Monday, April 22, 2013

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

I had a minor existential crisis after reading this book.  Of course, I have at least one existential crisis every week.  How can I not like a book with rave reviews?  Well, its because this book is just not right for me.  I should have known reading the book's description.  An atmospheric drama set in rural Mississippi....(oh no.) Two men who once called each other friends must confront the past they have buried for decades. (ugh.)  Now, I would have been on board with a book description like this:  Two men who once called each other friends must confront the past hidden dragon eggs they have buried for decades.

The existential crisis involved asking myself, "Am I a snob?" The answer is probably.  However, I will submit to you, gentle reader, that I loved that movie Winter's Bone. Those people were very poor, very rednecky and had enough Appalachian drama for three movies.  I think the difference was the protagonist was feisty and tough (and she looked super hot in an Oscar dress.)   

The characters in Crooked Letter are not as poor as in those in Winter's Bone, but they are kind of pathetic.  Everything is kind of sad.  The situations are sad, the people are sad and most importantly the food is sad.  Almost all works of fiction include some meals and/or snacking. It really sets a mood.  Here, Silas, the town cop, eats two greasy hot dogs he got from the diner which he carried around in a paper sack.  How is this even possible?  I did not think hot dogs were even portable!  How would the bag not be destroyed by the grease?  I do not know--but I refuse to google "two hot dogs in a sack"  because I'm very afraid of the results. 

Tom Franklin is a fine writer and I really wish him continued success.  I read this book because I wanted to participate in an online book club and this was their pick.  I should have remembered that I am insanely picky and weird.  I have never been what someone call "normal." I still submit that I am not a snob.  But "the lady doth protest too much methinks." Wait, that's fancy Shakespeare talk. I am getting too big for my britches. 

Drinks: Someone recently gave me a whole bottle of Jack Daniels and I didn't know what to do with it.  I asked my local expert and he recommended an Old Fashioned.
Here we go:  Dissolve a lump of sugar with a little water in a whiskey glass and add two dashes of Angostura bitters.  Then add a small piece of ice, a piece of lemon peel and one jigger of whiskey.  Mix with a bar spoon.  It was pretty good.  I can't help wondering, maybe fancier whiskey? Dammit! I am a snob. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

To the Lighthouse

This book is considered one of the 100 Best Books of all Time compiled by the Norwegian Book Club.  This only makes sense if there are 128 books in Norway.  Hating a classic like this makes you feel like a cretin.  I would like to think that using the word cretin somehow makes me less of a cretin but that logic falls dangerously close to the Don King Exquisite Vernacular School of Sounding Awesome.

Stream of consciousness books are hard to read.  Its like when  your really cool friend wants to tell you his dream. Yeah, I like you, but no.  I wasn't there, it didn't happen and the way you are telling me that a dragon trying to scorch you as you were flying with Scarlet Johansson is just not working for me. 

To the Lighthouse, written by Virginia Woolf, who notoriously killed herself in kind of a cool way, has no dragons.  None.  Sure she wrote with an innovative technique, sure she captured the interior thoughts of a very dysfunctional family, but it still sucks to read. 

If you must know, the book is about a well-known philosopher father who is a straight up narcissist and his beautiful, co-dependant, busybody narcissistic mother.  They have eight kids.  Now this is where the fiction begins, I grew up the youngest of seven, I NEVER got to read a book alone with my mother and my parents never had a conversation alone between the hours of six a.m. and eleven p.m..  My family's dialog was: Dad: "Whose shoes are these? Pick up these damn things!"  Mom: "Your Dad is pulling in the driveway, clear a path through those Legos so he doesn't trip."  No interior dialogs and no exchanges with triple meanings.

One thing that is interesting about this book is that even though we learn the innermost thoughts of the mother, probably over 100 pages of her mind, minutia, and neurosis, she is summarily killed by a simple parenthetical.  Yes, beware of the parenthetical, because in this book that is where people go to die. 
(Help! I'm being suffocated by this closed parenthetical; Give me a dangling participle as a rope!...glug...glug...glug...dead.) 

Drinks: The good news is that it is set in Scotland. So drink with Scotch.  I like single malt. This is like saying you like diamonds.  Glenlivet's Nadurra is delicious and I like Balvenie too.  There is a whole lot of other Scotch that people have given me to taste but the names sound similar and I get confused.  I know just enough to know that I would read a book called To the Speyside.   

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ready Player One

What if it turns out that all of those hours of playing Atari, watching 80's movies and playing D&D could save the world?  Your Mom yelled at you.  She said, "Get outside, without Vitamin D absorption you'll get rickets!"  You said, "Just one more game!"  Well, the debilitating rickets is finally paying off because the more geeky 80's knowledge you have, the more you will love this book.  I loved it, therefore the logical conclusion is that I must be a geek, at least on some level.  I'm sure you are all shocked.

Ready Player One is set in 2044. Yes, things look a little bleak for most of us then, but we have an online virtual reality presence called OASIS. Kind of like Real Life meets the World of Warcraft.  The original creator dies and leaves his vast fortune to whomever can find all of the Easter Eggs in the program which are based on 80's trivia.  If you were born between 1968 and 1980 you will especially love this book.  Or, you were born outside those years but immediately know the difference between Asteroids and Defender, you'll be fine.  If you do not know what I am referencing when I mention D&D, you may want to pick up The Help, people say they like it.

Is this well written?  Not particularly, but who cares.  Earnest Cline is a true fanboy grown up.  In fact he wrote a screenplay called Fanboys.  Write what you know.  I do want to put a word of caution about 80's nostalgia, I think its always good to keep in mind that decade had its share of problems too.  For every Duran Duran there was a Milli Vanilli.  Sure Miami Vice was cool but Small Wonder was a sack of poop.  And for some reason I never saw Manimal but that seems like something I would have liked.

It would seem natural to enjoy this with a drink popular in the 80's.  Why, oh why, were they so sweet?  Did Sex on the Beach go well with cocaine?  I drank wine coolers which were not any better.  Yep, totally underage.  I think all the boys wanted to know which would win, my Catholic school knowledge of St. Francis or Saints Bartles & James.  Both involved genuflecting a lot.  I just worshiped B&J when tying to step off curbs for some reason.

If you want to op out of the B-52's and the Mudslides, keep in mind that this book is set in the future.  So you could make a futuristic cocktail of your own creation.  I think it should be a natural extension of current drink trends.  Maybe bacon-infused spirits from rye mash served in a slightly charred corn cob.