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Just finished Chuck Klosterman's Eating the Dinosaur. Has anyone read Klosterman? I was intrigued but couldn't figure out if Klosterman's insights amounted to a hill of beans. That didn't stop me from plowing through the collected essays, however.

I'll read anything by Klosterman even as I roll my eyes at much of it. By random chance I was given a copy of Fargo Rock City in the summer of 2001, back when one could read his work on its own, without judging it as part of the work of A Famous Writer and Cultural Critic. I thought it was ok.

That said, Downtown Owl was among my favorite novels of 2008. Highly recommended.

I'm wrapping up David Shields' Reality Manifesto, which I want to discuss in the other thread about it. I don't have anything worth saying about the new DeLillo other than that I finished it and like it well enough. I loved Sam Lipsyte's The Ask.

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What's So Funny? by Donald Westlake

Sinners Welcome by Mary Karr

Just about to start The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Steig Larson (sp?), but am hesitant because I doubt I'll finish it before it's due back.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I read Three Cups of Tea and The Memory Keeper's Daughter in between hiking trips last week in AZ. Currently, I'm reading A Private History of Awe by Scott Russell Sanders and Forgotten God by Francis Chen.

I like to say that I practice militant mysticism. I'm really absolutely sure of some things that I don't quite know.~~Rob Bell April/09 CT

http://whythewritingworks.com

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To offset the heavy nature of the material in Trauma and Grace (which I gave it's own separate thread), I've also been reading the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels (a hoot), plus The Baseball Codes: Beanballs, Sign Stealing, and Bench-Clearing Brawls, by Jason Turbow and Michael Duca. I love great baseball tales and anecdotes, and thanks to dozens of interviews with players, managers, etc., this book is stuffed to the gills with them.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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To offset the heavy nature of the material in Trauma and Grace (which I gave it's own separate thread), I've also been reading the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels (a hoot), plus The Baseball Codes: Beanballs, Sign Stealing, and Bench-Clearing Brawls, by Jason Turbow and Michael Duca. I love great baseball tales and anecdotes, and thanks to dozens of interviews with players, managers, etc., this book is stuffed to the gills with them.

I am picking up both of these on your recommendation. Nothing better on a Saturday afternoon than a few dozen pages of good, solid baseball writing.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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Who knows if I'll actually read it, but today I'm picking up a copy James Hynes' Next, reviewed here:

This is a book that begins innocently and is careful not to tip its hand, even though there’s something very unusual at work. The title signals nothing. The cover art depicts an empty sky. Blurbs on the back allow four very different writers to skip the hosannas and cut to the chase. They find roundabout ways to say that “Next” took nerve to write, is much more potent than it may initially appear and has an ending that beggars description. That ending will not be given away here. ...

As “Next” carries Kevin into the mounting excitement of his footloose days, all throbbing music and hot, short-lived passion, it wields a visceral power not present in its early pages. The events of the day bring Kevin full to life at long last and put an end to his long, long phase of arrested development. Finally this book arrives at a resolution that makes breathtakingly perfect sense. And there are only two things to be said about its concluding page: The previously unexplained title becomes understandable. And Stella, who reads only the lightest chick-lit books and insists on vetting them by looking at their last pages first, could read this finale as a happily ever after.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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<i>The Wind-up Bird Chronicles</i>, by Haruki Murakami - I had not heard of this author until he was mentioned on Darren's blog (thanks, by the way). What a bizarre, hypnotic ride - the tale of a man and the surprising dissolution of his marriage, touching on our need for the supernatural and the disconnectedness of modern life. A fascinating read.

I'm reaching back a ways because I just picked up Murakami's After Hours and am liking it. I'm not sure why I like it. Precision of language, perhaps -- if that makes sense. The book has an economy of words, but isn't minimalist. Sharp dialogue, too.

I'm going to press ahead with it. I know nothing about the author. so this is my first taste. I have no idea where the story is going, or if I'll care when it gets there. I think it's one of those books where I'll just sit back and admire the writing.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I can't recall why now, but I couldn't really get into 'After Dark,' but Murakami's 'Wind-up Bird Chronicle' and 'Kafka on the Shore' remain two of my favorite contemporary works of fiction.

Just finished 'The Baseball Codes' - pleasant, light reading. Partway through 'Hicksville,' a mysterious, engrossing graphic novel out of New Zealand.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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Recently finished Joshua Ferris's The Unnamed, which was quite a read. The darker elements poking through his debut (Then We Came to the End) are on full display here; the protagonist suffers from a bizarre ailment that — suddenly, uncontrollably — makes him stop what he's doing and start walking, sometimes for days on end. There's no grand metaphor, just an oft-beautiful but bleak look on what disease does to marriages, families, your internal life. I really liked it, but boy was it hard to read. It did have one of (from what I can tell) the most realistic, faithful marriages I've seen on the page. And there's also a fairly detailed scene of the protagonist and his daughter watching lots of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which was fantastic.

Currently, I'm reading Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited. Though I found it hard to get into initially, I'm currently in love with it. The theme of Christian faith (specifically Catholicism) looming over Charlie, tugging at his sleeve throughout is lovely. And the writing is outstanding.

I also started James Ellroy's latest, Blood's a Rover. After a nearly eight-year absence from reading Ellroy, I was scared I'd hate him (since my tastes have changed dramatically). But I love it so far. It's as over-the-top as ever, but there's some different about it so far. I don't know what. Maybe something more humane, a sympathy for humans that maybe wasn't present before. I don't know.

Soon I'll also start Neal Stephenson's mammoth second volume in the Baroque Cycle, The Confusion. Will I finish it soon? No clue. I AM hoping to get it done by next month, before my bridge-to-be and I go on our honeymoon. I have a stash of quick reads ready:

Jim Butcher's Storm Front, the first book in his Dresden Files series. I've heard good things, and it being described as "Raymond Chandler meets Buffy" is music to my ears. Also in the pile: George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, Joe Hill's 20th Century Ghosts, China Mieville's The City & The City, and Cherie Priest's Boneshaker. Jenny and I will be in Montreal for over a week, and we do plan to get in some quality reading time, so...hopefully I can blaze through some of these!

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Jason: If you had to recommend a book for someone's first Ellroy, which would it be? I was listening to the audiobook of "White Jazz," which was wild and which I loved for about 15 minutes, until it started to lose me. I gave up halfway through disc 2, but I can't shake the feeling that I'm missing something. Maybe it just requires more concentration than listening-while-driving provides.

I should add that I have the audio of "The Black Dahlia" in the car, awaiting my completion of Murakani's "After Dark," but I don't know if that's the best book to go to next.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Jason: If you had to recommend a book for someone's first Ellroy, which would it be? I was listening to the audiobook of "White Jazz," which was wild and which I loved for about 15 minutes, until it started to lose me. I gave up halfway through disc 2, but I can't shake the feeling that I'm missing something. Maybe it just requires more concentration than listening-while-driving provides.

I should add that I have the audio of "The Black Dahlia" in the car, awaiting my completion of Murakani's "After Dark," but I don't know if that's the best book to go to next.

Well, here's a tip with Ellroy: don't try to follow every detail, or you'll be in a straitjacket within a few hours. His writing style shifted to the whole 'telescopic' style that he favors now with White Jazz, so Black Dahlia might be a good place to start. It's the first in his loose L.A. Quartet, too. I'd say his best novels are probably The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential and American Tabloid. He's dense, has thousands of characters, and his use of brutal slang is disorienting, but in the end I don't think you're supposed to get it, per se; just hang on and hope it's worth it.

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Jenny and I will be in Montreal for over a week, and we do plan to get in some quality reading time, so...hopefully I can blaze through some of these!

In Montreal for the honeymoon? And you're bringing all those books?

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In Montreal for the honeymoon? And you're bringing all those books?

Haha! Well, some of them. We know there's a LOT to do there (and it helps that Jenny speaks fluent French). But we are going to be there 10 days or so. I'm sure we'll want to read at least a little! :)

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Black Dahlia might be a good place to start. It's the first in his loose L.A. Quartet, too.

Listening to this book, I realize how strongly I responded to the visual presentation of it in De Palma's film. The milieu is pretty seedy, something that has bothered me in other De Palma films (Body Double) but which the film of The Black Dahlia managed to overcome. With just the text, I can't escape the seediness. The story is just ... gross, really. Not something that I respond to, although the writing is decent enough. Still, listening to this more straightforward telling of an Ellroy tale makes me want to go back to White Jazz.

For the record, I had pretty much the same reaction to L.A. Confidential -- the film (haven't read the book). While everyone raved about how stylish it was, I remember telling a friend, "It's just more hookers and corrupt cops." Probably not a fair characterization of the story, as film or novel, but I do sometimes get tired of stories like these. I wouldn't characterize Dahlia as typical, but some of the elements feel a little too familiar, in a bad way.

One more thing. I always pronounced "Dahlia" as "doll-ee-ya," but the narrator pronounces it so that the first syllable rhymes with "pal." I'm not sure which pronunciation is acceptable. Maybe both?

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Listening to this book, I realize how strongly I responded to the visual presentation of it in De Palma's film. The milieu is pretty seedy, something that has bothered me in other De Palma films (Body Double) but which the film of The Black Dahlia managed to overcome. With just the text, I can't escape the seediness. The story is just ... gross, really. Not something that I respond to, although the writing is decent enough. Still, listening to this more straightforward telling of an Ellroy tale makes me want to go back to White Jazz.

For the record, I had pretty much the same reaction to L.A. Confidential -- the film (haven't read the book). While everyone raved about how stylish it was, I remember telling a friend, "It's just more hookers and corrupt cops." Probably not a fair characterization of the story, as film or novel, but I do sometimes get tired of stories like these. I wouldn't characterize Dahlia as typical, but some of the elements feel a little too familiar, in a bad way.

One more thing. I always pronounced "Dahlia" as "doll-ee-ya," but the narrator pronounces it so that the first syllable rhymes with "pal." I'm not sure which pronunciation is acceptable. Maybe both?

Fair enough. I'm about halfway through Blood's a Rover and it reminded me of why I love and struggle with Ellroy. That said, I think it might be his best book.

And sure, it's 'just more hookers and corrupt cops,' but it's also not, and that elusive something is really coming out in Blood's.... These are fallen men (or outright bad men) doing bad things, but more often than not there's a little speck of light inside that wants to get out and fix things. If you can wade through the grossness, it's there. And the grossness is pretty thick; it gets more and more over the top with his books (I think White Jazz or The Cold Six Thousand might be at the top), but I realize it kind of fits the hyperbole that Ellroy shucks out regularly.

For what it's worth, I can't put Blood's a Rover down. While the various plot threads are all lumped together (in some way) in Ellroy's other books, everything is stitched together seamlessly so far. It's fascinating.

Oh, also — the book and film of L.A. Confidential are DRASTICALLY different. I like them both, but the script borrows the character names and some plot elements from the novel and goes on its own.

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One more thing. I always pronounced "Dahlia" as "doll-ee-ya," but the narrator pronounces it so that the first syllable rhymes with "pal." I'm not sure which pronunciation is acceptable. Maybe both?

Oh, and yeah — I used to pronounce it the former, but I've heard a lot of people (and Ellroy) pronounce it the latter. So I pronounce it "Dal-ee-ya" now.

And I have to say, I'm realizing that as much as I appreciate Ellroy, I know very few Christian brothers and sisters to whom that I could recommend his work.

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And I have to say, I'm realizing that as much as I appreciate Ellroy, I know very few Christian brothers and sisters to whom that I could recommend his work.

Hmmm. Well, I didn't want to press for a conclusion that Ellroy is inappropriate for Christian audiences, only that I find this particular work distasteful. It may very well be considered excellent in its genre, but if so, I'm not entirely on board with the rules of said genre. I understand humans can behave in ugly ways, but worry about any work of art that revels in such behavior. My sensitivities are such that I perceive that line to be crossed earlier than others might think.

I know what you're saying about the hints of grace and redemption. I wrote many months ago of my own struggles and surprise at my gravitation toward "gritty" cop literature, although in retrospect, the guys I've enjoyed reading are relatively tame. In the case of George Pelecanos, he's said that he deliberately tries to offer endings that allow for hopeful interpretations, rather than the ugly, downward spiral of other cop stories.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Hmmm. Well, I didn't want to press for a conclusion that Ellroy is inappropriate for Christian audiences, only that I find this particular work distasteful. It may very well be considered excellent in its genre, but if so, I'm not entirely on board with the rules of said genre. I understand humans can behave in ugly ways, but worry about any work of art that revels in such behavior. My sensitivities are such that I perceive that line to be crossed earlier than others might think.

I'm normally the same way; I'm at this point where I shirk away from gratuitous depictions of violence or hedonism (especially more so than when I was younger). So I understand where you're coming from. For some reason I've always stuck it out for Ellroy. I don't know why.

Also, regarding the 'rules' of neo-noir fiction, I think Ellroy is black sheep. Most other similar authors may be dark, but Ellroy is pitch black.

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