Last month I put up a poll asking you all to pick out a book for me to read. You picked out Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I still do not have that book in my possession. A copy does not exist in any of the libraries in my county. I have not found it at Goodwill or any of the used book stores I frequent. I have not picked it up at Barnes & Noble, despite me having not one, but two gift cards for that establishment. I have not bought it online, new or used. I have not even downloaded it, legally or otherwise. I am a complete failure at taking book recommendations. And I'm putting up another poll tomorrow expecting you to do it all over again!
Before I get into the books I actually read last month, I'm going to request that if you have any new recommendations on what I should pick up next go ahead and comment in this post so I can put it on the poll. I'm reading one recommendation from last month right now so I do listen a little bit.
I didn't actually have the top voted book in last month's list so I read the #2 pick in your voting second. First I read Drinking at the Movies by Julia Wertz. You can check out Julia's stuff at Museum of Mistakes. I am not a book critic and I do not want to be a book critic ever, so I'm just going to give some quick thoughts on these books. I read Fart Party for a long time before Julia retired it and I enjoyed this book as much as I enjoyed her original strip. The book (or Graphic Novel if you prefer) is an autobiographical account of her move from San Francisco to New York. It's funny, very personal and a neat little peek into the life of a comic artist. If you like autobiographical comics like Harvey Pekar's stuff, this is much in the same vein. It was a great read and as a salaried IT geek stuck in suburbia it was fun to get to vicariously live as a struggling artist in Brooklyn for a couple hundred pages.
Up next is Last Words by George Carlin. I've loved stand up comedy since I first discovered Bill Cosby tapes back in 5th grade. My mom had two comedy albums in her collection that I remember. One was Steve Martin's Let's Get Small. I listened to that a couple of times and just didn't get it. I wore the FUCK out of her copy of Class Clown though. I played the hell out of the LP, I taped the LP to cassette and as soon as I got a CD player I had that sucka on disc. Everyone remembers the "Seven Words" bit from that album, but I really dug all the Catholic School stuff. Hell, that album is at least part of the reason why I'm Catholic right now. That whirring spinning sound you hear is from George's grave. Sorry George, but it's true. I used to be an Irish Catholic along with St. Alphonzo's Pancake Breakfast has a lasting effect on me. Ut - there goes Frank.
This was an autobiography, so obviously it goes through George's life from childhood up to his most recent dreams of where to take his career. The first and last chapters were hard. The first because I wasn't quite expecting the family history to be that much of a downer, and the last because I knew how the story ended. The rest was fascinating. I hadn't seen or heard much of his stuff before AM/FM so learning of his early career doing corny stuff on talk shows and variety shows in an attempt to become an actor was a shock. Hey, it's interesting when your heroes fail miserably! Gives you hope for yourself! Equally fascinating was his account of how his later style formed and developed on the HBO specials. That stuff is what moved him up from run of the mill Hall-of-Famer to Legend status. Plus there's plenty of drug use and road shenanigans to keep everyone entertained along with the inside baseball comedy stuff. The story of how he got arrested along with Lenny Bruce is well worth the read. This one's definitely going up on the shelf next to Lenny's book.
Next I went off on my own and picked up Vonnegut's Bluebeard. I've read over half of Kurt's books and have had this one for over a decade but never got around to reading it. You know that theory that when you're finally ready for something, it will come to you? Superstitious stuff and nonsense. Also completely true. This happens to me all the time with music. I tried to like Rush so hard in high school to fit in with the cool band geeks, but just didn't get it. In the '90s when I needed me some Rush? I got it. Radiohead. Yeah, I loved Creep in college and grooved on Karma Police when Rush was in my car's CD holder, but didn't go nuts over them. Then a few years ago right before my life was just about to start spiraling into disaster and I needed a soundtrack like Radiohead to get me through it, I stumbled across Rodeohead, decided to listen to all the songs and got hopelessly addicted. If I didn't have Radiohead in 2008, I don't even wanna know where I'd be right now. The Grateful Dead - well, I still don't get the Grateful Dead. Lord knows I've tried. This book was like that.
If I had read it in the early Aughts when I bought the thing I would have enjoyed it, put it down and forgotten most of it. Much like God Bless You Mr. Rosewater. Other than Goddamnit, babies, you've got to be kind! I couldn't tell you anything that happened in that book. By waiting almost a decade to read it, this book - and I'm not quite ready to commit to this mind you, but I'm close - may very well have overtaken Cat's Cradle as my favorite Vonnegut book. To put it in more familiar terms, Chipper Jones - and I'm not quite ready to commit to this mind you, but I'm close - may very well have overtaken Phil Niekro as my favorite Braves player of all time. Yes, I liked it that much. I'm going to give it a month or two to settle in my mind and then I'm reading it again after the 1st of the year. Now, Cat's Cradle, I love the dystopia. I love the religion. I love the armageddon. I looooooove the ending. But it's a little hard to relate to someone who gets to watch the world die firsthand. Reading the story of someone gifted with intelligence and artistic talents who fails utterly and miserably at what he loves but still skates along comfortably somehow despite this? HOLY SHIT do I relate with that. Gotta read it again and see if I still feel that way but damn, this one is a keeper.
I'm skipping a bunch of books that got more votes but I finally got brave enough to pick up Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49. I got this book way back in college. I probably rescued it from the discard pile at the bookstore I worked at. I never read it, probably because I was too skeered. Intimidated by the Pynchon. Then about 5 or 6 years ago I found Gravity's Rainbow in hardback for a buck. Now I'm intimidated to death of that instead so it was time to read this one. Not gonna lie, I still have about 20 pages to go. Gonna finish this one up tonight. What I've read so far, I really like. It is not an easy book, and if I had read this one first I would have probably gotten scared off and run back to the loving arms of the internet. It's damn good though and will probably merit at least one more reading later on just so I can try to piece together all the madness. It certainly hits you hard though, The end of chapter two made me cry out of nowhere. I especially like the secret group so conservative that they call the Birchers a bunch of liberals. I want to join that group. Are there any openings? I finally found the next book today:
Update: just finished. Oh my God.
Got this one at the Book Nook in Marietta. I've been going to various incarnations of the Book Nook for damn near 30 years now and I was embarrassed when I realized I hadn't checked there for Fear and Loathing.Didn't find that, but I did find Still Life With Woodpecker. Brand new copy, spine not even cracked, $2.40. Score! Plus it's got the cool cover which is why I chose this book in the first place. I actually found Jitterbug Perfume at another bookstore first, but I didn't have any cash on me and I didn't feel like whipping out the credit card for a $2 beat up paperback. I may go back and get it eventually. I read twenty pages sitting in the carpool like this afternoon. All you folks who told me to go read some Tom Robbins, thanks. So far this is hella good. One last pickup on the day:
I didn't find Fear and Loathing, but Book Nook did have this. It ain't the classic, but it's about the 1992 Presidential election and I actually got to experience that one. Unless I find F&LiLV before I finish Still Life With Woodpecker, this one is next in the reading queue. Of course the very first Amazon review warns me not to read this one first, of course. It's in my hands, so it's gonna be first. Maybe I'm just not ready to read Fear and Loathing. Well, other than the 500 quotes from the book I already know by heart, that is.