Category Archives: Commentary

What’s Next?

Over the holidays, reading Byron in Love confirmed that I shouldn’t pick my own books.  It was highly recommended in a review I can’t find now.  All the ones Google pulls up confirm my assessment that it’s deeply unbalanced, providing way too little of Byron’s literary merits or even the non-sexual components of his relationships to flesh out the catalog of sexual perversity.

Santa, on the other hand, enabled me in my favorite rut, stuffing Edvard Radzinsky’s The Rasputin File in my stocking.  Odd reading on a Belizean beach, but deeply satisfying and it provides an intriguing reinterpretation of Rasputin’s murder.  The only thing I would have added would be more photos and reproductions of contemporary photos and news stories, since the contemporary publicity of Rasputin’s exploits was a significant factor in undermining the Russian people’s faith in their rulers and helped open them to the idea of Communist revolution.

Yesterday, I finished The Collector on the way to work, but everyone on the N Train was on a Blackberry or PSP, so it wasn’t until the ride home I was able to find a new book.  The first person I sat next to was a woman about my age with a huge book spread open on her knees.  I sighed a bit, since the long ones slow down my posting schedule, but a glance at the top of the page showed it to be Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth!  Saved, I turned to The New Yorker (highly recommend last week’s review of a book arguing van Gogh didn’t cut off his own ear) and forgot to look for a new book until I’d switched to the R in Brooklyn, where a scruffy guy had a bright yellow book in hand.  It turned out to be The Watchmen graphic novel, with the bleeding smiley cover obviating the need to see the title.  The Writer happens to own the original printing of the comics in book form (as well as the original comics, but I wouldn’t dream of touching those), so for once, no need to wait on the NYPL.


Latest Book

The latest book is The Collector by John Fowles.  When I first spotted it on the R Train platform Monday morning, I was concerned that all I had was “The Collector” and a butterfly on the cover.  I figured, that’s probably a pretty common title and who knew if the butterfly thing would help.  This morning, I spotted The 19th Wife and figured I had it in reserve, but Amazon is awesome with all the cover shots of all the different editions and the correct book turned up second in a search for “the collector”.  No idea what it’s about, but hope it shows up before I head off for my holiday travels.

Love on the Subway

Caught this on the platform at Atlantic/Pacific yesterday:

sugar mama

Apparently Craigslist wasn’t working for her.  I like that she’s the literary type – and it looks like she might have a couple interested fellows.  The notice was gone today, so I hope this wasn’t the only one she had, unless she’s adament that he be headed southward on the evening commute.

New Books

Last night, started reading Flawed Dogs by Berkeley Breathed (his first novel) on the way home from work.  I hated it (review coming next week) and about 50 pages in, started looking around for something else to read.  The N train is usually slim pickings, whereas more than half the people on the R usually have a book in hand, but I spotted Can’t Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain and America across the car.  I’ve put a hold on it at the library and, until it arrives, I’ll be sticking to The New Yorker.


Tell me I’m not the only one – you sometimes miss your stop when you’re reading something good, right?

Tonight, I read the first 50 or so pages of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, then looked up to find myself about 20 blocks past my usual stop.  I read a few more pages on the local platform headed back the right way, then thought about the book the whole way home – it’s striking a chord with me on several levels that I can’t wait to write about.

Of course, it’s not the first time a book has made me miss a stop, though usually it’s from laughing too hard, like the day, on my way to Bleecker Bar to meet a friend for a few rounds of pool, I found myself in Brooklyn – thanks Yarn Harlot! (I think it was Knitting Rules!)

So what’s done it for you?

Vacation Reading

One of the things I love about vacation spots, especially condos, is the collection of used books, mostly paperbacks, that builds up over time.  The selection here is appropriately eclectic or even bizarre, though it can’t necessarily all be blamed on prior visitors – there’s a sign saying some of the books were purchased from the local Humane Society (your joke here).  Still, I can’t imagine any buyer on behalf of the resort choosing “One Heartbeat Away: Your Journey into Eternity”, which promises to tell me what the afterlife will be like “in a logical, interesting and straightforward manner”.  I was disappointed to find it appears to be just standard evangelical Christian literature – lots of anecdotes and Bible quotes, a little evolution bashing.  I was hoping for something more out-there.

Mixed in with the Stephen King and James Patterson are the requisite handful of romance novels, and a volume entitled “Everything You Pretend to Know and Are Afraid Someone Will Ask”.  This last one had promise – I’m a big fan of the Imponderables series (“Do Penguins Have Knees?” was an early gift to the Writer) and Schott’s Miscellany – but it’s somewhat dated.  The focus on financial terms (“what’s the Fed?” “what’s a cartel?”) feels very 80s, though the book was published in 1996.  Even if I didn’t deal with finance a fair amount at work, the last couple years has educated all of us quite a bit about discount windows and movements in the prime rate.

Most disappointing, however, is that there’s no local guidebook or fish identification guide.  We left our Caribbean Reef ID book home in New York, so we’re relying on folks on the boats and the Internet to figure out some of the odd stuff (the lettuce leaf sea slug looks exactly like you’d expect, but what’s the kinda camo little fish with red dots? my best guess is a red-spotted hawkfish).

I’d like to make a contribution to the place, but Tipperary is a library book and Brightness Falls is on loan from the Writer, so neither is mine to give.  I only brought two books, and have read little of either, because I can only handle so much input in a day.  Diving is sensory overload so a lot of my “surface intervals” are spent napping, catching up on some blogs or making little trips around the island.  Hope to see the blue iguanas on this visit.

No subway, no review

I’m currently on an island with no subway, but I am spending plenty of time below the surface – I’m on a diving vacation in the Cayman Islands all week!

No review today, but I do hope to post a little piece in the next few days about the odd amalgam of used books that builds up in rental condos.