The Pan-American Alaska to Tierra Del Fuego

Because any trip that requires you to zoom out to “the planet” to view is deserving of respect:

globe

http://www.tourdafrique.com/dreamtours/show/76

What is the What, Dave Eggers

I’ve seen it described as an African Huckleberry Finn, but even more it’s an extraordinary work of witness. “The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng” is powerful and funny and horrific and beautiful.

“I had forgotten that, and so many things. How could I put everything down on paper? It seemed impossible. No matter what, the majority of life would be left out of this story, this sliver of a version of the life I’d known. But I tried anyway.”

http://www.valentinoachakdeng.org/

Ohio spring

photo(28)

Staring at the Sun, Julian Barnes

Less interesting than Flaubert’s Parrot; a rather conventional tale until the very last chapters, and then an oddly specific discourse on mortality.  Always worth reading, but not (to me) as witty as FB or as clever as A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters.

An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England, Brock Clarke

Novel disguised as a memoir, but “wacky”, “searingly funny’, “absurdly hilarious”?  Not to me.  Clever and a spot on satire of literary… everything, but not so much laugh-out-loud funny. Best line from a review: “Books, Clarke seems to be asserting, do not make you happy; they’re much more important than that.”  The reader’s guide following the text where the author and main character bicker might have the most humorous bits of all.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller

Tell a better story.  A nice simple concept, not bad; life as a scriptwriter’s fodder.  Ok, God too, but not so much that it’s only that. “the same principles that make a good story also make a good life.”  Curious, have seen some criticism of his faith that it’s more deist than, well, than what it should be.  You know, like that radical deist Jefferson that Texas has just removed from their history books.  Now there’s a good story…

Feb 28

The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver

As always a careful storyteller, although this one is not one of my favorite, a bit of a stretch.  Frida! Diego! Leon Trotsky! Maybe better as a parable for fearful times. “Dios habla por el que calla”.  The again, her story, Trotsky, McCarthy and HUAC – the condemnation of Gitmo pro-bono lawyers rings all too familiar today.

Feb 27

This Will Change Everything, ed. John Brockman

Another collection of science essays by a typical assortment of brilliant people.  Good index of authors: http://www.edge.org/q2009/q09_index.html  “brains work as adaptive self-organizing systems and designing artificial intelligence systems along these lines” – read this: http://www.miller-mccune.com/culture-society/triumph-of-the-cyborg-composer-8507/ “artificial creativity.”  Most interesting thing I’ve read about music composition in forever.

Feb 20

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Michael Chabon

Alternate history/detective noir/end of times novel.  One of those. Great writer, terrific characters; a little too many threads, and one too easy to guess – the Hebrew savior is gay!  Can’t think of another writer succeeding in so many different Gentlemen of the Road, aka “Jews with Swords” (honest, the original working title).

Feb 15

The Lost City of Z, David Grann

Adventure story of Percy Fawcett, last of the great Brit explorers.  Compelling, many connections to 1491 & the lost Beni culture.  “Their monuments were horizontal, not vertical.”  Has a new book out about Sherlock Holmes, presumably not with Robert Downey Jr on the cover…

Feb 14