All Posts Tagged ‘books

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Interview with the only person on the planet who hated The Goldfinch

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Interviewer:So. Vicki. You hated The Goldfinch.
Vicki: That’s correct.
Interviewer: Do you also murder small household pets?
Vicki: What?
Interviewer: You must hate humanity.
Vicki: No, I just…did not like this book at all.
Interviewer: Are you a secret Nazi?
Vicki: What? No! This interview became inflammatory very quickly.
Interviewer: I just find it hard to believe that someone doesn’t like one of the most-well-regarded books of 2014 so far. Donna Tartt took ten years to write this thing (probably wearing pantsuits the whole time), she sweated, she labored over Theo, just so you could have this thing to read. Do you have a soul?
Vicki: I gave it a real try, honest. I read over 600 of the 700+ pages!
Interviewer: You didn’t try hard enough. Donna Tartt died so you could have this book.
Vicki: I’m pretty sure she’s still alive and doing VERY well off her book sales.
Interviewer: The book is on Amazon’s bestseller list. It was hailed as a “The Goldfinch is a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade” by Stephen King. “With a Dutch master’s attention to detail” by the Washington Post.  And a “stunning success, one of the most striking novels I’ve read in years” by some dude on Amazon.
Vicki: I know, I know, I know. I tried to get into it! I liked some of the characters! I liked Boris, the creepy Eastern European dude, and Popper, the dog. But I had to slog through every single page. But there is no feeling, nothing interesting, in ANY of the characters. I didn’t care that Theo’s mother died or that he was trying to get back to the East Coast, or about that stupid Goldfinch painting. I was just BORED. I was waiting for someone to die in a horrible fiery death again. Only if I didn’t have to read about Kitsey. KITSEY. STOP TALKING. SHUT UP KITSEY. I HATE YOU. I ALSO HATE EVERYTHING ABOUT FURNITURE, I DON’T CARE ABOUT FURNITURE AND I DON’T CARE ABOUT HOW DRUNK THEO GETS EVERY FIVE MINUTES.
Interviewer: You have no taste and you’re never allowed to blog again.
Vicki: But I LOVED her Secret History! I stayed up late at night reading it! I had high hopes!
Interviewer: You don’t know how to read English.
Vicki:  I’m not alone! I can’t be! PLEASE SOMEONE OUT THERE WHO HATED THIS BOOK.
Interviewer: The English-speaking Society for Classy Guys and Gals Who Read Pretentious Books on the Train hereby outsts you. Hand in your badge and your condescending smirk.
Vicki: I love that smirk. It’s how I know I’m better than  Danielle Steele.
Interviewer: You’re done.
Vicki: Am I allowed to read The Luminaries? Or my Yiddish book?
Interviewer: You can’t handle allegories, allusions, or explanations of art and society. You can’t empathize with characters, and you don’t understand the pains of real Authors. I hereby only allow you to read Dan Brown from now on.
Vicki: *quietly sobs in the corner*

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Russian Jewish Romance

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My internet friend Alina (and frequent commenter here) wrote a short story for a romance anthology (which you can buy now, here).  (Disclaimer: I got a copy to read for free). Here’s the press release:

They say “write what you know.”  And that’s just what author Alina Adams (born Alina Sivorinovsky in Odessa, USSR) did when asked to contribute a short story for the anthology “The Mammoth Book of ER Romance” (Running Press September 2013).

Instead of sticking to traditional, all-American characters like she had for her previous “New York Times” best-selling books, including “Oakdale Confidential” and “Jonathan’s Story,” Adams created possibly the first-ever romance featuring a Russian Jewish heroine, whose decisions – in life and in love – stem directly from her non-traditional background and upbringing.

Adams explains, “I wanted to do something different with my story, “To Look For You,” and feature a character unique to romantic fiction.  Like me, Alyssa Gordon was born in the USSR, grew up in America, and never felt like she belonged completely to either place.  Throw in being Jewish on top of that, and I’d never encountered a similar type of character while reading romance.  I figured I might as well be the first to create one and explore how being a Russian Jew in the States affects who you fall in love with.”

I personally will never admit that I read romance novels, but this story is at the intersection of Russian Jews, hypochondria, perfectionism, war, and men who are really, really clean, which is probably why Alina thought of me.  There were a couple of things I was always really curious about with regards to romance writing, so I asked her:

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What I’ve been reading lately

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Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell

I’ve heard a lot about Vowell and listened to an interview with her on this really great podcast a couple weeks ago, and decided to pick up Unfamiliar Fishes as a result. It’s basically the history book I would write if I had more time to research. She is witty (sometimes too witty) and nerdy about history. This one is about the annexation of Hawaii, which is a great book to read in the summer. I’m not done with it yet, but loving it a lot.

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Nassim Taleb

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From the Telegraph

Still my favorite philosopher/economist/misanthrope. Still agree with him on nearly everything.

Antifragile resembles a self-help book, though it is difficult to imagine any other self-help book as intemperate and cranky. The author is a tireless self-aggrandiser, boasting of his gargantuan reading habits; of being a weightlifter, ready to physically slap down detractors; and a gourmand, recommending fine wines and camomile tea to ease a troubled mind.

Here are some excerpts from press about him+ Antifragile:

Actually, Antifragile feels like a compendium of people and things Taleb doesn’t like. He is, for instance, annoyed by editors who “overedit,” when what they should really do is hunt for typos; unctuous, fawning travel assistants; “bourgeois bohemian bonus earners”; meetings of any kind; appointments of any kind; doctors; Paul Krugman; Thomas Friedman; nerds; bureaucrats; air conditioning; television; soccer moms; smooth surfaces; Harvard Business School; business schools in general; bankers at the Federal Reserve; bankers in general; economists; sissies; fakes; “bureaucrato-journalistic” talk; Robert Rubin; Google News; marketing; neckties; “the inexorable disloyalty of Mother Nature”; regular shoes.

And:

A reader could easily run out of adjectives to describe Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s new book “Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder.” The first ones that come to mind are: maddening, bold, repetitious, judgmental, intemperate, erudite, reductive, shrewd, self-indulgent, self-congratulatory, provocative, pompous, penetrating, perspicacious and pretentious.

And:

He also comes across as a helluva personality: irascible, finicky, vain, prone to fits of pique at those who mischaracterize his ideas (uh-oh, better watch out), disdainful of journalists (double uh-oh), a weightlifter, too (this is your third and final warning).

On the other hand, he has habits I admire: He told the New Scientist he only goes to doctors if he’s really sick, he takes a dose of local water (a drop, no more) when visiting India (good for the immune system) and apparently he’s never been in debt

And:

You’re critical of various groups who claim to be able to predict and manage the future – which, in your opinion, has done the most damage? The most damaging group are economists; probably the most damaging individual is [former chairman of the US Federal Reserve] Alan Greenspan, and maybe also [current Fed chairman] Ben Bernanke and [US treasury secretary] Timothy Geithner. The reason I’m against the top-down state isn’t so much theoretical, but because of what I call having skin in the game – bureaucrats have no personal stake in their decisions. I don’t tell you what I predict; I tell you what’s in my portfolio. So economics-wise, I don’t want people to tell me what to do; I want to know what they’re doing.

And:

“Exactly!” says Taleb. Once you get over the idea that you’re reading some sort of popular economics book and realise that it’s basically Nassim Taleb’s Rules for Life, it’s actually rather enjoyable. Highly eccentric, it’s true, but very readable and something like a chivalric code d’honneur for the 21st century. Modern life is akin to a chronic stress injury, he says. And the way to combat it is to embrace randomness in all its forms: live true to your principles, don’t sell your soul and watch out for the carbohydrates