Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Books I Listened To In 2005, Part I

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris: Is Sedaris ever not simultaneously funny and brilliant? There's a scene in here between him and his mother, after he's been kicked out of their home by his father, that will leave a scar somewhere on my heart forever. And I'm not sure that the muscles in my ribcage will ever recover from my laughter during the story about Santa Claus and the Eight Angry Black Men.

A Drinking Life by Pete Hamill: Eh. I've read/heard better.

Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs: This is one of the better that I've read/heard. I know I'm late to the Burroughs party, but I was astounded by this man's ability to spin a yarn, and to prove just how much stranger truth can be than fiction. The one problem? I am now OBSESSED with figuring out who the psychiatrist really was.

Dry by Augusten Burroughs: Although this one wasn't quite stranger than fiction, it was certainly more absorbing. It did strike me as odd how completely disconnected this part of his story was from the story of his childhood--how he seemed to have completely cut all ties with his past, despite how they undoubtedly led to his issues in the present of this book--but I otherwise found it completely engrossing. I could feel the pain and hurt and the confusion in this book in a way that I simply couldn't amidst the complete oddness of Running with Scissors. And, oh. The scene in rehab with the stuffed animals? Beyond funny.

Magical Thinking by Augusten Burroughs: If I hadn't read his previous two, I'd have been enthralled with this collection. As it was, my bar was perhaps a tad too high, so I was only fascinated (though I could have lived without a step-by-step description of his mouse execution).

The Fourth Hand by John Irving: Figuring it was time to move on from my memoirs-only stance of the previous month or two, I decided to listen to Irving's latest, despite the fact that I've been less than excited by what little of his work I've read since Owen Meany. I should have listened to my gut. I wouldn't say it was a waste of my time, but it just didn't go anywhere important, and the places it did go often rang false to me.

The Secret Lives of Bees by Sue Monk: Cute. Sweet. Predictable. Utterly forgettable.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain: This was FUN. I sort of want to own the book, though, so that every now and then I can look over the what-you-need-in-your-kitchen sections (especially the part about which knives to buy) and the dining-tips sections.

America, the Audiobook by Jon Stewart: Riotous. Abso-freaking-lutely riotous. I so very much do heart Jon Stewart. Nobody does it better.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: Oh, this was a hard book to listen to. Painful and deep and passionate. Still, I have a number of quibbles with Hosseini--I think he rushes the last third of the book, and I think he took a too-easy way out by having Assef reappear as he does. It shook me out of a world into which I had settled deeply, if uneasily. I may have questioned the intensity and necessity of Amir's guilt and self-blame, but I felt it, utterly...until I got near the end, and things started rushing by, unreal and almost wholly unexamined. Still? It's a pretty darned brilliant book.

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Piccoult: Not so darned brilliant, but not so bad, either. This was one of those books that were probably made less brilliant by being put into an audio format, because they chose to have different 'actors' for each of the main characters, and it became more of a show than a reading. I thought the issues raised were interesting, the characters themselves less so. Still, I stayed up until 3am one night to listen to the end of it--and I was literally sobbing at the ending (which, stupidly, completely blindsided me). So I shouldn't complain too much, right?

The Partly-Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell: That voice. That voice! It took me away from the sheer force of this woman's talent for about 12 seconds, but by the time I'd gotten through the second or third essay, I couldn't imagine hearing them read by anybody else. Now, you have to understand that I don't go in for this whole 'fan' thing with writers, usually. But the more I listened to Vowell and her way of thinking and her clarity of insight, the more I kept thinking, "I NEED to know this woman. I NEED for her to be my friend!" I searched valiantly for an email address for her, because I had Things To Say to her. Important Things. Things only she would appreciate and understand. But, sigh, she remains unaware...or, rather, shielded from my stalker self. Well, one of those.

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell: If possible, this was even more brilliant than Partly-Cloudy Patriot. For one thing, anyone who could even come up with this idea needs to be lionized. For another, anyone who could execute it the way she did needs to be read, listened to, heard. (Plus, Jon Stewart as President Garfield? Rocks.)

[Two more parts to come...and then on to the books I read.]

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