Sunday, February 29, 2004

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

How little I knew about Truman Capote! Turns out that in addition to being the man who wrote Breakfast at Tiffany's, Capote also threw one the NTY's "Best 50 Parties of All Time" and was Harper Lee's childhood friend. Not only that, but the character Dill Harris in her book To Kill A Mockingbird IS Capote as a youth. Whoda thunkit?

In Cold Blood is one of the first "true crime" novels. It started the genre that later brought us things like 'Helter Skelter' and now has whole sections devoted to grisly wallowing in the deeds of Jon Benet Ramsey & Jeffrey Dahlmer. First, just the facts: In the 1950's Holcomb, Kansas was shocked by the apparently motiveless murder of a family of four. Capote's book explores in fascinating detail the events leading up to the murder and the subsequent search for, and trial and execution of those responsible.

Capote's style is solid, every page filled with direct quotes from the 'characters' in the story. The format is remniscent of a dective novel, or a thriller, made all the more engaging because every detail is 'true'. In In Cold Blood, Capote blurs the line between fiction and factual reporting, but does so in a way that strengthens both.

Cool book.


Roads by Larry McMurtry

Roads is a book that I will buy another copy of. While the first one will go onto my shelf, alongside all of McMurtry's other works, this second copy has a different fate in store. Roads is a book that I want to keep in my car. I want to paste a US roadmap to outside (like book covers in school) and annotate each highway and interstate segment with the page number on which he offers commentary on that artery. It would be great to always have this book with you while you were on a roadtrip.

Roads contains a dozen essays, each one of which is just a chronological ramble on LMM's drives from one place to another. His usual sardonic wit and attention to social structure and mannerisms is present on every page. He is rarely positive about any place he drives through. In addition, his fearsome arsenal of literary memories is brought to bear every few pages as he quotes, quips, and quibbles with and about the various author's whose hometowns he visits. He indicts Hemmingway's third wife for her tacky taste in furniture, praises Willa Cather's Arizona & Nebraska. In almost every county he explores, LMM is able to talk fluently about the works of those author's whose writings mention a particular landmark. I'd love to hear a conversation between he and Mrs. Anne Fadiman.

This book is also likely to be of interest to any other McMurtry scholars out there because of it's deep biographical component. He doesn't hesitate to remnisce (seldom elegaic, usually half-way bitterly) about those places which have touched his life when he passes through them. As a companion piece to In A Narrow Grave, this book serves to, in a sense, chronicle the last 20 years of LMM's mental progress (why do I want to use the word decay there?), literary adventures, and geographical wandering. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Travels with Charley by my beloved Steinbeck, and Lars Somebody's Travels with Lizbeth, written much later. Like those, this book is a travelogue, describing one man's undirected journeys across America; both the geographical patchwork of highways, roads, and interstates, and the far more interesting network of books, loves, and memories.

It's been a few weeks. Today is that strange and rare day, February 29th. I've been enjoying it, cause I don't expect to see another for several years.

The last two weeks have seen the Professor and I playing hosts. Last weekend her friend Kerri came into town from New Orleans. I guess she was eager to escape the Big Easy on Mardi Gras. As much as I like boobs and drunken tourists pissing in the streets, I still can't say I blame her. There is always something about having your city fill up with out-of-towners that makes you a little smug and a little irritated. At any rate, Kerri was a wonderful young woman who was quick to smile, liked a drink, and is obviously crazy about the Professor & Lil' Sis.

This weekend we had the esteemed Senator and his charming wife in from Houston. Since Jake has recently moved out of theWarwick, I finally have a guest room. We ended up partying pretty late into the night both nights and having lots of good, silly fun. The Chappell show, R. Kelly, Aqua-Teen-Hunger-Force, and the Marketing of Christ were all oft discussed topics. Good times.

I've been reading quite a bit. I finished Roads by LMM about a week ago, then this week started and finished In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Reviews of both up next.


Sunday, February 15, 2004

The Professor & I went to Half Price books for the big V-Day. My present to her was an armload of books. It was great fun browsing the shelves together. She got wuite a stack & of course I picked up a few myself on the sly! Since someday pretty soon these books all get to be mine too, it's orth chronicling them here. In no particular order:

Synge Biography by David Kiely
The Blind Assassin by Margret Atwood
P is For Peril by Sue Grafton
Letters to Sartre by Simone de Bauvoir
The Courtisans by Joanna Richardson
Dictations on Haunted Writing by Avital Ronell
An Irish Voice by Gerry Adams
The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom by Caitlin & John Matthews
Foucalt's Pendulum by Umberto Eco
The Cat Who Sniffed Glu by Lillian Braun
The Once and Future Goddess by Elinor Gadan
A Feminist Tarot by Sall Gearhart & Susan Renni
Le Divorce by Diane Johnson
From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury
Miss Wyoming by Douglas Coupland
In Cold Blood By Truman Capote
Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut
They Whisper by Robert Owen Butler
Black House by Stephen King & Peter Straub
The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett

Can't wait to sink my teeth into a few! Stay tuned, dear non-existant reader!


Sunday, February 08, 2004

By now it's evening. My earlier rant about my roomate seems very petty and mean spirited. Oh well. Never mess with another man's beer. Alas.

In the mean time, I just wanted to remind myself that on this day my very kind mother and father had all us kids & the Professor over for an exquisite Sunday dinner. There was fried chicken, chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, rolls, brownies for dessert, a fire in the fireplace, and lots of good natured conversation. It was, as usual, one of the highlights of my week.

We are about to play some settler, and I'm finishing up readin the NYTimes magazine for this week, which has a fascinating article on virus authors.

The most recent trains from Non-Sequiterville:
A recent trip to the bookstore with LT really made me want to start reading more. He showed me a wonderful book on Science (sort of an 'all about science' type grimorie that was really cool. There were so many other things there I wanted to just sit down on the floor and browse. He also told me about some 'open-source' classes that MIT has started offering, in which all courseware & lectures are freely availible for anyone on the net. How fucking cool! So anyone with the time and inclination can become an MIT educated scholar! I really want to look into this!

I left Roads by LMM at work, so I've been reading Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pyncheon. Wow. It is an incredible conjuring trick. He perverts language and structure so deeply. Much of it is flirting with the edge of non-sense, but some passages are just incredibly cool. It's about 800 pages long, and only slightly less dense than plutonium, so don't expect a review for some time.

Off to play Settlers with the people. SHEEP!

It's a grey sunday here in Austin. I'm holed up in my room after a tasty Thai Kitchen lunch, as is my heathen custom of a morning. (If you can puzzle out all the references in that sentence, good work!)

I'm currently furious at my roomates, or at least, at Cog. I After being awakened many times throughout the night to the sounds of drunken hooting, I finally wake up this morn. The entire house reeks of cigarettes. Why? Cause Cog & his slimy friend Proctor (who is apparently sleeping in my brother's room) smoked up the garage. Dumbasses. The downstairs is a mess, and when starting to clean up, I find one of my beers of the month opened and full on the counter. WTF? I go look in the garage, which is a mess and reeks, only to find that they have consumed ALL of my beers of the month! I only got to try one! Add to this that fuckhead is late on rent (that's late for both of the two months he's lived here) and I'm starting to get a little hot under the collar. I think that a good flaying will improve roomate relations greatly. When you pay rent, you get some priviliges, when you are freeloading, you had better fucking tiptoe. I am pissed about this, and blood will flow.

I unexpectedly started and finished a book on Friday. It went by so fast that it had not occured to me to chronicle it here, but I shall.

Anti-Bride Guide: Tying the Knot Outside of the Box by Carolyn Gerin

The debonaire and magnificent Ilan Mitchelsmith and his wife gave the Professor this book sometime this week. I picked it up on Friday night and promptly read it cover to cover in one sitting. (It's only about 100 pages.) Obviously, with my upcoming change in marital status, the topic of our wedding has been much on the Professor's mind. This book deals with the topic in an irreverent, wholly realistic way that is the anthesis of all the books and magazines put out by the wedding industry. It is divided into ten chapters which addess all of the major topics a future bride would need to consider. Things like "How to pick a location" and "How to plan your time" and "Cool ideas for non-traditional ceremonies" and "The cake" and "The food" etc. are all given a few pages. If you know a future bride who is a little overwhelmed about a wedding, and starting to really lose sight of things, this book is a fine cooling mist. The tone is one that really seemed to put the Professor at ease, and for the first time since our first stressful wedding conversation, I'm starting to think that maybe, just maybe, this deal can acutally be the fun, laid back event that it should be; an event that brings our friends and familes together to join us in celebrating our excitement in being togther.


Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Well, for my first official meeting on FLX, I claw my way through rush hour traffic, arrive here at the ungodly hour of 7:59 am, only to wait around until 8:50 to learn that the meeting was cancelled, but bossman forgot to send out mail about it. Doh!

So I'm eating a nasty breakfast taco and reading. I'm switch hitting pretty fiercely here at work, trying to finish up Roads by Larry McMurtry, and also Peoplware and Small Unit Leadership. Will keep you posted. In the mean time I'll stare out at the grey day, eat my taco, and ponder why Town Lake appears to be flowing backwards.