A book I've read recently, and some I read months ago:Spanking the Donkey: Dispatches from the Dumb Season, Matt Taibbi
Perhaps you're familiar with the eXile
, or you've read his work in the New York Press
(an aside: I've seen a lot of promos lately for a teevee show that will remain nameless, and the promos always mention the rave reviews said program got in the New York Post
and the Washington Times
. That's how they always say it. Do you think they're trying to trick us?) and Rolling Stone
, or maybe you caught him on The Daily Show
the other day. Taibbi is kind of a gonzo journalist type, and here he writes about the 2004 presidential election. He eats mushrooms, he puts on a gorilla suit, he lies his way into a volunteer position on Bush's Florida campaign. Frequently hilarious and occasionally insightful, this is the best book about elections I've read this year.Lummox: The Evolution of a Man, Mike Magnuson
Magnuson details, very amusingly, the kind of life that takes you from being a drunk and pseudo-homeless teenager, sleeping in a grammar school music room, to being a mid-level English professor and creative writing instructor. I'm a fan of his style and tone, and there are some very funny bits here. It's an entertaining memoir, and, as with all good memoirs, there are some teachable moments. But is Magnuson still a beer-drunk, chain-smoking lummox? Interestingly, no.
Heft on Wheels: A Field Guide to Doing a 180, Mike Magnuson
Instead, Magnuson, somewhere on the high side of 30, has decided to become a very serious road bike rider. Good for him. I'm not a huge fan of these 'you can do it' kinda fitness books, and my favorite moments from HoW
are the ones where Mike describes how abandoning smoking and drinking has made him less accessible to his graduate students and alienated him from academic culture, or creative-writing culture anyway. It makes a great companion piece, though.The Big Show: High Times and Dirty Dealings Backstage at the Academy Awards, Steve Pond
What did I learn from this book? I should be watching the Oscars. Many, many celebrities are smokers. Martin Landau is kind of an asshole. When 'Blame Canada,' from the South Park movie, was being cleared for use in the show, they were concerned with a line that referred to Anne Murray as a bitch. She was cool with it, though. The Oscar production staff briefly considered having Patrick Stewart do a dramatic recitation of Eminem's 'Lose Yourself,' but Capt. Picard wasn't down (I bet Shatner would've done it). Good for award show fans, celebrity gossip types, people who like backstage books, etc.
American Skin: Pop Culture, Big Business and the End of White America, Leon E. Wynter
Wynter created the Wall Street Journal 'Business and Race' column. How do you get a job like that? The cultural criticism doesn't offer a lot of new insights, but he's savvy enough about business and marketing to more than make up for it. Worth reading.Travels With Barley: A Journey Through Beer Culture in America, Ken Wells
How much do you like beer? Enough that you'll suffer through writing about honky-tonks and local color in order to get to stuff about craft brewers and varieties of hops (or vice versa)? This is kind of a beer-themed travelogue, and kind of a cultural study of the modern beer scene, and it's not bad. What's more, this is, as far as I know, the first book to cover a lot of this kind of ground. It'll look nice next to your Michael Jackson
books. (Aside: if you heard the name 'Michael Jackson' in the context of beer and said to yourself 'Doesn't he prefer Jesus juice?,' you're probably not part of this book's target audience.) TWB
mentions my favorite Little Rock beer-snob joints, The Flying Saucer
, but does not mention my favorite Cleveland beer-snob joint, La Cave du Vin
(or the Great Lakes Brewing Company
, for that matter).