Well this is embarrassing. I began this post in mid-June. Let’s just wrap it up and move on, shall we? These were the books that I read at the end of last year. Woots.
Quick rundown there is that Ralph Steadman is a brilliant satirical cartoonist from the British realm who teamed with Thompson to illustrate many of the gonzo journalist’s pieces during his most (in)famous writing period. Steadman’s art is deliciously idiosyncratic and instantaneously recognizable. For full disclosure, I first fell in love with his artwork not through Thompson but by the fact that Steadman designs all the label art for one of my favorite breweries, Flying Dog.
Somehow, I believe that both Thompson and Steadman would find this alcoholically appropriate.
Anyway, Johnny Depp, who played Thompson in the movie version of this book, did the documentary on Steadman. I watched it, loved it, couldn’t remember why I hated the movie, rented it, remembered why I hated the movie, and then decided to read the book.
I actually found it very difficult to put down the book. I also found it very difficult not to purchase my own copy before I had even finished the copy I borrowed from the library.
Whereas the movie is simply too much of a sensory overload, IMHO, the book was a compelling guidebook to Thompson’s “gonzo” journalistic experiments. His narcissistic desire to not just write about the events transpiring (as a good journalist should do) but to become the main story (as a good narcissist should do) shines in full intoxicated glory with this book. I was equal parts intrigued and horrified as to how his injection into said events would play out…not to mention appalled and slightly in awe of how the man continued to function in any sort of fashion without completely, pardon the slang, losing his shit from all the alcohol and drugs he consumed.
And while I don’t necessarily think that his alteration of reporting to include the reporter ultimately had a positive impact on the field, I must admit that I found his regaling to be almost hypnotic. Needless to say, during my last visit to San Francisco, I picked up a copy of this for my collection from City Lights (best bookstore EVAR). I’ve also added several more of Thompson’s books to my list to find at the library. We’ll see if I ever follow up there.
Final Verdict: I bought the book. Enough said.
I don’t really have all that much to say about Lori Rader-Day’s The Black Hour. I didn’t really find it all that compelling a read. Neither did I find the characters all that compelling. There were intriguing ideas—for example, the overarching question of what happens when a professor who specializes in the sociology of violence becomes a victim of what she previously only considered through the lens of academic abstraction? And what happens when not even she can provide the answer of “why” when a student chooses to shoot her, as he also shot and killed himself right after?
I wish the answers had been a bit more interesting, or that I had found the characters more compelling. They ended up being mostly flat and predictable. A couple were compelling enough that I would have probably found the book more satisfying if it had focused on them. But it didn’t.
Final Verdict: Kind of obvious, isn’t it?
Grady Hendrix’s Horrorstör: A Novel, however, was a wondrous delight from start to finish. Don’t expect Dostoyevsky. But do expect a grotesque, bizarre, and entertaining new riff on the “haunting” horror trope. Also, expect a silly but clever spoofing of IKEA catalogs with this book’s design, including chapter introductions that feature IKEA-like furniture…and then torture devices based on said IKEA-like furniture, to go along with the story that transpires within the showroom of a furniture store known as ORSK, which is honestly not trying to be like IKEA at all. Honestly.
Final Verdict: I’m definitely adding this one to my library, as I not only can envision revisiting the story but also just flipping through it for the humorous IKEA spoofing.
Emily Yoffe, the journalist who contributes to Slate both as herself and as advice columnist “Dear Prudence,” is behind Look What the Dog Did: Tales from a Reluctant Dog Owner.
She’s a reluctant dog owner. She ends up with a dog. Come on, you know where I’m heading with this denizens. Hilarity. It’s coming like winter to Westeros. Or wherever the hell it’s supposed to come. I don’t know. I don’t watch Game of Thrones. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
What the hell was I saying? Oh, yeah. Dog book. Emily Yoffe. Funny. Dog. Vignettes. Laughing. Ha.
Seriously, though, it’s a cute beach read for anyone who loves dogs or doesn’t love dogs but ended up with their own dog and now they kind of sort of do love dogs now. Even when they do bad things. Which they do. Often. Check the title of this book, FFS.
Final Verdict: Cute but not something I would revisit.
Anyone who follows me on Google+ (yeah, I meant Google+…what’s it to you?) knows that I recently went on a massive John Waters viewing kick, where I watched every single one of his movies that I could rent through Netflix. One of the major drives behind that decision was reading his latest book Carsick and being reminded how nauseatingly brilliant he is.
For anyone who is curious, I pretty much came to the same conclusion after watching his films, many of which I’d already seen but hadn’t revisited in many years.
For this book, Waters decides to see what it would be like to hitchhike from his home in Baltimore to his home in San Francisco. Yes, John Waters literally hitched rides across the country for a book. And it was divine.
Sorry. I couldn’t resist that.
Anyway, he breaks down the book into three parts: How he envisions the trip as a perfect experiment; how he envisions it as a hellish nightmare; and how it actually happens. Each section holds its own meritorious place in the narrative. My favorite, of course, was Waters’s take on how terribly the experiment could have gone. No one does chaos quite like John.
Final Verdict: I don’t know if I would own this book, but it did make me want to read more of what he’s written. I’d kind of fallen out of connection with our hometown hero for a while and didn’t realize that he had shifted almost completely to the written word. I’ve got some catching up to do, apparently.
And here is the most embarrassing moment of this post, in which I confess that I remember absolutely nothing about this book other than that I checked it out of the library, I read it, I vaguely remember enjoying it…but I cannot tell you one thing about any of the short stories in Antonya Nelson’s Funny Once: Stories.
Sorry. I’m serious. I can’t remember anything about this book. Even after reading the description and some of the reviews on Amazon, I got nothing for you on this one.
Final Verdict: Um. Maybe I should check it out again and try to refresh my memory?
And I’m spent. Totally worth the 3-month wait, though, right? Totally.