That I start reading again…
That I start reading again…
Trust Me. I’m a good man. “Do not trust Ben.” Or anyone by that name.
It would be all too easy to associate this novel with a movie that came out back in 2000, but I’m not going to do that. I’m pretty sure the review itself will reveal what movie I’m speaking of and if you’re unaware of it, then it’s your loss. In fact, this movie and this book really aren’t all that similar yet they share a common thread. I may have jumped the gun assuming the two would end up the same way, and for that I apologize.
Mr. Watson has written a riveting and engaging mystery/thriller novel that really stumped me from the get go. At first I was unsure if this was this really something I could get into; would the story and the characters be enough to get me to finish this book at the rate at which I have been reading (not that that really matters). In the end, it was, it was more than enough. This story is pretty f’ing badass.
I had to do a little research on Mr. Watson after finishing the book to see where he came up with the idea to write such a beautiful and telling story. Apparently, he is a British audiologist who was and maybe still is working with deaf children. He, like me, has in his time, started writing many, many different stories until “Before I Go To Sleep” fell into place and found the right publisher. Needless to say, it has sold well and has already been “optioned” for a film to be directed by Ridley Scott. Oddly enough, the book has little to do with his work in audiology, instead it centers around memory, memory loss and the individual identity.
I’m not going to pretend like I foresaw how the book would end, but it is pretty obvious and I think I realized it about halfway through. Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil anything for you. The book is about a woman named Christine Lucas who after an accident has no memory. She wakes up every morning not knowing where she is, or who the man beside her in bed is. She wakes up thinking that she is in her twenties when in fact she is in her forties, her memories erased.
“I am an adult, but a damaged one,” is how Christine describes herself in her warped world of waking up to the unknown each day. She believes that “today is all I have,” once the man she wakes up with explains they are married to one another and that she suffers from amnesia. This all changes when she meets Dr. Nash, who encourages her to write a journal, which she can read to help her remember what has happened the days or weeks prior.
The book flows wonderfully and after getting through the first half, really keeps you on the edge of your seat. By keeping and writing in her journal, which Christine only remembers about each day when Dr. Nash calls to tell her where it is and what it is, she slowly puts the puzzle pieces together. Hell, it almost has me convinced that I should be keeping a journal, that said though, I treat this blog as a journal (minus the one year gap when it was dormant).
Without a doubt this book made me think about a lot things. I asked myself what life would be life if you had amnesia to the more mundane of what would I do if I got so drunk one night and woke up next to someone I didn’t know. I have no answers for either of these questions and with any luck, I’ll never know what either feels like. I’m kind of at a point in my life right now where I wish I could forget about the past three years of my life, I know that’s a harsh thing to say, but with what I’ve been dealing with these past couple of months, Lucas’ problem doesn’t seem like such a bad thing (even though I know, in my dark heart, that it is and I would never want to forget the years that have passed me by).
Read this one before it becomes a movie, it’s worth it.
I’d give her the moon, if only I could.
Damn, people do some stupid things all in the name of love (myself included). I have to say that if I had been in Thad Roberts position, I may very well have done the exact same thing he did. Although, I think I would have done it a little bit differently. I may never have worked at NASA but I’m fairly confident that I’d make a better thief than he did.
It’s been awhile since I’ve read any non-fiction books and there’s a reason for that. Right now, at this stage in my life, I need something that I can read quickly, easily grasp and escape into. I’ve had this book on my shelf since the day it came out (admittedly it hasn’t been that long) and have been hesitant to pick it up for the reasons I just stated. But, I was pretty compelled to read about “the most audacious heist in history.” The thing is, this book didn’t read like non-fiction. It truly read like fiction, not because the story was so unbelievable that I didn’t think it could be true, but because of the way Mezrich wrote the book. And for that, I thank you Mr. Ben Mezrich. (I had no idea that Mezrich also wrote “The Accidental Billionaires” which most of us now know as the move “The Social Network.”)
This book chronicles the theft of one of the most precious elements on Earth, that is not actually from Earth, moon rocks. In case you didn’t already know this, possessing, owning or attempting to sell these “national treasures” is against the law. NASA and the United States government are the only agencies with the ability to study and present these precious rocks as gifts in either tribute or for the use of study. These rocks though, yeah, they’re worth a lot. And when I say “a lot” I’m talking like somewhere between $400k to $5M for a gram (compared to a gram of blow, I’d say that’s a lot). It’s shocking to me that Kim Kardashian doesn’t already own some sort of bikini made out of the stuff to cover her big, fat ass.
Thad Roberts never thought he wanted to be an astronaut until he was stumbling around the University of Utah career services files. After being expelled from his home for doing un-Mormon like things (pre-marital sex, drinking soda, beer, and who knows what else) the wheels were set in motion and like so many children who aspire to become astronauts, Roberts was well on his way when he was accepted to NASA’s prestigious co-op program. He left his life in Utah behind, including his wife, and began a new adventure in Texas that would sooner or later put him in the big house.
As with so many crimes, there was a catalyst, and in my opinion, many catalysts for Thad. The most clear and most obvious of course is love, but beyond that I think there was a desire for notoriety, aspirations of wealth, greed and escaping his past that propelled him to do what he did. I can’t say that I would have acted any differently. But… I wouldn’t have gotten caught!
The story flows nicely and doesn’t jump around in time as much as so many other similar books do. It’s fairly linear, well written and definitely kept me engaged despite knowing how it all turns out in the end. Oddly enough, my favorite parts of this book were the letters interspersed throughout the book, between chapters, which Thad had written to his accomplice and love, Rebecca, while he spent his time behind bars. These letters felt, like something I would write but probably not nearly as eloquently. Here is just one of my favorites (feel free to insert another name in lieu of Rebecca, I know I do every time I read this):
I hope you find yourself living a dream. I think of you often and send my love out into the unknown, hoping that somehow it finds you and warms you with a smile. I hope you have not let trouble convince you of impossibilities. There is no dream beyond your grasp, Rebecca. You are the rarest type of person there is and you deserve the best that emotion and experience can offer. Someday I hope to learn that every day finds you laughing, that your path matches your dreams, and that you have discovered that your fate isn’t to be an old lady with a few cats, but to live in passion to receive love, companionship, trust, and comfort to the degree that those fires live in you… the ones I knew briefly. Although it pains me to imagine you with another, it hurts more to imagine you living without love.”
I will give Thad Roberts this… he truly was the first man to ever have sex on the moon (or at least a piece of it).
I can’t tell you why, but I have pinning for a book or movie set in the wild west. I think it may have to do with my fantasy of being an outlaw gunslinger. You know the type that shows up in the middle of a dirt road in a ramshackle town, tumbleweeds crawling past in slow motion, women, children and men alike cowering behind barrels, shop windows and three story brothels, to square off with the man that stole a quarter from me in a game of poker (which I can’t play for shit).
“The Sisters Brothers” was more or less exactly what I was looking for. I was actually hoping for a bit more from it but that’s neither here nor there. Eli and Charlie Sisters are, obviously, brothers and are apparently infamous on the west coast for their devious, malicious and inscrutable ability to kill. Their back story isn’t really developed, so I can’t exactly say why they are “infamous” but that’s how they are portrayed. I really wish there had been a bit more back story there but you can’t always get what you want.
Charlie is a hot-head with a temper and drinking problem, while Eli is more the reserved, calm and collected type although when his temper gets the better of him “everything goes black and narrow.” Personally, I would more than likely fall into the Eli type when it comes to personality but for some reason, I found myself drawn to Charlie’s character. Where Eli would not sleep with a whore but would still leave her a handsome amount of money, Charlie would sleep with her and then leave her with nothing. Now… I’m not saying that’s anything that I would do, but right now I’m feeling brutish, but I liked the way deWitt characterized Charlie more so than Eli. Eli = a bit of a pussy with a gun and morals, while Charlie = a bit of an asshole with a gun and a bottle of brandy.
The story centers around the brothers’ trip from Oregon City to California where they are to find and kill a man for the Commodore, their employer and a tycoon with quite a bit of wealth. Their trip to California is long and is interspersed with side stories about the people they run into along the way and the fights they pick. While the writing style was pretty amazing, written to make the reader truly feel as though he was in the old West, the story kind of dragged for me until they finally started to pursue the man they were after. A hunt which eventually begins when they arrive in San Francisco. A San Francisco aptly described as a place where “the tradition of thrift and sensible spending has vanished…” and “a town peopled in morons exclusively.” Not too much unlike the San Francisco I live in today, minus the “morons” bit.
Eli Sisters is the narrator throughout the novel and his melancholic tone demonstrates his tiredness of the life which he has chosen. You can feel from his narrative that this adventure has changed his tune and that after this mission, he will do his best to change his life for the better. Charlie, on the other hand, doesn’t want that and can’t foresee himself from not causing havoc and smearing blood wherever he can.
One of the more entertaining or funny bits of the book is the moment when Eli discovers the beauty of using a toothbrush for the first time. He has to undergo some surgery on his mouth and the dentist he visits leaves him with a toothbrush and “brushing powder.” It’s kind of an ongoing thing throughout the novel in that he eventually convinces his ass of a brother to give the toothbrush a go and he thoroughly enjoys it. At another point in the story he also has a conversation with a woman, who he instantly falls for, surrounding the use of the brush.
Overall, the story seemed like it was a bit rushed to me, I think it could have been much longer and delved more into Charlie and Eli’s past. But, like I said, I did enjoy it and did fill the void of my desire for a western novel.
So it may be Labor Day but that doesn’t mean I take a break from posting. Sure, not many of you will see this since you won’t be sitting at your desk at work looking for some sort of distraction. But, perhaps come Tuesday you’ll find this and say “gee, what a great way to start off a shortened work week.”
My long weekend has been pretty nice, considering that it’s not even over yet. I saw a good friend and his wife whom I haven’t seen since last November, listened to Wilco’s newest album “The Whole Love” (which is f’ing incredible and is being released on 9/27), visited San Diego/Orange County yesterday to see my grandfather and spend some time with my parents and sister which was great and today, well, it’s just starting so who knows.
As for this week’s events, here you go.
Tuesday, September 6th
@ 6pm (Book Passage, San Francisco Ferry Building)
- Laurie R. King will be discussing her book “Pirate King” which follows Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes, as they battle pirates or something like that. I think the coolest thing about this signing is that it’s actually being presented as a pirate theme party where attendees are encouraged to dress up as pirates and will get “booty” (not that kind of “booty” kids). The event is being put on in conjunction with Dave Egger’s 826 Valencia, which just happens to have a rather amazing pirate store here in San Francisco.
Thursday, September 8th
@7pm Books, Inc. (Burlingame)
- Ok, so I told you about a reading group/book club in last weeks events post and here I am giving you another one. I have no intention of attending this, because I’m not a big fan of these things and this club meets in Burlingame. This group calls themselves the “Manly Man Man Man Book Club,” a pretty manly name if you ask me. This week they’ll be discussing Michael Chabon’s “Gentleman of the Road” which I particularly enjoyed.
Saturday, September 10th
@ 930am CUESA Kitchen (San Francisco Ferry Building)
- I’ve actually never attended an event at the CUESA Kitchen at the Ferry Building but they are notorious for having some amazing food related events. This one however is on the early side and therefore I don’t really think I’ll make it. Regardless, Alice Waters of Chez Panisse fame will be there with Patricia Curtan discussing Water’s book “40 Years of Chez Panisse: The Power of Gathering.” All you die hard foodies should get there and hear Ms. Water’s talk and then buy a copy of her book.
Saturday, September 10th
@5pm Books, Inc. (Berkeley)
- Ah yes, another food related event for all you foodies. This time it’s Anthony Myint and his wife Karen Leobowitz discussing their book “Mission Street Food.” Myint has created quite the name for himself in the past couple years by opening “Mission Chinese Food” and “Commonwealth” to name a few. I’ve been to both and enjoyed my meals although not as much as most do (apparently). Most locals are pretty familiar with these establishments and unfortunately I missed the book release party a few weeks back. If you’re in the East Bay, like good food and good causes, get there.
When I walked into Books, Inc. at Opera Plaza I had not intended on buying this book. Rather, I had every intention of purchasing Mary Doria Russell’s latest “Doc”. Unfortunately for me, and for Ms. Russell (Mary and not Karen, I will admit that until now, I had not noticed the irony in that both author’s are named Russell), after reading the leaf of the book I was rather unimpressed and did not feel compelled enough to shell out near thirty dollars for a book that I was mildly skeptical of (I’m sure I’ll get to it eventually).
As I was talking to the clerks at the register they were suggesting some other non-hardcover fiction books for me and Swamplandia! happened to be the one recommended and chosen. The clerk who suggested this book was going to give me a long schpeel about Swamplandia! until I cut her off and just decided to buy it. I wasn’t in the mood to listen to someone tell me about it, I’d rather just read it and figure it for myself.
Well, in retrospect, maybe I should have let her tell me a little more about it and saved me the time reading it. I will not say I regret reading it but… it certainly is not the best piece of fiction I have read (not that I was expecting it to be, although I am a little surprised it’s on the NYT Best Sellers List).
The writing itself is pretty impressive and I’m guessing that’s why it’s getting the praise that it is. The story on the other hand, is a little lacking. It didn’t take me long to read but I was not overly excited to turn the page as I sometimes am. Russell’s book is, for the most part, about several children who had the fortune or misfortune (depending on how you look at it) of growing up on and in an alligator theme park in the swamp (bet that one was hard to figure out). For the first third of the book, the three Bigtree (as is their not so fitting last name) children, Osceola, Ava and Kiwi each have their own story although they are of course intertwined.
About halfway through the book the narrative branches off and decides to follow just two of the characters, Ava the youngest child and Kiwi the oldest child, boring mistake. There’s a mystical story, one filled with ghosts, a potential pedophile and general naivete on the part of a young child (understandable). Then there’s the downtrodden story of a young man, thrust in civility and facing the harsh reality that he has grown up in the swamp and has no real connection to mainland life. The metaphors are rife and over abundant (“nights… were dark and star-leperd,”, “icicle overbites,” and then all the talk of “love” and “hell”), it’s clear Ms. Russell was trying hard to establish that.
The characters are quite likable yet there’s an uncomfortable disconnect. When the story branches out, instead of getting a cohesive story, you end up with what could in fact be two completely separate books. I want to tell you that enjoyed one of these sides of the story more than the other, but I really didn’t. On the whole, each felt kind of drab and left me wanting more.
If you haven’t already figured it out, I was not particularly fond of this novel and am looking forward to reading something more enjoyable next, which really shouldn’t be all that hard. Most of my reading of this book took place on my stoop on several very cold nights after very long days at work, sipping a beer or two, which was unfortunately the best part about reading this book. I guess the alligator on the cover of the book was more convincing than the story itself.
If you haven’t already noticed, I’ve been reading a lot. Somewhere around a book every two days. Trust me, it feels and seems awfully excessive to myself as well. I’ve retaken to the old walk and read routine, and with a 2 mile walk to work and a 2 mile walk home from work I’ve got plenty of time to get it done. And then, once I get home, since I’m pretty off tv right now, I read some more. I don’t know how long I’ll keep this up, but I’m hoping to get the review juice pumping and get more and more reviews out there as I can.
Anyways, this post isn’t about me, instead it’s about the bay area and what’s happening in the book world around here this coming week. So here we go:
Thursday, September 1st
@ 6pm Book Passage (San Francisco, Ferry Building)
- Mike Weiss will be discussing his book “Double Play: The Hidden Passions Behind the Double Assassination of George Moscone and Harvey Milk.” I mean the title kind of tells you everything you need know as far as what this book is all about. Does it really interest me? Not so much. Regardless, Moscone and Milk are pretty well known in San Francisco and I thought this book and they deserved getting recognized in this post. The book itself really actually talks about Dan White, the murderer, what his motivations were and how he get off on such a light sentence. I know I won’t be there since 6pm is a bit early for me to be stepping out but for those of you interested in the story, it’d be worth your time to be there.
Sunday, September 4th
@ 6pm Books, Inc. (San Francisco, Opera Plaza)
- While many would think this would be a great event for me to attend I would heartily tend to disagree. Apparently there is something called the “SF Young Professionals Book Club,” which in theory is a great idea. But… being who I am, I prefer to read in solitude and gather my own thoughts. I can be quite boisterous at times and I’m not so sure this group would be ready for the likes of me. I know some of you out there that read this (if there actually are any of you out there that read this) could be interested in attending this. This week, they will be discussing “Empire of Illusion” by Chris Hegdes. A book that I have never heard nor know nothing about, but I’m sure I’ll look into it now. To be fair, the group does look like a good, nice bunch, but again, I just don’t think this is something for me. Perhaps… sometime in the future my mind will change.
That’s all I got this week, check back next week for more and keep your eyes peeled for another review this week.
It’s hard not to intro with this, considering the book more or less does… sets the vibe, what can I say. Hit “Play” already!!
It’s 2am on a Sunday morning and I’ve just finished reading this incredible book. I started it on Friday… it was that good. I took only two breaks from reading this book (and each time it was hard to put it down and walk out the door). I left once to go see The Coup perform, where I saw something that I will most likely never ever see again in my life, Pam the Funkstress aka The Party Slapper using her boobs to spin records and the second break, a trip with an old friend to the San Francisco Street Food Festival. Both good breaks, but knowing that this book was sitting on my coffee table at home while I was out and about was no laughing matter.
Since my last posted book review in early September of last year, my life has changed. “Changed,” is putting it a bit lightly I suppose. It has been a roller coaster. I started a new job, made new friends, lost most of my friends to migration to far off cities (yes, Los Angeles, New York and Palo Alto are far off places), experienced life altering moments, became a more humble yet more generous, giving and confident man, became more ambitious, found a new best friend (2 if puppies count) and most importantly fell in love with the most incredible, beautiful, brilliant, caring and respectable woman I could ever imagine or dream of. Unfortunately though, things are in constant motion and right now I feel more lonely than I ever have. That best friend and love have disappeared from my life (sadly) and here I am, immersing myself into a world of books once again. Maybe you’re wondering why I’m telling you all of this, maybe not, but I think it stems from the fact that this book hit home a bit with me, for many reasons but two of those were the ideas of feeling “alone” and that knowledge of knowing when you’ve found someone that you love and want to share your life with. Mr. Cline has no idea how connected I feel to his protagonist, Wade Watts.
Wade Watts enters the OASIS to escape reality; I open up a book to do the same. The OASIS, a virtual world a la “Second Life” only far more advanced and unlike anything out there today, is a world where anyone can be whoever he/she chooses. By putting on some sort of crazy gloves and a ridiculously advanced virtual reality visor a user enters himself into a world of wizards, aliens and whatever else a 12 year old can imagine. But in the future that Watts lives in, the OASIS is more reality than the world outside. Having an escape mechanism isn’t the only similarity that I share with Watts, you see he’s also got “a serious cute-geeky-girls-playing-ukuleles fetish…” while I wouldn’t call what I’ve got a fetish by any means I certainly can appreciate this (it’s hard not to fall in love with Sophie Madeline). Wade is a loner, an outsider looking in, an unfortunate feeling that I share with him at this moment. He too found love, saw it escape from his grasp only to have it be rekindled (I dream…). We differ a lot too though, I don’t play video games, I have a great, loving relationship with my family and I actually do have some friends in real life.
Playing video games, inside or out of the OASIS, was Wade’s nerdy way of getting away from it all, “all I had to do was tap the Player One button, and my worries would instantly slip away…” If only life were that way for all of us. But, when the founder of the OASIS dies, James Halliday, Wade and his online avatar/persona Parzival are thrust into the biggest video game easter egg hunt ever, one that would result in making the finder of the egg the inheritor of Halliday’s massive fortune.
Oh, but that’s only the beginning. Lucky for you, me and everyone else who picks up this book we are inundated from the very beginning with fond memories of 80′s pop culture, this really is the crux of the novel and is what will surely draw people into it (it had that affect on me). From John Hughes films, sci-fi favorites (think Star Wars, Star Trek and beyond), comic books, video games, tv sitcoms to cartoons. You see, the creator of the OASIS was infatuated with this era, and therefore the hunt for the three keys, which would lead one to the easter egg, involved extensive knowledge of everything 80′s.
Of course, once the hunt began, every man, woman and child scrambles. Each spending all day everyday locked up in the virtual world studying the 80′s backwards and forwards trying to find clues, which would reveal the location of that first key. Of course, with big money at stake, there’s always some evil out there lurking, working as hard and devilishly as possible to win that prize and in this case it’s the IOI, whose plan, once they win the money is to take over the OASIS and monetize it, dirty bastards. The race for the egg turns life and death, inside and outside of the OASIS.
Honestly, this book is a nerds/geeks wet dream. The references made in the book make it that much more fun for anyone that is familiar with the 80′s (the only ones I struggled with were the Japanese references and the movie Ladyhawke, embarrassing, I know). There are so many valuable lessons throughout the book that to try and share them here would be a most difficult challenge (though probably not as hard as defeating Pac Man’s 255 levels with a perfect score of 3,333,360 points). I will leave you with this though, at the end of the novel one character says to another that “…reality is real… Don’t hide in here forever.” Perhaps something I should take to heart.
All things must begin slowly… this blog’s revival being one of those things. I have no idea how long it will actually take me to get back up to speed and begin posting regularly again but I will try… for the time being, I have this for you.
As said in my “Revival” post, this will be a work in progress. Recently, I have been reading more and more and have found a great amount of solitude and relief in doing so. Yet, nothing is easy these days and I am trying to do my best.
I thought that since the book reviews may take some time for me to get rolling again, I’d start by presenting you with some book related events happening this week in the bay area. Whether or not you attend them, have any interest in them, will see me there (most likely not), I really don’t care, you’re getting this information regardless.
Monday, September 22
@ 7pm Books, Inc. (Berkley)
- Nothing strikes me more than a compelling mystery, and the mystery of DB Cooper is certainly one of the most interesting of the past century. Geoffrey Gray will be in-store discussing his book “Skyjack: The Hunt for D.B. Cooper.” If you’re unfamiliar with DB Cooper and his mysterious crime I suggest reading this article here.
@ 730pm The Booksmith (Lower Haight)
- Sheila McClear will be talking about her book “The Last of the Live Nude Girls.” I’m not going to lie, I like nude girls and or women. I’m a 30 year old man, I can admit it. Will I read her book, probably not, but it sounds interesting enough. Ms. McClear, after falling upon hard times ended up working at a peep show in NYC for two years, longer than she or her parents (I imagine) had hoped for. Apparently Ms. McClear thinks that peep shows will be extinct in the near future and so will the stories that go along with them. All I can say to that is it clear that she has not been to Broadway Street in San Francisco. I can attest that the peep show is still very much alive there. This story does have a happy ending though (not like that), Ms. McClear is now a reporter for the The New York Post. Check out this event if you’d like to imagine this lovely lady posing nude for men peering through windows and hear her tales.
Thursday, September 25
@ 7pm Book Passage (Corte Madera)
- Penn Jillette, yes, Penn of Penn & Teller (Vegas celebrities extraordinaire) will be taking a break from his time in Vegas and visiting us lowly folk in the bay area to present his book “God, No!: Signs You May Already Be An Atheist and Other Magical Tales” (that’s a mouthful). From what I gather or have read, this is a book that takes some liberties with Moses’ Ten Commandments, in other words he has reinterpreted them. Penn, a self proclaimed atheist reveals his experience in the world as an exploration in his own amusing way. I have no doubt that this book is funny, but I’m about as likely to read his book as I am to read a book about Lindsay Lohan. Alright, I’d choose his first, but still I have some sort of phobia for reading celebrity tell alls or opinion pieces. I have seen his show once though, and it was pretty awesome.
There will be a Valet Reader revival… when that may be, I just don’t know.
Life changes pretty fast and unfortunately this here blog was a casualty of that. Although I may now have a bit more time on my hands than I’d really like, reading, taking caring of myself and my future have once again become priorities.
All in due time.