Tag Archives: Everyday things explained in interesting ways

No One Belongs Here More Than You, by Miranda July (2007)

I loved this book.  I loved how its stories are meaningful but also speckled with Miranda July’s dry humor (“As with the whole-grain bread, Carl did not initially leap into the idea with enthusiasm”) that stops them from ever being too pretentious.  I love that these stories are about relationships that don’t always work.  I love that July’s characters undergo real emotional turmoil.  I love how there are things about these stories I don’t understand, and that I’m OK with that.  Finally, I love that this paperback comes in five different colors and that mine happens to be orange.

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THIS IS A BOOK BY DEMETRI MARTIN (2011)

Demetri Martin’s wordplay-filled humor translates ridiculously well to book form, as this collection of drawings and short humor shows.  His best pieces expose absurd situations with exaggeratedly forthright reactions (a man obsessed with speaking into a megaphone, a Rashomon-esque recount of a bee sting that includes inanimate objects) while the least successful ones run with simple concepts far longer than necessary, such as the list of bugle performances that all include reveille or the protagonists’ hospital where male action heroes get treated for superficial wounds.  Fortunately the hilarious far outweighs the lame, making this book a damned funny read.

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Death: The High Cost of Living, by Neil Gaimon, Chris Bachalo, Mark Buckingham, and Dave McKean (1994)

In this Sandman spin-off, one day per century Death descends to convene with the living in the form of an upbeat goth girl, and this time she’s befriended Sexton Furnival, a suicidal sixteen-year-old in need of perspective.  Their adventures are easily resolved, but the real magic lies in Gaimon’s dialogue and in the Death-Sexton mismatch, which takes place before a decaying urban backdrop alongside a colorful cast of side characters.  As a bonus, the collection comes with a ‘90s-era sex-safe comic outlining the importance of condom use as protection from AIDS, a PSA time-capsule fitting of the Philadelphia era.

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Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse (1963)

No one understood social class like the 20th century British writers, and P.G. Wodehouse’s fiction feels more insightful than ever in the post-Occupy age.  Wodehouse wrote some 45 novels and stories about inept young millionaire Bertie Wooster, who’s constantly being bailed out of trouble by his astute butler Jeeves.  This book’s simple (albeit labyrinthine) plot consists mostly of comical misunderstandings, cowardly dives behind sofas, and threats that poor Bertie might actually have to get married, told through Wodehouse’s laugh-out-loud funny prose.  As such, the novel can be forgiven for its hackneyed setups, since the end result is pure fun.

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Villa Incognito, by Tom Robbins (2003)

Like every Tom Robbins novel, this one starts out with a chaotic bang: a large-scrotumed talking tanuki parachutes into nineteenth century Japan to drink sake and sleep with girls; meanwhile a band of ex-GIs in southeast Asia panics when their drug-smuggling comrade gets caught in the act. Robbins takes a while to tie his scattered opening together, but when he does, the plot feels surprisingly coherent. We also go along with his writing because it’s devilishly funny and wittily intelligent as we fall into his bizarre world where we never quite know what’s coming, but feel okay with that.

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Where I Got It

From a friend in spring 2015 who thought my writing reminded him of Tom Robbins’s.  He gave me this one along with Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates, which I read last year before I started this book blog.

Rose of No Man’s Land by Michelle Tea (2005)

Fourteen-year-old Trisha has a hypochondriac mother, a sister who wants to be on The Real World, and not much else.  Her new job at a teenybopper mall store leads her to Rose, a rebel who smokes and otherwise does what she wants, and together they set out on a late-night adventure through the sprawl of northeastern Massachusetts.  Tea’s writing hums with crazy energy, sharp observations, and madcap scenes that leave you racing.  This is a book about when everything was exciting and meant something, a book for those of us who play by our own rules.  Read it.

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Where I Got It:

Christmas gift from a friend who was like, “I’ve got a book for you.”

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Michelle Tea’s website

The Sunshine Crust Baking Factory, by Stacy Wakefield (2014)

An indie novel about twentysomething punk squatters in New York City in the ‘90s—where do I sign?  I was really excited to read this book but was disappointed by the plot (which does a fair amount of wandering), the characters (which, apart from the coolheaded but hasn’t-found-her-place-yet narrator, never quite stand out), and some lackluster scenes.  What Wakefield does really well instead, though, is show the hazards of Brooklyn squatting life (which is a lot more organized than I’d imagined) by capturing the mechanics of garbage disposal and squatters’ rights in ways that feel intricate and real.

Rating:

2-kafkas

Where I Got It

Bought new at Quimby’s bookstore in Chicago while on a trip, Summer 2015.

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The Sunshine Crust Baking factory at Akashic Books

Interview with Former-NYC squatter Stacy Wakefield

Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, by David Sedaris (2014)

I like David Sedaris’s writing because it’s funny, easy to read, and poignant, and most things I like satisfy at least two of these.  His latest collection is mostly essays with a few fiction monologues thrown in (the best of which, “I Brake for Traditional Marriage,” features a disoriented right-winger who murders his family and wants to grow a mustache like Yosemite Sam’s), but I enjoyed it slightly less than his earlier work because most of the essays (about, say, losing your passport or picking up highway trash) feel less zany.  It still earns a solid four Kafkas, though.

Rating:

4-kafkas

Where I Got It

Christmas Gift, 2015.

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David Sedaris’s Website

David Sedaris Reads 50 Shades of Grey (video)