12 July 2009

Another vacation, another vacation wrap-up.

I spent the weekend of the Fourth in Illinois at my little brother's frat house (O smart, sarcastic, Settlers-playing college boys, you are my favorites). As usual, I thought I was packing too many books, and as usual, I packed too few.

  • The Big Rewind, Nathan Rabin: A pop-culture-aided memoir by the Onion AV Club's head writer, the profane, giddy genius behind My Year of Flops. For my money, Rabin and Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics are the two funniest living writers in North America.
  • K Blows Top: A Cold War Comic Interlude Starring Nikita Khrushchev, America's Most Unlikely Tourist, Peter Carlson: And there is no doing justice in brief to this marvelous, stranger-than-fiction account of the Soviet Premier's 1959 tour of the U.S.--I plan to write a full-scale review later this week, so here I'll just put forth the indelible image of Mrs. Khrushchev, as square and serviceable as a block of Moscow flats, seated at dinner in the Warner Brothers studio commissary between Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra.
  • House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski: I asked my brother for a book I could casually flip through without committing, and his frat brother Sean brought me this sprawling experimental tome. Rather the opposite of what I was looking for, but I couldn't put it down. The gut-level-terrifying story of a family who discovers their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, it's wrapped in layers of narrative (ostensibly, it's a manuscript about a documentary the father made, with notes and asides from a dissolute young man who found the analysis in the apartment of its mysteriously dead author) and a dizzying array of footnotes that make David Foster Wallace look like a piker. Text goes upside down, sideways, diagonally, several directions at once. I don't think it's a great book. But wow, it was interesting.
  • I Drink for a Reason, David Cross: I wavered on this one. I only know Cross from the glories of Mr. Show and Arrested Development--I guess his stand-up is much more bitter and confrontational, and I actually stopped reading in a huff at one point because I was tired (and a little bored) of his denigration of religion. But I picked it up again. And in the end, he annoys me far, far less often than he makes me cackle myself into a coughing fit.
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky: Meh, from beginning to end.
  • John the Revelator, Peter Murphy: Read this after I got home. It's a first novel by an Irish music journalist with a countenance of doom; while the prose is often arresting, the plot is thin, needlessly episodic, and disconnected from any sort of emotional center.

Currently I'm engaged in a couple of kinds of research. NYC: An Owner's Manual (Caitlin Leffel & Jacob Lehman) is full of information to make my next year's move to Brooklyn seem both prudent and attainable; Bipolar II (Ronald R. Fieve) offers the tempting thesis that the hypercompetency and euphoria of my good days are something I should embrace, as I learn to avoid the sloughs of despond. Here's hopin'.

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