Franzen Feud

August 30th, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Jonathan Franzen. Perhaps you have heard of him.

More importantly, hopefully you have read the various words he has strung together. Perhaps you recall his Oprah Book Club snub for the very good “The Corrections.” Perhaps you are aware of his new book, “Freedom,” and the glowing praise it has received.

A masterpiece of American fiction???

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Well, certain females have taken issue with such gratuitous and potentially sexist adulation.

Jennifer Weiner, in particular, put out a call for non-Franzen novels that deal with similarly Franzen themes of family, identity, and love. I assume she is looking for novels written by the non-Franzen gender as well.

So Authwhore humbly endorses Sophie Dahl’s Playing With The Grown-Ups.

On the other end of the spectrum is of course Marisha Pessl. Remember that atrocity?

Jodi Picoult too has been implicated in this controversy. I am loose, eager, and easy when it comes to reading, so get ready for my assessment of Picoult’s contribution in this matter.

Praising Trash. Inventing Reactions.

August 28th, 2010 at 5:41 am

“Prolonged, indiscriminate reviewing of books is a quite exceptionally thankless, irritating and exhausting job. It not only involves praising trash but constantly inventing reactions towards books about which one has no spontaneous feeling whatever.” – George Orwell

Praising Trash

Good thing books won’t be around much longer.

What a relief.

Hold still for me while I move some books

August 26th, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Hold still for me while I move some books

Dangerous Laughter by Steven Millhauser

August 24th, 2010 at 3:43 pm

This is the very best of books.

Dangerous Laughter by Steven Millhauser

Hilarious. Superbly written. Short.

As I did with Millhauser’s Martin Dressler, I will not needlessly carry on. It is the mark of a poor work that so much need be said about it. I shall not gild the lily.

But Dangerous Laughter is damn fine. Damn fine.

The stories “Cat ‘N’ Mouse” and “Here at the Historical Society” are funnier than anything written by David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, Augusten Burroughs, etc, etc, et al.

(I mean, who are the “funny” writers these days? Carl Hiassen? George Saunders? Chuck Klosterman?

Steven Millhauser is not only funnier. He’s better.)

In the titular story, youth engage in secretive drug-esque “laughter parties.” They soon experiment with crying.

In “Here at the Historical Society,” said members defend their recent exhibits detailing the “New Past,” i.e. the minutiae pertaining to the immediate just now.

In “A Change in Fashion,” woman’s fashion is parodied to the point of featuring a 3-story dress.

Are you not entertained?

Steven Millhauser’s appeal lays in his style. His diction is plain and straightforward. He is a master of the subtle. His language is descriptive and “literary” but in a simple manner that hints at humanity’s self-absorption and importance. Everything is relayed in the most thoughtful, perfect manner. Stories retain elements of the surreal and otherworldly, the quirky and impossible even, but the language is straightforward and respectful, never revealing the impossibility and joy of, well, life itself I suppose.

In an era where I feel as if each book I read may be the last printed with ink and bound in glue, Steven Millhauser is refreshing. His prose is classic yet modern. Straightforward and matter of fact. It is confident and severe but playful and entertaining. Millhauser is a reminder that mere words (thoughts) can be quite entertaining and incisive. There are no burdensome devices or unnecessary attention-getters. It is all about the language with Millhauser. Whether he is writing about a cartoon cat and mouse or an ambitious young man, he does so simply and evocatively.


August 13th, 2010 at 12:00 pm

There is a bevy of sources for third rate SAT words-of-the-day, but if you really want to improve your vocabulary you should just read books. Certainly not third-rate book blogs.

But do you know what ratiocination means? I did not upon encountering it in a collection of short stories by O. Henry. (There were many, many words I did not know while plowing through the delights that is a collection of stories by William Sydney Porter ((but more on that later)).

But ratiocination. That’s a word. Don’t let it scare you. It’s pronounced rash-ee-os-uh-ney-shuhn.

And given its meaning, it deserves special attention in light of the obtuse, frenzied world we live.

Ratiocination is the process of logical reasoning.

I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita

August 12th, 2010 at 10:00 am

Despite my initial enthusiasm, I Hotel is not a good book.

I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita

Do not read it. It is long. It is boring. It is disappointing. It is safe. It is easy. It is pointless. It has no edge.

2010 ytd, I can only recommend Reality Hunger.

And White Hotel. But that’s from 1981. The ’80s generated a lot of marvelous creations, yours truly being one of the many significant yet underrated entities in question from that special time.

I Hotel is cumbersome, disjointed, schizophrenic, frustratingly sprawling, and lacking in cohesion. There are no compelling protagonists. There is a lot of telling and very little storytelling. It’s just all over the place and entirely overwhelming in the worst of ways. It is a big book of very little, suffering from what must certainly be at this point some kind of Asian-American authorial cliche to engage in sprawling multi-generational sagas.

Acknowledging this irrefutable mediocrity, Yamashita apologizes in the Afterword: “Thus the structure I chose for the book is based on such multiple perspectives, divided into ten novellas or ten “hotels.” Multiple novellas allowed me to tell parallel stories, to experiment with various resonant narrative voices, and to honor the complex architecture of a time, a movement, a hotel, and its people.”

First of all: hogwash. Borrring! Obnoxious MFA semantic posturing. You should honor the complex architecture of your novel!

Second of all: The afterword is better written than the novel.

Now Novella

August 11th, 2010 at 2:01 pm


It takes a publication more mainstream than Authwhore to make such things official, but whatever. The novella is back. According to this beast and the Daily Beast. And flavorpill.

It’s about time the publishing industry and the other 7 readers in the country catch up to Authwhore’s sophisticated taste. I like novellas because I have a short attention span. I’m easily bored. Short story collections are always favored, but novellas are nice too. Do yourself a favor and indulge in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Memories of My Melancholy Whores.” 128 pages. You’re in, you’re out. And it’s just not a good title unless there’s a whore in it…

memories of my melancholy whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Books. Novels. Such boring, stodgy connotations they have. Novella is smooth and sexy. But most importantly short. With all the good elements of novels without any of the bad components of poetry.

flavorpill’s list of classic novellas should get us started…

Man, the more I think about it, the more I hate long books. And long movies, long meetings, long lines, and long hair.

Cut your hair you hippies!

Parse your words you writers!!

My sensibilities would be truly satisfied if we can get some decent works published in mass market. There’s a few out there, but not enough. I love mass market paperbacks. I can go and do things with a mass market that would ruin a Nookindle.

Wine Country

August 9th, 2010 at 5:03 pm

If Sugar is sex, this wine's a whore. - Authwhore

Inception Sucks

August 9th, 2010 at 8:59 am

For those connoisseurs interested in consuming texts of more cerebral and entertaining value, I recommend Fishing with John.

“Tom Waits catches a fish and puts it in his pants, but then becomes grumpy.”

As opposed to seeing Inception, becoming grumpy, and wishing you had just put a fish in your pants.

Fishing with John

Dads Are So Cool

August 8th, 2010 at 11:53 am

Dads Are Cool