I've celebrated my sort-of two-year battle with Against the Day by reading lots of shorter (a very relative term here) books. These are what I've conquered since August 8th:
The Incredible Change-Bots by Jeffrey Brown
I picked this one up from the comic book store a week before finishing Against the Day to be my reward for finishing. This thick little comic (book) is an excellent parody/homage to the Transformers and Go-Bots as they were in the 80s. Basically, if you invested an large amount of your afternoons to catching the Transformers cartoon or thinking about how lousy the Go-Bots were in comparison, you will really like this book and it will have you giggling from the first page and laughing out loud plenty of other times. In short, try as you might, you will probably never do anything as brilliant in your life as writing the Incredible Change-Bots. (and I don't say that as an insult to you but as praise to Mr. Brown)
Word was out in July that the script to Quentin Tarantino's next movie, a rock 'em sock 'em World War II tale, had leaked onto the internet. After a little poking around it was mine. It's a 168 pages, which I understand to be on the long side for a script. For the first 99 pages I was not entertained or intrigued or anything...mostly I rolled my eyes a lot and found myself sympathizing with the Nazis, which I'm pretty sure was NOT Tarantino's intention. BUT at page 100 it suddenly got interesting and the final act was pretty fun, so I'll make sure to catch the last hour on USA or TNT in 2011. There's a great twist to the plot at the end and it would be totally awesome if I spoiled it but I won't. Yet.
Joysprick by Anthony Burgess
This is the second book on Joyce by the author of A Clockwork Orange I've read this year, and in this case, by read this year, I mean finally finished, finally. I bought this book in 2004 while on the Sea adventure detailed in this ancient post and I've battled to stay committed to it ever since. Not that I didn't love it! The book (as the cover says) is "an introduction to the language of James Joyce" and, to me, that is fun. Burgess really knows a thing or two about our language's finest author since Shakespeare and reading this book I could just feel by brain swell with excellent new Joyce insights. There's one particular thing I caught on to that I'd like to share at a later date...like maybe next Sunday? Perhaps.
The Third Man by Graham Greene
My dad gave me this one while I was in Chicago after he had finished it. It was fine. I'd like to see the Orson Welles movie that it was written for.
A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon
I listened to this book on my ipod during an especially thrilling document review project I was on. When you go to the library to pick out audiobooks really you're just choosing from a bunch of books about submarines or spies or harnessing your power within, so when I saw this one, I grabbed it because I was familiar with Haddon. He wrote this kind of popular book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which I did not like at all (I thought it was like a Disney Jungle Cruise tour through autism) but at least I recognized his name. This book was good for listening, if I had been reading it I probably wouldn't have finished it. It's the tale of a wacky family dealing with an impending wedding and it's okay, especially if it's the only thing you've got to fill your brain during long long days.
Mr. Strangelove by Ed Sikov
I remember when I was a kid talking with my Dad about the Pink Panther and how Peter Sellers was dead and my Dad told me that even though Sellers was funny he wasn't a very happy or nice man. Funny I've remembered that my whole life. Anyway, this biography of the actor really drove home the case that Sellers was definitely not a happy guy...but it's fun learning about people's lives, right?
Before reading this book I really couldn't name that many Sellers movies, just Dr. Strangelove, the Pink Panther movies, the Party, and the Mouse that Roared...turns out he was in a LOT more movies than that, but more interesting than the movies that Sellers made were the movies he did not make. Did you know that he was to play Captain Hook alongside Hayley Mills as Wendy and Audrey Hepburn as Peter Pan in a live action Peter Pan? Or Leopold Bloom in an adaptation of Ulysses? Also, there was going to be another Pink Panther movie, The Romance of the Pink Panther, and a Blake Edwards movie called the Ferret, a spinoff of the Pink Panther movies featuring Inspector Clouseau.
Hegemony or Survival by Noam Chomsky
One of the first things you learn by listening to this book is the meaning of "hegemony" and the pronunciation of the word. The next thing you learn is all the bad stuff that Chomsky believes the United States has been up to for the past 100 years. I'm interested in Chomsky as a voice of dissent and its sort of fun to hear him out and wonder how he could be so famous for this sort of thing and his work in linguistics...but eventually, it all washes off me like water off a duck. It was fun, though, to hear that everything the United States has done in the last fiftyish years has been to help it get to a point where it could dominate space weaponwise...that's what's next, says Noam, America having all the missiles in space and no one else.
The Final Solution by Michael Chabon
Excellent author, enjoyable little detective tale with a really neat twist to the story that you'll figure out by the second or third chapter (at the latest) that the outside of the book doesn't let on to at all...in fact, I feel awful for telling you that there's a twist to the book. Now you'll be suspicious from the first page. I recommend this one for an airplane ride.
Things I've Learned From Women Who've Dumped Me, Edited by Ben Karlin
Recommendedish by a few friends and featuring essays by familiar comedians and writer, this little anthology is pretty entertaining, but the writers probably should have had a meeting where they checked with each other to see what they'd all be writing about because there's plenty of stories in here that are a bit too much alike. But there's a few real charming ones...however, you can probably get the most enjoyment available from this book by just reading the names of all the essays in the table of contents, that's where the majority of the cleverness lies.