Five-Star Reads from 2013

In 2013, I read a lot of books. Among these books, only a handful received from me a five-star rating on Goodreads.

Here is a list of five books that compelled five stars from me in 2013, complete with little snippets of the books’ prose.

—————

FALCONER
by John Cheever

“You are not the most beautiful woman I have ever known, but four of the great beauties I have known died by their own hand and while this does not mean that all the great beauties I have known have killed themselves, four is a number to consider. I may be trying to explain the fact that while your beauty is not great, it is very practical. You have no nostalgia. I think nostalgia a primary female characteristic and you have it not at all. You have a marked lack of sentimental profoundness, but you have a brightness, a quality of light, that I have never seen equaled. Everyone knows this, everyone sees this, everyone responds. I can’t imagine this being eclipsed. Your physical coordination in athletics can be very depressing.”

THE BONE PEOPLE
by Keri Hulme

“And here I am, balanced on the saltstained rim, watching minute navyblue fringes, gill-fingers of tubeworms, fan the water…put the shadow of a finger near them, and they flick outasight. Eyes in your lungs…neat. The three-fin blenny swirls by…tena koe, fish. A small bunch of scarlet and gold anemones furl and unfurl their arms, graceful petals, slow and lethal…tickle tickle, and they turn into uninteresting lumps of brownish jelly…haven’t made sea-anemone soup for a while, whaddabout it? Not today, Josephine…at the bottom, in a bank of brown bulbous weed, a hermit crab is rustling a shell. Poking at it, sure it’s empty? Ditheringly unsure…but now, nervously hunched over his soft slug of belly, he extricates himself from his old hutch and speeds deftly into the new…at least, that’s where you thought you were going, e mate?…hoowee, there really is no place like home, even when it’s grown a couple of sizes too small…”

HAM ON RYE
by Charles Bukowski

“It was like grammar school all over again. Gathered around me were the weak instead of the strong, the ugly instead of the beautiful, the losers instead of the winners. It looked like it was my destiny to travel in their company through life. That didn’t bother me so much as the fact that I seemed irresistible to these dull idiot fellows. I was like a turd that drew flies instead of like a flower that butterflies and bees desired. I wanted to live alone, I felt best being alone, cleaner, yet I was not clever enough to rid myself of them. Maybe they were my masters: fathers in another form. In any event, it was hard to have them hanging around while I was eating my bologna sandwiches.”

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE
by Anthony Burgess

“Oh it was gorgeousness and gorgeosity made flesh. The trombones crunched redgold under my bed, and behind my gulliver the trumpets three-wise silverflamed, and there by the door the timps rolling through my guts and out again crunched like candy thunder. Oh, it was wonder of wonders. And then, a bird of like rarest spun heavenmetal, or like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship, gravity all nonsense now, came the violin solo above all the other strings, and those strings were like a cage of silk round my bed. Then flute and oboe bored, like worms of like platinum, into the thick thick toffee gold and silver. I was in such bliss, my brothers.”

PORTNOY’S COMPLAINT
by Philip Roth

“Christ, in the face of my defiance–if my father had only been my mother! and my mother my father! But what a mix-up of the sexes in our house! Who should by rights be advancing on me, retreating–and who should be retreating, advancing! Who should be scolding, collapsing in helplessness, enfeebled totally by a tender heart! And who should be collapsing, instead scolding, correcting, reproving, criticizing, faultfinding without end! Filling the patriarchal vacuum! Oh, thank God! thank God! at least he had the cock and the balls! Pregnable (putting it mildly) as his masculinity was in this world of goyim with golden hair and silver tongues, between his legs (God bless my father!) he was constructed like a man of consequence, two big healthy balls such as a king would be proud to put on display, and a shlong of magisterial length and girth. And they were his: yes, of this I am absolutely certain, they hung down off of, they were connected on to, they could not be taken away from, him!

—————

So, there you have it–the books I loved in 2013.

Got any good books from 2013 you want to quote? Did you read one or more of my beloved five? By all means, leave a comment!

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Published in: on January 14, 2014 at 11:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Smartphone Film

Lately,

this short film

has been getting a lot of social media circulation, often followed by people gasping at the thought.

 

What gets me about the film isn’t the film itself, but the way people are reacting to it. People are reacting as if the film is eye-opening. They call it haunting, as if they never realized the world could be this way.

 

As someone who does not, and will not, own a smartphone, I can tell you that this is exactly what it’s like to live in this world without one. In fact, it’s been this way for a few years now. This is nothing new. This is not poignant. And it certainly is not an exaggeration.

 

What’s worse is that, if you try politely, or teasingly, to ask someone to put away their smartphone, you will get a bunch of shit for it. You’ll be treated like a grammar nazi, and either ridiculed, or ignored. Meanwhile, the fun, engaging board game that should take 30 minutes drags on the entire night and feels more like a chore. You’re not only missing out on life, you’re holding up the show.

 

I have come to accept this as yet another way people show their utter ingratitude for living to the world. I accepted it years ago. But I am blown away to see those same people only just now realizing it, probably because they saw a video on their smartphones.

Published in: on September 5, 2013 at 4:43 pm  Comments (1)  
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Praise Poorly Eked

Sorry, folks, but I’m going to have to write about Angelina Jolie. You have left me no choice.

I think I must be missing something, because I’m seeing a lot of chatter out there about Ms. Jolie’s alleged bravery, about her incredible courage. I’m seeing lengthy declarations of admiration all over peoples’ Facebook pages. And, somehow, the actress’s surgery has sparked a series of heated debates over women’s rights.

My question is: what’s with all the hubbub?

She has led a fabulous life. She has accomplished her dreams, and then some. She has risen to a level of stardom that seems to have staying power—in an industry that encourages its female talent to retire at age 23. Also, she can buy you.

So, to increase the odds of being able to enjoy this sensational and glamorous lifestyle for as long as humanly possible, she decided to cut off her tits. Because she might get cancer. Probably a good decision, given her genetic diagnosis; but, still… is it really, like, brave?

Look, I’m all for cheering on cancer survivors. They go through this stuff every day, and never look for an applause (in fact, a cancer survivor once told me that it is annoying when people go up to him and say, “You’re so brave.”) Cancer specialists, too. When was the last time you saw an article written by a cancer specialist provoke a bunch of righteous lauding on Twitter?

Will I be cheering on one of the wealthiest celebrities on the planet for going through preemptive surgery to reduce the risk of getting any cancer at all? Sorry, but that seems entirely unnecessary. She didn’t win a battle—she paid good money to avoid one. I’ll save my rah-rah-rah’s for people who never get to hear it.

The Canary Press

My short story, “Hold the Pickles”, is appearing in the debut issue of The Canary Press (and they paid me real money for it)!

http://thecanarypress.com/latest-issue/

If you scroll down a bit, you’ll see a drawing inspired by the story.

Hooray!

Published in: on May 6, 2013 at 12:48 pm  Comments (4)  
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