Book Review: Eating the Dinosaur

Eating the Dinosaur

Chuck Klosterman

Scribner

256 pages

Every once in awhile, I’m in the mood for a good dose of humor.  I don’t want anything too demanding–just a book that will give me a good laugh and won’t force me to be too involved.  In that respect, Eating the Dinosaur hit the spot for me.  Much like my first foray into Klosterman’s work Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, this is an expostulation on modern day ideas and entertainment.

While not quite as dynamic as his previously mentioned book, Dinosaur explores such topics as the popularity of Abba, the similarities between Kurt Cobain and David Karesh, and why Garth Brooks is no longer relevant.  I would say the back cover would give a better idea:

Q: What is this book about?

A: Well, that’s difficult to say. I haven’t read it yet – I’ve just clicked on it and casually glanced at this webpage. There clearly isn’t a plot. I’ve heard there’s a lot of stuff about time travel in this book, and quite a bit about violence and Garth Brooks and why Germans don’t laugh when they’re inside grocery stores. Ralph Nader and Ralph Sampson play significant roles. I think there are several pages about Rear Window and football and Mad Men and why Rivers Cuomo prefers having sex with Asian women. Supposedly there’s a chapter outlining all the things the Unabomber was right about, but perhaps I’m misinformed.

Q: Is there a larger theme?

A: Oh, something about reality. “What is reality,” maybe? No, that’s not it. Not exactly. I get the sense that most of the core questions dwell on the way media perception constructs a fake reality that ends up becoming more meaningful than whatever actually happened.

Q: Should I read this book?

A: Probably. Do you see a clear relationship between the Branch Davidian disaster and the recording of Nirvana’s In Utero? Does Barack Obama make you want to drink Pepsi? Does ABBA remind you of AC/DC? If so, you probably don’t need to read this book. You probably wrote this book. But I suspect everybody else will totally love it, except for the ones who absolutely hate it.

As always, Klosterman is great at expostulating on pop culture while also keeping it humerous.  There were some sections where I wasn’t privy to whatever he was referencing.  There were also times where the subject matter was just not something I care about.  Despite that, the entire book was interesting to me.  You could never have convinced me beforehand that I would have actually enjoyed a chapter that dealt only with football!  How Klosterman was able to pull that one off (I actually read the entire chapter and wasn’t even counting down the pages to the next chapter), I will never know.  I found out some fun stuff in the process.  For instance, there used to be no such thing as passing the football during a game, which made the game so dangerous that many football-related deaths occured every year around the turn of the twentieth century.

If you enjoyed Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, you should give Dinosaur a try.  I enjoyed the former a bit more, only because I was more connected and familiar with the references in that book.  Otherwise, Dinosaur was on point with its predecessor and involved quite a few laughs along the way!

Other Reviews:

None that I could find!

I borrowed this book from my local library.
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Sunday Salon

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Our Valentine’s Day is pretty low key.  We have Ally this weekend, so we are just planning on going out to dinner (at The Melting Pot–one of my favorites!) tomorrow night once she has gone home.

This was a pretty slow reading week for me in the sense that I only finished one book.  The Women, by TC Boyle, is pretty long and involved (about 450 pages) but definitely worth it.  It is the fictional retelling of the love life of Frank Lloyd Wright.  For those of you that have read Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan, this is very similar but it also goes into the two marriages Frank has following the death of Mamah Cheney.  I have about thirty pages left, so I should finish the book later on today.  I will then be reading, in this order,

Passing, by Nella Larsen.  This is for The Classics Circuit.  Watch for my tour stop on February 19.

The Shack, by William P Young.  This is for my book club meeting on February 23.

Amy and Isabelle, Elizabeth Strout

I hope everyone else had a good week!

Book Review: Girl in a Blue Dress

Girl in a Blue Dress: A Novel Inspired by the Life and Marriage of Charles Dickens

Gaynor Arnold

Crown

432 pages

I have a penchant for fiction based on the lives of historical fiction.  I am not really a huge fan of Charles Dickens–I have only read A Tale of Two Cities and suffice it to say it was not my favorite book–but the fact that he is a major literary figure couples with the fact that the backdrop was Victorian England, I knew I would love it.  Not to mention it was longlisted for the Man Pooker prize in 2008. 

Girl in a Blue Dress starts off on the day of Aldred Gibon’s funeral.  Gibson is a celebrated author who cares more about his “Public” than the well-being of his family.  Dorothea “Dodo” Gibson is his spurned wife, and she is banished from the funeral, hidden away in her home as she had been for many years.

Dodo and Albert met when Dodo was still a teenager.  Instantly enamored, Dodo is falls in love with Alfred and is eventually able to marry him.  The young couple lead a happy life together for the next decade, with the exception of the death of Dodo’s sister.  However, Alfred’s love for Dodo takes a sudden turn.  Dodo is worn down by the constant succesion of pregnancies and children.  She is eventually forced to take a holiday to recover and returns home to find that her husband no longer wishes to act as a husband.  He is able to convince her to move to a home by herself, abandoning her children. 

Meanwhile, Gibson has a new paramour while Dodo continues to pine after him in her new home.  Abandoned by her husband and isolated from all but one of her children, Dodo spends the next few years living alone. 

Alfred Gibson is not a likeable man in the novel.  He cares little about his wife and her welfare, instead throwing her to the wolves in order to upold his own reputation with his precious public. Despite this, Alfred was not the most reprensible haracter in the book–that honor falls on Dodo.

Alfred was a petty, shallow man, but that was much more acceptable to me than Dodo’s character.  I understand that this is Victorian England we’re talking about and not 2010, but Dodo’s behavior was not something I could fathom.  She is completely forlorn over the desertion of her husband and mopes after him for years, even after he publicly denounces her.  She is like a spurned lapdog with very little self respect.  This is coupled by the fact that she abandoned her children because it was her husband’s will.  I could not see eye to eye with such a meek woman.  Instead, I felt only anger.

Regardless of the bad behavior of both Alfred and Dodo, this is one of the most enjoyably books I’ve read recently.  It is an epic story of the destruction of a marriage and I am not surprised at all it was considered for the Booker.  As far as I know, this is Gaynor Arnold’s only book, but if it is any indication of her talent, she is an author to be watched.  She was able to blend fiction and fact seamlessly.

Other Reviews:

Asylum

Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Eve’s Alexandria

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Library Loot

Library Loot is a weekly meme hosted by Marg and Eva.

I finally started feeling as if I were no longer overwhelmed by the amount of library books I had checked out.  Obviously I felt the need to remedy that, since I went out and got eight books.

O. Juliet, by Robin Maxwell.  I first saw this book on Devourer of Books last week and I figured it would be perfect to read before my trip to Florence next month.

Lost, byJaqueline Davies.  I saw this one on Hey Lady! Watcha Readin’?

The Birth of Venus, by Sarah Dunant.  This is another book I got in anticipation of my trip to Florence.

Mortician Diaries, June Knights Nadle

American Rust, by Philipp Meyer.  This title has been around a lot but I really took notice after reading the review on The Bluestocking Society.

Mudbound, by Hillary Jordan.  After reading the review on Lesley’s Book Nook, I immediately reserved this one.

Wishful Drinking, by Carrie Fisher.  I have been eyeing this one for awhile–looks funny!

Polaroids From the Dead, byDouglas Coupland.  This one came from Stuff as Dreams are Made On . . .

So what did you pick up this week?

Book Review: Wifey

Wifey

Judy Blume

Berkley Trade

304 pages

Judy Blume was one of my all time favorite authors as an adolescent.  I started off with the Fudge books and as I got older, moved onto Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret and Deenie.  However, there it stopped.  I was aware at some point that Blume had written a few adult books, but I never read them.  Maybe I was afraid that Blume wouldn’t be able to reach an adult reader.  But then I found the Shelf Discovery challenge, hosted by Julie at Booking Mama, and one of the books mentioned in there was Wifey.

Wifey is the story of Sandy Pressman; a younger mother dealing with the monotony of marriage during the 1960s.  She is married to Norm Pressman, a straight laced guy that is difficult to talk to and who prefers sleeping in his own twin bed.  It’s summertime and Sandy ’s two children are away at camp, so she is alone all day while Norm is at work.  She attempts to involve herself in the country club, but becomes more and more distant as the summer goes on.  She is unhappy in her marriage and eventually strays numerous times (some of the men she chose to bed really shocked me due to Sandy ’s lack of boundaries), most notably with her old flame.  Wifey is mainly about Sandy ’s exploration of her marriage and sexuality and how she comes to terms with the life she chose for herself.

This book is much more sexually explicit than I would have imagined.  Obviously, when you’re dealing with a marriage, sex is going to be an important factor.  It seemed that most of Sandy ’s issues with Norm were related to sex.  I think for Sandy , the lack of sexual satisfaction just kept eating away at her until she was unable to finding any positive aspect with her marriage.  She went through quite a few sexual encounters over the summer that Wifey focused on, and she realized that having an erotic relationship with other men didn’t feel that void that she had in her marriage.  Once she got her that aspect of her marriage worked out with Norm, it seemed like everything else in her marriage fell into place.

The time period had a lot to do with why Sandy felt trapped and had such problems with her marriage.  Much like Blume herself, she was pressured into marrying young and having children.  She never really got any freedom, sexually or otherwise, so as her marriage got more and more routine, she became listless and was infected with “the grass is always greener” syndrome. In that respect, I feel like Norm took the brunt of the blame.  He wasn’t a particularly likeable character—very dry and one-dimensional—but I have a feeling that was just Sandy’s perception of him at the time and didn’t necessarily reflect what type of person and husband Norm was.

I would say Blume’s adolescent tendencies shine through—Wifey is maybe a bit more simplistic than other novels dealing with the same subject matter.  At the same time, it made the book much more readable, so it wasn’t a detractor at all.  I read the entire book in one sitting and was completely engaged the entire time.

For the most part, I really enjoyed this book.  I think there were parts that were a little too raunchy, but I keep asking myself if I was just put off because of who the author is.  If it were an author I were unfamiliar with, would the sexual scenes still bother me?  Probably not.  If you are a fan of Judy Blume, you can’t miss this one.

Stop on over at BermudaOnion’s Weblog to enter her Judy Blume/Shelf Discovery mini challenge.

Other Reviews:

Crazy-for-books.com

You’ve GOTTA read this!

I borrowed this book from my local library.

East of Eden: Part II

As I mentioned before when I reviewed section 1 two weeks ago, I plan on reviewing the book in quarters, as that is how the book is divided up for discussion over on the Classic Reads Book Blog.  A quick aside on that method of reviewing—I have had a lot of people ask me how I manage to read such as great book in chunks as opposed to straight through.  As far back as I can remember, this is the first time I have gone about reading a book in this manner, so I was quite skeptical too.  You see, I am always hesitant about picking up long books.  As some of you may know, Anna Karenina has been my nemesis for years for that very reason (although I hope to tackle it in 2010).  Especially now that I have a book blog, I feel like I don’t have the luxury of reading such a long book straight through and, therefore, having less reviews for a few weeks. But when I heard the Classic Reads Book Club was featuring East of Eden, I decided to go for it.  And I thought I might as well break it up into quarters and see how it worked for me.  Obviously it’s not ideal, but for someone like me, who can get fidgety if it takes me over a week to read one book, I think it’s a good solution.  I plan on trying it again with the aforementioned Anna Karenina!

But anyway, back to the reason we’re here—part II of East of Eden.  Because I am dividing the book up into sections, the reviews will be more detailed and, therefore, may contain spoilers.

Here’s a quick synopsis: We left off with Cathy recovering and finding her way into Charles’ arms.  Part II then begins with Adam and Cathy moving to the Salinas Valley in California .  Cathy discovers she is pregnant (turns out with twins!) and she immediately tries to remedy the situation by aborting the fetus with a knitting needle.  Adam, meanwhile, is beside himself with happiness and is stopping at nothing to buy and fix up an old estate to pass down to his heirs.  He is, unbelievably, head over heels with Cathy, who really does nothing to advance his admiration; in fact, the neighbors find themselves suspicious of Cathy straight off, although they can’t quite put a finger on the problem.

So the babies are born, and what does Cathy do?  She up and leaves Adam, but not before shooting him in the shoulder first.  Cathy flees, and although the police sergeant quickly discovers her whereabouts, she pretty much disappears for good as far as Adam is concerned.  So what does Adam do without his wife?  He becomes a hot (moping!) mess.  He lets his home fall into disrepair and goes for over a year without naming his two sons.  To the point that pretty much any reader would want to step through the page and slap some sense into him.

Meanwhile, Cathy has gone back to her old profession—whoring.  She finds a whore house outside of town and immediately becomes the favorite.  The madam, Faye, begins to see Cathy as her own daughter and eventually wills her fortune to Cathy.  Knowing Cathy, you are likely able to see where this is going . . . she begins to subtly try to off Faye, and is eventually successful.

Section II ends with Cathy mourning Faye’s death and Adam naming his sons Caleb and Aaron.  As far as Adam goes, he finally seems to be over his grief and starting anew.  He had refused to see Cathy for who she really was during their marriage, instead preferring to see her with rose colored glasses.  I think the shock of having that image shattered was too much for him to bear for a time, but he had finally rounded the corner and seemed like he was in a better place.

Cathy is same old Cathy.  Last time I said that I liked her character the most and that has not changed at all.  It is not due to the fact that I am a masochistic, homicidal maniac, but rather because I find her the most fascinating character.  For awhile there I was fooled for a bit, thinking maybe she had changed once she got to the whorehouse.  The manner in which she treated Adam was reprehensible, and I figured her sweet behavior to the girls in the whorehouse was a guise, but I thought I saw a glimmer of change when it came to her relationship with Faye.  Instead, it eventually became clear that Cathy is such a great con woman that even to me, who already knew her past and how she behaves, that I believed she had made some type of transformation.

I am now past the point of believing that Cathy can ever change.  Is she inherently evil?  I’m not sure I know enough at this point to make a judgment call on that one, but I look forward to the second half of the book, because I’m hoping that will become clearer the more I read.

So how did you feel about Cathy?  Did you find her fascinating or just downright evil?

Check back here on February 22 for my thoughts on part III.

Sunday Salon

I’m sure I am not the only one snowed in right now.  So much for spring coming early this year!  We got an absolute ridiculous amount of snow over the course of Friday and Saturday.  So much so that my boss sent me home from work at noon Friday.  I decided that was the perfect opportunity to lay in bed and read.  I kid you not when I say I read all afternoon Friday and pretty much all day yesterday.  It was heavenly!

So this week I read the following:

-finished The Gathering, by Anne Enright

-read the second portion of East of Eden, by John Steinbeck

Eating the Dinosaur, by Chuck Klosterman

Wifey, by Judy Blume

-half of Corpses, Coffins, and Crypts, by Penny Colman

Corpses, Coffins, and Crypts is my first DNF in awhile.  I liked it at first–it is a history of burial.  After reading a book on New Orleans cemeteries, I decided I wanted to delve deeper into the topic of cemeteries, burials, etc.  So I checked this book out of my library.  And there was some good stuff in there!  It talked about being buried alive (can you imagine?!).  One man even had his tomb rigged with a buzzer to the caretaker’s cottage in the event that he woke up after being buried.  The buzzer never rang (except for one false alarm) and has since been disconnected.

So what happened, you may ask?  Two things.

-The book went off on too many tangents.  I am not interested in burial since the beginning of time.  This is my problem, not that of the author really, but I think it could have been organized a bit better.

-It wasn’t very well researched.  There were no resources noted and the author included a lot of things she heard from other people.  Meaning she would describe a burial place that her friend saw.  It just didn’t seem viable.  Which leads me to my biggest problem . . . I actually found an instance where the author was dead wrong.  It had to do with New Orleans cemeteries.  Twice, she noted that burials in New Orleans take place above ground because of flooding (this is a common fallacy, and it may be partially true, so I could have forgiven that) and she went on to say that all burials in New Orleans take place above ground. This is completely false.  There are quite a few cemeteries in New Orleans that are almost 100% underground burials.  At that point, I decided, since I know little about burials, that the author could be bamboozling me on some other points as well.  So I gave up.

I am very happy to say, however, that I finished books for two separate challenges this week!  I finished The Gathering towards the beginning of the week, which counts towards The Complete Man Booker Challenge.  And then I read Wifey, for the Shelf Discovery challenge.  I finally feel like I am making the tiniest bit of headway towards my current challenges!

I don’t know how much reading I’ll get done today, since all my household chores fell by the wayside the past two days as I read myself into a stupor, but I hope to start The Women, by TC Boyle, before the day is through.  I hope everyone else has a wonderful Sunday!