Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Book Review - House of Holes

I recently finished Nicholson Baker's new novel House of Holes (2011). The novel is subtitled "a book of raunch", and that it was. I am a fan of Baker overall, and it doesn't hurt that he attended my alma mater, but this is without a doubt the most worthless piece of drivel I have read in a very long time. Other Baker novels have had a strong sexual flavor to them, and are very explicit in places. I have nothing against that as a general rule, and would by no means consider myself a prude. But this is 262 pages of self-indulgent literary masturbation with no redeeming qualities that I could discern. It was uncomfortably like listening in on someone else's waking wet dreams. If you want to read porn, read real porn. Or if you want to go up-scale, read real "erotica". Just don't read this.


1.5 stars out of 5. Well written for what it was I suppose, but lacking in plot, characters or anything else you would typically expect out of a novel.

Books read in 2011: 4 (totaling 954 pages)
Published in 2011: 3 (including this)
New authors: still 1
Classics: none

Next up... something better. But then again, anything would be better.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Life is Short

I haven't been posting much at all recently, because I honestly haven't much felt like it. But an odd thing happened today. I watched a man die. I am not much of a racing fan, but my good friend Anthony is, and we were invited over to his house for dinner tonight. When we arrived, he was watching the Indy car race at Las Vegas with his father in law. It was the last race of the season, and apparently a formality, as the year end title had already been decided.

One moment everybody was zooming along at 200+ miles per hour, and then one guy got bumped and started to slide sideways. Then cars started banging into each other, and some began to spin. Then one car ramped up over another and got airborne. Then there was more crashing and banging, and sparks and flames, and another car got airborne and began to tumble in midair. And there were cars hitting the wall and high up on the fence, and more flames. And little pieces and big pieces of cars everywhere. And smoke. And more flames.

When all was said and done, 15 cars had been involved, and three drivers were in route to the hospital. One by helicopter and two by ambulance. After a delay of well over an hour, they announced that Dan Wheldon, aged 33, husband and father of two young boys, had died of "unsurvivable injuries". As I said, I don't follow racing, so I don't know anything about this man. But one minute, he was at the top of the world doing what he loved to do. And a little while later, he was dead. Purely by chance and as a result of an accident that had little if anything to do with his own driving. Sobering to say the least.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Book Review - Train Dreams

This has been a very lean year for fiction reading for me. I have read probably as much as usual, but it has been primarily history, magazines, and wargaming materials. For my first new fiction book since the summer, I recently picked up Denis Johnson's novella Train Dreams (2011, but published in a magazine in different format in 2002), and devoured it within a couple of days. I liked Johnson's The Name of the World very much, and Nobody Move was a fun "noir" read.

This short, spare book is the story of a man living in the open spaces of the Pacific Northwest in the early 1900's. He spends some time working on the railroad but loses his way when his wife and baby daughter perish in a forest fire that consumes their homestead. For the rest of his life, Robert Grainier carves out a solitary existence, haunted by the loss of his family. This is a touching and heartfelt little book, well worth the brief evening or two it would take to get through its 116 pages.

3.5 stars out of 5. A solid read, but nothing remarkable.

Books read in 2011: 3 (totaling 692 pages).
Published in 2011: 2 (including this)
New authors: still 1.
Classics: none

The other book I picked up at Barnes and Noble on the same trip as this will be reviewed shortly...