Not Just Any Other Roadside Attraction

 This novel is about a girl named Amanda, who is a gypsy clairvoyant, her husband John Paul Ziller who is a modern day Tarazan (not exactly modern day, since this was written in 1971, but you know what I mean), Plucky Purcell, a butt-kicking, dope selling, horndog who pretty much uncovers the Catholic church’s biggest secret, and Marx Marvelous, a checkered suit wearing scientist looking for answers. Also included: Flower Children in abundance, a handful of monks, some law enforcement agents, a pet baboon, and Amanda’s son Thor. Oh, and the Pope.
Basically Amanda and Ziller open a roadside zoo/hot dog and juice shop where the only attractions are: a display of “endangered” garter snakes, an extinct tsetse fly encased in amber, and a flea circus (complete with chariot races and re-enactments of Swan Lake). Their buddy Plucky gets all wrapped up, quite on accident, with basically the Catholic Mob (aka some bad ass monks that do all the Vatican’s dirty work), and uncovers what the Catholic church has been trying to keep covered up for centuries in the catacombs beneath the Vatican.

This is the second Tom Robbins book I have read, the first being Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas – which I liked for the most part. This one, not so much. Now, I am to understand that this is his first book. That almost makes it better. I can almost forgive him for how choppy and slow the book seemed. The first half trudged on and on and on. Da-dum-da-dum. Then, I sit down to read the second half and ZOOM. Done. Hooray!

Would I read this again? No thank you. Did I end up enjoying it? Yes. Sorta. Robbins has a way of creating characters that will stick with you long after you have put the book down. He has this nearly poetic way of creating sentences, although sometimes they take up HALF THE PAGE. Yes, one sentence taking up nearly an entire page. Makes me almost have a conniption. He is a good author, I will give him that. And this is definitely not the last book I will read from him, but I am definitely not going to read another book of his directly after this one – for my own sanity.

Anyway, on to reading!


Starting Short Story Saturdays

So I have decided that I am going to start doing Short Story Saturdays. Why? Well, because I love short stories, and that’s ultimately what I went to school for [so, needless to say, I own lots and lots of short story collections], and hey, everyone has time to read a twelve[ish] page story.

So the first one I decided to read was L. Debard and Aliette: A Love Story by Lauren Groff. You can actually read it on the Atlantic Monthly website, if you want. I am reading it out of my copy of The Best American Short Stories 2007 Edited by Stephen King. 

This story is about a rather mischievous teenage girl named Aliette Huber, who has a possible case of polio that has damaged her legs [I should also mention that it is set in 1918, during flu epidemic]. Her father, a very wealthy man, hires L. Debard – a world-class swimmer/ wannabe poet, to teach Aliette how to swim. Aliette actually knows who L. Debard is because, due to her illness, she spends a lot of time cooped up in bed reading poetry. Aliette begins to seduce L. Debard during their lessons together and a relationship blossoms between L. Debard and Aliette… and more stuff happens that I don’t necessarily want to talk about without giving it all away – but it’s a rather agonizing love story.

I love when a short story catches me off guard right off the bat. The opening paragraphs reeled me in and I couldn’t wait to continue reading. My favorite paragraph is when Groff explains who L. DeBard is, “a forty-three year old with a mighty set of pectorals, one chipped front tooth, and a rakish smile; a rumored Bolshevik; a poet, filler of notebooks, absinthe drinker, cavorter of the literary type…” it is a lengthy paragraph offering very strange and unique details about this man. You get to know him very personally through these random facts that Groff lists off.

It’s a pretty sad story, and at times I felt like it may have been a little too long or slow, but for the most part I truly enjoyed it. I think the thing that struck me the most is the word choice that Groff uses within her piece. She did a great job of carrying on the swimming/water symbolism throughout everything she wrote.

On to reading!


Ghostbusters meets Tombstone? Notes on a Gothic Western.

Another brilliant book by Brautigan. This book – although absolutely wacky – was not as crazy as some of his others.

The novel is set in 1902 and is about two professional hit-men cowboys who are hired by an Indian woman named Magic Child to accompany her from Portland, Oregon to Eastern Oregon. In Eastern Oregon they  meet Ms. Hawkline, and find out what they will be paid to do.
When they arrive, they see a giant house that is completely surrounded by frost, even though it is the middle of July. As they get nearer to the house it gets colder and colder, and they notice that giant chimneys protruding from the house are billowing smoke.
Ms. Hawkline explains that their house is haunted by a monster that lives in the ice caves below the home [hence the frost and freezing temperatures], and she would like the two cowboys to destroy it.

The supernatural aspect of the book [i.e. a monster living beneath a home in some ice caves] suspended my disbelief. I mean, none of the things that happen are really plausible, but when you are dealing with a monster that can turn into whatever, alter the way you see things, and turn people into whatever it wants them to be… then you can just sort of go along with what may come next in the book. Most of which is completely outrageous.

You would have to be completely insane if you didn’t see how Brautigan is making fun of the Gothic genre. A typical Gothic novel would involve horror and romance, probably a virginal maiden, and maybe some stupid servants for a little comic relief. In Brautigan’s book you get two twin “maidens” who outright ask the cowboys to have sex with them both, multiple times, throughout the book. You have a monster who plays more practical jokes than anything that could be considered “horror”, and the “stupid” servant is a giant old butler who gets turned into a dwarf at one point.

Plus – a Gothic WESTERN? C’mon.

Brautigan is also a master at similes - here are just two of the them that he used in this novel that I loved:

"The road stopped like a dying man's signature on a last-minute will."
"The monster's mind, like a tree in an early winter storm, shook off the leaves of sleep."

It is a truly enjoyable read, just like every other Richard Brautigan book I’ve come across. Like I’ve said before [and undoubtedly will say again], that man was completely brilliant, and has never gotten the credit he deserves. Maybe The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western isn’t the BEST example of his brilliance, but if it’s the only thing you ever get to read by him, you’d still see that he is way more than people ever cracked him up to be.


don't hate the player - hate the game. just not Ender's Game.

I hate to admit it – and I am not sure why – but I may be a little bit of a science fiction nerd. I love to read things that make me imagine worlds that haven’t been thought of before… or creatures I have not envisioned … or ways of life that are foreign and strange. The imagination it takes to write a science fiction novel is awe-inspiring. 

That’s partially why I really liked Ender’s Game.

The book is about a six year old boy named Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, who is born into a family as a Third. In the future, families are only allowed to have two children [Ender's family petitioned to be able to have him, in hopes that he would be good for the Government] – genius children [like Ender and his siblings] are monitored to see if they are capable of saving the earth from buggers [an alien species that has attacked Earth twice before] as soldiers and commanders in an army fleet. Ender is like this super bad ass kid who can Vulcan grip people to death, but he has this outrageously good conscience and truly cares about living creatures. Ender goes to Battle School, and being extremely intelligent and adroit in defense tactics, is quickly promoted to different ranks in school. Many unfair things are done to Ender during the novel– he is pretty much bullied and manipulated from different sources since the first few pages of the book. Ender is never given help – he must fend for himself, and he is pretty much never allowed to be happy. It becomes clear as the story progresses that Ender may be Earth’s only chance at survival from the third attack of the buggers.

So, I just have to say, when Ender is in Battle School, they have to do these mock battle things, with laser guns that will freeze your battle suit if you are shot. Basically I just kept imagining a giant game of Laser Tag… minus gravitational pull. So floaty Lazer Tag.
I also kept thinking: It’s kind of like Harry Potter for space nerds.
Or, chronologically speaking, Harry Potter is an Ender’s Game for wizard nerds [sorta].
But that only lasted while he was in Battle School. Then stuff changed and I was like “Nope, not like Harry anymore.”

Anyway, that was just my thought process as I powered through this book. It wasn’t hard to power through it though – it’s easy to read, and well, it’s pretty hard to put down when you really get into it. Sometimes I was like “Oh look, ANOTHER battle scene. Sweet.” But what do you expect from a book whose plot deals almost exclusively in battle scenes? Even if you don’t like Sci Fi this is a good read. Look into it.

On to reading!


who decides what is best?

I’m not sure if it’s just me – but I honestly get a little worried when I look at lists of Best Books Ever, and I realize I’ve only read… mmm… an unmentionable few of them. I mean really, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret? No, I have not read that. Nor do I really feel like I really want to. Sorry Judy Blume. 
But really, when I look at Time Magazine’s Top 100 Novels list, and I see only a handful of books that I have actually read, I get a little scared.
I read a lot of great books in high school and in college, but apparently I didn’t get to the “good stuff”. Why is that? Why would I be told to read specific books in my higher education that weren’t considered “the best”?
I guess maybe its all up to personal discretion, because I read a few novels that don’t appear on this list, or really any other lists for that matter, that I really do think should be considered for Top Book Lists.
Like Richard Brautigan.
He is worth so much more appreciation than he has ever really gotten. I mean really? Trout Fishing in America? Watermelon Sugar? Both to die for in my opinion.

Photo Cred: Sarah Hedeen

Or, the book Cruddy by Lynda Barry. It’s an awesome interpretation of an adolescent girl’s life, and it is illustrated (for all you people who don’t like books without pictures). Every time I see this book on my shelf it makes me want to read it. 

So is it just subjective, these silly little lists that people make? Probably.

Anyway, I’m having a read-a-thon with Ender’s Game tonight.
On to reading!


"The Great American Novel"

The Great Gatsby… ah jeeze, I smile just typing it. Love, Love Love – that is how I feel towards this book. I read this when I was a junior in high school and I was completely swooned by it.

Quick interjection – I also may have been swooned by my teacher… ew, no, not romantically. What I mean to say is that he was the guy who said “books are great,” and although I already knew that, he opened my eyes to a whole new way to look at literature. So, perhaps my love for this book was influenced by that rather brilliant teacher. 

[Please ignore the bad picture - I couldn't find my copy of the book (sad day!), so this will have to do.]

I listened to this book while I was driving that inordinate amount of time in my car. It’s like the fifth time I have listened to it, and I’ve probably read it five more times on top of that… so, there was really nothing new this time around that I hadn’t thought about before. But, it was a good way to pass the time in my car.
If I was smart, I would look into getting MORE audiobooks, so I would have more to listen to than The Great Gatsby. I also love that Tim Robbins narrates it – although his voice for Daisy tends to get on my nerves.
The plot of the book goes like this – a young guy named Nick moves to New York to get into trading bonds. He rents a house next to this guy named Gatsby, who throws these outrageous parties at his giant home. Nick visits his cousin Daisy and her husband Tom for dinner, where he is also introduced to a girl named Jordan Baker – and they later get together, yes, romantically.
At dinner Nick learns that Daisy and Tom’s marriage is faltering, and that Tom has another “girl”.
I’m not going to give a play by play on the whole plot – that would just be boring. But, the point is, there are love stories – some genuine, some not so genuine, there is jealousy, there is death, there is sadness.
I have to recommend this book to everyone, although a lot of people have already come across it in their academic careers. It covers a lot of themes that are inherent to human nature, so it is in a way, a very timeless novel. My great grandchildren would be able to read it and, although set in the 1920s, they would still be able to connect to it.
Now, what I could not stop thinking about the entire time I was listening to Tim Robbins narrate the novel, was how [and/or why] they would make this a 3D movie. I could see them doing cool stuff with the party scenes and possibly T.J. Eckleburg’s spectacles, but other than that I was stumped. We will see though, it could be great, and lord knows I will definitely go see it whether it sucks or not.
Anyway, on to reading!


The Pearl of the World

Ok - back to blogging. After driving 23,490,234 miles [at least!] I am finally back in the comfort of my own home. 
So, here is the plot of Mr. John Steinbeck's The Pearl:
Kino, Juana, and baby Coyotito live in a tiny Indian village where they enjoy the simplest of lives. They live in a thatch house, they have a canoe, they have each other, and they have their baby. They seem happy, until Coyotito is stung by a scorpion. Trying to find money to get care for the baby, Kino goes diving for pearls. He finds a giant one – The Pearl of the World – and from there destruction seems to fall on the family.
Kino decides that he wants to change his life with the wealth that he believes the Pearl will bring. He wants Coyotito to go to school, he wants to be married to Juana, and he wants to buy a rifle. Right after he says these things, you know that bad stuff is about to go down. Steinbeck gets all ominous and ill-omened towards the pearl. The only thing that Kino actually received from his list of things he wanted was the rifle. But, he got it in ways that brought absolute misery to their family.

This is not a very happy book. If you want to read something that is going to make you laugh and be like “Aww, how sweet was that?” Do not read this book.
I didn’t bawl after I was done reading it, but I wasn’t full of joy either.
I felt like Steinbeck was just trying to rail it into my head that you can’t buy happiness - that people should just be content with their lives. I was finally like, OK ALREADY. I get it! Pearl = destruction. Pearl = opposite of a happy time. Got it! Great.
This novella is good for a quick Steinbeck fix… if that’s even a thing people feel they might need… but I probably would have rather read East of Eden again.

Tomorrow will be my review of The Great Gatsby, but until then, on to reading!


Lost in List Euphoria

Eegads! I have found something sooo cool... but lets be honest, it's probably old news. Goodreads.com? If you aren't behind the times like me [I just did my first ever "tweet" yesterday], you should totally check this out. Not only do I love books, but I love when people show me tons of books I may not have heard of, and I LOVE making lists.
Lists are so rad.
And guess what? This website has all of that! SO cool. I may not be able to stop adding books to my "to-read" list now that I have found this website. I may be addicted.

Anyway friends, I am reading The Pearl by John Steinbeck, I will be finished with it today (its a wee little book), but I am leaving directly after work on a relatively unplanned trip to help a friend through an unexpected death in the family. Although I would LOVE to read while I am driving, I'm not sure that would be for the best. Instead, I will just listen to my all time favorite, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, because it is the only audiobook I happen to own, and it will help the drive go by faster. And I can daydream of how awesome the new movie remake of the book could be - Leo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck, Tobey Maguire... that girl from Pillars of the Earth mini series... Sounds intriguing, no? Not to mention - filmed in 3D? That part makes me scratch my head, but I can only hope they wont ruin anything.

So, until I return with those two reviews, keep yourselves busy with Goodreads.
On to reading [...and driving]!


"Kloster-da-man" pt 2

Well, I finished Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs yesterday, but didn’t want to get Post Happy and overwhelm anyone (since I know SO many people read this and all…), so now I will talk about the second half of the book.

The second half involved essays about breakfast cereal mascots, the all too predictable high school sitcom Saved by the Bell, Luke Skywalker – the original Gen Xer, The Dixie Chicks, the media, and music conferences in Seattle. He expounds on the question of “what is reality?”, Jesus, and Serial Killers.

Side note – in a book where he directly talks about cereal – even names the book after a specific kind of cereal, is it coincidence that he put in an essay about SERIAL killers? Lame joke, I know.

Ok, but really. The part of the second half that stuck out the most WAS the part about serial killers. Growing up, I too was morbidly interested in people who seemed to kill for fun, or sexual exploit, or whatever it was that drove them to the act. I read book, after book, after book about different men who had been convicted of killing multiple people... I think my mother may have been a little worried about me. I read them unceasingly – until one hit a little too close to home.
Ted Bundy – a man blamed for the deaths of countless young women, was the last biography of a serial killer that I ever read. In the back of the book was a seemingly endless list of women that Bundy was accused of killing, some of whom have never been found. On the list were girls from my small hometown, and many of the small towns surrounding. It was chilling. That night I had a horrible nightmare that my sister was killed by Bundy. When I went out the front door of my house I saw Bundy’s Volkswagen Bug [removable front seat and all] in my driveway. As I inspected it, my sister was lying in the front seat with a small bullet hole in her forehead. It was awful. So, needless to say, I had to take a break from reading those kinds of books for awhile.
In the essay, Klosterman interviews some of his acquaintances who have come in direct contact with famous serial killers in their lives. It was an intriguing idea to me that Klosterman was so obsessed with these people. The closer it hit to home for him, the more interested he was, whereas my experience was completely the opposite.
Klosterman also talks about Kirk Cameron, the Left Behind books, and his open-mindedness towards born again Christians. He decides to reread the book of Revelations rather than read all eleven Left Behind books. Which makes sense. I’m not sure I could read that many books about Jesus and the second coming. But, this leads me into the fact that I am trying to read The Book. Yes, capitol T, capitol B. As in, the Bible. I want to read it just to a) say that I read it and b) be able to understand all of those little allusions that other books and poems and pamphlets and tv people all make towards it. I mean, the Bible is the backbone to so much in the world – literature and beyond [the Bible is kind of like Buzz Lightyear]. It will only be beneficial to have read it. So, expect to see little tidbits here and there about my journey with this project.
In the end, I think that I really enjoyed this book. It reminds me of a good David Sedaris book, like Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, where you come back to the little essay/story things every so often to remember how funny the author is. I don’t think this is the last time that I will read any of this collection, except for maybe the essay on the media, that one was less entertaining.
On to reading!


Lookey lookey, I got a bookey

I am stoked to own yet another Tom Robbins book. I was randomly gifted a worn copy of Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas one night at work from a man who is now in prison, and I really enjoyed it. I loved how Robbins carried you through a spiritualistic crazy journey involving reptilian, and potentially alien, life. It is the only book by him that I have read, minus little snippets of B is for Beer, since I do work in a Beer Market and it is proudly displayed on the coffee table… I was told by my boss that he really enjoyed Jitterbug Perfume, and that it may be one of his favorites. So I am looking forward to this novel and Another Roadside Attraction that I previously bought at a used book store a few months ago.
I do not know much about this book, other than it seems to be about a little blue perfume bottle that holds the key to the fountain of youth. Apparently it will involve a janitor, since the back of the book proclaims him to be the hero of the novel. I’m just saying that if a janitor is going to be the hero, then it has got to be a pretty interesting book.
Apparently the used book store that I bought this from was “too expensive”, according to a friend of mine that ventured there with me. I bought this nearly 400 page soft cover book for $4.50, and I thought that it was reasonably priced. Am I wrong in this statement? Should I have perhaps looked for a better deal? I can’t recall other prices of used books I have acquired over time, but this really didn’t seem too steep to me. Possibly I should look into other used book stores… either that or pay attention more to the price I am paying for books.
But do you ever get in that state of mind where you are just SO excited to see SO many books and then, before you know it, you have a giant pile in your arms and a giant smile on your face? That was me. But my self restraint only let me buy this one today.


Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs - and a confession of love.

Please forgive my super sweet photo of the book. I borrowed this from my brother-in-law quite some time ago, and somewhere down the road he had misplaced the cover sleeve. So, book binding photo it is.

Ah, Chuck Klosterman. Where do I even start with you?
You have made me laugh, good sir. You have also made me use that organ inside my head called a brain. Both of which I thank you for.
So far I am half way through Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, and I am enjoying myself thoroughly. This man, although much more eloquent and with a much higher vocabulary than myself, is quite possibly the male version of me. Well, ok, I wouldn’t go so far as to say I am as cool as Mr. Klosterman, but I’m just saying that we would “get each other” if we were to ever meet. It doesn’t hurt that he is extremely reminiscent of my 80’s crush, Corey Feldman. Yes, I will unabashedly confess my love of Feldman on the internet for all to see. Who wouldn’t love Mouth from The Goonies? I mean c’mon!

Anyway, lets get crackin’ about the book. This book is essentially a collection of essays that Klosterman admits to have written before he falls asleep at night (quite possibly under the influence of what the kids these days are calling “Pot”). Chuck talks about literally anything and everything that has come to symbolize the spectrum of postmodern America – and not only that, but he finds a way to write about it so that I am interested, and I find it funny, and quite frankly, I don’t want to put the book down.
So far I have traveled on tour with a Guns N’ Roses tribute band, I’ve been told that Marilyn Monroe and Pamela Anderson are more or less one in the same, I’ve had the world of The Sims explained as a glorification of consumerism. I’ve read about how uncool Billy Joel is – and how, ultimately, that makes him really cool. I’ve read a lot of stuff about sports that, well, I just don’t plain understand and/or care about. I read an entire chapter/essay on internet porn. And I’ve liked it all – even if it feels like you’re trying to talk to an extremely stoned friend.
Although I do not always understand all of Klosterman’s allusions that he makes within this book (and trust me, there are A LOT), I really enjoy reading it none the less. He may throw out random 80’s hair band references, or a baseball player’s name that I just am not familiar with, but I still get the jist of what he is saying, and it is still interesting to read.
I may not agree 100% with some of the conclusions he has drawn in the book thus far, but he sure tries to back them up with some intriguing evidence. And, half the time, he even admits that what he is saying sounds a little crazy. Like calling Marilyn Monroe and Pamela Anderson the same person, just from different eras. He admits that at first, when someone told him this idea, he was offended, but as he walks you through the idea of them both being sex symbols from different periods in time, you sort of scratch your head and nod along. Whether you decide to believe what he tells you is up to you.
I was laughing out loud in The Sims essay though. If you’ve ever played the game, which you should if you haven’t - it’s really pretty fun, you will understand literally everything he says, and probably find it very funny. Reading about his plights in the Simian world is a flashback into my own memory of playing the game for hours on end. And all you do is tell a little figure you’ve created to sleep, wake up, eat, use the bathroom, shower. Then he draws some interesting conclusions from the game about us as a society and as the human race. I think it was a great essay.
I’ve got just about half of the book to finish. I’ve ironically stopped right where my brother-in-law seems to have given up on the book. Hmmm. Maybe it’s not for everyone. Maybe I only like it because, if I wrote a nonfiction book, I’d want it to be something very much like this. Or maybe it’s because he had something in life that jumped out and took the place of reading… whereas in my life, reading jumps out and takes the place of my life [haha].
Anyway, on to reading!


Archbishop Pt. 2

I think I am just going to stick with the idea that I should not have started a book about bishops and such, directly after finishing the worlds largest novel about religion/cathedrals/that kind of stuff. BUT, there is good news (no, I didn’t just save a ton of money on car insurance…). The second half of this novel proved to be much better than the first half. Less riding around to different parts of the diocese. More back story and substance. 

I guess, in essence, this book is about two men of religious backgrounds, who come to the New World from France, and behold God’s wonder in a place where it may have seemed God had overlooked. The first half, as you may have so kindly read, was – to say the least – a bore. The second half made me care. Not like I have felt in other Cather books, but oh well, at least we got SOMEWHERE with this thing.
There were two elements I enjoyed that Cather did in this book.
1)     She did a very nice job of describing the landscape. She does this in every book I’ve ever read from her, but you know, at least she didn’t let me down or anything.
2)     She did an awesome job of describing the Native American tribes that Father Latour came in contact with. She was really rather… sympathetic… towards them. It was refreshing. Most of the books I’ve read from the time frame of “white people” coming in and taking over “the red man’s land” … they have this savage air about the Native American’s. Like, did anyone ever read Charles Brockden Brown’s Edgar Huntly? If I even told you how many times I was forced to read that book you’d probably throw up on yourselves, so I won’t go into it too much. My fingers cringe to even type the name Charles Brockden Brown. He portrayed the Indians as these savage mindless beasts. Willa Cather on the other hand, she describes them with this poetic-ness that is pretty much awesome. Take for instance this quote, “They [two Zuni Native Americans] coursed over the sand with the fleetness of young antelope, their bodies disappearing and reappearing among the sand dunes, like the shadows that eagles cast in their strong, unhurried flight.” Nice, right?
I also want to say that I admire Cather in the way that she portrayed the Archbishop’s last moments. It was interesting reading a character’s last thoughts and memories, written by a woman who was nowhere near her own death bed at the time of writing it.
In the end though, watching the Archbishop breathe his last breath (no, that’s not a spoiler, I mean c’mon, the book is called Death Comes for the Archbishop…), I did feel some sort of compassion towards him. I wasn’t moved to tears, or touched so much that I will remember the death scene for life, but it did make me take a second after I closed the book to reflect.

So. Time to pick a new book. On to reading….