(Im)Partial Reviews: Second Installment

It’s that time again: time for me to tell you a bit about the books that I just couldn’t slog through. I tried, I really did, but I love reading and refuse to ruin my favorite pastime with books that just aren’t doing it for me. Here goes!

High Crime Area by Joyce Carol Oates. Mysterious Press. 224 pp.

High Crime Area by Joyce Carol Oates. Mysterious Press. 224 pp.

Let me start by saying that I usually enjoy Joyce Carol Oates. I haven’t read a ton of her work, but I’ve enjoyed the stuff of hers that I’ve read…until now. My first exposure to Oates was as a college freshman; we were assigned “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” I found it chilling then, and thinking back on it still terrifies me. The other work of hers that stands out in my mind is “ID,” featured in The Best American Short Stories 2011, which I also enjoyed.  When I saw High Crime Area was an offering on Edelweiss, I thought I’d finally pick up a collection of short work solely by Oates. And I just…couldn’t stay interested. I got about halfway, and although a couple of the stories were somewhat chilling, none of them grabbed me or made a lasting impression. I still think Joyce Carol Oates is a talented writer, but the stories in this collection just weren’t for me. I can’t read well-crafted sentences if they don’t say anything interesting.

Carniepunk. Gallery Books. 433 pp.

Carniepunk. Gallery Books. 433 pp.

This was billed as an “urban fantasy anthology” in which every story took place at a circus. I think there’s a lot that can be done with a circus setting (if you read my review of The Night Circus, you know I’m dying to visit that fictional venue), but these stories fell flat for me. Many of them were based on characters from series that I hadn’t read, but none of them interested me enough to make me want to check out the related novels. After a few attempts, I let this one fall by the wayside.

Betrayed by Lisa Scottoline. St. Martin's Press. 352 pp.

Betrayed by Lisa Scottoline. St. Martin’s Press. 352 pp.

Okay. Last one (for now). I got a review copy of this one at BookCon, read the first fifty pages, and jumped ship. The writing is overly simplistic and inconsistent; the main character sounds like a lawyer at times (which she is) but at other times her thoughts and words are those of a precocious middle schooler. The “mystery” was just getting started when I gave up, and I considered sticking around to give the plot a chance, but I hated the writing too much to continue.

Aaand that’s my latest list of books you should probably leave unopened. Until next time!

Summer Reading List: YA

Next installation in my Summer Reading List: Young Adult! I usually enjoy YA, but this batch of books left me feeling underwhelmed. Hopefully I’ll find a new book to love soon; I need my faith in Really Good Books to be renewed.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Delacorte. 227 pp.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Delacorte. 227 pp.

This was heavily promoted at BookCon, with chapter samples handed out and a huge board which guests were encouraged to graffiti with their own lies. There was a blurb from John Green, which also caught my eye, and, well…it seemed promising.

But…no. When will I learn that the Next Big Thing isn’t usually my thing? When will I remember that I like John Green infinitely more as a YouTube personality than as a writer? (Note: I still find him very readable, but he’s not in my list of favorites.) Maybe I set myself up for failure with this one. The characters weren’t all that likable or interesting, the romance fell flat, and the “huge plot twist,” although a little surprising, wasn’t mind-blowing. I think this might be one of those YAs that lacks cross-generational appeal.

Feuds by Avery Hastings. St. Martin's Griffin. 272 pp.

Feuds by Avery Hastings. St. Martin’s Griffin. 272 pp.

Confession time: I didn’t read Romeo and Juliet until a year or two ago. I have both undergrad and graduate degrees in English literature, but I guess everyone assumed we’d read it in high school (I hadn’t) and didn’t assign it. I was in no hurry to read it myself because I figured I’d just be annoyed by the main characters…and I was right, although there’s also some great writing, of course.

So if a tale by the Bard couldn’t do it for me, you can imagine how I felt about a dull, sloppily-told remake. Love at first sight needs to be done ridiculously well in order to be believable; this wasn’t. The scenes of dramatic tension were ineffective, and by the end of the book, I really didn’t care what happened to any of the characters. I feel that the concept of this one has promise, but it needs to be stronger to work.

Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper. Little, Brown. 398 pp.

Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper. Little, Brown. 398 pp.

Another freebie from BookCon, this one is based on an interesting premise: a family of witches protects the interests of a small whaling island until one woman decides not to step into her role, refusing also to allow her daughter, Avery, to become the witch. Obviously, the islanders are none too thrilled about this — and neither is Avery, for that matter, who has been eagerly awaiting the day that she could take her grandmother’s place. The writing is clean enough and easy to read, and I enjoyed the story.

But (yes, there’s a but) it reminded me of a sort of B-level Gemma Doyle story. (How much did I enjoy the Gemma Doyle trilogy? Find out here.) There’s a family history of magic, a mother who’s determined to keep her magical-powers-budding daughter safe, an exotic and magical romantic interest, a protagonist who’s just not ladylike enough for the time into which she was born…too similar for my tastes. It’s not a bad book by any means, but I think Libba Bray did better with the subject matter — and she did it first.

Are We There Yet? by David Levithan. Alfred A. Knopf. 215 pp.

Are We There Yet? by David Levithan. Alfred A. Knopf. 215 pp.

A pair of brothers, one in high school and one in his early twenties, are tricked by their parents into taking an Italian vacation together. Elijah and Danny couldn’t be any more different, and it’s not just because there are seven years between them. Elijah, a dreamer who lives solely in the moment, is baffled by Danny, a straitlaced ad executive. As their travels progress, though, they are able to find a bit of common ground and end their trip accepting of their differences.

If you’re new here — or if you forgot — I love David Levithan. Love. Him. It’s not about the plot, or even about the characters…it’s about the language. I can’t seem to get enough of his poetic prose and find myself re-reading most of his books at least once. (The only exception so far is Love Is the Higher Law, which I found to be just average.) This wasn’t one of my favorites by him, but it’s still a beautiful, above-average YA novel. I’d say it’s worth checking out.

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld. Simon Pulse. 608 pp.

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld. Simon Pulse. 608 pp.

I think the best word to describe Afterworlds is “ambitious.” It’s the story of Darcy Patel, a debut author who scored a ridiculously-high advance just out of high school. As she spends her first year on her own, writing in New York, Darcy learns and grows and all that jazz. In alternating chapters, though, the reader also gets to read Darcy’s novel. So basically you spend a chapter following Darcy around New York, then you spend a chapter following Lizzie, Darcy’s protagonist, as she learns to navigate the Underworld. You get used to the story changes after a while, and it’s a really interesting concept, though at 600 pages the two-books-in-one thing gets a bit lengthy.

I was more impressed by the concept of this book than I was by the execution. Bouncing back and forth between two stories makes it difficult to get to know any of the characters…or maybe they were just sort of flat. Nisha, Darcy’s younger sister, was by far my favorite. She’s spunky and has her own voice and I would totally read a book featuring her. Everyone else, though, started to sound the same after a while, and there was a time or two when I couldn’t tell whether I was reading a Darcy chapter or a Lizzie chapter because the writing was so similar. (To be fair, the narrative point of view is different for each girl, but they still manage to sound the same.) If you don’t mind the page count and are hooked by the concept of the book, check it out. If you want a moving storyline or engaging characters, you may feel like you wasted your time. I’m finding myself somewhere between the two.

Review: The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon. Doubleday. 384 pp.

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon. Doubleday. 384 pp.

In the not-so-distant future, the forecasted “death of print” has become a reality. Bookstores, libraries, newspapers, and magazines are things of the past, and we spend our time glued to handheld devices called Memes that not only keep us in constant communication but also have become so intuitive that they hail us cabs before we leave our offices, order takeout at the first growl of a hungry stomach, and even create and sell language itself in a marketplace called the Word Exchange.

Anana Johnson works with her father, Doug, at the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL), where Doug is hard at work on the last edition that will ever be printed. Doug is a staunchly anti-Meme, anti-tech intellectual who fondly remembers the days when people used email (everything now is text or videoconference) to communicate—or even actually spoke to one another, for that matter. One evening, Doug disappears from the NADEL offices, leaving a single written clue: ALICE. It’s a code word he devised to signal if he ever fell into harm’s way. And thus begins Anana’s journey down the proverbial rabbit hole . . .

Joined by Bart, her bookish NADEL colleague, Anana’s search for Doug will take her into dark basements and subterranean passageways; the stacks and reading rooms of the Mercantile Library; and secret meetings of the underground resistance, the Diachronic Society. As Anana penetrates the mystery of her father’s disappearance and a pandemic of decaying language called “word flu” spreads,The Word Exchange becomes a cautionary tale that is at once a technological thriller and a meditation on the high cultural costs of digital technology.

I requested this book because the description compared it to Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, which I loved. I’m a huge fan of books about books (and/or the English language), but I tried not to set my hopes too high to avoid being disappointed. I needn’t have worried about that. This book was very, very good. It’s not exactly like Penumbra — I wouldn’t want it to be — but its tone of reverence toward words and the search for knowledge is similar.

Like all good dystopian novels, this one is terrifying because of how closely it reflects the direction in which we’re headed. In the book, a Meme (a sort of futuristic smartphone-esque device) can anticipate a user’s desires before she actually gives it a command (e.g., a Meme will hail you a cab as soon as you mentally make the decision to take one). The other day, I opened the “Maps” application on my iPhone and was shocked to see that it had imported addresses from my most recent communications. It’s like my phone was saying, “Your friend sent you his address in Syracuse so you could mail him a Christmas gift. Are you trying to find directions to his house? Or maybe to your brother’s address, which he texted to you last week?” It was unsettling to think that my phone was anticipating my needs, but I was more impressed than suspicious. In The Word Exchange, Alena Graedon takes things a step or two further; her technological creations actually sync with their users’ genetic makeup, so it’s hard to tell where the device ends and the user begins. Who is really in charge then? And how far are we from this?

I don’t mean to sound alarmist or paranoid, because I’m not. I realize that this is a work of fiction. However, you do have to admit that we’ve already sacrificed a large amount of personal privacy in technology’s name. And then there’s the whole language factor. You don’t realize how much you rely on language until you watch people lose it. It’s frightening to imagine a world like the one Anana finds herself in; what’s scarier is how close we already are. I doubt we’ll ever find ourselves at that point, but I am curious to see how close we finally come.

The book consists of twenty six “chapters,” each one headed with a dictionary entry (alphabetically, of course). Some of the definitions are traditional, some are directly related to the plot, and some are made up — a testament to the ever-changing nature of words. At just under 400 pages, the book isn’t short, but I couldn’t put it down. I kept telling myself, “One more letter before bed,” but that didn’t go so well for me.

All in all: The nerdiest — and by far most interesting — thriller I’ve read. Well written, smart, and compelling. To find all three of those in one book is rare.

Review: Poems That Make Grown Men Cry, edited by Anthony and Ben Holden


Poems That Make Grown Men Cry, edited by Anthony & Ben Holden. Simon & Schuster. 336 pp.

Grown men don’t cry.

But in this fascinating anthology, one hundred men—distinguished in literature and film, science and architecture, theater and human rights—confess to being moved to tears by poems that continue to haunt them. Representing twenty nationalities and ranging in age from their early 20s to their late 80s, the majority are public figures not prone to crying. Here they admit to breaking down when ambushed by great art, often in words as powerful as the poems themselves.

Their selections include classics by visionaries such as Walt Whitman, W.H Auden, and Philip Larkin, as well as contemporary works by masters including Billy Collins, Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott, and poets who span the globe from Pablo Neruda to Rabindranath Tagore.

Seventy-five percent of the selected poems were written in the twentieth century, with more than a dozen by women including Mary Oliver, Elizabeth Bishop, and Gwendolyn Brooks. Their themes range from love in its many guises, through mortality and loss, to the beauty and variety of nature. Three men have suffered the pain of losing a child; others are moved to tears by the exquisite way a poet captures, in Alexander Pope’s famous phrase, “what oft was thought, but ne’er so well express’d.

From J.J. Abrams to John le Carré, Salman Rushdie to Jonathan Franzen, Daniel Radcliffe to Nick Cave, Billy Collins to Stephen Fry, Stanley Tucci to Colin Firth, and Seamus Heaney to Christopher Hitchens, this collection delivers private insight into the souls of men whose writing, acting, and thinking are admired around the world.

You don’t have to say it: I am fully aware that I am not a man. Also, I’m an embarrassingly easy crier and will shed a tear at the drop of a hat. (I’ve recently taken to speed-reading through sad scenes in books because otherwise I’d have to tag far too many reviews with “Made Me Cry.”) So what made me request this one from Edelweiss? Basically, I figured that this had to be a collection of damn good poems in order to move so many eminent men so deeply. Also, the range of contributors seemed pretty broad, and it included a lot of my favorites. I’m always interested in finding out if my tastes match the tastes of the writers/performers/etc. I admire.

The editors allowed each contributor to include a brief piece explaining why he chose his particular poem. I found it particularly interesting when two men chose the same poem for different reasons, which happened more than once. After the poem, there’s a brief bio on the selector. Although I recognized most of the names, there were a few I didn’t, and I found this feature helpful.

The poetry itself comes from various time periods and languages, though most were written in English in the last 100-150 years. Some are beautiful but not particularly emotional, some seemed chosen for strictly personal reasons (and therefore felt a bit distant for me), and some left me pacing the floors of my home while sobbing.

Some of the poems didn’t make me cry, but they opened my eyes to a new poet and a style that I admired (I’ve included links when I could find them): Abioseh Nicol’s “The Meaning of Africa,” chosen by James Earl Jones, with its sweeping descriptions; Elizabeth Bishop’s powerfully evocative “Crusoe in England,” chosen by Andrew Solomon; Philip Larkin’s terrifying “Aubade,” chosen by William Sieghart; and — one I’d read previously and forgotten about — Bukowski’s “Eulogy to a Hell of a Dame,” chosen by Mike Leigh.

Other poems’ messages moved me: Consantine P. Cavafy’s “Ithaka,” chosen by Walter Salles, and Derek Walcott’s “Love After Love,” chosen by Tom Hiddleston.

Poems that hit me the hardest — the ones that made me out-and-out cry — were the ones about family, whether having/losing a parent (Tony Harrison’s “Long Distance II,” chosen by Daniel Radcliffe) or being one (John N. Morris’s “For Julia, In the Deep Water,” chosen by Tobias Wolff; Victoria Redel’s “Bedecked,” chosen by Billy Collins; and Rabindranath Tagore’s “Those Who Are Near Me Do Not Know,” chosen by Chris Cooper).

All in all: There’s something for everyone in here. Buy a stack of copies and gift them!

Review: Bark by Lorrie Moore

Bark by Lorrie Moore. Knopf. 208 pp.

Bark by Lorrie Moore. Knopf. 208 pp.

I’ve been thinking about my short story preferences. It seems that a lot of collections that get rave reviews from others do nothing for me. There’s this dry, detached style that seems to be getting a lot of attention lately, and I don’t see what all the fuss is about. It makes me feel like a bad reader, because I’m talking about stuff published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and literary publications like Tin House or One Story. Side note: I’ve found stories to love in all of the aforementioned publications, so please don’t think I’m knocking them. It’s just that sometimes I read something and think, You’re a world-class journal and can choose from the best of the best, and this is what you chose to run this month?! And then I wonder if I’m missing something because it falls so terribly flat for me.

This, sadly, is how I feel about Lorrie Moore. Is she a bad writer? Not in the least. But her writing makes me feel…well, nothing. You know, sort of like Priscilla Lopez sings about in A Chorus Line. Moore has a solid vocabulary, sure, and she tells stories about real things happening to real people, and her work isn’t bad, per se. I just wouldn’t recommend it. And I can’t put my finger on why. I’ve read short fiction — by greats like Hemingway as well as by current writers like George Saunders, Aimee Bender, and virtually the entirety of authors featured in The Best American Short Stories 2012 — that has blown me away. I crave short fiction that just needs to be devoured and that, by the end, leaves me stunned by what I’ve just experienced. For me, with the exception of one story, this collection didn’t come anywhere near my admittedly-high standards.

A bit more (more/Moore! ha!) about the collection itself. The stories are mostly realistic (“The Juniper Tree” features a seance-y scene that’s sort of dreamy and surreal) and focus on the personal aspects of the everyday: marriage, divorce, single parenting, mental illness. Basically, this is a collection of people surviving all the things life throws as them. Although the subject matter isn’t bad, the characters aren’t likable. And I’m not talking about that King Joffrey, love-to-hate-them kind of thing. I simply didn’t care about any of them. (Maybe liking characters is too important to me. I’ll have to examine this in a future post.)

The one exception: “Wings,” an excellent story about a struggling musician past her prime who gets close to an elderly neighbor in the hopes of being left an inheritance. It’s full of people looking for something — or someone — to use, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s got the heart of a novel but the length of a short story, and it really stands out.

All in all: If you’ve enjoyed Moore’s other work, you’d probably enjoy this. (I read A Gate At the Stairs, and the style is the same.) Personally, though, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Aimee Bender, Literary Marzipan

Perhaps my biggest guilty pleasure (other than playing Candy Crush on my phone, or the fact that my favorite band is Hanson) is marzipan. I don’t know what it is, but I could eat that doughy, gritty, almondy sweetness for days. I have a friend who knows this and buys me a box of marzipan for every major life event: birthdays, my wedding, even my baby shower. Here’s the problem with me and marzipan: whenever I have it, I feel this overwhelming compulsion to eat it ALL. I actually have to take out two pieces and put the rest away, or I will eat the entire box. And she doesn’t buy me a small box, either. It looks like this:


So that’s my problem. I want to ration my marzipan because I know that I’ll miss it when it runs out. And the shops near me don’t sell it — and the stuff is so damn expensive — that I know it’ll be a while before I get to taste the delicacy again. But once I open the box, it seems there’s no stopping me. It’s gone within a week, tops. (I think once I made it last a whole month, and I couldn’t stop bragging about my Jedi levels of self-control.)

Where am I going with this, you ask? Simple. Aimee Bender is my literary marzipan. Whenever I get my hands on one of her books, I want to take my time, make it last, savor it. But I can’t because she’s just too. damn. good. Her writing is irresistible. Like that ever-beckoning box of marzipan, she makes me want to lose every modicum of dignity and stuff my mouth full of her words. (Mixed metaphor, I know, but you get the picture.)

So when I got an email from Edelweiss telling me that I’d been approved for an egalley of Bender’s latest story collection, The Color Master, I told myself I would wait. I had other books to be reviewed, and hers didn’t come out for another three whole months. I don’t think I managed to make it a week before I started reading…and I was done in a day and a half. (That’s saying a lot, because I have a one-year-old son who gets into just about everything if I don’t watch him like a hawk.)


The Color Master by Aimee Bender.

Her writing didn’t disappoint, but it never does. It’s always richly textured, and every story blows me away. I keep promising myself that I will look closer at the format of her books because I’m curious about the five-five-five distribution of stories and wonder if there’s a thematic element that I’m missing, but I haven’t done that yet.

Some of these stories are funny, some creepy, some heart-piercing, and some downright terrifying. “Appleless,” the first tale, was the initial stomach-jerking drop of a roller coaster ride. Only Aimee Bender could make something so violent and appalling read like a sun-drenched work of art. I shivered at the end, thought, “What the *#$% just happened?!” and knew that I was in for one hell of a ride. Some stories deal with the dissolution of relationships for unexpected reasons: in “The Red Ribbon,” a wife requires her husband to pay for sex for a week, with sobering results, while “The Devourings” is a fantastic rendering of the loss of one’s children. “On a Saturday Afternoon” shows how voyeurism can be sexy and lonely all at the same time. “Lemonade” was a dead-on depiction of an awkward teenage girl. (I should know, because I was one.) “Origin Lessons” made me laugh. This is just what it’s like to deal with precocious children — and isn’t that what we all are when it comes to understanding our place in the world? “The Doctor and the Rabbi” made my heart hurt with yearning, and “Americca,” a story in which everyday objects appear in a family’s home for no apparent reason, made suburban life frightening and interesting, all at once.

I think my favorite was “The Color Master,” which brings me full circle in my Bender experience, because it’s the first story of hers that I read. It was featured in a collection entitled My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, and it was a standout there as well (in a rather strong anthology, I should mention). It’s a retelling of Charles Perrault’s “Donkeyskin,” an anachronistic mashup told from the point of view of the dye shop that makes the princess’s dresses. And it’s amazing.

I really can’t say enough good things about this latest collection. In life, and in relationships, there are certain threads that we ought never to pull if we don’t want things to unravel around us. Aimee Bender is unafraid to tug on those threads, and as she examines the worst that could happen, I feel mesmerized and terrified by the words she shapes while somehow still feeling safe in her capable, masterful (See what I did there?) hands.

Review: Self-Inflicted Wounds by Aisha Tyler


Self-Inflicted Wounds by Aisha Tyler. 256 pp. It Books.

Aisha Tyler is many things that I am not: tall, childless, funny, confident, fearless. But she and I also share some qualities, if you can call them that. We’re both neurotic, both nerds, both prone to going off on tangents while telling a story. But let’s be honest: it doesn’t matter if an author and I have absolutely nothing in common, really, as long as she makes her writing work. And Aisha Tyler does just that.

Self-Inflicted Wounds is a memoir of sorts in which Tyler recounts all the times in her life, beginning at the ripe old age of five, when she (inadvertently) screwed herself over. From setting the kitchen on fire to boy problems to broken bones, she’s had a remarkable amount of incidents where she can blame no one but herself. Footnotes are liberally sprinkled throughout the cringe-inducing tales. This is an excellent format for the asides that a stand-up comedian can’t help but make when telling a story.

Although she often drops a mini-lesson at the end of a chapter, the best part about these episodes is that they’re funny. In fact, they’re so funny that I tried my son’s patience more than once. See, I’m still nursing him once or twice a day. And when you’re reading a funny book and don’t want your nipple bitten off, you try not to laugh. But as any private-school girl knows, withholding laughter just means lots of snorting and jerky shoulders. So my kid’s head is bouncing on my arm, and I’m trying to stop laughing, which is only making me laugh harder, and then I have to stop reading and use the advice from my scuba certification course: just focus on your breathing. She’s that funny.

To be honest, I didn’t know who Aisha Tyler was before Friends. I still haven’t seen her stand-up (but may need to, since I enjoyed this book so much), but I’m a big fan of Archer and think she’s pretty great on there. And now that I know how much I enjoy her particular brand of ranting, self-deprecating humor, I’m even more excited about her gig as host on the revival of Whose Line Is It Anyway? Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I was a tentative Tyler fan before, but now I’ll look forward to her upcoming projects with increased zeal. And isn’t that a successful venture for an artist?

All in all: Read this if a) you like comedy and b) you don’t mind lots of 17+ language.

Note: Only read this in public if you don’t mind people staring at you as you try your hardest not to bust out laughing.

Review: I Wear the Black Hat by Chuck Klosterman


I Wear the Black Hat by Chuck Klosterman. 224 pp. Scribner.

I’ve been reading Chuck Klosterman since his column in Spin magazine. I loved how he had so much to say about things I’d never even thought of before. (And I think a lot.) One of my favorite articles was about how The Darkness would never be sufficiently appreciated in the US because, in America, bands can either be good or funny (but not both). Maybe I’m not a true American, then, because I love bands that have that perfect blend of talent and humor — like The Darkness, yes, or Flight of the Conchords. I mean, how can you not love this?

Or this?

But back to Chuck. I next encountered his writing when I grabbed a copy of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, which I’ve read multiple times and which remains my favorite of his works. (My future sister-in-law borrowed my copy a few years ago and never returned it…guess it’s time to re-buy!). Klosterman can rant and rave like no other, and I love hearing what he has to say, even when I disagree.

That’s how it was with I Wear the Black Hat. It’s a fascinating descent into the examination of villains and that suggests that maybe they’re not as bad as we think they are — or maybe they’re even worse. From Machiavelli to Bill Clinton to Batman, Klosterman examines the qualities, both good and bad, that the human race is willing to tolerate in others. At what point, exactly, does someone become a villain? Why?

While I can see where he’s coming from in some areas, there’s this thing Klosterman does where he stands by his argument even when it starts to unravel a bit, when there’s something he wants to use as evidence that doesn’t logically support his claims. In fact, at these times he seems to hold on to his opinions even more tightly, even as they’re falling apart around him. Or maybe I just feel that way because those are the times when I disagree, so everything feels shabbier to me. Regardless, Klosterman is the guy at the bar who never shuts up, but you don’t mind. In fact, you don’t want him to. You want to hear his thoughts, both good and bad, because they make you examine yourself and your own ideas that much more closely. And for this, to him I tip my (black) hat.

All in all: Thought-provoking, funny, and absolutely worth reading. Better than much of his recent stuff, in my opinion.