My Literary Girlfriend

January 26, 2010

I can’t say enough good things about Patricia Highsmith. I doubt that we would have got on as friends – her apparent bipolar personality combined with an abiding alcoholism would have made that difficult. But her beautiful mastery of both words and plot earn her a portrait in my mental Hall of Fame. I just finished Ripley’s Game, the penultimate story in her five tales about the laconic sociopath, and I was blown away by her ability to coldly document a family man’s slide into a part-time job as a mob assassin. Ripley is Dexter before there was a Dexter. Check out the WW Norton reprints of this series; they have really nice covers.

P.S. You can get them at BMV. I bought mine for $2.99.

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My 2008-09 Faves

September 16, 2009

Okay, so I keep a log of everything I read each year. For 2008-2009, I read exactly 113 books. Here are some of my favourites from the past year:

  • Howard Zinn – A People’s History of the American Empire – graphic non-fiction – He doesn’t “blow my mind” like Good Will Hunting suggested, but he does find new ways to present history in two ways: graphically, of course, and “from below.”
  • Jim Thompson – The Alcoholics, South of Heaven, The Killer Inside Me, etc – crime fiction – he’s gotten more popular over the years, especially after a series of movie adaptations starting with the Grifters. All in all, his first-person voice is note-perfect whether he writing the psychopath, the thief or the alcoholic.
  • Michael Lewis – Moneyball – sport journalism – I’m a tad jealous of this writer because he’s so darn successful, but you can’t deny his wonderful style. Even if you dislike baseball and all corporate cultures, you will find this story of a perpetual underdog competing cleverly with bigger opponents to be an engaging read.
  • Joan Didion – Miami – I don’t always follow her tangents, dut Didion’s clear writing is a joy and wonder to follow from page to page. Her sketches of the Cuban community provide more insight than you might find otherwise on television or in print.
  • Cory Doctorow – Content – internet journalism – this guy is on the cutting edge of the creative commons, etc. His dissection of the futility of digital rights management and “ownership” in the digital age is food for thought.
  • Howard Brenton/David Hare – Pravda – play – I love British drama and I love satire, especially when it turns its attention to the modern media. Great read for a gloomy afternoon!
  • The Bill McKibben Reader – environmental journalism – I was pleasantly surprised with McKibben’s mix of environmental activism and sincere spirituality. It’s a great introduction to his work and far more enjoyable than, say, clunky Paul Hawken.
  • John Steinbeck – The Long Valley and The Grapes of Wrath – fiction – I came back to Steinbeck after a long break and his work holds up over time. In the short story collection, “The Red Pony” will tug at your heart as strongly as “Old Yeller.” The novel will probably make you want to join the communist party.
  • Jock and Andy Diggle – The Losers – graphic novels – this re-vamp of the WWII team is updated for the post-9/11 age. I disliked the conclusion, but the story is a welcome break from the general stupidity of mainstream superhero comics. Note: a film version of this series should be completed next year, directed by Peter Berg and co-starring Idris Elba. It’s going to be great!

Whew! Now, I’m going to have to read through my backlog for 2009-2010. I’ll try to be more regular in my reviews. Smaller is easier than bigger to manage.


Hard Case Crime – Cheap & Easy!

May 15, 2009

It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure, but I love the Hard Case Crime series. You can’t get crime fiction cheaper outside of your local used bookshop. I just finished of two of these in a matter of days. The Last Quarry by Max Collins is reminiscent of Mickey Spillaine, plus it includes a sexy librarian character (to me, irresistible.) If you want crime fiction for women, check out Money Shot by Christa Faust. The lead character might qualify as a “third-wave feminist” since she is a porn actress out for revenge. Decide for yourself.