Friday, March 26, 2010

The late, late blues............

I've been pretty busy lately what with HAVING THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB IN THE WORLD and all. I also took the 3rd class petty officer exam last week, which I only realize now that I've typed it all out on the screen is of absolutely no interest whatsoever to anyone on planet earth. If I pass, I move up a rank, that's all you need to know. But I have still been faithfully reading a book a week. Here's a quick rundown of the last 4 weeks..............

"The Artificial White Man" by Stanley Crouch

Probably the most talented "black intellectual" when it comes to pure novelistic prose, he also manages to be the most controversial, just because he has the nuts to point out that gangster rap might be full of overblown stereotypes of murderers and whores. As a rapper, and a kid who grew up on gangster rap, do I agree? Well................yeah. It's kinda hard not to. Especially when he writes like this.............

"As people of the western hemisphere, we are a mix and a mess and given to reinventing something more important than the truth, which is the poetry of our connections, above and below, in the heavens and the sewers, the happy blues, the plaintive blues, and the hilarious blues."


Anyway, the book is a collection of essays on race and authenticity in popular american cutlure, and I highly recommend it. Whether you agree with him or not, if you are not reading Stanley Crouch, you are wrong.

"Pygmy" by Chuck Palahniuk

Chuck's last 5 or 6 books have gotten mixed reviews at best, if not universally bad ones. Sometimes it has been warranted (Haunted, Snuff), and other times it has not (Rant, Lullaby). And yet we still all race out to read anything he puts out, which has to say something about the guy. Either way Pygmy is no exception to the mixed reviews.....critics and readers have been pretty dismissive of it so far. But I have to say, I loved it. I thought it was his best book since Invisible Monsters. And it's probably his funniest book, period. It has a real slapstick feel to it, mixed in with the usual Palahniuk know............anal rape, zombie consumerism, and love.

The plot follows Pygmy, a foreign exchange student from an unnamed asian communist regime, who is secretly a member of an impending terrorist plot against the United States. Pygmy speaks a broken english, which to some can come off as borderline racist, but if you just let go and accept the joke premise it's really hilarious and impressive how Palahniuk uses this speech pattern to play with prose. Pygmy sees nothing but evil and ugly in Americans and their culture, especially his host family. Much of the story takes place in three settings that even to the most staunch patriots could be seen as the biggest representations of anything and everything wrong with, church, and high school. But Pygmy doesn't see Americans as frigid right-wing puritans. The America he sees is a world where high schools are unsupervised orgies, and batteries are in short supply because all the oversexed adults walk around with sex toys lodged inside them.

Even with all the judgment being passed on western culture, make no mistake............this is not Fight Club 2. Whereas in Fight Club you felt like Palahniuk was, for better or worse, assaulting you with his own personal views, in Pygmy you get these high-minded socialist rants from a brainwashed terrorist fresh from the reeducation camps, and you never feel that it's Palahniuk speaking through the character. In a weird backhanded way, this is a very pro-american book.

"A Man Without a Country"- Kurt Vonnegut

No explanation needed really. The genius of the second half of the 20th century talks about stuff, and things.

"More Information Than You Require"- John Hodgeman

If you don't know who John Hodgeman is, you are missing out. He's probably most known as the "PC" in the PC vs Mac commercials, opposite Justin Long. He also is a regular contributor on the Daily Show, which is a pretty good representation of his style of humor. Nerdy. This is a sequel to his first book, "The Areas of My Expertise", which was basically a book of fake facts written in the style of those old timey almanacs from the 1800's. But it's so much more than that, and you really have to read it for yourself to understand. Areas of My Expertise was by far the funniest book I have ever read. At the time I remember being amazed that one human being could fit that much hilariousness into every single page. Even the JACKET of the book was funny. Little did I know he had enough for a whole new book, and what's more he has hinted that this will be a trilogy.

I'm about halfway through the new one, and already it's even better than the first. So you can get a basic grasp on what kind of thing these books are filled with, here's Hodgeman's description of Ulysseys S. Grant, 18th president of the United States.............

"Financial scandals plagued the Grant administration, though historians debate how much Grant knew about it due to his fondness for whiskey and for not knowing things. We do know that when the robber baron Jay Gould proposed to take all of the nation's gold and hide it in his private mountain, he invited Grant to join his heist as a grappling-hook man. But Grant declined. His skill with a grappling hook may have won the Civil War, but he was not corrupt. He saw the White House as a brief chance at drunken peace and an opportunity to work on his many hobbies, such as throat cancer."

That's just a random passage I picked. Seriously, get both books immediately if you haven't read them yet.

I'll try to stay on top of the blog now that I have some free time again.