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« May, 2002 »
Dr Bloodmoney

Ack, more spooky grossness from PK Dick. This paranoid sci fi novel talks mainly about the post-apocalyptic world after the bomb has gone off. But it’s far weirder than that. Populating this primitive stretch of Northern California is a strange scientist who may have magical powers, a seven year old girl whose twin brother lives inside her and talks to her, an astronaut trapped in orbit above the Earth, and a deformed maybe-psychic with delusions of grandeur.

The book starts out very eerily 50’s-style normal and then the bomb goes off and, well, it all goes to shit. Dick has a really great way of making you really feel how people must have been living -- using horses to drag their old cars around, but don’t leave them in one place for too long or people will eat them. Everyone becomes paranoid and somewhat bizarre, a perfect environment for Dick characters to live in.

Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails with America’s Hoboes

This book is a reprint of one written in the 80’s and according to the new intro from the author, much has changed since then. The author also says he can look back wincingly at some of his writing and shake his head at how naieve he was, writing about all his innermost thoughts and maintaining an “aw shucks” atitude towards a lot of the sticky life dilemmas that confront the poor.

The perspective from the author is welcome because I read a lot of this book sortof horrified at the way Conover took on a voluntary life of poverty to go ride theraisl wiht the hoboes and then spent a lot of time seemingly surprised that life was so tough, so frustrating, or that hoboes didn’t seem to treat him as a real friend. Here he is, a college educated white kid, spending some time basically slumming with some emergency money in his bedrool [and a calling card] trying to live the authentic life of the hoboes. Laughable. The stories he tells are interesting and the people he meets make grand pictorials, but it was Conover’s presence in this book that was the annoying part, and his interjection of supposedly deep thoughts about the nature of poverty and our country’s disenfranchisement of the poor made for really tooth-grating reading.


Apparently this book was originally published as a 900 page Yiddish account of Weisel’s experiences in the concentration camps and only later released in French in its current abbreviated form. There’s not much to say about a first person account of theconcentration camps except that I am continually amazed and the human capacity for evil as well as the power to resist it.

Holy Fire

The premise of those book was tough to deduce from the cover and back pages so I dove right in. The writing in this bookis some of Strerling’s best. He creates a very believable elderly female protagonist and a future world where the “gerontocracy” determines a lot of political and social directions of the world. Life extensions are the norm and the good life is identified as being somewhat stable.

The book takes a rapid shift when the main character undergoes a radical life extension procedure making her appear essenntially 20 years old despite the fact that she has the brain of a 95 year old woman. At this point, the plot gets muddled. There is a virtual world that seems like it should play a large part but doesnt. Much attention gets paid to a fashion shoot for no discernible reason. And the lead character’s friends suddenly become possibly the vanguard of a new world view, or do they? Like the Difference Engine, the plot of this story confused me. I kept reading thinking “there’s no way they are going to wrap all this up in 20 pages” and sure enough, they didn’t.

Sex Magazines in the Library Collection

This book describes itself as a monographic supplement to the Serials Librarian magazne, but it looked like a book to me. I’ve been intrigued by some of the titles I’ve been seeing lately about librarians and sex, my favorite being “For Sex, See the Librarian” [about censorship, I believe]. This book is a collection of fairly scholarly papers dealing with how libraries deal with sex periodicals. The papers are easy to read survey types with no information that will knock anyone out, but some humorous parts. Most of the focus is on magazines such as Playboy, Penthouse and Oui, but some of the writers explore more hardcore literature

The book wraps up with a long listing of sexually useful [as opposed to either LC or DDC’s sexually backward] subject headings. Sandy Berman is always a delight and I think I would even enjoy reading his shopping lists. This article is no exception titled “If There Were a Sex Index” he does an index -- with his own subject headings, natch -- of twelve sex magazines, ranging from the scholarly to the hardcore. The nomenclature becomes extra funny because, of course, all the headings are written in all caps, making all the smutty words seem like they are being shouted at you: GAY SOCIALISTS, SEX ON ROLLER COASTERS, SUCKING OFF See FELLATIO. You can see how amusing this is.

The Librarian at Play

More library humor from the early part of the last century. This one is a collection of essays, some inspired, some that seem more dated. My favorite essay deserves some discussion... It comes in the form of a letter found in a bottle. The writer is an essayist who recently had won a contest where he listed his 100 favorite books that he’d like to bring to a desert island. Well, he chooses all sorts of scholarly and erudite stuff. His prize is a cruise with these 100 books as his companions. Predictably, the boat sinks and he is marooned with nothing but the works of Plato and Homer while her wails about wanting to read something about knot-tying. His journal entries include such gems as “Aenid eaten by a goat” etc.

This book, in addition to the one I read previously, highlight that while the library profession has been steadily evolving, the role of the library in modern society, has stayed more or less the same. Annoying patrons are still weird in the same way; librarians are still stereotyped as overeducated and undersocialized. This book is a gem and worth tracking down at your local library archives.

Library Jokes and Jottings

I have a ahrd time laughing at comtemporary attempts at humor. It may be that I find the authors trying to hard, or maybe they are assuming a frame of reference that I don’t share. However, once I convinced the librarian to please let me take home this reference book just this once, I sat in the backyard and laughed.

The funniest part, sadly, is that librarianship has changed so little in the last hundred years or so. We still have religious zealot patrons, and the guys who sit there all day long reading the newspapers. People still expect all sorts of entitlements because they are the taxpayers that keep the library open and children are still a constant threat and simultaneous delight. This books did not have the word “masturbator” in it, like a current library humor book might, but many of the situations were the same. Some of the jottings also included many humorous pieces that were in some ways quaint because they were not ribald or racy; plays on words with book titles, the amusement of dirty children not washing their hands, the plaitive yowlings of the patron who owes overdue fines. Find it through interlibrary loan if you possibly can.

Sombrero Fallout

Brautigan’s book s are nothing if not somewhat surreal. This surreality is often juxtaposed by the most banal normalcy that the contrast is what hits you the most. This book is actually two books, the failed novel ofthe protagonist -- which we are introduced to learning that it has been already shredded and discarded -- and the protagonist himself, moping over a breakup with his recent girlfriend.

The story within a story is completely absurd, amusing and far-fetched. The regular old story is about as prosaic as you can get and still be readable. Our hero mopes, attempts a few forlorn phone calls and walks around his house being reminded of his ex, who is meanwhile asleep and dreaming across town. Likers of Brautigan will like this, people who hate Brautigan will hate this too. It’s a quick read and not at all as disjointed as I am making it sound.< P>

Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Dating and Sex

You know, my worst case scenario for dating and sex have more to do with getting pregnant or having some stalker try to force his way into my house than it does having to politely or not so politely excuse myself from a bad date.

I thought this series was cute when it explained how to escape from quicksand, or a marauding alligator. My reading of it was accompanied with a lot of eye-rolling and “that would never happen” discussions. This book is just bad. Worst case scenarios in this case include how to cheat on your lover and how to tell if your lover is cheating on you. How to deal with bad breath, how to fake an orgasm etc. The fake-y wilderness guide format does nothing to mask the fact that worst case scenarios are often fought with more emotional landmines than logistical landmines. If you have a heart of stone and just need to learn how to go through the motions, maybe this would help you, or interest you. I just felt sad after reading it, and not at all amused


Part graphic novel and part journalism, this collection of Sacco’s series of comics about his trips to the occupied territories throughout the early nineties is just as relevant today as it was a decade ago and that thought alone shoudl be chilling.

Sacco decides early on that he wants to document the abuses that the Palestineans suffer at the hands of the Israeli government and settlers and winds up getting shuttled from horrific scene to horrific scene by the natives who are very anxious to tell their story to someone who appears to be even somewhat on their side

The stories of abuse and injustice are accompanied by Sacco’s capitivating and complex illustrations and explanations of his own internal dialogue as he wanders from war zone to war zone trying to make sense of an insane situation.

The Man Who Ate Everything

Steingarten is a man who loves food, loves to research food, eat food and cook food. Luckily for him, he is also the food editor of Vogue magazine where he can indulge his food fetishes lavishly and often. This book is a collection of essays about all sorts of food. Foods he has tried to prepare, foods he has tried to eat, food myths he has tried to debunk, food dentiations he has gone to.

The introduction to this book is Steingarten explaining the irrationality of what he calls “food phobias” by which he means the extreme like or dislike of particular foods or types of foods [note to Steingarten, get a dictionary]. After spending a lot of time huffing and puffing about picky eaters, vegetarians and health food eaters, he then goes on to write the rest of the book which can be called nothing else if not partial.

It would be horribly annoying if it weren’t, mostly, so amusing. The parts I like less were when Steingarten veered off into the areas of health and gastronomy. You see, Steingarten is a big fat man who does not like being told that certain food are bad for him. As a result, he spends inordinate amounts of time disproving, or attempting to disprove many food-based health tips such as salt being bad for your blood pressure, or fat being bad for your heart. Steingarten is not only no doctor, he is also obviously looking for an excuse to load up with more butter, salt, lard and horse fat [you heard me] so while I enjoyed his cooking tips, travel journals and general food enthusiasm, I think I’ll leave the medical science to someone else.

A Librarian is to Read

Found this hidden on a shelf with the other books about libraries. Vogel used to be a Seattle Public librarian and her collection of short essays about libraries, library school and the job of being a librarian, will ring true to anyone who reads.

Vogel covers such topics as “sex in the library” and “god in the library” with humor and a certain level of respect for even the craziest of patrons. It is clear that she loves her job, despite griping about low pay and low status. I am sorry I didn’t get a chance to check out a book or two when she was working at SPL.

Doomsday Book

This book was worth the wait. I had brought it on a long plane ride, determined to save it for the ride back. At some point in the trip, I lost it, the ride back was spent reading my backup book gnashing my teeth the whole time.

This is one of her time travel novels, involving some of the same characters as her others. In this one, a girl is sent back to the 1300s at about the same time as a weird epidemic outbreak in London. She nearly gets lost in the shuffle and gets trapped in -- bleah! -- an outbreak of the plague. You have to admire the spunk of a writer like Willis who can make interesting reading out of the death of a high percentage of characters and have you read with rapt attention as buboes are lanced and infections run rampant. The history lesson alone makes it worth reading.