Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Assistant

by Bernard Malamud

Dorian: I love his stories and am teaching them extensively this semester, but I have never read any of his novels. Time to rectify that omission with all of you.

Tyler: About a third of the way in.  Malamud seems to keep the narration at arms length from the characters. We are privy to some of their thoughts and feelings, but it seems that they all (with the possible exception of Helen) are not particularly self aware. They do not seem in control of their lives, but are pushed here and there by fate - and this creates a somber tone. It is also very visual - easy to see in the mind's movie theatre.

     He asked were what book she was reading.
     "The Idiot. Do you know it?"
     "No. What's it about?"
     "It's a novel."
     "I'd rather read the truth," he said
     "It is the truth."

Tyler: (Something of a spoiler alert - something of a warning). At close to 3/4 in, there is an incident that I found very difficult to read.  In fact I had to put the book down for a while. There are some ugly things in this world I know exist but I try to forget about...perhaps it is wrong of me. Perhaps when we ignore these things it creates the environment that allows them to continue. I admire this book for it's willingness to expose dark truths...but I would caution you all to be ready for some heavy shit. I'm going to watch youtube clips of cute kittens now.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


by Tim Powers

Eric: Best magical realism/Cold War spy novel I've read in some time.

Friday, October 9, 2015


by Marjane Satrapi

Janis picked because she thought it would be good to have a book by a woman (nobody else picked one) and a graphic novel might be good. She had never read it and this might be a good chance to hear what other people think.

Tyler - I'm about a quarter of the way in and I'm quite captivated. Like many people my age (just a bit older than the author), I saw images of the Iranian revolution on television and had little idea what was behind all of it. It has me thinking a lot about how effective government works; that it is not simply a question of democracy vs autocracy, but a system of checks and balances. It is impossible for a Canadian reading Satrapi's account of how she was made to wear the veil, and not think of our last government's attempt to ban niqabs from citizenship ceremonies. While many will see it as a triumph of democracy that the government was voted out, it was actually the supreme court that defended the rights of the citizens. So...anyway...yeah, I like the book.

Tyler- I just finished. Wow. Satrapi achieves a wonderful balance in her story-telling; something very personal, but that anyone could identify with. Perhaps part of the reason it is so effective is that the reader learning about the history of Iran is put in a similar position to young Marjane, who has to filter though propaganda to get a sense of the truth. Or something. I can't put my finger on it and really it's simply a matter of really good story telling. It seems very honest.

Tyler - I just read the second Persepolis book. Maybe better than the first.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

History of the Rain

by Niall Williams

Picked by Heather; "Because I am a sucker for books about books."

Review in The Gaurdian.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Undermajordomo Minor

 by Patrick deWitt

Like so many people, I was impressed by The Sisters Brothers, and I wanted to see how deWitt would follow it up. I just finished Undermajordomo yesterday, and I have some questions I am looking forward to talking to you all about. If you have started it, share your impressions here. I think I won't spoil it for anyone to say that deWitt manages to achieve a very engaging tone to the narrative, so if you liked The Sisters Brothers, then I think you will most likely enjoy this as well.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

How Music Got Free

How Music Got Free- By Stephen Witt

"I am a member of the pirate generation." So starts Witts book about the deeper story behind the collapse and stutter-start reorganization of the music industry. I'm not generally a fan of music books, and I'm not generally a fan of business books but I weirdly kind of like music business books. And so, with no more justification than that, I thrust this choice on you.

That's how this works, right?

Here are some reviews:
New York Times
The Telegraph


Chapter 1.
Tyler: I am midway through chapter one, and I have to say I'm seeing this as a movie. Witt is doing a good job of taking a subject I thought I had little interest in, and putting it in a familiar dramatic context: “Brandenburg needed a virtuoso, a caffeine-addled superstar who could translate graduate-level mathematical concepts into flawless computer code. At Fraunhofer he found his man: a 26-year-old computer programmer by the name of Bernhard Grill.” Such writing has my inner casting-director wondering if Chris Colfer can do a german accent. Perhaps we can crowd-source to buy the film rights?

Tyler: Just finished Chapter 5.
I really like the structure of alternating chapters between the inventors of the technology, the users of the technology, and the music industry itself. I like that Witt understands that stories revolve around character.

Chapter 6.
Tyler: Love the dry tone: “Tupac’s death was a pointless tragedy, to be sure, but it was also an excellent career move.” And, “if Limp Bizkit could go forty times platinum, then literally anyone could."

Chapter 13.
Tyler:  What is so interesting is that the leakers are motivated simply by ego - the credit of being the first to leak a song. This "credit", of course, would only extend out to the other leakers and a handful of blackweb insiders - the wider world would never hear of RNS and its rival crews. But the need for credit is so strong that these guys were risking jail time to get it (a dedication to their work which can not but garner a bit of respect from the reader.) It makes me wonder how many stupid things we all do and say, how much we all risk, for "credit" in our own lives.

Paul: I finished this a few days ago and I've let my thoughts stew a little. I read it entirely on my phone, a paperback sized piece of technology bursting at the seams with the stolen music that the book.... that the book what?  Laments? Catalogues?

I was trying to describe it to my 15 year old daughter on our long drive from town home the other evening- trying to describe a world where we payed for music. Where we would often spend hours in gleaming record stores flipping though CDs elaborately encased in 13 inches of security packaging, or hovering at strange listening stations (where I always felt too self conscious to listen to anything for more than about 30 seconds), or chatting up cooler than thou,  be-pierced employees about whether all of Judas Priest was gay, or if it was just Rob Halford. 

She doesn't pay for music and never has.  Even though she and her friends consume/suck/devour music in a way I never would have imagined. I can't even, she says. That so weird, she says. She puts her ear buds back in, tired of my dumb tales about growing up in the Aztec times or whatever.

Tyler: I too feel really old. I find myself wondering how Artist make any money these days when they get so little from a download. The big stars seem to still be living the big star lifestyle, so there is still big money for the few at the top I guess.

As much as I miss the physical packaging; double albums with gate-folds - art you could hold and look at while you listened - maybe there is something more pure about the music that has to stand alone without all that other stuff. I don't know.

I liked how he tried to portray everyone in a somewhat favourable light. I found his repeated attempts to paint the German inventors has hypocrites for denouncing music piracy while machining fortunes from MP3 licensing seemed a bit of a stretch. So few scientists get rich that you can't really dislike those guys for actually profiting from years of hard, thankless work.

A very good book. Thanks, Paul, for picking something I would never have tried on my own.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Welcome to the Book Chain!

Here is how it works: A book chain is kind of like a book club, but with a slight difference. Each member of the book chain chooses one book, which they and the other chain members will read. So if a chain has six members, then each member will read six books. There are no physical meetings of chain members, instead comments and questions will be posted here on this blog - each book will be given a blog page where members can post. The posting will begin when we have six members signed up and six books chosen. The chain will run for twelve weeks - that's an average of two weeks per book, so you can judge if this is something you can fit into your life. You can read the books and comment on them in any order you choose, and if you don't finish a book, that's okay - just comment about why you dropped it.

I, Tyler, will moderate the chain and try to answer any questions you may have. I am also going to be participating in the chain.

Does this sound like fun? Want to give it a try? Message me here at blogger and join the chain.