Archive - Dec 2017

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Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety

Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety

author: Daniel B. Smith

name: Steev

average rating: 3.22

book published: 2012

rating: 4

read at: 2015/11/21

date added: 2015/11/21

shelves: spirit-self, own-it, memoir

review:

[SIC]

[SIC]

author: Davis Schneiderman

name: Steev

average rating: 3.83

book published: 2013

rating: 5

read at: 2013/12/20

date added: 2015/12/20

shelves: art, fun, novels

review:
My high rating for this book is for its high concept, and I'm biased since it's a concept (appropriation, plagiarism, recycled culture, there are many terms one could use) that I've been involved with, both in my own artistic practice and as a subject of study and documentation.
[full disclosure: Another source of bias is that a review copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher]

With this slim volume, Schneiderman pushes at an envelope of that concept of artistic appropriation. In it, he reprints excerpts from across the history of literature and philosophy, making the book feel a bit like a freshman Western Civ course or somesuch. However, his twist, his "value add" as they say, is that for each pre-existing work, he changes the byline to his own. It's an open act of "piracy" or, if you're more generous, "creative borrowing," but also an exercise in artistic curation.

The author of the forward mentions that Schneiderman told him that it's not necessary to actually read the book, because of its conceptual nature, and this is true. There's literally nothing new. It's enough to be paging through it and pondering why he may have chosen each selection, enjoying the cognitive buzz of seeing a different author name slapped onto each masterpiece. It's an avant-garde work in the truest sense, because this book is about showing other artists where the extremes are, not actually providing a cultural product for "civilians" to consume. That will come later, when someone else synthesizes Schneiderman's one-liner, perhaps with some related ideas from David Shields' "Reality Hunger" and some hard-won storytelling skills, to write a novel or memoir that is a tapestry of source material but that still somehow entertains and inspires, in a deeper, more personal and more complicated way than this art world gesture. Until then, we have this stepping stone to admire.

A Big Enough Lie: A Novel

A Big Enough Lie: A Novel

author: Eric Bennett

name: Steev

average rating: 3.52

book published: 2015

rating: 5

read at: 2015/09/15

date added: 2015/12/20

shelves: novels, art, fun, memoir, own-it, politics

review:
One of the best new novels I've read in a long time. Of course this is due to my interests, one of which is art that blends, or is about the blending of, truth and fiction. This is a novel about a writer who writes a fake memoir as a desperate attempt to have his writing get at something truly real. The book alternates chapters between the fake memoir and the "real" story of how the writer gets from being a shy sheltered kid in rural Florida to appearing on an Oprah Winfrey-like TV show with his best-selling "fraudulent" book. On the way, Bennett explores and expounds on many important themes, like the nature of modern warfare, the fraudulent and media-driven Iraq War in particular, the pretensions and hubris of creative writing MFA programs, the pain heartbreak and obsessive, unrequited love... the list goes on. In a way I think this book is our era's version of Heller's Catch-22. Satirical, funny, dark, smart and complicated but full of compelling story lines that pull you along.

I wonder what David Shields, author of "Reality Hunger," would think of this book? At first I thought it was the perfect realization of some of his ideas. But then I realized maybe not as much so, because it is in the end fiction, perhaps even wholly fiction (although I do wonder how much of John Townley is Eric Bennett). Shields would probably love it if someone really DID do what is depicted in "A Big Enough Lie," wrote and sold a memoir that's really novel. Like "A Million Little Pieces" if James Frey had intentionally written it as memoir (a lot of people don't know it was his publisher that had the idea of marketing it as non-fiction).

In the end though, a great and perfectly apt novel for our age.

DMZ, Vol. 2: Body of a Journalist

DMZ, Vol. 2: Body of a Journalist

author: Brian Wood

name: Steev

average rating: 4.02

book published: 2007

rating: 4

read at: 2016/01/07

date added: 2016/01/31

shelves: own-it

review:

My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind

My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind

author: Scott Stossel

name: Steev

average rating: 3.82

book published: 2013

rating: 5

read at: 2016/03/11

date added: 2016/03/11

shelves: memoir, own-it, spirit-self

review:
Very thought provoking. Resonates with my experience. And well written!

The Baffler No. 29

The Baffler No. 29

author: John Summers

name: Steev

average rating: 4.14

book published:

rating: 5

read at:

date added: 2016/04/18

shelves: politics, own-it

review:

The Baffler, No. 30: Panic! Room

The Baffler, No. 30: Panic! Room

author: John Summers

name: Steev

average rating: 4.18

book published: 2016

rating: 5

read at: 2016/05/15

date added: 2016/05/16

shelves: politics, fun, own-it

review:

Vamped

Vamped

author: David Sosnowski

name: Steev

average rating: 3.91

book published: 2004

rating: 4

read at: 2016/06/11

date added: 2016/06/11

shelves: fun, novels, own-it

review:
This is a funny book. A fascinating book, a piece of science-fantasy with a classic "what if" that is expertly followed through on: What if vampires existed, and they managed to turn basically everyone on the planet into vampires? What would happen? How would civilization go on, and what would it look like? And how many comedic situations would ensue?

It's not extremely literary or complicated or deep. It is a beautiful little story about relationships and parenting and parental love, chosen family, loss, and nostalgia. It's a book that I would think would appeal mostly to vampire fans. In addition to than that demographic, it probably would have done quite well marketed as young adult fiction. It's a very clean, PG-13 book - although it refers to a lot of ultra-violence and super hot and bloody erotic vamp-sex, everything is at a distance, like the old romances where the lovers tumble into bed and then the scene fades to black. The humor, the double entendres, are at time a tad bit too clever and too frequent, but it's that kind of book. (I guess someone categorizing it in a literary way would call it a farce?)

Full disclosure: I am/was a vampire fan; not an obsessive one, but I used to devour Lestat novels pretty ravenously. Also, I knew David Sosnowski years (like almost 25 years!) ago, back when he only wrote poetry and would show up at the Ann Arbor Poetry Slam and pretty much kick almost everyone else's ass. Then he started writing novels. He's a great guy and a great writer and I'm psyched to read this.

(Note: I'd love to read more of this kind of thing that gets even more deep into the possible science of how vampirism could work. Like what's the exact biochemistry of the process? How can blood be enough to sustain them? etc etc... )

Redshirts

Redshirts

author: John Scalzi

name: Steev

average rating: 3.82

book published: 2012

rating: 4

read at: 2016/08/04

date added: 2016/08/04

shelves: fun, novels, own-it

review:
A worthwhile read, if you're a science-fiction fan with the ability to laugh at the cliches of the genre. This is not great literature, but it was never billed as such. It's a light satire of sci-fi television, but it also gets a little bit heavy and touching during the 3rd act.

The writing quality is a little hit-or-miss. Scalzi is clearly proficient, but the dialog is often straight out of the playbook for bad situation comedies, the kind where every character can't let anything be said without some dumb comeback. Despite this, I found the concepts and the emotional content to be compelling enough to keep me going.

What We See When We Read

What We See When We Read

author: Peter Mendelsund

name: Steev

average rating: 3.69

book published: 2014

rating: 5

read at: 2016/10/01

date added: 2016/10/12

shelves: art, fun, to-re-read, wishlist, spirit-self

review:
When I first saw this book I thought, maybe this guy is the new John Berger. He may not be the new Berger, but this book may almost be the new Ways of Seeing. He isn't quite as radical or subversive as Berger, but the book definitely blows my mind in a similar way, about the way we look at things, the way we read things, the way writers make things that we read, and the odd, secret ways our eyes and brains work.

Really really good. and a ridiculously fast read, as it is mostly pictures, diagrams, and large print.