Murder Book, Jonathan Kellerman: A “thriller” and I use that word loosely. I think that books like this happen when Steven Segal is too busy to make a crappy movie out of someone’s crappier idea.
The DaVinci Code, Dan Brown: It was called “The book that ate the world” a few years ago and I admit that it was good. However it was good in the way a whippit is good: a few minutes later you got a headache and a jones for something more.
Genesis, God & friends: Starts out with a bang but gets a little wordy toward the end. It did tell me where hillbillies are descended from (if you can’t keep it in the pants keep it in the family, eh Lot?). Better than The Murder Book though.
½ Cannery Row, John Steinbeck: I don’t know of a more realistic, in-touch author. At once funny, sad and philosophical, Steinbeck makes the small battles in life matter. Coming from a fishing community myself, this yarn about the hijinx of the slime-line really hits home.
½ A Short History of the Civil War, James L. Stokesbury: Chock full of facts and fairly interesting. It did however leave unanswered the very important question asked by one Mr. W. Axl Rose: What is so civil about war anyway?
Paris in the 20th Century, Jules Verne: Lost manuscript that turned up in the mid 1990’s. It’s boring as hell, but surprisingly clairvoyant. Verne sees a world in which a few corporations control every aspect of a person’s life from preschool through retirement. Just think Triangle Tech\ Department of Social Security\ Frito-Lay merger. And it’s not as awesome as you may think.
Ballpark Blues, C.W. Tooke: A jaded sportswriter and rising minor leaguer become reluctant friends while each climb to the top of their professions. It sounds lame, and I guess it is, but lame done right can be entertaining. Have you seen Extreme Makeover: Home Edition? Yeah, me neither.
The Source, James A. Michener: A chronicle of Jewish history from 10,000 B.C.E. to the 1960s. It has been a long ride for God’s chosen people and they are still taking it on the chin. Scientologists pay attention- this is likely where you will be in 12,000 years. (Lebowski Fan Spoiler: Moses is involved, Sandy Koufax is not.)
¼ The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand: If she were alive today I would wait until I had satisfied the supervisional requirements of the commonwealth, hire a magic pumpkin complete with fairy chauffer, ride to whatever fantastical cloud that right wing propagandess calls home and beat **** down her leg. Better than The Murder Book…barely.
¼ Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates, Tom Robbins: High on sex, drugs and globetrotting mischief as are most Robbins novels, this one however is a little low on his killer insight.
Around America, Walter Cronkite: The old newsman sails around the U.S. coast and gives us a blow-by-blow. Excerpt: “There was a wave. Then another. Ooh! Driftwood!” Too bad he and J.F.K. couldn’t have switched places in ’63. Kennedy, now there was a dude who knew how to sail. “I banged a broad. Then anothah. Then I got drunk with my baby brothah…”
One Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The author takes us through 24 hours behind the curtain of the Soviet Gulag. Any pseudo prison intelligentsia will read this and tell you, “You’d never understand, man!” I am no different.
½ The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway: Some say that E.H. is the greatest American author ever. That’s tough talk in an America where R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps collection was written. Anyway you shake it Hemingway just isn’t my cup of tea. You know what is my cup of tea? Booze. And the expatriates in this classic drink plenty.
Lucky You, Carl Hiaasen: Book from the underappreciated genre of redneck noire. It involves cheap beer, high-speed boat chases and Hooter’s girls. It is set in central and south Florida, but that stuff sounds more like panhandle behavior to me. You know what they say, “Head north ‘till ya smell, then west ‘till ya step in it.”
Juiced…, Jose` Canseco: The slugger points fingers and names names as he airs Major League Baseball’s dirty laundry. He casts himself as the pied piper of steroids and he sure convinces me. I did lose respect for the guy when he intimated that he said no to Madonna’s request that he impregnate her.
Exodus, God & Friends: Similar to Terminator2 and Aliens as it was a sequel that outdid the original. Unlike T2 and Aliens there are no cyborgs and no space travel. Pharaoh totally outdoes T-1000 as a villain though.
½ Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut: One of the V-man’s best. His worldview is summed up in this novel through his trademarked blend of humor and sentimentality. Even though he sees humans as self destructive, there is much love. As far as the things we invent to give life some sort of importance (war, nations, religion) Vonnegut says simply, “No damn cat, no damn cradle.”
¾ Hunger, Knut Hamsun: A starving author wanders around 1800s Christiana (Oslo) and freaks-out. Think Edgar Allen Poe and Dostoyevsky on mushrooms authoring a hobo themed cook book. I know, that is awesome.
Run with the Hunted, Charles Butkowski: An anthology of poems, short stories and excerpts from the gritty counterculturalist. Butkowski has filled volumes trying to convince us that he doesn’t care about life. I don’t believe him for one minute, but it sure is great reading.
Hideaway, Dean Koontz: Koontz novels are sort of like egg salad for me. You’ll never catch me pick it out of a buffet, but if the only other things in the fridge are a shriveled orange and some baking soda, I’ll go for it.
¼ Blue Deer Thaw, Jamie Harrison: I won’t debate what is more discouraging, that someone wrote this turd or that someone published it. What I will say is that the time it took to read this “book” is time I will never, ever get back. If you ever see this “book”, run; if you ever see the author, shoot her. Also, congratulations to The Murder Book, you are officially off the hook.
Bluebeard, Kurt Vonnegut: The 1980s were for Vonnegut novels what they were for Rolling Stones albums and the Ford Mustang: Not their best period, but still way better than Great White and the Mercury Capri.
East of Eden, John Steinbeck: In my opinion, this is his masterpiece. Steinbeck retells the first two stories of Genesis (see earlier review) Through the Trask family out in central Cali. Steinbeck did to the great American novel what Bob Marley did to reggae, he killed it.
Moby Dick, Herman Melville: I had never read this book before and, barring a serious lifestyle change, won’t read it again. I see why it is significant, but it’s a couple hundred years too late for me. I’m sorry; I just can’t get the stench of whale blubber out of my nostrils.
The Ragman’s Son, Kirk Douglas: Autobiography traces Spartacus’ steps from poor immigrant family in upstate New York to mediocre Broadway player to silver screen legend. If you were an anti-Semite or a dead lay he will expose you (deal with it Faye Dunaway).
½ Hocus Pocus, Kurt Vonnegut: I love you Kurt (R.I.P.), but this was written in the late 80s and remember what I said about that. Here’s a magic trick for you: hocus pocus, losing focus-POOF! My new publishing house just gave me a $1.2million advance.
Levitcus, God & Friends: BUMMER! Not since Smokey and the Bandit III has the third installment of a great series fallen so short of a franchise standard. Packed full of rules, I want to pull Yahweh aside and say, “Ease up on all that ‘clean/ unclean’ stuff,” but then he’d probably pull me aside and strike me dead.
½ Gulag Archipelago Part I &II, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: An in-depth literary experiment of the Soviet prison system in 20th Century. The author tries to convey the- you know what, screw it. You’d never understand, man!