Friday, December 31, 2010

(Book #52) Stephen King - On Writing

Since I started this year off by finishing a Stephen King book, I thought it would be appropriate to symmetrically round off the year with another. As a preface to most of his novels, King usually gives a little background about his process of writing as it pertained to that story, but always in relation to his overall career. Sometimes, I liked his writing about wring more than I liked his fiction, so when I discovered that he had a whole book on the subject, I knew I wanted to read it. 'On Writing' had several different sections to it, much of which was personal but all of it was relevant to the art, as it pertained to King.

When I was young, I had dabbled with the notion of writing professionally but never really pursued it at all. Though the creative spark within me has primarily been focused in other mediums, the occasional short story or idea emerges and rekindles those early inklings of writing. Some of what King described could be applied to art and architecture as well, I felt. Overall it was an inspiring read and a great way to end this little project of mine.

I undoubtedly have some final thoughts and feelings about the year as a whole, but as I have been reading like gangbusters today to finish and the brain is a little fried, I will save the full recap for another time.

(Book #51) Dyna Moe - Mad Men The Illustrated World

'Mad Men The Illustrated World', by Dyna Moe graphically interprets the characters and elements of the incredible AMC show and wraps them up nicely in one little package. This book is not only illustrations, but also gives some information of notable figures, styles and references often mentioned in the show (a little history of Jai Alai or the International style, anyone?). Throw in a few quirky diagrams, stories from the actors and drink recipes and you have a lovingly assembled companion for this 60's drama.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

(Book #50) Douglas Coupland - Generation X

In a novel that gave name to the age bracket, 'Generation X' by Douglas Coupland, aimed to iterate a shared mentality that at some level was being experienced by the collective youth of our time. The narrative follows three twenty-something's living out their lives in Palm Springs in the 90's and weaves in metaphorical Decamron-esque tales that the characters tell each other to pass the time in their exile. Through these threads we see the characters grappling with their seemingly wayward existences, often pitting their values and perceptions directly against the "yuppie" establishment. Layered within the story and literally in the margins Coupland interlaces a variety of quasi-inspirational phrases ("SIMULATE YOURSELF" or "NOSTOLGIA IS A WEAPON", etc )and definitions of practical vernacular which contribute to the zeitgeist being described. The writing is witty and sarcastic, but with serious emotional undertones hiding within the irony that personify one generation's grappling with personal and societal woes.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

(Book #49) Robert Fulghum - All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten

This book, by Robert Fulghum, while including the titular list of wisdom, contained a slew of thoughts, stories and passed-along bits of knowledge. While the "All I Really Need to Know..." piece was cute and concise, the real wisdom lied within the seemingly random tapestry of writings contained within this book. There were many "blips" (a word I like to use to describe writing of this length) and none of them were longer than 5 pages, making it a quick but meaningful read; however I would probably not read Fulghum's books so fast again, or even chronologically, as it doesn't serve the medium appropriately. The content was all over the board, but through the writing you got an idea of one man's perspective of life, philosophy and humanity. The tone was not condescending or preachy and presented everything in a take-it-or-leave-it sort of way, that made the writing easy to chew, swallow and digest.

Friday, December 17, 2010

(Book #48) Gene Shepherd - A Christmas Story

I can't even count how many times I have seen 'A Christmas Story', so when I received the book, by Gene Shepherd a few years back as a gift, I wasn't exactly in a rush to read it. Every year it would come out and sit on the table, and just beg me to read it, but it never happened, until now. It's a handful of short stories that were not just about Christmas, but were a of quirky tales of childhood that would eventually be twined together to form the classic movie many of us watch year after year. most of them did not actually take place around the same time. Much like the movie, they showed childhood in the depression era, and Shepherd somehow allows us to peek behind the veil of nostalgia to reveal "kiddom" in all its horror and glory. The tone is much the same as the movie and some passages in the book are used as the narration for the movie, verbatim, and read aloud by Shepherd himself. A "bonus" story in this book offered a taste of other Midwestern shenanigans that is just as bizarre, humorous and entertaining as the rest. Overall an enjoyable book and another good warm up for the rapidly approaching holiday.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

(Book #47) David Sedaris - Holidays On Ice

David Sedaris is a master of the snappy and amusing short story, and his usual wit and talent for storytelling once again shines through in this compilation of Christmas stories, 'Holidays On Ice'. Sedaris spins his personal and familial anecdotes in such a way that it's hard not to relate in some capacity. In addition to these essay-like tales, we get a couple more pieces that humorously go beyond the scope of human normalcy and pushes his characters over the top, or likewise to a new low. David Sedaris is always a great read any time of the year, but one particular story about his experiences working as an elf at Macy's was particularly effective at bracing me for the most stressful and craziest time of the year!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

(Book #46) Robert Kirkman - The Walking Dead - Vol.1

I've had this graphic novel of 'The Walking Dead' in the reading queue for a few weeks now, but have been waiting for the end of the first season of the recent AMC show (based on these comics), to avoid being spoiled. I'll admit, after seeing that first episode of the show, I have been a little obsessed with the zombies lately, so the next logical step was pick up the books. The two are different enough and both good in their own ways. I actually hadn’t realized when I bought it that these are pretty extensive and started back in 2003, and in fact this was the first of many volumes that are out there right now. The gore and shock factor in the book translated well to the show and they both seem to be going in their own directions story-wise for now. The whole notion of a zombie apocalypse is both a frightening and conceivable scenario to think about, which is why these stories are so entertaining. Zombie stories also allow for a lot of interesting character development as well as exploration of moral and ethical questions. I look forward to checking out some more of these and I cannot wait for the next season of the show to come back.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

(Book #45) Michael Chabon - The Final Solution

'The Final Solution' was the first story of Michael Chabon's that I have read, and is probably his shortest. The story followed an unnamed aging detective in the 40's as he is pulled out of retirement to help solve a murder and find a missing German-code-speaking parrot. Shortly into the book, a thought came to me that perhaps this old detective fits the description of one Sherlock Holmes, and this added an interesting layer to what could have been a simple story; however I concede that the fact that I watched a Sherlock Holmes movie the night before and read a Holmes story a few months ago. We never really get a name for this "old man". I had a little trouble following the plot in some parts, which could have been due to Chabon's writing style or the choice to have a lot of similar characters in such a small story. Regardless the story was intriguing and had a nice little reveal at the end, like any good mystery should.