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Author: Michael H.

Two things on the BuzzFeed dump

Two things on the BuzzFeed dump

1.

A lot of folks are tweeting things like this regrading BuzzFeed’s release of the Russa-Trump-Piss dossier:

The Wikileaks, er, leaks were emails to and from Hilary Clinton. They weren’t unsubstantiated. They were just dumb emails that didn’t really say anything besides “Ol’ Hil should let the young’ns help her with this new fangled email thingy.”

The BuzzFeed thing is certainly unsubstantiated. It is from an anonymous source citing anonymous sources. That’s a huge difference. Critical thinking has completely left the building people. That being said…

2.

A lot of folks are saying BuzzFeed shouldn’t have released the document because it is unsubstantiated and probably has some made up stuff – “I wanna piss on you” – in it. Here’s the thing: people in the highest levels of the government, and many reporters, have apparently had their hands on this thing for awhile now. BuzzFeed didn’t publish it as fact. The first damn line of their story is as follows:

A dossier making explosive — but unverified — allegations that the Russian government has been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” President-elect Donald Trump for years and gained compromising information about him has been circulating among elected officials, intelligence agents, and journalists for weeks.

Many have said the release was inappropriate. Paste Magazine even brought up the potential of a libel suit. In my opinion, that’s only remotely possible if BuzzFeed presented this thing as confirmed fact. They did no such thing. The fact is that elected officials – including Obama and Trump – were made aware of the dossier, and exposed to some or all of its contents, before BuzzFeed released it. With that being the case, how do you not release it?

The biggest problem I see with the whole thing is that it has the potential to damage the credibility of a future, fully vetted revelation re: Trump-Russia, or Trump-whatever. But the people who put him in office won’t believe even the most evidence-backed information, and the Republicans in DC won’t turn on their man, so does it really matter?

Anyway, the public deserves to know that this thing is receiving attention at the highest levels of our government. Its current veracity is besides the point for many reasons, not least of which being that Trump has obviously lied about his relationship with Putin and some of his appointees have clear ties to Russia in their past.

But most importantly, it made Twitter really fun for a few hours.

* * *

Trump held his first press conference since being elected – just a shade under a decade – today and it was completely bananas. He rambled on mostly incoherently about random things including: a $2B dollar deal he turned down this weekend, stuff about Hilary, how awesome his election rallies were. Trump seemed to have brought his own cheering section – Politico is reporting that they were his paid aids – along as applause and hoots could be heard as he dissed the media and various intelligence agencies.

He then fielded like two questions and then scuttled away and let a lawyer discuss Trump’s business ventures and how he’s not going to divest from them, but, instead, will turn them over to his two adult vampiric sons. Trump came back for another round of questions during which he refused to take a question from a CNN reporter and called his organization – who had done limited reporting on the dossier prior to its release – “fake news.”

We’re all gonna die.

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Atlanta wins and other Golden Globes stuff

Atlanta wins and other Golden Globes stuff

I’ll let my dude Keith Stanfield, aka Darius, express how I feel about both Atlanta and Donald Glover winning a Golden Globe last night:

So Atlanta won Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy over the likes of Black-ish and Transparent, which was awesome and made me happy. And Donald Glover won Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy over they likes of Anthony Anderson and Jeffrey Tambor, which was also very awesome and made me very happy.

I have written a lot about what made Atlanta the best show on TV this year, so all I’ll say is that it was nice to see this super dope show be awarded for being super dope. Oh, and Glover’s speeches were perfect. Find both of them if you can.

One more thing: I love Zazie Beetz so much.

* * *

So, the rest of the awards, for me, fell somewhere between “that’s dumb” and “who cares.” A lot of that had to do with my not seeing the respective winning show/movie (good thing I’m writing this, huh?), but some of it had to do with awards shows being mostly stupid and useless.

The Night Manager winning a bunch of awards is a good place to start. It’s a British show originally broadcast on BBC before being picked up by AMC. It stars Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie, which, fine. But, as far as I can tell, it wasn’t that great and wasn’t expected to win many, if any, Golden Globes. Let’s take a look at the categories it did win, and what should have won instead.

The Night Manager was listed as a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television. Hugh Laurie won Best Supporting Actor, which is the only one I’m OK with even though I would have gone with Sterling K. Brown from The People v. O.J. Simpson. However, Brown, and his show, won some Emmy’s last year so, whatever.

Olivia Colman won Best Supporting Actress. This Is Us had two nominees in this category, but that show is basically pandering in the form of a TV show so all of its nominees can take a hike. Who should have won? Lena Headey from Game of Thrones is always deserving imho, and would’ve been a better choice than Colman, but Thandie Newton was a force of nature on Westworld. She was robbed.

This leads us to the worst award of the night: Tom Hiddleston winning Best Actor in a Limited Series/Movie for TV over both Riz Ahmed and John Turturro. Hiddleston, although I enjoyed his portrayal of Loki in the Avengers films, is akin to having a single piece of white bread for dinner. I really enjoyed The Night Of, and it should have won for best Limited Series over OJ, and Ahmed and Turturro were super duper fantastic in it.

A key thing to remember about the Globes: they are awarded by the Hollywood Foreign Press, with Foreign being the key word. They appeared to have chosen the British show by default. Which they also did for Best TV Drama, selecting The Crown – Boresville, am I right? – over GoT and, and this is unforgivable, Stranger Things. Boy did I love Stranger ThingsIt really irks me when everyone else on Earth does not love the same things I do.

* * *

On the Movies side of things, La La Land cleaned up as expected. Moonlight was a surprise as best Drama over Manchester By the Sea (I really dug Hell or High Water and encourage you to watch it if you have not). I look forward to seeing each of these at some point as well as seeing how they do at the Oscars.

I wanted Colin Ferrell to win for The Lobster because he was great in it, and that movie was a dark comedy masterpiece, but Ryan Gosling is cool too, I suppose. My biggest beef in Movies was Isabelle Huppert winning for Elle over my girl Amy Adams for Arrival. Again, this probably had a lot to do with who voted for these things. Elle won best Foreign Language Motion Picture, but come on you guys.

Finally: Viola Davis and Meryl Streep are both the realest. And did you know Tom Ford, the clothes designer guy, was the screenwriter and director of Nocturnal Animals? Weird.

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The Colts and the AFC South

The Colts and the AFC South

First: the Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13) are utter garbage. But we knew that. What about the rest of the much-maligned AFC South?

Well, if any of them were actually a smidgen above mediocre they would have run away with the division. The Houston Texans (9-7) ended up on top, even after losing on the final day to Jake’s Tennessee Titans (9-7) – who were the most exciting team to watch in the South imo – due to a better divisional record. Just for reference, the AFC South Champion Texans finished 29th in the NFL in points per game, yards per game, and pass yards per game. They were eighth in rush yards per game, which is something I guess.

The Texans squeaked out just enough wins thanks to their defense: they were 11th in points allowed per game, first in yards allowed, and second in pass yards allowed. Their rush defense was 12th in the NFL. This proved good enough to prevent Glock Osweiler/Tom Savage from ruining everything (Glock-O had 15 TDs and 16 INTs). Another fun stat: Houston finished the season with a minus-49 in point differential which means their losses were real ass whippings (their 27-0 loss to the Patriots in week three wasn’t helpful).

Tennessee succeeded mostly due to the run, on both sides of the ball. They rushed for 136.7 yds/game (3rd in NFL) while only allowing 88.3 yds/game (2nd in NFL). The Titans passing game was only ranked 25th, but Tennessee fans have to be excited about the future of Marcus Mariota, injury or no. In his third season he threw for almost 3500 yards, 26 TDs, and only 9 INTs while running for 349 and two more TDs. When you group him in with RBs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry it’s not hard to see how the Titans ran over people.

And then there’s my beloved Indianapolis Colts (8-8). As someone whose fandom timeline mostly consisted of the Peyton years, the last few years have been a bit rough on me. I love Andrew Luck, and TY Hilton – he led the league in receiving yards this season – joins a long line of hyper-talented Colts receivers, but, besides them, my god are they inept.

A “normal” Colts team would have left this division for dead with four games – or more – left. It feels unreal to me now that the biggest worry at the end of the season used to be how much to rest the stars without screwing up their momentum.

Indy’s defense has never been great, but the offense (read: one of the best QBs of all time) was mostly able to overcome that in the past. Now? Well, this season the Colts ranked 30th in yds/game allowed and 27th and 25th in pass yds/game allowed and rush yds/game allowed, respectively.

(A quick shoutout to Robert Mathis for a great career, he will be missed a ton.)

The offensive line is another sore spot. Andrew Luck had more dudes touch him than any female at a Trump party. Andy was sacked 41 times during the 2016 season, only one less than league leader Tyrod Taylor of the Buffalo Bills. Some of this is due to Luck’s infuriating penchant for hanging on to the ball too long, sure, but not 41 sacks worth.

Chuck Pagano is a nice guy, and I wish him the best, but it’s time to move on. The fact that he is certain of returning as head coach next season speaks to the level of delusion currently being enjoyed around the club. With that being said, GM Ryan Grigson and Owner/star of your latest fever dream Jim Irsay deserve just as much of the blame if not more.

in the 2016 draft, Indy took an offensive lineman in the first round for the first time since 2011, and it was a center (to be fair, they didn’t have a first round pick in 2015, they took a guard in the second). Additionally, their defensive selections have been mostly misses – e.g. D’Joun Smith, the Colts’ second pick in 2015, recorded one tackle before moving to the Titans (he appeared in one game this season).

But it was the first pick in 2015 that really irked Colts fans: Phillip Dorsett is an OK receiver, but Indy desperately needed a solid O-lineman or a playmaker on defense. It was indefensibly stupid. They didn’t have a pick in the second round and their third rounder was the aforementioned Smith.

Somehow Pagano and Grigson are both still around. Irsay may actually be mental, but he needs to act now before every decent potential replacement is snapped up by other teams. Colts fans are used to, and deserve, better. In a season in which a 9-7 more trash than decent Texans team won the division, their is no excuse for the poor performance of this team. They need better players and better coaching. I won’t hold my breath waiting for Irsay to make any decent decisions.

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Old Guy Hates Thing: 2016 was a year

Old Guy Hates Thing: 2016 was a year

2017 is the next one.

 

2016 was a year. A year is a unit of time developed by our species in order to give us some small since of being in control. We are not and time isn’t real.

We also – most of us – put faith in the ability of us to govern ourselves. Furthermore, we have opinions and thoughts on the best way to do so. Humans tend to think that one or more ways of ruling over each other is better than one or more other ways of ruling over each other.

Here in the United States, for instance, a representative democracy has been presented and accepted as the best mode of governance. Some go as far as to say it’s the one Jesus prefers but that’s neither here nor there.

Last month, this system led to the election – to the office of USA President, in case you didn’t know – of someone who tweeted the following:

If you would care to note the time stamp of the tweet. The man above said this as the president-elect. We voted him into the highest office in our representative democracy.

I don’t know what else you want me to say.

But I will say that 2017 is the next year and it will begin in two days. Days are also a unit of time. In this instance, this unit of time measures how long it takes for the Earth to spin once – more or less – on its axis. Time, again, isn’t real, and none of your emotions or thoughts matter one bit in the overall life cycle of what we understand to be our universe.

This also happened recently:

I, too, encourage you to read the responses to a tweet by clothing store, Old Navy. I also then encourage you to contemplate, for just a minute or two, that the vile pussbags saying things like “miscegenation” are the same species  of animal as you and I; purportedly made of the same combination of elements that were formed in the heart of a dying star and then propelled across the universe during a supernova type event.

I envy you if you can continue on about your life as we slime into 2017 with even the smallest amount of optimism and energy. What it must take to completely shutoff most of your intelligence and all of your critical thinking capacity is mind boggling.

In the year 2016, there were even more pronounced examples of humankind’s wastefulness and uselessness and unfathomable shortsightedness. Chief among them was the stupid thing happening in Syria in which really idiotic super-morons destroyed a city called Aleppo with many children among the dead.

We destroy, or allow to be destroyed, the weakest and most helpless among us for power, money, and a bunch of stupid made up gods. But I’m glad you got a new job and had a kid and vomited everything all over your asinine social media accounts like anyone gives a flying fuck what you did today.

As I was saying, in 2016, the year after 2015, and the year before 2017, which is almost over, a lot of dumb things happened. 2017 seems primed to make it look like child’s play. But, again, re 2016, the following thing happened:

What hope could we possibly have when people are this stupid? They are legion. They will never go away. And they have been emboldened, vindicated.

In 2016, you really only have to go back a few months to wish evolution had stopped at apes. Or to wish that the dinosaurs were never wiped out. Or to wish every single one of the infinite planets in the universe were uninhabitable for forever.

Didn’t have the energy for fake news including Pizzagate.

My final 2016 offering:

2016 was a year. 2017 is the next one. No one cares about your year-end list.

Happy New Year everyone! May you always feel content with your faux hope and unjustifiable optimism. May you always succeed in crashing through your crushing cognitive dissonance. And may your white, middle-class existence never be more troubling than when you realize you need to run to the store for milk.

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TOP SHELF BOOKS: Books of the Year part 3

TOP SHELF BOOKS: Books of the Year part 3

Michael H. takes a look back at the books he read in 2016 and tries to pick his favorites.

PART 1       PART 2

Let’s finish this bad boy up with my nonfiction favs of the year. The rankings in this list are pretty arbitrary: I was blown away by each of them.

NONFICTION

 

10. Anne Lamott – Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (1994)

I love books on writing like Draymond Green likes kicking people in the nuts. My most favoritest is still On Writing by Stephen King. In Bird by Bird, Lamott lays out a basic guide for writing and living as a writer with humor – “Shitty First Drafts” is one of the chapter titles – and brutal honesty.

She dissects her jealousy of others’ work as well as her wavering belief in her own ability in a self-depreciating manner that allows the reader into her process. Lamott avoids coming off as the know-it-all that her career would allow her to be, but instead shares what has worked for her, and, maybe more importantly, what hasn’t.

9. Neil Gaiman – Don’t Panic: Douglas Adams & The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1987, updated 2005)

My love of Adams and Hitchhiker’s is deep and everlasting so I read Neil Gaiman’s deep dive in rapt elation. The beloved series started as a radio show before branching out to just about every other medium: the novels, TV series, movies, video games, website, merchandise.

Gaiman – who’s a wonderful writer in his own right; you should check out American Gods if you haven’t yet – covers all of it, including the genesis of the idea and Adams’s unfailing habit of missing deadlines, before moving onto his other works including the Dirk Gently books, Adams’s Doctor Who episodes, and The Meaning of Liff.

8. Hunter S. Thompson – Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga (1966)

Thompson is known for his “Gonzo” style of journalism, which basically means he participated in the craziness that he was covering. For Hell’s Angels, he spent a total of two years with the infamous biker gang during their rise to prominence. With precision, humor, and madness that only Thompson can provide, he details the dirty deeds, wild parties, and aversion to a “normal” life of the Angles. It’s wild and unbelievable and gripping.

 7. David Simon – Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets (1991)

I wrote a longer response to this book here, but, suffice it to say, it knocked me on my ass. David Simon, the creator of The Wire, embedded with the homicide division of the Baltimore Police Department for a year. He saw a lot of awful shit – shit that you hope you will never see – and detailed it honestly.

It will give you a deeper appreciation for what police have to go through, but also reveals that they are only humans. And sometimes humans are bad and do bad things. Homicide is deeply affecting and eye-opening and you should read it.

6. D.T. Max – Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace (2012)

I read this at the height of my DFW obsession so I guess you could say I enjoyed it. This is the first biography of Wallace (many more are certain to follow), and in it D.T. Max guides the reader through Wallace’s tumultuous life via letters (where I learned of the DFW-Don DeLillo connection), interviews, and analysis of his works. It’s insightful and heartbreaking and very well done. A must-read for any Wallace fan.

5. Mary Karr – The Liars’ Club (1995)

Mary Karr is the Queen of Memoir (her The Art of Memoir is fantastic). The Liars’ Club was her first one and it essentially brought the entire genre into the mainstream. The book’s title is a reference to the group of guys Karr’s father belonged to that would get together and shoot the shit. Her father was the best shit shooter.

Karr details her rough upbringing in East Texas with unflinching honesty and biting humor. Her dad was a drinker, her mother appeared in need of a visit to a mental institution at times, and her grandmother, well, the passages in which Karr describes her are probably my favorite parts of the whole book. Mary Karr is the reason that every person on earth has written or is currently writing a memoir. You may see this as a good or bad thing, but The Liars’ Club is a memoir you should read.

4. William Finnegan – Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life (2015)

So, yeah, I don’t know anything about surfing, unless you count the few times I’ve tried unsuccessfully to body board on one-foot waves. If you told me a book that centered around surfing would be one of my favorite books this year, or ever for that matter, I would have told you to walk into the ocean and never come back. Such is the power of William Finnegan’s writing in Barbarian Days.

He covers his chase for gnarly waves from California to Hawaii, back to California, and then all over the world. Amidst the surfing obsession is his life story: his family relationships, new and old friends, love found and lost, his love of literature and writing. His passion for the tough to master and little understood sport wavers on occasion, but he never manages to completely break the hold the call of the ocean has on him. He surfs on Long Island for crissakes. Finnegan took home the Pulitzer for this one.

3. Terry McDonell – The Accidental Life: An Editor’s Notes on Writing and Writers (2016)

I already wrote about this one, but it’s pretty much my catnip. Almost 400 pages on writing/editing, interactions with famous writers, the magazine business during a time when the magazine was king, and details about how great writing came about? Do I really have to sell you on this book? Nah, it’s either right up your alley or you couldn’t care less. Boy, bye to the latter.

2. Michael Herr – Dispatches (1977)

I also wrote about this one at length. It and Homicide crushed me this year. Dispatches is considered by many to be the best book about war – like all wars, not just Vietnam – that has ever been written. (I am currently reading Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried and it is also superb.) I don’t think most of us could even begin to imagine what it’s like to be a solider in a war zone. Herr takes us inside this unknowable sphere with a deft hand and an immaculate eye. Surreal and devastating, Dispatches will open you up.

1. Joan Didion – Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968)

If George Saunders is my current obsession then Joan Didion is my constant obsession. She is one of those writers that, after you read them, makes you certain you should never write another complete sentence again in your life. So instead of trying to do her talent any justice, I’ll just leave you with a quote, and an admonition to read whatever you can find by her.

“I think we are well-advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.” – Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Go forth and read.

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TOP SHELF BOOKS: Books of the Year part 2

TOP SHELF BOOKS: Books of the Year part 2

Michael H. takes a look back at the books he read in 2016 and tries to pick his favorites.

PART 1

We’re back baby. For part 2 of my favorite reads of the year I will rank the short story collections I read.

FICTION – Short Stories

Being a hardcore novel guy, I had never made much time for short story collections in the past. I changed that a bit this year and I am damn glad I did. It helped that the books I picked were mostly surefire knockouts (thanks Google).

6. Denis Johnson – Jesus’ Son (1992)

Who-boy. I do enjoy me some dark and depressing writing. It doesn’t get much more dark and depressing than Denis Johnson. In other words, he is great.

The stories that make up Jesus’ Son are loosely connected, focusing on a drug-addicted loser. The stories will hit you like a ton of bricks, but they also deliver stunning clarity and surprising humor. There’s also a fever-dream – or maybe drug-dream would be a better term – tinge to the prose that keeps you just enough off balance to make you wonder if what is being described is literal or not.

5. Raymond Carver – What We Talk About When Talk About Love (1981)

Ray Carver is one of the most celebrated short story writers of all time, and this is his most celebrated book. From a bird’s eye view, there doesn’t appear to be much going on in his stories. Upon actually reading them you realize everything is going on in his stories.

And by everything I mean real life – Carver is a master at telling what should be simple stories with such precision and insight that you barely notice that not much happens and the end brings about zero resolution. His stories will definitely resonate with people who have lived a little and settled into the mundanity of work/married/kids life, but the quality of his writing is apparent to anyone with eyes and half a brain.

4. Lincoln Michel – Upright Beasts (2015)

This was the first book I read in 2016. I think about it more than any book I read in 2016 save Infinite Jest. Michel is a really cool writer/editor guy  who co-edits the lit mag Gigantic and is the Editor-in-Chief of the super dope website Electric Literature.

Upright Beasts is Michel’s debut collection. In these stories he takes the concept of “genre” and puts it through a wood chipper. He mixes and matches as he sees fit: In one story, a couple try to work on their relationship as the Zombie apocalypse happens outside their house. It’s scary and tense, has blood and gore, and is really funny. This shouldn’t be possible, but Lincoln Michel manages all this with wonderful – “literary” if you will – prose that flings you from one page to the next. I can’t recommend this collection highly enough.

3. 2. 1. George Saunders – CivilWarLand in Bad Decline (1996); Pastoralia (2000); Tenth of December (2013)

So here’s the thing, about once a year a find a new writer – new to me at least – that I completely lose my shit over and become completely obsessed with. DFW was that for me last year. This year it was George Saunders.

The three short story collections above do not contain a single bad piece, imo. The ones that stick out to me most are from his most recent collection, Tenth of December, and that’s probably because I read it first. “Victory Lap,” “Escape from Spiderhead,” and “The Semplica Girl Dairies” are spectacular. But the title story is probably my favorite short story ever. I dare not spoil anything about these stories. Just go read them.

His nonfiction is amazing as well: Saunders’ piece in The New Yorker about his experiences at Trump rallies from earlier this year is a must read, as is his report in GQ re his trip to Nepal to see the “Buddha Boy” from 2006.

OH AND ALSO HE HAS A NOVEL COMING OUT IN FEBRUARY AND IF THERE WAS A GOD I WOULD HAVE RECEIVED AN ADVANCE COPY, but oh well I’m really excited about it if you must know.

 

(Nonfiction coming tomorrow)

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TOP SHELF BOOKS: Favorite Books of the Year 2016 edition

TOP SHELF BOOKS: Favorite Books of the Year 2016 edition

Michael H. takes a look back at the books he read in 2016 and tries to pick his favorites.

 

I have real trouble doing this sort of thing with books: Out of the 40+ books I read this year, there were maybe three or four that I didn’t say “loved it” after turning the final page.

I did my best to make some top ten/five lists. I broke them down into Fiction and Nonfiction. I will give short story collections their own category. Each category will have its own post (so three total). Fiction is up first.

FICTION

 

10. Dave Eggers – Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever(2014)

Weird title for a weird book. But weird in a really good way. They story is told only through dialog, which is jarring at first. I’m guessing some won’t ever get used to and will not like it. I did get used to it and liked it very much.

The main character is a troubled, relatively smart “millennial” who kidnaps an array of people and confines them in an abandoned military base in California. He thinks he is doing a good thing that must be done; his victims tend not to agree. Eggers speaks directly to the aimless, the discontented, and the debt-saddled in this quick read.

9. Brian Evenson – Last Days (2009)

This was the first book I “reviewed” for The Open Field in this TOP SHELF BOOKS series, so you can check out this much longer write up on this terrifying novel. Brian Evenson’s writing will make your skin crawl and will also make you unable to stop reading. Additionally, the unexpected dark humor really made this one for me. Gist: a one-handed cop goes undercover in a gross religious cult whose members dismember themselves to show their faith. Sounds fun, right?

8. Terry Pratchett – Guards! Guards! (1989)

I wish I lived in Discworld – the insane and hilarious planet created by Terry Pratchett. He explored this world in over 40 novels before he died in 2015. I wrote about him and this book more in a stand-alone post earlier this year, but Guards! Guards! is really funny and really enjoyable.

It centers around a group – the City Guard – of misfit and mostly incompetent dudes charged with “guarding” the city. But no one really expects them to do anything so that’s what they do. Until a dragon shows up. I would encourage you to pick up any Discworld novel if you haven’t read Pratchett yet.

7. Don DeLillo – White Noise (1985)

I came across Don DeLillo thanks to David Foster Wallace: the two were pen pals, with DeLillo serving as a kind of mentor to DFW. In White Noise, DeLillo uses the constant crap – TV, radio, news, ads – we are bombarded with to explore the relationships within a specific family. I think effective satire is hard to do; DeLillo does it excellently.

6. Ray Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451 (1953)

This classic also deals with, and predicts, the effects of media and technology on humanity. In a sea of dystopian novels, this one is probably my favorite: it’s centered around books! But not in a good way: Guy Montag, the main character, is a fireman, but instead of putting out fires he burns books (bastard!). Books and reading are illegal; violators can be put to death. But ol’ Guy gets a little curious…

This is peak Bradbury. This is a must read.

5. Blake Crouch – Dark Matter (2016)

This is another one I reviewed for the site, and it’s also the only book I read this year that came out this year. It includes alternate universes/realities/whatever, giant feelings of “what if I had chosen a different path in life?”, and a pretty good love story. I plowed through this one quickly. If it doesn’t hook you then we can’t be friends because anyone that doesn’t like what I like is wrong and dumb.

4. Douglas Adams – Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (1987)

Douglas Adams is obviously most well known for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series (a trilogy in five parts). That series is the most must-read thing in this list. Do it. Right now. I’m not sure why I’m drawn to these British writers – besides that they are awesome and funny – but Pratchett and Adams are easily among my top ten authors.

Dirk Gently is not a good detective. He eeks out a living by charging scared old ladies ridiculous fees – mostly for extravagant trips he says are integral to his investigations – while sitting around in his office. Then he gets a job searching for a missing cat and ends up trying to save humanity from extinction. In-between there is a bunch of weird, hilarious shit including an Electric Monk, who was created to go around believing in things so humans wouldn’t have to worry about religion any more, and quantum mechanics. It’s as befuddling and bewildering as it sounds. And I love it so.

BBC America recently developed the story for television, so that’s neat.

3. Ernest Hemingway – The Sun Also Rises (1926)

It took me awhile to latch on to Hemingway. This was the book that did it. Heavily influenced by Hemingway’s own experiences as part of a group of expats in Europe after World War I (aka the Lost Generation), The Sun Also Rises follows a group around Paris and Spain. They are mostly aimless and disillusioned and unsure of what to care about. Hemingway’s prose sneaks up on the unfamiliar reader: it seems airy and almost bored at first, but, when you get into the grove, it becomes forceful and irresistible.

2. Stephen King – The Stand (1978)

Oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy. I just finished this one so it’s fresh in my mind. I put out a Twitter poll to see which “long” book I should finish the year with: King’s The Stand or DeLillo’s Underworld. All three votes were for the former – I’m very popular online – and I’m glad they were.

The Stand has been on my to-read list for quite some time. I found it in a used-book sale earlier this year. I finally read it. It’s huge – I didn’t even read the “uncut” version – and awesome (M-O-O-N that spells awesome, laws yes). A flu wipes out most of humanity. The survivors divide up between the good side and the bad side, each with its respective leader. Someone’s got to lose. It sounds really simple. It is not.

The room given to character building pays off, the action/suspense sequences left me holding my breath, and, yes, it’s creepy as hell at points. King is operating at full tilt in this one. Read it.

1. David Foster Wallace – Infinite Jest (1996)

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again converted me (the title piece from that book is the single greatest essay I have ever read); Infinite Jest shattered my brain into a million pieces. There’s isn’t much left to be said about David Foster Wallace or his masterpiece – especially from the likes of me.

A lot of the books I read make me pause to appreciate the beauty or brilliance of the writing contained within them, but Infinite Jest had me shaking my head and cracking up with awe and confusion. It’s so surreal and insane and amazing and hyper-intelligent and relatable and laugh-out-loud funny (if you don’t lose your shit while reading the Eschaton scene you aren’t human).

I can’t begin to get into the characters or the unspooling and seemingly completely separate story lines. I simply cannot explain this book. It was a personal accomplishment just to finish the massive thing. And it was so worth it.

I false-started about three times with Infinite Jest. I read three different editions, picking up where I left off each time. I probably read 20 books alongside it (not a bad idea, but definitely slows you down). But after you make it to around page 200, things start to clear up a bit – just enough. I read the final 300 pages solely focused on it; no other books. I will never forget the experience. I don’t read things the same way anymore. The books I read directly after Jest seemed frail and inconsequential, like they didn’t have enough weight to them. I hope to find the time to read it at least one more time through before I die.

I didn’t even mention the footnotes…

 

(Short Story Collections coming soon.)

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