Thursday, December 31, 2009

Too Much Money. Too Much Repetition. Book 6

Do audio books count? I am going with yes. It seems that the dog can neither drive nor read so I had to break down, spend the cheese, and buy an audio book. I have never felt so 80 years old in my life. Except this morning, but that was probably the hangover. Actually, I bought two, but Amazon was unable to deliver the goods in time for my trip. Naturally, the one that I really didn't want was the one that arrived on time.

Good ol' Dominick Dunne. How could I go wrong? Snark and high society for 9.5 hours of the 11.5 I had to kill in the car. Let me just start by saying I was under the impression that unabridged meant complete, not repetitious. I guess I was wrong. So the hook is this, Gus Baily is being sued for slander. He repeated a tidbit of gossip on a radio show that turned out to be false. This story was spread and he is not on the hook for $11M. Gus is a thinly disguised Dominick. Though I can't remember for what he was being sued, but it was something. Anyway Gus gets contracted to write a novel about the death of Konstantin Zacharias. A thinly veiled Edmond Saffra. Konstantin's wife is none too pleased and wishes for the whole thing to go away. Other insanely wealthy characters come and go, surely disguised real insanely wealthy people whom I am not aware of as HSV AL is not very close to the upper east side and the only 0s in my check book are in the tens column. So I knew in my brain that there had to be some type of a plot and I kept listening and listening to find one, but alas, none was to be found. Gus fades in and out of chapters and becomes progressively more whiny and also comes out of the closet. Wait, was Dominick Dunne gay? No matter this is a gossip novel. Names of fancy items are repeated and repeated. Turnbull and Asser, one must really have their suits and ties and shirts handmade there. Smythson of Bond Street Stationers, forget the Moleskine you common white trash! If you are lucky enough to own your own jet you are the shit and you will make many friends. Lasting and true relationships I am certain. All maids are thieves. Old single rich ladies have Walkers. Shit you not, when the Brooke Astor character shows up at a luncheon with her Walker Winkie Williams I thought that she had named the apparatus that aided in her mobility. Not so much. Old rich ladies have Gays to squire them around. Huh. I will have to impart this knowledge on my friend Kevin. Then there is the sex. Let me tell you, I am a teen aged boy at heart. The reading aloud of dirty words by some woman who is trying to be dead serious in various accents slayed me. At one point an insanely wealthy man has a stroke with his penis *giggle giggle she said penis* out in the bathroom. The sentence went something like, "his penis began to urniate all over." So does that mean that the penis is really the brains of the operation? Or is it it's own separate entity? That explains quite a few things. When the mention of rimming came about I nearly lost control of the car. As for the repetition. Every single time a person was mentioned their background was given. After 5 hours I was reciting, with the reader, the back story on each person. Horrid. Simply horrid. It was literally too much. As for the resolution of the nonplot, I have no idea. I do not know if the lawsuit was dropped, if the book got written, if the secrets all came out. It is just a blur. So, long and short of it, fine for the beach. Fine for the car. Not offensive, but not worth the $22 either.

Merry Freaking Christmas Book 5

Every year when I lived in Iowa, KWWL would air A Christmas Carol at midnight on Christmas Eve. The good one. The one with Alastair Sim. Having long since moved I have the movie on DVD and make it a ritual of watching it as I drift off to sleep every December 24th. Except for this one. UGH!!! I drove to FL and FORGOT MY FAVORITE XMAS MOVIE. Well, one of my favorites. So there I was, Alastair Simless and the 24th was drawing nigh. What was I to do but reread the original. Which turned out to be a wonderful idea. It has been several years since I read this and I truly forgot what a masterful tales Dickens was able to create. Some of my favorite quotes from early on in the book:

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. (Cracked me up)

The fog came pouring in at every chink and keyhole, and was so dense without, that although the court was of the narrowest, the houses opposite were mere phantoms. (The fact that words can be put together to come up with such vivid imagery amazes me, or maybe I am just remembering the movie, how tacky would that be? I like think it is the words)

“What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in ‘im through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work my will,” Scrooge said indignantly, “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly thorough his heart. He should!” (My feelings precisely)

There is no sense in a synopsis, we all know the story. But I will stop to say this, I have been for the past two years trying to cancel Christmas. It has yet to work. I can not stand the urging by the television to get out and SPEND YOUR MONEY NOW, the expectations by certain family members that I WILL be buying them a gift because they purchased one for me (um, it is better to give that to DEMAND to receive), and the basic well, gluttony, of it all. This book reminded me that Christmas is supposed to be about (minus the Bible stuff) being with your family and friends, being thankful for what you have and being kind to others. That is what I want for Christmas next year. A goose, some figgy pudding, some booze, and good friends and family. And with that, Merry late Christmas, and Happy Early New Year.

PS, Read some Dickens. Any Dickens. The words are wonderful. And the humor sneaks up on you.

Homer and Langley: A Novel

Seriously, I am the worst blogger ever. I do not resolve as a New Years Resolution to be more consistent, I resolve to be more consistent because I agreed to do this and I will not let down all of my faithful followers. All 2 of you.

Anyway, Homer and Langley: A Novel. Book 4. One would really think that I would have gotten the fact that this was not an autobiography based upon the title alone, but I missed it. In fact the fact that the author was E.L Doctrow and not one Homer Collyer should have tipped me off much sooner than the last third of the book. Seriously, I can be so utterly clueless at times it amazes me. I came across this in People Magazine. Yes, People Magazine. What can I say, I don’t watch 2 and Half Men? Does that help? I digress.

This novel is historical fiction based upon the lives of two rather infamous brothers who lived in a brownstone on 5th Avenue through 1947. They lived shunning regular society and it’s rules and restrictions and were both found dead surrounded by masses junk and garbage. As it turns out, they were high society hoarders. Or, as this book is written, the Forest Gumps of hoarding.

It starts with Homer stating that he is the blind brother how his blindness came about. It then goes on to introduce Homer’s brother Langley and how interconnected they have always been. Homer is left alone with his well to do parents when Langley goes off to fight in WWI. Their parents die from influenza and Langley returns a different man having suffered lung damage owing to Mustard Gas (I think, I read this like 2 months ago). They live with “the help” in the large brownstone on 5th avenue. Langley slowly becomes more and more disenchanted with society and begins “collecting” things that may be useful at some time. He also devises a plan to write a universal newspaper that will be timeless thus the need for only one edition. He begins collecting all newspapers to study the articles and categorize them based upon their content. While this is happening, time is marching on and the brothers spend time in the roaring 20s in speakeasies with gangsters and their molls. The depression hits and Langley becomes more manic with his collecting and stingier with his money. At one point a Model T is rebuilt in the dining room of the brownstone much to the chagrin on the cook. Speaking of which, the cook’s nephew arrives from New Orleans with his trumpet, or trombone, or something, and introduces Homer, a piano player, to the jazz age. The brothers and the cook’s nephew begin throwing afternoon teas and charging their high class neighbors to come by and dance to the band and have a glass of sherry. The cook’s nephew goes off to fight with the Tuskegee Airmen (I think) in WWII and dies. The 50s pass and the 60s roll by with the brothers inviting random hippies into their completely packed brownstone to crash. They smoke pot they become a tourist stop due to the squalor of their once grand building. Time passes and the junk and rats multiply and eventually Homer grows tired and wonders why his brother hasn’t been around in a few days. Ugh. The ending was total cheese. By this point, I had surmised that this was FICTION (dumbass, seriously) and thought that ending could have been not better per se, but different. But for one sentence – the end – I really did enjoy this book. Though it is VERY Forest Gumpian the author’s reasoning behind some of Langley’s obsessions seems plausible, the book is well written and engaging. The following paragraph makes me want to know Langley personally. Which, to me, means the characters are very well crafted.

Pacing about and swearing his undying hatred for this electromonopoly, as he called it, he proceeded to mail back the letter with his grammatical corrections in a nice neat packet of several years’ of unpaid bills, altogether weighing, he claimed, a good quarter of a pound. Homer, he would later tell me, I felt privileged to pay the postage.

All in all, good book. Though the brothers died in 1947 as I learned in Wikipedia (we all know that means it is true and accurate) and many of the things that happened in the book are in direct conflict with the truth, it was still worth the Kindle download.

Happily I am not a Mulvaney. Book 3

Oh Oprah, how I hate thee. So how in the world did I end up reading this? The evil Kindle lured me in. It was on some list… OK, Oprah’s book club list. Yes, I went there. I will not be going back. Ever. Plus I have already read East of Eden and I didn’t need the queen of whatever to tell me to. Oooh, I am bitchy and I like to think book snobby. Which is really just rude, but at least I recognize that. So, We Were the Mulvaneys. I cannot even begin to relate how much I loathed this book. Everything about it. I had to fight to make it to the end. Oh, the end. That alone ratcheted up the ol’ hate o’meter by at least 50%.

So the synopsis. Part I, We are the Mulvaneys. Well off family, small town uh, New York State maybe, I don’t remember now. 3 sons, 1 daughter. Loving Mother and Father. Life on a beautiful farm, everyone is popular and does well in school. There are horses, dogs, cats, birds. It is freaking paradise. But there is something bad looming and it takes chapter after chapter after chapter of foreshadowing to finally get it out. I seriously felt like I was reading the script for General Hospital. SPIT IT OUT ALREADY. My God. On a positive note, the chapters jumped back and forth in time, back and forth from character to character and really made the narrative of this portion of the book interesting without being all timeline-y. Mind you, that is ALL that I have to say that is complimentary.

***IF you want to read this shittastick novel and want to be “surprised” stop reading this review here****

So the big build up keeps building and building and the reader totally knows what is going to happen, it is the author that drags it out to soap opera proportions. The sister is raped while out on prom night or a valentines dance whatever, not important. The dance that is. The rape sets the rest of the book into motion.

Part II and III and maybe even IV, there was for sure and Epilogue.

Soooo, the family totally falls apart because of the rape. The quiet science minded brother loses his shit and wants revenge, calling on the baby brother and narrator of the book to help him in his crime. The Father turns to the bottle, loses his business, is arrested several times, and eventually runs that family into bankruptcy and they are forced to sell the farm. The sister is exiled because of her choice not to press charges and because she was raped and no one can deal with that fact. She turns to some semi cult and then moves on as people begin to care about her. She becomes a bit of a drifter, afraid to set down roots and make deep connections (sorry to sound all “Bachelor” like). Oh, and she has this cat that she has had forever and eventually lands in some city where the cat becomes ill. So she has to take it to the vet which is on this big farm and eventually she has to put the cat to sleep. I mean the book is depressing as hell as it is, but was it really really necessary to include this? Horrible. I was a mess. The eldest brother also turns to the bottle and the whores then gets in a car accident, drunk, and paralyzes the chick he was going to propose to so he quits the family company and joins the Military. The Mom gets all Bibley and lives in total denial her family has gone to shit and is fucked up well beyond repair. The Father gets sick and dies from the drinking and smoking – that should serve as a warning to all of you ---.

In the background there is this business about Evolution vs Religion which I think was supposed to be “deep” and make the reader “think” and relate the “deep” thoughts to the larger story. That just pissed me off. Don’t be all, look how “deep” I am and look how “deep” my tragedy of a novel is. Just don’t. Plus, this is without a doubt the most dreary and depressing book ever. I wanted to scream, "go the shrink, deal with your fucking problems, stop sweeping everything under the rug." So the pages passed, my irritation grew and the book ended. Right on the same morose note of the post rape parts of the book. Fine, I was pleased with that. The family fell apart, here is the story of how this one act ruined a perfectly functional family. Great. Fair deal. Done.

Then, the Epilogue. Joyce Carol Oates jumped ahead 10, 20 years, maybe even 5. Whatever, the point is after untold pages of tragedy and misery everyone gets together for a happy family reunion on the Mother’s new farm. Seriously. All problems vanished, everyone is healthy and happy and prosperous. See, time heals all wonds! Look, the rape victim married the vet, look, the brother that was going to kill the rapist came home on a motorcycle with a girlfried, look the brother who was in the Military has a wife and a perfect family, look, the narrator is a wonderfully well adjusted newspaper man. Yea! Sunshine and roses! Happy Happy! The end. Are you FUCKING KIDDING ME? A zillion pages of untold misery and then a happy bow wrapped around a 15 page epilogue? Wow.

This book sucked it. Hard. I hated it. HATED. IT. I makes sense that Oprah loved it, it was “deep”, it made you “think”, it had that “spiritual” aspect to it, and everything worked out wonderfully in the end. I give it the finger.