Monday, April 28, 2008

Quit Listening: "Winesburg, Ohio" by Sherwood Anderson

Quit Listening: Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson, downloaded from

Boring. All the narrators are literary authors and crappy narrators. Maybe the stories are better when read.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Read for Book Group: "Finn" by Jon Clinch

Read for Book Group: Finn by Jon Clinch, 2007, 9781400065912.

Novel about Twain's Pap Finn, father of Huckleberry. This received all sorts of positive reviews and Best of the Year listings but I likely would have quit early if it was not a book club item. The novel did not get all that interesting until about halfway in.

I do not remember much about Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer. But, I do remember Pap Finn as being a very scary fella. I should re-read those books. Pap is a drunkard who never got along in school or with his family and after taking up with a black woman, Mary, was disowned by his virulently racist father whom everyone calls the Judge. Of course Pap is a racist too and although he wants to be welcomed back into his father's fold he is unable to leave Mary or knuckle under to the Judge. He's unable to change at all and does not want to (as I was reminded by a Crider post), he just wants money to buy more whiskey.

Finn knocks up the girl, a former slave girl, and has Huckleberry. For a time Finn seems content with both woman and boy. He refuses to send the kid to school and makes his living off the river, mainly by fishing. After Finn beats and stabs a man who comments on Huck's black heritage the Judge sends him to prison for twelve months. Mary takes on debt to survive and Finn just gets madder and madder after his release over the debts (especially to blacks), questions of her fidelity, and the fact he could not keep her under his thumb. He drinks more and more, beats Mary about, and gives them no money for food.

Mary and Huck eventually split town and end up down and across the river at the Widow Douglas' place. Mary returns from Missouri - a slave state - to avoid being "claimed" as property and ends up with Finn. Finn strangles her, skins her - to remove the black skin he cursed himself with - and throws her in the river.

For the tally: Finn assists in the kidnapping, rape and murder of a black boy. Beats up a child. Steals numerous skiffs. Strangles a hired hand of his father. Rapes Mary and keeps her as prisoner. Kidnaps his son from the widow and keeps him prisoner. Drinks whiskey all the time. Neglects to properly treat a gunshot victim who bleeds to death.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Listened to: "Little Steps" by Louis Sachar

Listened to: Little Steps by Louis Sachar, downloaded from

A sort-of continuation of Sachar's Holes. Armpit and X-Ray are back in Austin after Camp Green Lake from Holes was shut down. It's summertime and 17 year old Armpit is taking classes to catch up in school. He is also working a landscaping job - digging holes.

Armpit's neighbor is 12 year old Jenny who has cerebral palsy. Armpit and Jenny get to be close friends. Armpit is also still friends with X-Ray who still talks too much. X-Ray convinces Armpit to finance a ticket scalping scheme for a pop star's concert. They make their money back and turn a profit but X-Ray gets greedy. Armpit meets the pop star, travels to San Francisco to visit her, and the pop star's step-father/manager tries to kill the pop star.

Pretty good over all but the teen love angle between Armpit and the pop star was way too sugary and lovey-dovey. There were several laugh out loud moments in the novel. The narrator did well.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Read: "Contract Killer" by William Hoffman and Lake Headley

Read: Contract Killer: the explosive story of the Mafia's most notorious hit man Donald "Tony the Greek" Frankos by William Hoffman and Lake Headley 1992, 1560250453.

What a fucking scumbag.
A filthy, rotten, inhuman piece-of-shit. I found this book after reading the Konigsberg book and searching the catalog. Frankos knew Konigsberg in prison and Konigsberg is mentioned a few times in the book. It’s interesting how many names pop-up in different memoirs and articles and are all interconnected through prison association and outside crime.

First off, Frankos is garbage and likely a fat liar – contrary to his firm assertions of truthfulness.
Frankos has spent most of his life in prison; what convict isn’t an inveterate liar? He has admitted to murdering countless people, dealing drugs, violently extorting money from regular people, loan sharking and other crimes. Then he has the audacity to complain that the government isn’t giving him a fair deal in the Witness Protection Plan when he became an informant. Frankos is one of those guys who can be a good friend and a good story teller to listen to but he’ll be perfectly happy to kill you for five thousand dollars and dismember your body.

In the Introduction the co-authors detail how they were introduced to Frankos and spent a lot of effort verifying his tales.
So, I have to assume most of what is said is true. True enough that I never want to be in the same room with the guy.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Never Going to Get to: "Badger Bars & Tavern Tales" by Bill Moen and Doug Davis

Never Going to Get to: Badger Bars & Tavern Tales: an illustrated history of Wisconsin saloons by Bill Moen and Doug Davis, 2003, 1930596200.

Neat idea and the authors did not skip the unsavory aspects of boozing history. Meaning they talk about whores (lots of them), drunken brawls, and some hilarious but obscene postcards and coasters from different bars. Maybe I should try and read this.

There are some slightly racy photos. A stripper with pasties on page 87, burlesque dancers on page 41, Silver Boots Mona (famous whore in Superior) in bed with a sheet covering her rack. The book is online anyway. Lots of illustrations and stories.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Did not completely read: "Whiskey" by Michael Jackson

Did not completely read: Whiskey by Michael Jackson, 2005, 9780789497109.

Good book with great DK illustrations but I do not have enough interest. Lots of info about brewing and individual distilleries. I read a couple of the pieces on distilleries but gave up after a while.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Read: "Uncommon Reader" by Alan Bennett

Read: "Uncommon Reader" by Alan Bennett, 2007, 9780374280963.

Decent but slow in the middle. The Queen follows her Corgi’s off the Palace grounds to a bookmobile. She goes aboard to apologize for all the barking and feels obligated to check out a book. She does not enjoy the novel but finishes it out of duty and next week, to end a meeting with her private secretary, she returns the book herself and gets a much better book. I book she enjoys enough to stay in bed and finish.

The Queen starts reading everything and anything and promotes a kitchen aid she met on that first bookmobile trip to be her assistant for literature. Her reading habits become a concern for her staff when she has more interest in reading than performing official duties. The novels and history she reads teach her to understand and empathize with people much more than she had ever been able as Queen. There is quite a bit of boring introspection in the middle of the book until the Queen starts considering whether she should start writing. The Queen thinks of writing as a progression forward from all the reading she has done.

In the end the Queen invites all the privy council for a tea and after announcing her intention to write a book abdicates on the novella's last sentence.

Bennett uses lots of commas. Lots, and lots, and lots, of commas.

Read: "God’s Demon" by Wayne Douglas Barlowe

Read: God’s Demon by Wayne Douglas Barlowe, 2007, 9780765309853.

Not so bad, not so great. The blurbs on the cover were from film directors and cartoonists which did not give me confidence. But, the book had a good review and a neat concept. I fell asleep three of four times reading this book. Not sure if that can be blamed on the book though.

Sargatanas is a Major Demon down in hell. Sargatanas and other demons have been in hell for several thousand years. Lucifer disappeared after the fall and Beezlebub has been in charge ever since. Beezlebub is Lord of the Flies and is composed of an ever shifting and buzzing cloud of flies that will coalesce into humanoid form on his throne.

Major Demons are like royalty and each Major will usually have his own city and territory. Sargatans’ city is an obvious , if flawed due to circumstance, version of The Above. Of Heaven. Sargatanas has regretted his decision to join the charismatic Lucifer’s rebellion ever since the downfall and decides to earn his way back into Heaven. He begins a rebellion against Beezlebub, defeats him in the end of the novel, and ascends back into Heaven. Other things happen of course.

The author’s foreward says that he got the idea from a Milton poem. Or James. Henry? Some poet I am not going to look up right now. I wonder how many of the many characters are taken from that work or from myth and legend. Maybe I’ll try and look some up.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Listened to: "First Boy" by Gary D. Schmidt

Listened to: First Boy by Gary D. Schmidt, 2006, downloaded from

Not too bad when considering it's intended audience of grade school aged kids. Narrator sucked though. Not so bad as to suck eggs or suck donkey dick but still suckey.

Cooper Jewett was orphaned from his parents as an infant and raised by his grandparents on their New Hampshire dairy farm. After both grandparents die fourteen year old Cooper is determined to carry on with the 160 acre farm and it's 64 cows all by himself. With the help of a couple neighbors he is managing - just barely.

Pretty soon Cooper is being followed by black sedans and NH Senator [Whatshisname] visits Cooper at school asking questions about his parentage and family. After that other people burglarize his house and steal his birth certificate. A mysterious guy shows up at the farm demanding that Cooper go with him to meet a powerful person. Cooper refuses.

Turns out Cooper is the abandoned child of the President and her husband. Senator [Whatshisname] and the President are competing in the NH primary and [Whatshisname] is trying to expose the President's secret illegitimate birth from fourteen years ago. The President, First Gentleman, and Senator [Whatshisname] are all scumbags. Senator [Whatshisname] gets his comeuppance in the end but I was hoping the First Family would get theirs. They treat Cooper abominably and plan to kidnap him and send him to Nova Scotia for several weeks to keep him away from the media.

Everything turns out okay in the end - of course. Well written and suspenseful but I had to suspend more disbelief than usual because a kids' book does not usually address all the holes a plot has for adult readers. That's okay.