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The Last Magazine: A Novel
The Last Magazine: A Novel
by Michael Hastings
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.08
60 used & new from $13.50

11 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Subversive, imaginative romp--Best book I've read all year, June 17, 2014
I blurbed this book, so I'll start with that, then expand:

That voice. That witty, subversive voice we thought we'd lost, is back for one last romp. Hastings decodes the culture even more incisively in fiction, with wild bursts of imaginative mischief. So damn funny.

Too salesy? I hope not. So much to pack in there, and especially, I wanted to convey the giddiness I felt snickering my way through.

I could hardly believe it. I missed Mike desperately, and there was everything I loved about him, everything that made him so special, the one living journalist I most looked up to, captured vividly on the page.

So there's my disclaimer: Mike was a friend. Stop there if you think I'm too biased. But it affected me deeply as a writer, and as someone working in a version of the same field, frequently appalled and furious at the profession.

As I've raved about the book pre-publication, I've found myself confessing that it's hard to be objective, but that's not actually true: My writer friends and I exchange work all the time, and they shudder at my critiques. I'm harsh and demanding, especially from those I respect most, and to be honest, I was terrified to read this: What if Mike couldn't pull off fiction? What if it wasn't his best work?

I never dreamed that it would literally be his best work. In my opinion, it is. If you thought you loved his voice in nonfiction, when he was still constrained by the form, wait to you hear him unshackled and unfettered in fiction. Kind of glorious to behold.

God, I wish he'd plunged into fiction deeper, sooner.

This book is described as a satire of the media, and at least 2/3 of it is, brilliantly, but it's so much more. One by one, he takes us deep inside so many cultural institutions, and shows us how absurdly they operate: war, media, even a hilarious bit on the airlines that had me howling and nodding. (pp. 29-31. That's when I knew that I was unabashedly in love with this book. Try that if you're looking for an excerpt. Search the phrase, "A.E. Peoria sits in first class..."

Every page I was nodding, because Mike had this incredible cultural x-ray sort of capacity to see right through the fog of cultural wars, take us readers right past all that, into the inside to see how it operates: who is pulling the levers and why.

The scary part for me, as a writer, was 1/3 of the way through, I set the book down, and had a serious argument with myself about whether I had to stop reading. The war sections were covering the same ground as my next book, and I was starting to feel panicky that I couldn't match it. (That debilitating intimidation has happened to me exactly twice before: reading "In Cold Blood" while writing "Columbine," and rereading "All Quiet On The Western Front" while working on my soldiers' book. And now "The Last Magazine." Pretty lofty company.)

That was my actual experience reading this--so I'm pretty sure I was feeling more than just admiration for a friend. (FYI, the war receded as a primary focus as the novel progressed, but I didn't know that at the time. And for the record, I got over the intimidation each time. But it messed with me.)

This novel is a mischievous and cutting satire, and boy does Mike lay the media bare. You may think you've seen that before, because Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have been masterfully eviscerating it nightly. But those guys are skewering the media from the outside. They've got TVs lined up in the writers' rooms watching CNN and Fox and MSNBC like the rest of us. They can and do tell us HOW the media is screwing it up, but if you want to understand WHY all that perplexing sewage keeps spilling out, you need an insider. Mike lived it. Mike inhabited that self-perpetuating bulls*** machinery. And here he's laying it bare.

People assume it's all about ratings, but that doesn't explain the half of it. Forget the show's ratings, or the magazine sales, it's about PERSONAL stature. It's about opportunism, cowardice, personality branding. All of that comes to life in this book. It's about clever use of a question mark. I don't want to go any further without a spoiler, but there is an amazing use of a question mark in a crucial headline in this book that reveals so much about how a news organization can shamelessly, selfishly beat the drum for and against the same war.

Mike had an amazing eye for the telling detail, and a keen bulls***-detector.

So if you were offended by my use of f-word up there, it's no longer there, because Amazon wouldn't allow it in a review of a book using it repeatedly. Hahaha. But if you had been, this book might not be for you. It is not polite. Sometimes ruthless, even savage, but always dead-on. Mike illustrates a pitch-perfect ear for voice and dialogue and It's all rendered beautifully, through the eyes of (mostly) young men, who are not mincing words, or acting delicately.
There are a handful of pretty wild, graphic sexcapades, which for me, beautifully colored the life of these characters--and while avoiding spoilers, a certain juxtaposition of war, porn and news is deftly handled and revealing about all three, as well as the young men engaging in them.

If that's going to offend you, be prepared to skip a few pages, or skip this book. It's pretty damn gonzo. If you hate gonzo, you know who you are. If you hated Denis Johnson's "Jesus' Son," don't even consider this.

The book is not flawless. I could live without some of the interludes, the Thai sex scene went on too long, and I would have loved more introspection in the last 30 pages (Part VII), which were too plot-focused for my taste. In time, I think it will be viewed as an imperfect gem.

"Jesus' Son" is my favorite novel written in my time, and I kept recalling it as I read: in the brutal honesty and vivid insights each book captured about its characters. Also, I was reminded of "A Visit from the Goon Squad" (which I'm still reading, and LOVING), for the same reason, particularly the feeling and intensity of youngish artists (writers, musicians, whatever), and perhaps particularly in NYC at this moment in time. The tormented inner lives of the "fictional" Hastings and especially the A.E. Peoria he was projecting himself growing into--Peoria's fears, aspirations, his shaky identity as a magazine writer and the tenuous nature of making both your living and your hopeful contribution by typing s*** on a screen ... These characters were so powerful and so real, it felt like someone had been listening in to all the conversations in my head.

That was unsettling for me. The passage on p. 240, when "Hastings" (the first-person narrator) says about Peoria, "Yes, the career had been his life...his id, his ego, and his soul. He didn't know it at the time. ... He just took pills and got drunk and ..." And then he made one mistake...
God, it sounded like Mike had been listening into the arguments in my head. But he wrote it before he met me. Is this what all writers feel? All artists? Just certain kinds? I had no idea Mike was so haunted by the myth of Icarus, leaping out at him from among all the Greek myths, just as it did for me. For you? I actually hope to hear from other writers and artists about their reactions. (Perhaps in the comments?)

For me, personally, this was as much a portrait of two earnest but ambitious young artists trying to make a lasting impact on the world--and how that can run horribly astray.

It's a brilliant take-down of the media, too, for sure, but don't miss the richer personal story a quarter inch beneath the surface. This is an Icarus tale.

It's consistently witty and insightful and it's immediately so there. Just a stunning piece of work. Best book I've read all year.

Smooth Style Eyeglass Case for Medium to Large Frames (Black, Brown) (Black)
Smooth Style Eyeglass Case for Medium to Large Frames (Black, Brown) (Black)
Offered by Warm Ups Bandless Ear Muffs
Price: $9.99

1.0 out of 5 stars Lasted a month--fell apart in several different ways, May 6, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I liked it a lot, for most of the reasons stated in the reviews. And it was cheap enough that I took a chance on it falling apart as many reviews predicted.

The lining popped free of the case on one side within 1-2 weeks. Then both sides came free, though it's still connected in the middle. The hinge started cracking and not closing properly within about 3 weeks.

It's been five weeks now, and the two sides don't match up when I close it, and there's a 1/4-1/2 gap where it doesn't close. It's still hanging together enough for emergencies, while I order a different brand.

If it had one defect, I'd think maybe I just got a lemon. But to fall apart in so many ways...clearly, bad product.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning book, February 12, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I made the mistake of watching the film first. It was quite extraordinary, though it's very faithful (since the author wrote and directed it), and has taken all the suspense out of the book.

And yet I'm loving it anyway, which is quite the feat.

The writing is beautiful, vivid and above all candid, moving and insightful. The voice is perfect.

I've heard this described as Young Adult. What a stupid, pointless label. I'm sure it DOES appeal to lots of young adults, and that's fine, but it's just as powerful for adults. (I'm 51, and I was this age once.)

Truly a work of art. Thank you Stephen Chbosky. I can't wait to dig into the rest of your work.

Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America
Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America
by Nathaniel Frank
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $10.38
29 used & new from $1.85

5.0 out of 5 stars The essential book on gays in the military, November 27, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The best book on this subject. Essential reading. Really well researched, and a good read, too. Every library should have a copy.

Intex Pillow Rest Queen Airbed with Built-in Electric Pump
Intex Pillow Rest Queen Airbed with Built-in Electric Pump
Price: $46.99
17 used & new from $40.47

3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but much less comfy than Intex's more deluxe model, November 27, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Mostly good bed. I got it to replace their more deluxe model (which stands about 18 inches taller), because the old one sprang a leak after two years, and because it was so damn bulky and heavy, it was a pain in the ass to fold up and store every time someone came to visit. (I use it as a guest bed to convert my home office to a guest room. It is PERFECT for that.)

This one is a much more manageable size/weight, but you pay a price in comfort. All the same visitors who loved the old one confessed that they had a bit of trouble sleeping on this one. (They are good friends, and told the truth when I pressed them.) It lacks some of the spring, and the more mattressy layer.

My solution was to lay a 1-inch memory foam topper on it, and they love it that way. But that means two things to store and set up each time. (I keep the topper on/inside the foldout sofa.) It works, but lots of steps and room for storage--what I wanted to avoid.

Fox in Socks (Beginner Books)
Fox in Socks (Beginner Books)
by Dr. Seuss
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $5.08
632 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Spoiler alert: Flip ahead to the tweedle beatles, November 27, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is my absolute favorite Seuss. I LOVE the twiddle beatles. (Though hmmmmm, maybe I should go check the spelling.) :)

No Title Available

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I keep buying more, November 27, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I love these. Great for the gym these days, now that we're wearing them longer again. :)

And versatile, because I can wear them with jeans, too.

Good quality, feel good.

And while I normally prefer few to no logos on my clothes, I make an exception here. It's nice to have the Nike logo so that it's clear I intended the black sox at the gym, and I'm not my dad, wearing my dress sox. hahahaha.

The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes (A Calvin And Hobbes Treasury)
The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes (A Calvin And Hobbes Treasury)
by Bill Watterson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.73
443 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars I got 2, November 27, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Amazing stuff. I bought two, so that I could slice out a few pages to put up on my wall. :)

BSN N.O.-XPLODE 2.0 - Fruit Punch, 2.48 lb (50 Servings)
BSN N.O.-XPLODE 2.0 - Fruit Punch, 2.48 lb (50 Servings)
Price: $35.99
20 used & new from $34.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Great workout energy; great results, November 27, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I've been using this for years, and makes a huge difference for my workout. Over time, I find I have much better results gaining muscle when I'm using this.

I've tried Jack'd and several others, and they were pretty good, too, but this is my favorite that I keep coming back to.

Kohler K-4648-0 Stonewood Round, Closed-Front Toilet Seat, White
Kohler K-4648-0 Stonewood Round, Closed-Front Toilet Seat, White
Price: $13.96
9 used & new from $10.35

4.0 out of 5 stars Really perked up my bathroom, November 27, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Man, for $13, this really improved the look of my bathroom. I had no idea how dingy looking the old one was until I saw the change.

Great price, looks, fits great. (Be sure to note the other reviews, and the dimensions, and make sure this is the size/shape you need.)

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