Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Finished We 11/30/11

Gunn treats his booze soaked and drug addled life as a news story in which his mission is to scrupulously ferret out the truth while simultaneously asking himself if such a thing is even possible.

Far too often the genre of addiction is merely a rhetorical exercise in spiritual one-upmanship. THE NIGHT OF THE GUN is one of the most honest depictions of addictive behavior that I have ever read, and represents a solid and honest self-appraisal without the usual, "I was lost, and now I'm found--AND, YOU'RE NOT!"

Parts are chilling, and sections are flat-out heartwarming.

Check out Carr's website about the book:

THE ROAD TO WELLVILLE by T. Coraghessan Boyle

Finished We 11/30/11

THE ROAD TO WELLVILLE vividly demonstrates what it might have been like to have been a guest at John Harvey Kellogg's Battle Creek Sanitarium during the winter of 1907. Kellogg is the driven, odd-ball egomaniac who was arguably the most important player in the emerging spiritual and health industry at the dawn of the 20th century. The reader watches as Kellogg struggles to maintain and expand his economic empire of breakfast products, and secure his position as the Grand Poobah of health and fitness. Fresh air, enemas, vegetarianism, and exercise were seen as the keys to a positive lifestyle, while nearly all forms of sex were perceived as the deadly foe of mental and physical stability.

The story is told through the adventures of a handful of wonderfully crafted characters. Will and Eleanor Lightboddy are two visitors to Kellogg's Spa And Temple Of Health. Will suffers from alcoholism and stomach troubles, and his wife, Eleanor is probably suffering from nothing more than a lackluster marriage. Charles Ossining and Goodloe H. Bender demonstrate how ruthless and desperate speculators tried to cash in on the nascent health market.

The book is an enjoyable read, and you can pick up a lot of detail about life at the beginning of the century, and experience their rather quaint views of health and longevity. For example, Kellogg invented peanut butter and the electric blanket, and Sears Roebuck offered a patent medicine in their catalogue designed as a cure for alcoholism called,'Sear's White Star Liquor Cure'.

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg
Battle Creek Michigan
George Kellogg
Will Lightbody
Eleanor Lightbody
Charles Ossining
Goodloe H. Bender

Sear's White Star Liquor Cure (patent medicine)
peanut butter/electric blanket
Seventh-day Adventist

Saturday, November 26, 2011

MRS. TED BLISS by Stanley Elkin

Finished Sa 11/26/11

I read over half of this book, and then skimmed to the end. Elkin has a very accomplished style, yet I didn't understand the premise of the book. Dorthy Bliss is an elderly woman who is living in a retirement high-rise near Miami Beach. Her husband is recently deceased, and the novel charts the changes in her life. The narrative hinges on her connection to a group of South American gangsters who live in her building. When her husband dies, one of the cartel members offers to buy Ted Bliss's car. She agrees, and this somehow connects her to this gang. I never understood why this was so important. She testifies at the trial, but what possible damaging testimony could she possibly provide?

The characters were well developed, yet with such a terrific idea for a story, it just went nowhere. An old woman's inadvertent involvement in the underworld could have really made for an interesting read, but MRS. TED BLISS certainly fails to come alive.

Although I didn't care for this novel, I haven't given up on the author, and plan to checkout another of his books.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I AM OZZY with Charles Ayres

Finished We 11/23/11

Not exactly an endearing character, yet not even close to the, 'bat-eating, Satanic devil worshiper' that one might imagine based on his hype. However, he certainly does live up to every inch of his reputation as a drunken, drug-addled Wild Man. And, in his later years, something of a reality TV 'family icon'.

It's easy to read, and pleasantly entertaining, and for a fan of 60's Rock'n'Rock, it could be considered 'essential reading'.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A SONG OF STONE by Iain Banks

Finished Tu 11/22/11

Abel-minor nobleman-the unreliable narrator

Morgan-his woman

Female lieutenant-sadistic

Aruthur-the faithful servant who Abel doesn't know his last name

Abel is the narrator, slightly unreliable, arrogant, and fairly untrustworthy. However, he wasn't interesting enough for me to pay close attention to his story.
Banks has delivered a well written novel, yet I was never enthralled, and I lost interest before the denouement, and skimmed to the end. The plot and the setting were more intriguing than the clever deceptions which Abel was spouting.
Although, I still like Bank's writing(THE WASP FACTORY is a minor classic), I would not recommend this novel. Next, I will give his Science Fiction a shot.

Monday, November 21, 2011

TEN INDIANS by Madison Smartt Bell

Finished Su 11/20/11

Dr. Michael Devlin seems to have it all. He is married to Alice, a successful social work manager, father of a bright high-school senior, Michelle, and they all live compatibly in an affluent northern suburb of Baltimore. His psychiatric practice is thriving, and he is also an accomplished instructor of Tae Kwon Do. However, his life begins to unravel when he decides to open a new branch of the martial arts school in an inner-city Baltimore neighborhood near The Edgar Allen Poe Home.

The novel is presented mostly from Devlin's point of view, but several of the chapters are told by his Black Tae Kwon Do students, and in the vernacular of the ghetto. The Afro-American dialog did not seem very authentic or necessary. The novel seemed to hinge on Devlin's psychological troubles, and the addition of other points of view did nothing to clarify this conflict.

I don't think that Devlin's motives are effectively represented, and the results of his actions are disastrous. I suppose you could infer that initially he was acting to ameliorate the negative effects of gang violence, but his intrusion into the community only aggravates the situation, and with dire consequences to him and his family.

Overall, the book is fast-paced and moving, yet somewhat muddled because it's just too hard to believe that an upper-class psychologist would act in such an odd manner. His kidnapping/saving? of a black infant, and the savage fist-fight with a Camaro are two most perplexing examples of his strange behavior.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

THE LASKO TANGENT by Richard North Patterson

This is an early work by Richard North Patterson, and it is not very good. This novel is so predictable and trite that it verges dangerously close to 'boring'.

Christopher Paget is an agent for The Economic Crimes Commission, and he is after, William Lasko, a politically powerful industrialist, and friend of the president, for illegal stock manipulation. One of the witnesses is killed right before his eyes, and Paget is convinced that Lasko had him killed to cover-up his evil machinations.

The characters are poorly developed, and the plot is pedestrian at best. This would not even make a good 'beach read'.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Finished Tu 11/15/11

Francis Leslie Cauldhame is just the kind of individual that Warren Zevon had in mind when he wrote the song, EXCITABLE BOY.

Seventeen year old Frank Cauldhame lives with his father on an isolated island in Eastern Scotland upon which he has built a collection of weird totems and magical sites of horror that illustrate his freakish and damaged psyche. The actual 'Wasp Factory' is a chamber of horrors designed to torture wasps on the face of a discarded bank clock one meter wide.

Before he was eight years old, he has killed three people, but he only considers this a phase. His first killing was a male cousin who he murdered with a poisonous snake. Then, he kills his younger brother by tricking him into detonating a recovered bomb from WWII. And, finally he causes a very young cousin to be carried out to sea in an extremely bizarre kiting accident. Needless, to say, Frankie has got some issues.

The novel is told in the first person, and Frank is the twisted narrator who describes the action, and fills the reader in on his neurotic back-story. His brother, Eric, has recently escaped from a high-security mental institution, and seems to be heading toward the island. And, we find that Frank was the victim of a vicious dog attack which left him castrated at the age of three.

However, in the final twist in this extremely twisted tale, the reader learns that 'Francis Leslie' is really 'Frances Lesley', and his deranged father wanted to raise him as a male for reasons too murky to state.

The closest novel that I can think of that is anything like this, is AMERICAN PSYCHO by Bret Easton Ellis, but Bank's novel is slightly more primitive. Imagine Patrick Bateman as one of the boys from LORD OF THE FLIES who happens to live on an island in remote Scotland.

THE WASP FACTORY is a short novel, and packs a wallop in a compelling, yet sick way. The fact that this was Iain Bank's first novel is really something!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

STORIES I ONLY TELL MY FRIENDS an autobiography by Rob Lowe

Finished Su 11/13/11
A well written autobiography about an actor that I am only slightly familiar with. It certainly makes me want to see if I can view a few episodes of WEST WING, at the very least.

Lowe is actually a small town guy from Akron, Ohio. His mother married three times, and she seems more than a little neurotic, and I'm sure that Rob would agree.

-They lived in the Malibu, CA area back in the mid 70's when it was far from the exclusive community that it is today.
-He and his family were friends and neighbors with The Sheen clan.
-In August of 2001 he was on an American airlines flight which was a 'dry run' for the 9/11 terrorists.
-As a kid in Ohio he was always able to get acting gigs in local theater and university productions. However, in Hollywood, either you are in the business, or you are not. There is not much theater whatsoever. Strange observation, but true.

Friday, November 11, 2011


I read this book a couple of months ago, and we have decided to read it as the November selection for my book club. Instead of a review, I have blocked out each scene in the novel. This will help with the discussion of the book, and also, the book has been optioned for film, and I want to see how faithful the final cut is to the novel. Tom Perrotta is the screen writer for the project.

Ruth really does 'abstain' from sex in her personal life.

Teaching the 'virginal lies' is what makes Ruth feel dirty at the end of her teaching day, Not Dirty Sex

Randall makes a joke to Ruth about Mary Kay Latourneau

"Pleasure is Good, Shame is Bad, and Knowledge is Power,

Ruth's reaction to JoAnn, the Virginity Consultant (Very sexy abstinence Try to be cool Denial can be wonderful) They are doing this in good faith. However, so many of their leaders were revealed to be unethical hypocrits. Came back stronger.
Ruth falls under its spell for a moment, "wondering how she'd ever been so weak as to let herself be duped into thinking it might be pleasant or even necessary to allow herself to be touched or loved by another human being." Perrotta knows just how to zero in on the priggish absolutism of the abstinence movement.

The scene at soccer saturday when Ruth drags Maggie away from the prayer circle is probably fueled by her reaction to all the half truths and lies that she has been forced to tell her students.

Innocuous remark 'Some people like it' The Oral Sex Lady

Perrotta's treatment of Born Agains
but much of this isn't any more barbed than Garrison Keillor on the Lutherans in Lake Wobegon.

2004 The Cultural War is defined not so much by the failed conflict in Iraq, but on American's fear of Gay Marriage
American evangelical community is all about sexual morality, little or nothing about caring for the poor. But, the younger evangelicals are not as hung up about sexual matters as their 'born again' parents.

Principle/Joann meeting with Ruth
Assembly Meeting
First sexual experience with Paul Caruso
-Prom limo
Soccer Game Saturday
Allison's new family
Carrie's intro 24 yrs old
Deann Phelan
Pastor Dennis's threat
Cultural gap between Tim and Carrie
-Not a virgin, 8 or 9 guys in two months
Dennis's Back-story
-Best Buy Freakout (old man with bible)
Tim's Church Band THE PRAISE TEAM
-Bill/Jill Band-mate in Death Metal outfit; Jill dies Gillian is daughter
Prayer at Game Saturday "You Stood Up For Jesus"
Troy-gay speaker p. 189
-Scot D'Alerio Tim's gay friend in college
"That's when you realize what an asshole you were".
Pastor Dennis's encounter with Jay
-Jena Jameson
The Skip and Heather sex show
Robin LeFebure snitch to Planned Parenthood
"36% failure rate of condoms"
Maggie confronts Ruth about Soccer Saturday and learns that Eliza 'loves Jesus'.
Ruth meets Dr. Jamal
Other parents don't want to get involved
Ruth composes letter of protest and finds Tim's prayer not technically in violation
Ruth meets with Tim at her house Coffee 'Heloise Tips'
Rips up complaint letter- Paul Calls!
Tim stops at bar and flees
Tim at work co-workers tattoos LONENERGY
George Dykstra's meeting with Tim for lunch nothing accomplished
Poker invitation
Pastor Dennis's "Spiritual Gut-Check"
-He has a very militant attitude toward the spiritual 'tactics' 'war' 'fight' 'warrior'
Tim comes back to Ruth's house with Maggie's sweatshirt, and she is ready for a date with Paul
Soccer downpour, and Coach John's 'Hosanna moment' Party In The Puddles
ABSTINENCE REFRESHER like staying after school-detention. Attempt to guilt trip
-This section was mixed with Ruth's date with Paul, and she leaves He has
lost over a hundred pounds.
CJ's wish She's a lesbian and wishes that she had abstained that one heterosexual encounter
Trisha cheats with her best friend's fiance
Guy in group is censored Talks about 'age differences in girls'
Ruth "I wish that I had taken more chances my sex life"
Maggie and Eliza go to church
-Ruth meets the Parks "I'll be fine"
Two Tims Honest/Liar
Ruth decides to re-send the letter
SUNDAY MORNING SLAP "Misunderstood that you were an honest person"
Time describes The Puddle Prayer Group
-Abby NO Maggie YES
Need absolute standards Santa for adults Hitler=Gandi
Randall calls about the breakup
beers and pot gets a loan contact, then keys JESUS on to Billy's car
Randall visits Ruth about the breakup, and ignores her life
Tim calls Ruth high in front of her house "Go home to your wife"
Tim and Carrie fight "If you loved me, it wouldn't seem like such a chore"
Ruth is reassigned as remedial math instructor
Ruth has dinner with Randall and Gregory to celebrate wedding Randall popped the question
---Write your greatest fear "That I'm Not Part of This Anymore"
Jay describes his born again experience IT WASN'T JESUS, IT WAS JUST ME HOPING FOR SOMETHING BETTER
Tim goes back to Ruths and stays the night downstairs
Pastor Dennis shows up in the morning, won't leave

Ruth Ramsey (daughters; Maggie(soccer) Eliza(older than Maggie/awkward)
Randall/Gregory (gay couple; Randall is teacher with Ruth
Jo Ann Marlow (Virginity Counselor) VIRGIN CONSULTANT
Frank (Ruth's ex)
Tim Mason (coach and member of the church)
Abby (his daughter)
Allison (his wife)

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Finished Th 11/10/11

Ex Irish policeman, Jack Taylor, is heavily cross-addicted to booze and drugs, yet has a serious yen for philosophical literature and True Crime novels. A very 'hard' criminal type has called in a favor, and asks Taylor to track down a woman who was once involved in an evil orphanage called, The Magdalen laundry.

Although sparse and to-the -point, the prose is vivid and colorful, and all of the chapters begin with a quotation from a particularly relevant novel or book. There are lots of descriptions of the ravages of alcohol and drugs which reminded me of the Mathew Scudder series by Lawrence Block. There are many scenes of intense violence.

An Interesting Read

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

NATURE GIRL by Carl Hiaasen

Finished Tu 11/8/11

Although NATURE GIRL has a very clearly defined story-line, the novel is more of an excuse to create a forum for a cast of extremely colorful characters to interact. Hiaasen has a comedic style that reminds me of Donald Westlake's, Dortmunder series.

NATURE GIRL is kind of a story of revenge. Honey Santana, a very nice woman who happens to be slightly bipolar, is angry about being interrupted during dinner by a rather sleazy telemarketer by the name of Boyd Shreave. Honey tricks him and his girlfriend and coworker, Eugenie Fonda, into coming to the Ten Thousand Islands area of Southern Florida for a lesson in 'enforced civility' on a strange and bizarre kayak trip to Dismal Island.

Boyd's angry wife sends a rather inept private investigator to gather evidence of 'penetration' between Boyd and Eugenie so that she can get the upper hand in the upcoming divorce. Perry Skinner, Honey's ex, Fry, her son, a horny boss, Louis Piejack, a teenage Indian, Sammy Tigertail, all end up out in the swamps in a wild and crazy climax of the novel.

It's a 'fun' novel, and ideal way to spend a few sessions of reading.

Honey Santana
Boyd Shreave
Lily Shreave
Eugenie Fonda
Fry Skinner
Perry Skinner
Louis Piejack
Private Investigator Dealy (penetration)
Sammy Tigertail
Jeter Wilson (ghost)

Dismal Key

Monday, November 7, 2011


Finished Mo 11/7/11

I read about half of this book, and skimmed to the end. I had high hopes for this book since I lived just a few miles away from Goucher College back in the mid 60's.

CHARM CITY is a mile wide, but only an inch deep. The book is chock full of detail, but the areas that I really enjoyed didn't last long enough, yet the sections that did not interest me, seemed to go on forever. I realize that to profile an entire city is a daunting task, yet I felt that, in the end, I was overwhelmed by the blizzard of information at the expense of my interest.

Maybe the book would have been more accessible if he had shared his 'walking tour' with only one other person, and that character could have added a bit more focus. The author has a great writing style, and I plan to check out one of his novels.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

COMPLICITY by Iain Banks

Finished Sa 11/5/11

Cameron Colley is a Gonzo styled Scottish journalist who has a yen for ferreting out the truth about Tory tomfoolery and Right Wing treachery. At his Edinburgh newspaper Colley begins to receive phone calls from an anonymous source, code-named 'Archer', who relates a byzantine plot of corruption and murder on an international scale. Then, people involved in this web of intrigue begin dying, and it suddenly appears that Colley will have to take the fall for these murders.

Later in the story, it appears that one of Cameron's childhood friends has only been acting the role of a successful Capitalist, and has actually evolved into something of a bloody and calculating Leftist Vigilante.

Iain Banks is a skilled writer, and he really paints a believable portrait of the burned-out and drug addled muckraker, Cameron Colley. Banks has a special flair for detail especially in Colley's choice of drugs, booze, and music. And, although the plot is fairly involved, you are never confused or left in the dark. Banks is also known for his Science Fiction and Serial Killer novels, and I look forward to reading them.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Finished We 11/12/11

Although darkly comedic and wickedly presented, THE TORTILLA CURTAIN speaks volumes of unalloyed Truth about America's failed immigration policy. T.C Boyle examines the lives of two married couples on either side of the US/Mexican border, who also happen to occupy two vastly different sides of the Economic and Class divide. America and Candido are two illegal aliens who have left abject poverty, and traveled North in search of a more sustainable future, while Delaney and Kyra are two very rich Americans who enjoy a lavish and wealthy lifestyle, yet the monetary rewards and social prestige have brought little peace or tranquility.

T.C. Boyle reveals the truth of the contemporary American Conservative agenda. Economic success was not really meant for everyone, but just for people who are already economically successful. Delaney and Kyra spout liberal bromides and seem to believe in a kind of ephemeral 'Goodness', yet their philosophy is really driven by greed, racism, and vanity.

The story alternates between Candido and America's desperate struggle for existence in a canyon wilderness just yards away from one of the wealthiest enclaves in history, and Delaney and Kyra's ethical dilemma which pits their immeasurable wealth and prosperity against an elusive and unnameable enemy. It seems that Boyle uses the canyon fires, the wild coyotes, their walled community, and the undocumented horde, as metaphors for a kind of spiritual attack which originates from within the very soul of American Capitalism.

THE TORTILLA CURTAIN is a fine novel, and has a wonderful plot, and also something topical and relevant to say.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"B" IS FOR BEER by Tom Robbins

Finished Tu 11/1/11

This is a very short work by Tom Robbins, and not nearly as good as his wild, sprawling, and picaresque novels for which he is known.

Gracie Perkel is five, soon to be six years old, and is a bright and precocious child who wonders why her daddy drinks beer. Her uncle Moe agrees to take her to tour a brewery on her sixth birthday, but he drops a full can of Sapporo beer on his foot, and is unable to take her. Moe falls in love with his podiatrist, and leaves with her to go and live in Costa Rica. In despair(?) Gracie chugs a can of beer, has a visit from a beer fairy, learns about the making of beer, tours a brewery, and learns of Love, Life, and how the intoxicating properties of beer fit into the Cosmic Scheme. Her parents divorce, and through a short, yet convoluted plot, Moe marries her mother, and they all live happily in sunny Central America.

If you want to experience the beauty of Tom Robbin's writing, check any of his novels. But, if you just want to learn about the production of beer, hit Wikipedia. "B" IS FOR BEER can easily be read in one sitting, so it doesn't require a large investment on the part of the reader, but if you were expecting a silly, trippy, audacious delight, you will not find it in this innocuous book.