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Ham On Rye
Ham On Rye
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $9.43

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant. Funny. And a modern recommendation to go with it., March 16, 2011
This review is from: Ham On Rye (Kindle Edition)
As an Angelino, there's a part of me that has always returned to Charles Bukowski(and "Ham on Rye" in particular) when I needed a much needed lift from the occasional overload of this megalopolis. Bukowski offers me a way to view my city and my world to some extent, through the prism of another no less difficult but perhaps more intriguing time that perhaps still exists somewhere right here within the confines of my own L.A. To make ruminating on these matters even better? How about if just for a little while I view it through the masterful, epic, sarcastic and humorous skew which I used to think belonged solely to Charles Bukowski? That's a little bit of heaven right there.

Sometimes you'll hear people call something "authentic Bukowski" or "the real Bukowski" which means that we who already "get it" know what it is we're defining without necessarily laying down that definition. It's an irreverence, a humor darkly, a sharp wit, an acute eye....the list is long and each reviewer would necessarily add his or her own pieces to that puzzle. I'm hitting this book with 5 stars and there's more than enough reviewing in here to tell you why - it's sad, it's hilarious, it's "authentic Bukowski." To be indoctrinated into that understanding you need go no further than to hit the "BUY" button.

So yes, 5 stars and "BUY." Also since I review a lot and the Bukowski audience is a special one into which there is quite literally no new material flowing I have a recommendation. I read, recently reviewed and loved the novel "The Nimrod" by Mark Kelliher. If Bukowski and Vonnegut got together in heaven and collaborated on a work, "The Nimrod" would almost certainly be that book. So there's my two for one review of similar works. Check them BOTH out. You won't be disappointed.The Nimrod

A Dirty Job: A Novel
A Dirty Job: A Novel
by Christopher Moore
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.08
228 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars My Lucky Week, November 5, 2010
This review is from: A Dirty Job: A Novel (Paperback)
I've been having a really lucky couple of weeks downloading interesting books to my Kindle. Maybe it's because it's autumn, but I seem to be on a domino tour of comedic writers - which is pretty good since we have all this depressing economic news. Plus with all those attack ads on TV during this recent election "season of the witch" it's small wonder I sought comfort from those who can make us smile.

I segued first into a Carl Hiaasen's "Star Island", then Peter Farrelly's "Comedy Writer, then found a gem of a new title called "The Nimrod" by Mark Kelliher and now for my final review of this smile inducing cycle, "A Dirty Job" by Christopher Moore.

I guess I meant to say "season of the witch" after all. And not just because we recently had Halloween. If I were to say that you're going to laugh your backside off at a story in which a man is followed through the streets of San Francisco via sewers by monsters (and you never heard of Christopher Moore) it's pretty unlikely you'd agree. Couple that with the premise that a man is going to inadvertently discover he's The Grim Reaper and me I see hilarity ahead.

Like all Moore's work, there's a heart-felt and dare I say sad side to this tale of a central character who knows loss and now is asked to create it. I somewhat wished that it were lighter, perhaps because as I mentioned I was reading other authors who were unabashedly laying the pedal to the comedic metal and pretty much dispensing with the whole dark-side-of-comedy thing. That said, Moore is a brilliant writer and as a result his darker hue in this story is well taken.

I still give it 5 Stars, but wonder if this is the first book I'd recommend to someone new to Moore's work.If you walk away with the feeling that it was all a little much, try one of Moore's other titles before you formulate a complete opinion. He's good stuff.

The Comedy Writer
The Comedy Writer
by Peter Farrelly
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.23
121 used & new from $0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Storyteller, November 4, 2010
This review is from: The Comedy Writer (Paperback)
Okay I may be completely out on a limb here,but I have for a LONG time been waiting to see a Farrelly Brothers movie that isn't a comedy. Sound crazy? Well maybe it is, and I agree that if you reduce a Farrelly movie down to it's memorable moments (bodily fluids as hair gel, anyone?) you can point a finger and say that these two brothers are leading the charge into oblivion.

But another reviewer here said it and I'll echo that as well - every single Farrelly story has at it's heart exactly that: namely a story and a heart. And this novel is a hint at the possibility that one day Peter Farrelly will forsake the "brand" and get serious with the story-craft. It's evidenced here that he can, that he has and that in the future he might on the silver screen.

There's more than enough specific reviewing here about the novel, but I just wanted to say that I think this is well worth a read and you may actually walk away with a renewed appreciation of all things Farrelly.

Star Island
Star Island
by Carl Hiaasen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.53
389 used & new from $0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Too Funny!, November 4, 2010
This review is from: Star Island (Hardcover)
I've always been a fan of Carl Hiassen but like anything, you can wander away for a while and come back later and see what's he's been up to lately. I specifically went after this book over the summer because I heard that he was directing his satirical eye on the current explosion in pop culture of pointless starlets with big issues, lots of troubles and few redeeming qualities.

Carl doesn't disappoint in this one because to tell you the truth, if you make a character like Cherry Pye (who is CLEARLY Lindsay Lohan by another name) and give her so many issues that just being ambulatory is a success, then you have to figure this is going to be funny! And it IS! In a way I always feel like Carl makes it just a bit harder to connect with otherwise plausible characters by making them just a tad TOO unbelievable (a man with a weed-whacker prosthesis?) but in this too, his unique world-view overcomes it. I laughed out loud more than a few times at this trip through the world of paparazzi, stardom, rehab and redemption. Of course it's a warped sort of redemption and not the Dr. Phil variety but if I wanted that sort of false-earnest shmaltz then I'd know full well where to get it. Namely on afternoon TV.

This is a great send up of the times we live in with more than a little condemnation of these times mixed in and all with a chuckle, wink and a smile. Nice work! And well worth the read!

A Delusion Of Satan
A Delusion Of Satan
by Frances Hill
Edition: Paperback
55 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Other Side of Halloween, November 4, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: A Delusion Of Satan (Paperback)
I first came across "A Delusion of Satan" about five years ago when I was reading several books that covered early American life. For example I read a few books on the Pilgrims, the Mayflower and books that covered the very early, what we'd probably call pre-colonial period of the 1600's. This however, was a bit of a revelation.

Like most people who are at least vaguely familiar with history I had certainly heard of the Salem Witch Trials. But there's been such a distillation of this actual historical event that we truly have no idea what we're really talking about when we talk about Salem. Perhaps nowhere is this better evidenced than in popular culture where Samantha on "Bewitched" is from Salem, Sabrina:The Teenage Witch has a cat named Salem, Halloween celebrations in the actual Salem,MA are the largest in the world. It's everywhere more or less and it says virtually nothing about the horror that this story tells with an unblinking eye.

There is something genuinely chilling in the way the Salem hysteria came to be, and if there isn't a cautionary tale in this somewhere I don't know where there is. The notion of a few "children" - mere teenagers from a village that isn't actually the town of Salem at all but the (at the time) hinterland hamlet of Salem Village (current Danvers) creating this much trouble is frightening. Far more frightening than anything in a scary mask or a sheet.The truth is the fits of hysteria that the girls fell into started with just one, and then two, and then three and so was, for a time, a potent spell to fall under. Just imagine the role of a woman in this Puritanical society. It was pretty repressive - you were a child for a time but even there they were repressed and eventually you'd take an even more rigid role in the community. So now imagine having everyone around you in thrall that you have been "bewitched" and as a result you can act out in ways you never could on your best day, you can accuse others of mischief and see them called before a court for it. You can literally sentence someone to DEATH over pure nonsense. Talk about a power trip! So make no mistake, the author informs us, this had EVERYTHING to do with the society in which these people lived, their deepest fears and repressions and more than anything the rabid religious beliefs they held which in very short order would make true monsters of them all. Those few who spoke out against this hysteria - call them people of common sense - soon found THEMSELVES accused. It was, for a very short window, a tragic season of the witch.

The author goes to great lengths to place us in that time and location and I feel does an excellent job of it. It is not just a dry read of known facts. Also too, the author steers mostly clear of condemnation of the participants when that seems a very easy thing to do. I rate this highly, I really do. You won't walk away with an intact vision of anything pop culture when you hear "Salem" again.

House of Sand and Fog (Oprah's Book Club)  (Vintage Contemporaries)
House of Sand and Fog (Oprah's Book Club) (Vintage Contemporaries)
by Andre Dubus III
Edition: Paperback
1308 used & new from $0.01

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Foggy Intrigues, April 21, 2001
It's probably fitting that I read most of this book coursing through the streets of Los Angeles in a Metro bus. I see characters like Colonel Behrani every day yet seldom if ever stop to think about the intrigues that may be going on in their lives. But a notion just like that one was enough to set Andre Dubus on his way with "The House of Sand and Fog" an intriguing novel from a writer who shows great promise.
Interestingly enough, in the early chapters I found that I didn't like the Behrani character at all. It wasn't until the story began to unfold that I realized that Dubus skillful writing had placed me in that frame of mind and that the whole sad affair was populated with people above reproach only because they are below contempt. Generally speaking a novel like that is a depressing affair at best, but there is something in the authors style that makes these truly pathetic individuals compelling. Call it voyeurism perhaps, but what was created here was a printed car wreck that you just can't look away from.
Its true that there is a telegraphed story line and some pretty loopy circumstances you have to accept to get to the end. But hey, if you buy the premise you buy the bit. None of the shortcomings of this book should deter a reader from giving it an honest read. Dubus' easy language and writing ability alone make this an interesting book. Hopefully in the future he'll take on something with more potential avenues of exploration in the storyline. That foggy house is just a little too small to hold an entire novel in.

Of Plymouth Plantation 1620 - 1647
Of Plymouth Plantation 1620 - 1647
by William Bradford
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.60
62 used & new from $2.86

106 of 108 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Adventure Tale, April 21, 2001
I came across this book quite by accident and didn't think it would be much of a read. Generally speaking I don't read histories and one from the early 1600's was a pretty daunting task - or so I thought. In fact, it was a great tale of adventure and faith and an extremely insightful and thought provoking book about how this country was started and what it must have looked like to those who arrived here some 350 years ago.I really did love this book.
Bradford is an engaging writer whose prose isn't hard to understand. In places his understatement about the death and hardship faced almost constantly is even amusing. Nothing of the kind of challenges that the Leyden pilgrims faced in Massachusetts will seem familiar to a modern reader. Just the same, the fact that it all happened is fascinating. One can almost imagine being there, looking over the decks of the Mayflower and facing all that December gray and wilderness and wondering what you were doing coming here. Told in first person it reads like an adventure as much as a history.
The pilgrims here are also quite human and not at all the diorama characters of a first graders Thanksgiving craft project. They face social challenges and the horrors of death and disease. Attacks by natives actually occured on occasion. The dream of a sort of providence is one that proves difficult in the real world. Bradford mourns the loss of these ideals and the people who imported them. There's something a little sad in his later passages, whether it be age or a truly lost paradise one never really knows. But what Bradford imagined as a sort of religious nirvana clearly doesn't pan out in the end. Nevertheless it is well worth the journey. I highly recommend a read of this American classic.

A Confederacy of Dunces
A Confederacy of Dunces
by John Kennedy Toole
Edition: Hardcover
252 used & new from $0.01

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bible of Comedy, February 25, 2001
"A Confederacy of Dunces" is not even questionably the greatest novel ever written in the realm of comedy. It's not an attempt at greatness, not a shingle thrown at the moon - it's the kind of thing that you read and have this tremendous pang. This sadness that you never get in a book - you know it has to end at some point and that's by far the worst realization. The only bad thing here is that it ends at all.
What JK Toole accomplished here is beyond reason. What's worse is that you read it and know the pain he had in not seeing it heralded in every bookstore in his lifetime. Toole's rash and sad decision to end his own life is the best argument against suicide I know of. This man was a genius beyond anything we have now. He lacked the faith and certainty of that. The result is that we were robbed of such a possible body of work that the world will never know. The only close comparison is that of Keats whose "name writ in water" was a tragedy to a literate generation of his time. As gigantic and lush as "Confederacy.." is you never put that aside.
That said, this is a Sheherazade of a tale. I suspect that Toole had no idea what he was planning for Ignatius, but that he wrote it as he found it. And what a formula. From the Big Chief tablets to the hot dog cart this is a book that has no equal. It sits in my bathroom rack of books and I just pick it up and read a page and laugh. It's THAT good. Every page is a mystery of writing skill, Toole's characters are vibrant and fully alive always, none resembling the other and they sing when they get going which is immediately.
Reading this means you will never be the same. "The Night of Joy" bar will be a place you want to get a drink, Constantinople a word you actually use. More than anything, you'll be lucky. There's not a thing like this book - nothing even close. Oddly I just read Jon Stewart's "Naked Pictures of Famous People" which was heralded on cover and by friends as "hilarious." Please. I don't know how he made a career.... Idiocy in the aught years is heralded as funny. Not likely.
Read this book and realize how we have since the late 1950's when this was written, devolved into a true "Confederacy of Dunces". The book means more today than it ever did.

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