Archive

How to Be Alone

How to Be Alone

author: Jonathan Franzen

name: Steev

average rating: 3.60

book published: 2002

rating: 5

read at: 2013/10/20

date added: 2013/10/21

shelves: spirit-self, own-it, art

review:
A variety of essays from the mid-90s up through 2002, some of these are kind of too outdated to be of very much use, but others are timeless, and of those many ring eerily and still painfully true even though Franzen was talking about an earlier, less extreme version of an issue we're still facing today (the plight of the publishing industry, the dismal state of literature and reading, the polarization of politics, to name a few). All in all these non-fiction pieces create a picture of a writer and a person who is just as skilled as in his fiction with depicting a personality afflicted with depression, anger, conflicting and contradictory feelings, sadness and grief, and frustration with current trends and establishments. In other words, this book not only teaches how to be alone, but also shows me that I'm not, in that I share a lot of the above with him and the interior of my head as I think about those things looks a lot like the picture he's painted of himself. And this is one of the best functions of literature, whether fiction or non, that anyone could hope for.

Stand Up to the IRS

Stand Up to the IRS

author: Frederick W. Daily

name: Steev

average rating: 3.20

book published: 1992

rating: 4

read at: 2011/04/01

date added: 2013/11/02

shelves:

review:
I'm as done with this as I think I'll get. Not the kind of thing to read cover-to-cover, it's a practical manual for a variety of situations. I used it to learn how to send an Offer In Compromise to the IRS upon deciding to stop being a war tax resister after 10 years. I'm still waiting to hear back from them, but this book definitely gave me a lot more confidence, although it also helped to talk to a good tax CPA.

Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It

Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back

author: Frank Schaeffer

name: Steev

average rating: 3.62

book published: 2007

rating: 4

read at: 2013/11/09

date added: 2013/11/09

shelves: spirit-self, own-it, politics

review:

John Dies at the End (John Dies at the End, #1)

John Dies at the End (John Dies at the End, #1)

author: David Wong

name: Steev

average rating: 3.94

book published: 2007

rating: 5

read at: 2013/11/20

date added: 2013/11/22

shelves: fun, novels, own-it

review:
This is the kind of book I just don't want to put down. It's hilarious, a bit scary, profound, and profane. In the middle of fighting zombies and mutants and demons, the narrator throws around some great wisdom as well as some comedic slacker banality. It's brilliant, and once you pick it up and open it to the first page, you won't need me or anyone else to persuade you that it's worth reading. You'll just keep reading.

Eat the Document

Eat the Document

author: Dana Spiotta

name: Steev

average rating: 3.60

book published: 2006

rating: 5

read at: 2012/06/28

date added: 2013/12/03

shelves: novels, fun, politics

review:
This novel is really fun and enjoyable to read, but also quite moving and full of important questions of our time about society, rebellion, identity, commodification of subcultures, and more. I think Dana Spiotta should be considered right up there amongst the pantheon that includes such notables as Franzen, Lethem, Lipsyte, Foer, etc. You know, those dudes. Maybe it's because she's not a dude that she's not considered up there. At any rate every time I read something by those dudes, and many other dude novels, I don't really trust them when they try to portray female characters in first-person. So it's really nice to read something that sort of covers some of the same contemporary existential and emotional ground, from multiple female (and male) viewpoints, written by a female. Plus, the fact that this book is tackling very serious, relevant stuff about "radicalism" and social change makes it super compelling. If you're a progressive activist, or somebody that hangs around in anarchist bookstores and coffeehouses, or have ever lived in a commune, or are music-obsessed hipster, this might be something you'd really like. Or it might really disturb you and piss you off, depending on how seriously you take yourself.

Bright Shiny Morning

Bright Shiny Morning

author: James Frey

name: Steev

average rating: 3.80

book published: 2008

rating: 5

read at: 2013/12/04

date added: 2013/12/05

shelves: novels, fun, own-it

review:
This book proves that Frey was not a flash-in-the-pan with "A Million Little Pieces." Here he takes the same intense and emotional style turned to focus on the city of Los Angeles and a variety of fictional but very realistic inhabitants. I kept wanting the various little story threads to somehow intersect, which is one thing that drives the book forward. The structure is a neverending alternation between various historical and statistical factoids about the city and various characters, mostly newly arriving in the city and trying to set up a life for themselves. Some of the characters Frey keeps coming back to and building a plot, others you only see once and then never again. It's a bit dizzying and sometimes frustrating but ultimately forms an experience that is gripping and wise. It makes me glad I moved away from L.A. as soon as I did, although the book also makes me kind of want to move there.

Shaking the Money Tree: How to Get Grants and Donations for Film and Video

Shaking the Money Tree: How to Get Grants and Donations for Film and Video

author: Morrie Warshawski

name: Steev

average rating: 3.43

book published: 1994

rating: 4

read at: 2009/04/03

date added: 2013/12/13

shelves: filmmaking

review:
I sort of skimmed this, I must admit, since I'm trying to quickly raise just A LITTLE more money so I can finish a film. A lot of the book is about organizing your filmmaking career in the process of trying to raise funds for a new socially-conscious film. I'm actually toward the end of making a documentary, and just need a few grand to finish editing.

In fact, if you want to help support the film, which is about war and taxes, please see http://deathandtaxes.detritus.net

Little Brother

Little Brother

author: Cory Doctorow

name: Steev

average rating: 3.94

book published: 2008

rating: 4

read at: 2013/12/24

date added: 2013/12/25

shelves: fun, novels, own-it, politics

review:
This is not great literature, but it is great inspirational storytelling for kids who might be geeks or are leaning toward becoming geeks, interested in computers, hacking, cryptography, and civil liberties. Basically the book is a piece of not-so-subtle propaganda - a word I use simply as description, not as value judgement. Doctorow is trying to spread and instill a way of thinking about politics, the "War on Terror," the Security State, and related issues. He does so with writing that is pretty basic, though it is competent storytelling that kept me turning the pages and wondering what would happen. There was a lot of (to me) over-obvious, breaking-the-fourth-wall explanation, mostly of stuff I already knew, on topics ranging from ciphers to DNS to San Francisco Mission District burritos. Some of that was fun to recognize and skim over, while other instances of that made me wonder if young readers would get bored or angry with such bald instructional passages and just set the book down. The potential problem is that when you cross over the line from political literature into expository how-to manual thinly disguised as fiction, you run a risk, and you also waste an opportunity to make truly great art. I could argue that David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest" occupies the other end of the spectrum, in that it covers a lot of the same ground, politically, that "Little Brother" does, but it does so while also being an amazing work of avant-garde literature that is at many times formally brilliant and challenging, something that "Little Brother" definitely never is. But of course I would be clueless and stupid to think that the average 14-year-old computer nerd might get the same kind of call-to-arms buzz from DFW's mammoth opus as from Doctorow's book, or even finish it. I just think that some middle ground might be the better way to go, because any kid smart and dorky enough to care about jamming arphids or installing linux on Xboxes will most likely also be smart enough to smell literary hamfistedness and benefit from the pleasure of reading a piece of writing that is not just good, but great. Doctorow's book is good-not-great writing, but it is admittedly very good popular education.

Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way

Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way

author: Jon Krakauer

name: Steev

average rating: 3.66

book published: 2011

rating: 5

read at: 2013/12/27

date added: 2013/12/27

shelves: crime, own-it

review:
Krakauer is always a good muckraker. In this slim volume he turns his skills to bear on someone who he once trusted, Greg Mortenson, whose charity organization Krakauer had donated lots of money too, only to start doubting Mortenson's work and honesty. My cynical, pessimist side wishes there were a book like this for every feel-good heartwarming pop-memoir of miraculous altruism and supposed world-changing vision, because I'm sure way more of this goes on all the time than we ever see or suspect. This book just methodically rips to shreds all the smoke and mirrors that Mortenson employed over years of pretending to do good. It's pretty satisfying, though saddening too.

Dictionary of the Khazars (Male Edition)

Dictionary of the Khazars (Male Edition)

author: Milorad Pavić

name: Steev

average rating: 4.16

book published: 1983

rating: 5

read at: 1998/01/01

date added: 2013/12/27

shelves: politics, fun

review:
I forget if I read the male or female version. Anyway, it was incredible, easily one of the most innovative and fascinating works of fiction i've ever read.