updated 31dec01 : ratings

also: 97 : 98 : 99 : 00

other readers: sc : ma : jpb : jr : cf : w
[have a booklist? update it? tell me]

Mrs Caliban
Rachel Ingalls
Trial by Fire
Nancy Taylor Rosenburg
The Night Manager
John LeCarre
To Say Nothing of the Dog
Connie Willis
The Medical Detectives
Berton Roueche
Comics & Sequential Art
Will Eisner
The Big U
Neal Stephenson
The Mummy Congress
Heather Pringle
Our Cancer Year
Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner
Cass Sunstein
The Graywolf Annual Six: Stories from the Rest of the World
Scott Walker, ed.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Carson McCullers
The Empty Chair
Jeff Deaver
Takedown : The Pursuit and Capture of Kevin Mitnick
Tsutomu Shimomura
Giving Good Weight
John McPhee
Straight Man
Richard Russo
Vagina Monologues
Eve Ensler
The Tipping Point
Malcolm Gladwell
Bone Collector
Jeffrey Deaver
The Grand Complication
Allen Kurzweil
Mistaken Identity
Lisa Scottoline
Death du Jour
Kathy Reichs
Street Lawyer
John Grisham
Stephen Bury
Don't Make Me Think
Steve Krug
Chuck Palahniuk
The Pigman's Legacy
Paul Zindel
William Gibson
Word Freak
Stefan Fatsis
Faster : The Acceleration of Just About Everything
James Gleick
Homage to Catalonia
George Orwell
Get in the Van : On the Road With Black Flag
Henry Rollins
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
David Foster Wallace
Constance de Markievicz
Jacqueline Van Voris
Accordian Crimes
Annie Proulx
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Shirley Jackson
The Magus
John Fowles
Topsham Sketches
Frank H Craig
Numbered Account
Christopher Reich
Square Dancing in the Ice Age
Abbie Hoffman
Haroun and the Sea of Stories
Salman Rushdie
The Island of Lost Maps
Miles Harvey
Call if You Need Me
Raymond Carver
Looking for a Ship
John McPhee
Like Being Killed
Ellen Miller
Joanne Harris
Why Moths Hate Thomas Edison
Hampton Sides
Savage: The Life and Times of Jemmy Button
Nick Hazlewood
Neil Gaiman
The Old Patagonia Express
Paul Theroux
How to Screw the Post Office
Mr. Unzip
The Immortal Class
Travis Hugh Culley
The Funhouse Mirror: Reflections on Prison
Robert Ellis Gordon
The Avengers
Rich Cohen
The King
Donald Barthelme
Two or Three Things I Know for Sure
Dorothy Allison
The Man in the High Castle
Phillip K Dick
Women With Men
Richard Ford
The Non-Designer's Design Book
Robin Williams
Tom the Dancing Bug
Ruben Bolling
32 Stories
Adrian Tomine
Fermat's Enigma
Simon Singh
The Tao of Pooh
Benjamin Hoff
The Buddy Chronicles
Peter Bagge
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Phillip K. Dick
Robert Harris
Pulling the Strings
Fred Woodworth
American Splendor
Harvey Pekar
Tough Jews
Rich Cohen
Ira Levin
Diamond Age
Neal Stephenson
Teach Us To Outgrow Our Madness
Kenzaburo Oe
The Long Loneliness
Dorothy Day
Willard and His Bowling Trophies
Richard Brautigan
The Big Orange Splot
Daniel Pinkwater
Greg Rucker & Steve Lieber
Monkey Food
Ellen Forney
Dyke Strippers
Roz Warren, ed.
What is This Thing Called Sex?
Roz Warren, ed.
[ booklist 2001 ]

Mrs Caliban by Rachel Ingalls

Someone sent me an email saying that I should read this book and that they would read a book from my booklist if I did. So, I picked it up from the library knowing nothing about it and gave it a try. Loose premise: woman stuck in an ordinary boring life with an unfaithful husband starts a pseudo-romantic relationship with the sea monster that escaped from the local lab. It sounds like some kinky porn site on the Internet, but there it is. The interspecies part of their relatiosnhip is not pulled too much into question and the woman tries hard to not let her husband know there is a merman of sorts living in the back room. He, of course, is such a doofus, that he never looks back there. The story turns into somewhat of a tradgedy with everyone being unhappy and alone by the end of it. It seems to be some sort of good commentary on the natire of "other' in our lives, but short of that, it's a pretty good and quick reading story. [+]

The Night Manager by John LeCarre

Standard international pseudo-spy novel that I got out of a free box in a ferry terminal in Alaska and was worth the read but I don't remember much about it. A man who works at a hotel gets wrapped up into a web of intrigue and espionage and gun smuggling and this is mirrored by infighting in the general British spy industry [not as interesting or easy to follow]. LeCarre does you a favor and doesn't kill off the lead character and if you like him in general, you'll like this book. [0]

Trial by Fire by Nancy Taylor Rosenburg

Lawyer books make good reading on five day ferry rides and this one was no exception. Hottie lawyer horribly burned in an accident that claimed her parents is now being set up as the instigator of that same fire, years later. Books has twists and turns, not too unusual. Notable is the author photo -- the author looks like a cross between Loni Anderson and Sophia Loren. Intimidating. [0]

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

A book pressed into my hands when it was learned I was going on a long trip. A British time-travel mystery of a sort. A lot of Victorian-era quotations and rich folks stealing servants from each other. All the while, people from the future are going back and forth trying to acquire items for a 21st Century architecture project. But it's more interesting than that. The problems of messing with the past -- both in immediate ways and more philosophical ones, are discussed. Some of the humor is a bit too... British for me but in general the book is amusing and interesting and the characters are lively and worth paying attention to. [+]

The Medical Detectives by Berton Roueche

A book about epidemics. Each chapter of this book discusses a particularly perplexing epidemic and the medical detective work that solved the case. In each case, a group of people mysteriously get a bizarre ailment and it's up to the docs to figure out why before more people get sick. Causality ranges from feeding pigs with pesticide treated seed corn, sewage leaking into an ice cream machine, and various carriers of various infectious diseases working in food prep. The steps these folks go through to solve these puzzles are laid out in great detail and you can follow along with them as they uncover new bits of evidence. [+]

Comics & Sequential Art by Will Eisner

For a book that is all about using pictures and layout to tell a story, this book is horribly designed -- big blocks of uninterrupted text in between interesting graphical examples. Eisner is one of the grandfathers of sequential art and this book came out seventeen years ago and except for an added chapter on computer assisted design, it's still relevant today. Eisner uses lots of examples from his Spirit series of graphic novels to explain how to do things like rasise the level of suspense in a series, or indicate movement in very little page space. The examples are interesting as examples but also as short stories that Eisner tells with pictures [+]

The Big U by Neal Stephenson

Neal Stephenson's first book, an academic satire about a university-turned-city-turned-evil, the Big U. If you love Stephenson's writing and feel that you would enjoy reading his shopping lists, you will most likely enjoy this book. I enjoyed it. The characters are extreme stereotypes in some ways -- he mercillesly torments gamers -- and the story is sci fi in some ways and a bit true to college life in others. Other than that, it's not very sci fi and it doesn't have the sparks of genius I've come to expect from him but it does have one of his signature Big Big Fights at the end which, if you like that sort of thing, is pretty good. [0]

The Mummy Congress by Heather Pringle

The subtitle of this book is "Science, Obsession, and the Everlasting Dead" and Pringle meets many scientists and enthusiasts who, often usig their own money and their own free time,have made mummy science into their grand passions. Each chapter of this book details one aspect of mummydom. There is a chapter on Lenin's body and the Soviet-era mummifiers, and one on the Incorruptibles -- Catholic saints that were thought to not decay normally due to their pure natures. Pringle talks to the experts and often goes on site herself to check out mummies, mummy fans, and mummy conferences. Her writing style is chatty but the amount of research she does is serious. You learn a lot from this book and learn that the world of mummies is not all Egypt and brains in jars. [+]

Our Cancer Year by Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner

Harvey Pekar has been documenting his life through the graphic novel American Splendor for quite some time. When he came down with lymphoma at the same time as he was supposed to move to a new apartment, he and his wife detailed it in this book about a year of chemotherapy, radiation and a lot of medical torment. Meanwhile, we start bombing Iraq. It's a tough book to read, in part because it's so graphic and personal and also in part because it does a great job of detailing the effects one person's ilness can have on the dynamic of a loving couple trying to have a relationship. Since I knew Pekar came out on the other side okay, I think it was easier for me to deal with. [+]

Republic.com by Cass Sunstein

Okay, first things first. It is idiotic to give your book a URL for a name if you do not own the URL. Second, this book is clearly someone's thesis rigged up to be barely passable as interesting non-ficiton. The basic premise is: the increasing personalization of the Internet and people's increasing use of it is detrimental to the US's ability to be a well-functioning democracy. Oh yeah, and it's not Microsoft's fault. While Sunstein does a good job explaining his position, and his points are well researched, my two major beefs are 1) he doesn't know enough about computers to make convincing points about the dangers of technology, and 2) he sets up straw man arguments that are pretty easy to take apart if you DO know more about computers than he does. And, the whole time, he claims that the issues are NOT with corporations trying to shove their own versions of the "Daily Me" down our throats, but a lack of government regulation of Internet space. Sunstein makes absurd suggestions such as "must carry" rules that would make anyone with a strident political website carry links to opposing viewpoints. Hello? What planet is this man living on and what mechanism would possibly enable these change to be made? Sunstein is an academic who created an argument around his idea of the Internet and then tried to make other people see it his way, and I clearly don't. [-]

The Graywolf Annual Six: Stories from the Rest of the World, by Scott Walker, ed.

It's always nice to remember that all the fiction you read if it's mostly by people who live in your country is just a small scope of what's available. It's nice to remember this because then it means there's so much more out there for you to read. This collection of short stories reminded me to go seek out authors from other countries. I read stories of women discussing the wearing of their veils, men rueing the takeover of their tribal lands by hostile governments, children confused at the worlds they were living in that were so much different than any I had ever known. Great writing, thoughtful selection and a whole slew of new authors that I now know to go look for. [+]

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

I sometimes think, when I read really good old-timey fiction, that maybe we have lost something in the postmodern literature revolution. This aching tale of a small poor town and the people who try to be good and just and okay within it, is just poignant and lovely. The main characters are a young tomboy girl, a deaf mute, a black doctor and a few other assorted characters. They are all damaged in some way, and all trying to be good in some ways, but seem to lack to toolkits to make themselves happy. The writing is elegant and the characters are noble and the pages pass too quickly. [+]

The Empty Chair by Jeff Deaver

If you are secretly afraid of hillbillies, this is the book for you. Another page turner about a parapalegic forensic pathologist detective or "criminalist" this one contained a bit too much fear-of-strangers masqerading as plot tension. The story is good, and has a lot of twists and turns but seems to rely too much on backwoods hick stereotypes to fill out its roster of evil people and since I grew up in the country, I found it a bit mean spirited. [0]

Takedown by Tsutomu Shimomura

You can almost see the publishers of this book saying to the author "okay, you've got all the dull technical stuff in there, now turn it down a notch and give us more love interest" If you know a lot about computers, this book will interest you. If you think computer people are by and large egotistical jerks, this book will do nothing to dissuade you. It's the story of how Shimomura -- by all accounts a smart computer guy -- spent a lot of time and effort trying to capture Kevin Mitnick. Mitnick eluded many sysadmins of the computers he was breaking into precisely bcause they believed their systems were safe. Once their security was compromised, Mitnick got access to proprietary business information as well as credit card data of users of many of their systems. Shimomura is arrogant, and not a great writer, but the story itself is interesting enough to make the book worth reading. [+]

Giving Good Weight by John McPhee

There has not been a book that McPhee has written that I did not love -- as long as it was not about rocks. This collection of short stories ranges from a look into New York City farmer's markets to middle aged pinball fans, to a plan to build a nuclear power plant on a floating island off the coast of New Jersey. With every story, McPhee makes you feel like you are right there with him and that if you were in fact there, he would be a fun guy to hang around with. [+]

Straight Man by Richard Russo

It's a particular kind of fiction -- the tenured academic farce. I'm not totally sure I like it, though this book was certainly a good example of the genre. There's a professor, he has tenure, and still risks losing his job anyhow. It's an academic nightmare! Oh, he also has some odd urinary tract problem, so the book harkens back to The Water Method Man in the main character's inability to pee throughout the duration of the novel. Bladder tension as a metaphor for personal tension. The book jacket said this book was hilarious, but while I thought it was funny, I also found the main character somewhat mean to those around him in that I've-got-tenure/white skin/privilege sort of way. Not bad, but not a book I bonded closely with. [0]

The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler

If you can't bring yourself to say the word vagina out loud, then perhaps you will benefit from the short essays in this book. Apparently this book and the resultant movement against violence to women known as V-day have changed the ways in which women think about themselves and what they deserve from our society. And to that I say "great". On the other hand, if your vagina were wearing clothes, I would not care what it wore. The fact that you can say "cunt" over and over is of no consequence to me. I looked at my vagina in a mirror before it was fashionable and I am unlikely to do it again. We talked about our bodies so much when I was a kid we all grew bored of it. If it makes you feel better, I am truly glad. I feel about this book the way I felt when I read Sex, by Madonna -- I do not need the kind of catharsis that this book can offer, but I am glad it is available for others. [-]

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

I admit, I picked up this book because I knew I could finish it in a day and a lot of my friends had read it. Gladwell is a good writer, but this piece was probably a bit more coherent in its original form as a New Yorker article. As it is, Gladwell's treatise on how things go from being run-of-the-mill things, to being enormously popular [or contagious, or well-known] reads a bit like a textbook on the topic. Hqe spends an inordinate amoutn of time defining his terms, reiterating what we already know in order to go on to the next point, and talking to his readers using the second person. He lost me when he said "these people aren't like you or me, they go out every night, they are wildly social..." I thought hey, speak for yourself pal. So, the phenomena he describes are interesting, but the book makes no earthshaking claims about human behavior or why we do the things that we do, just that some people are more popular or knowledgeable than others, and they are responsible for a larger percentage of 'what goes on' in many ways. [-]

Bone Collector by Jeffrey Deaver

A twist on the run of the mill thriller cop mysteries I have been reading lately. This one is a forensic mystery of the sort that contains excruciating details that not only mere mortals, but almost anyone else on the planet would overlook. The paraplegic forensic examiner and the wily bone collector go head to head in this sometimes too gruesome account of a serial murder loose in the streets of New York. Interesting, a bit too up close and personal as when you are overhearing the last throughs of people destined to die in truly gruesome ways. Top notch detective and medical work and a completely believable bed-and-wheelchair bound braniac doctor. [+]

The Grand Complication by Allen Kurzweil

Library mystery! This book follows a librarian with an almost obsessive love of lists and books as he gets gradually seduced into the arcane and book-based plots of an elderly gentleman who frequents his library. Delicious for those of us who love antiquarian books and the Dewey Decimal system. The librarian characters are three-dimensional but also quirky and smart in that odd way that librarians tend to be. I was sad when this book was over. [+]

Mistaken Identity by Lisa Scottoline

I picked this up for no other reason than it had a flashy cover and I had a 23 hour bus ride ahead of me. It turned out to be a pretty interesting read. A lawyer discovers she may or may not have an identical twin in the form of a convict facing the death penalty for a murder she swears she didn't commit. In a fit of poor judgement, the lawyer decides to take the case and unravels a case that may be conspiracy against her [possible] twin or maybe just a standard murder committed by a seasoned criminal. A page turner, and not so great if you are a stickler for people who always use good judement, but an interesting wrap up and well written. [0]

Death du Jour by Kathy Reichs

If you've ever wondered how you can tell how long a body has been dead by looking at the maggots, this book is for you. If not, you may not have the stomach for it. Reichs is an author that focuses on the medical examiner aspects of crime and mystery. She gets called to the scene after the cops have been there and tries to give them a hand solving the crime, This particular novel is full of cults and freezing cold weather and the inevitable Family Member Who Gets Involved in the Horrible Events. It's a good quick read but maybe on the sensational side for me personally. [0]

Street Lawyer by John Grisham

Another bus book, I had even lower expectations for this one, hoping just to bury myself in the trivial seeming concerns of the super-rich. Instead I got a book by Grisham that actually seems concerned with the plight of the underclasses and the representation they receive in the US. The central character begins as a super-rich lawyer and becomes a homelss advocate after a particularly chilling run-in with a disturbed homeless man. The book can seem a bit preachy at times if you are already well aware of the issues facing the homeless, but I was so delighted to see Grisham depart from his usual repetoire that I forgave it. [0]

Interface by Stephen Bury

The cover says it's co-written by Neal Stephenson but folks who have read it say it's all by him. I couldn't tell. It's not supergenius interesting like all of Stephenson's other novels, but it has his intelligent plot twists and smart characters. I picked it up looking for nothing more captivating than a good bus read and was pleasantly surprised. Usually political thrillers are snorers for me because they tend to revolve around a lot of high-blown folks worried about their reputations. These characters who are working in various ways on a presidential campaign -- as writers, techies, candidates, etc -- all have human concerns and reactions to events. The techie aspect of one of the potential candidates suffering two strokes and having a new apparatus implanted in his brain were not presented as so sci-fi that we can't imagine it happening in the world around us. [0]

Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug

When I went to the web site for this book on web site usability, I found that while it was extremely visually arresting and easy to use, it had a link to a conference that had ended in 2000. So, while usability is important, I can see the need for a sequel. If you develop websites, this book tells you a lot of the Website 101 information that can make your job easier. It also heavily stresses providing information in formats that users are already accustomed to and, in fact, looking for. While I think this is probably a good idea if you want to sell people something -- they can't buy the item if they can't find the checkout -- it seems to me that if everyone followed Krug's instructions, the web would be even more homogenous than it is now. [+]

Survivor by Chuck Palanhiuk

For some nutso reason, I picked up this book -- the story of a guy who is narrating his life's story into a black box on a commercial jetliner before crashing it into the ocean -- on September 11th. It helped throw the next few weeks into even more surreal relief. The book is well written and compelling. The main character, who is the last survivor of a suicide cult, has a bent but not altogether unreasonable view of the world. He's beset upon by social workers intent on him not killing himself on their watch and an odd woman who just seems to like his freak appeal. The novel has about 50 pages in the middle -- narrating the freak's rise to stardom and religious near-sainthood -- which I could have stood to skip but the book is otherwise riveting, and timely. [+]

The Pigman's Legacy by Paul Zindel

Paul Zindel was responsible for some of the creepiest and yet true-to-life books I read when I was in high school. I was staying at my sister's house and she had this book which I hadn't read yet. In it, the two teens who had met and befriended the Pigman go back to his house and find another old man living there who they try to befriend. The story is interesting, the teen characters seem exactly like teenagers -- awkwardness and all -- and the story is compelling, even for an oldster like me. [+]

Idoru by William Gibson

Another book I heard on tape. This one was especially complemented by the different voices that the reader used for all the characters. I was skeptical that such a complicated cyberpunk novel would be able to be distilled into threee hours of reading, but the storyline held and I did not have the feeling that big chunks of plotline were being removed at every turn. The story is a fairly straightforward one about a rockstar who falls in love with a part-human-part-machine woman and defies convention by announcing he is going to marry her. Then people freak out. Then the plot thickens and we can't tell who is double-crossing who. One of the protagonists is a teenage girl which makes the whole story seem more like a fairy tale and less like a shoot-em-up novel, though there is some fighting. [+]

Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis

If you like Scrabble, especially if you love Scrabble, this book is for you. Fatsis is an NPR commentator who took a year out of his life to try to become a Scrabble pro. He meets the other pros, talks to the people who make Scrabble, and even takes a trip to visit the children of Alfred Butts, the man who invented the game. Fatsis, being a smart guy, does pretty well for himself, rising in the ranks in a short amount of time. He catalogs his successes and losses sometimes obsessively and seems to actually try to become like the freaks and weirdos he portrays. While he is sympathetic to the odd characters that make up the motley crew of Scrabble zealots, one can't help but think that after the book is written and the royalties start rolling in, Fatsis will begin using the people who took him in as interesting cocktail party fodder and forget about their humanity that was so apparent to him as he was writing the book. [+]

Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything by James Gleick

Okay, it seems like sort of a joke, but when I "read" this book on tape, I accidentally started with the last tape first. So, once realizing this, I decided it was only best to go through the tapes backwards. Sides five and six, followed by three and four, followed by one and two. Guess what? It didn't make any difference. Not that Gleick sucks or is totally incomprehensible, quite the opposite: his texts are so full of amusing anecdotes and witty asides, that there is not much of an annoying plot to muddle you down. The book has a basic premise: people want everything faster, the world is getting faster. This is backed up by evidence, both circumstatial ["close door" buttons on elevators] and more factual [comparisons of the fastest computers then and now]. All the while, Gleick is gently chiding us for "our" preoccupation with speed and hurrying up. And this was my issue -- the use of the familiar "we" to describe the people he was talking to, and talking about. As someone who takes public transportation, waits forever for the elevator doors to shut and barely notices, and walks when driving would do just as well, I resent the implication that we are all complicit in society's fascination with speed and -- to a lesser degree -- efficiency. Gleick seems to want accomplices in his sordid little expose of our nasty nasty time fetishes and I just can't go there with him. The book was interesting, yes, but deep, no. [-]

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

Fans of 1984 may or may not know that Orwell signed on to fight against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War during 1936 and 1937. This book -- which I listened to on tape during my trip -- is his account of fighting with the anarchists in one of the poorest armies with one of the justest causes. Orwell was clearly expecting something other than he found when he signed on, and was dejected to learn that they would not be taught how to use machine guns, for example. He persevered, and endured a lot of lousy, cold, hungry conditions in order to try to save the world from fascism. Anarchists will enjoy his discussions of working alongside the Communists and non-anarchists may actually learn a thing or two about anarchist organizations. [+]

Get in the Van : On the Road With Black Flag by Henry Rollins

Henry Rollins doesn't drink and does voiceovers for Nike. Those were two things I did not know about the former front man for Black Flag and current underground hipster somethingorother. I read this book as a book on tape, as read by Rollins himself, and I think it added a lot to the experience of learning about Black Flag's touring highs and lows to hear them in Rollins's own words. It's clear that there is a lot of contradiction in his stated desires and actions, but rather than dwell on them with a lot of annoying psychobabble, he just tells it like it was. Day after day of touring, fights, being hungry and getting spat at, interspersed with times of purpose and action and inspiration. Rollins meant a lot ot a lot of people while he was in Black Flag, and means a lot to many different people now. It's interesting to hear him get inside his own head and talk about what was making him tick, back when he was making punk history. [+]

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace

Somehow I had thought this book was non-fiction and I came to it much more intrigued. As it turns out, it's just the scrapings from DFW's fetid underbelly of a mind. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, DFW is a super genius of an individual with an amazing command of the language, and I think I'd be content to read his laundry lists, but this book feels a bit like reading the transcriptions of his psychoanalysis. There's lots of creepy stuff in here, along with the obligatory story-that-is-mostly-footnotes and the story-that-is-so-intellectual-as-to-be-unintelligible to mere mortals. Bad rapist fantasies and awful childhoods preying on peoples' minds. I am happy DFW exists, and happier still that he keeps writing as opposed to other ways of acting out what must be on his mind, but this book wasn't really for me. There were a few stories that rang both true and interesting to me but a lot of others that I skimmed or skipped entirely. [0]

Constance de Markievicz by Jacqueline Van Voris

This book was in the free box outside of one of the local libraries. My guess is that it was deemed "too radical" by the librarians, though I could be wrong. It's a biography of Markievicz who was born into privilege and used her weath, stature and general chutzpah to fight for the liberation of Ireland from Great Britain. She was an early member of Sinn Fein and other revolutionary organizations and told women to "leave your jewels at home and buy a revolver" in order to obtain the vote and an independent Ireland. This book is a general history of her life beginning as a countess and ending as a Dorothy-Day style champion of the poor. It's inspirational for those who, like myself, enjoy reading about people struggling for what's right. [+]

Accordian Crimes by Annie Proulx

An accordian is a strange narrative device. The little green button accordian in this story gets passed, sold and stolen, person to person, over the years and almost inadvertently helps trace the story of many generations of American immigrants from all sorts of backgrounds. As Proulx stories go, this is one in the style that my sister calls "a wrist-slitter." Nearly everyone dies dejected and/or alone. Mind numbing sadness and bad behavior seem to be the primary characteristics of her characters. As always, this book involved a lot of good research and we do anecdotally learn something about the history of various ethnic groups in their struggle to make a place for themselves in America. However, the storyline seems to just be a backgrounder to the main character which is Despair. Grim grim grim. [-]

We have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

It's sort of a shame that Shirley Jackson will forever be known for The Lottery [and probably hated by generations of high school students still to come for the same reason] because she is so much spookier and better than that. This short novel is about those weird ladies that live on the hill in the spooky house -- you know the ones -- and the townspeople that mercilessly tormet them. You learn about the ladies' past, you catch a glimpse into their future, and just when you think there must be some ray of hope, things get diastrously worse. Jackson exhibits complete and total mastery over this form of everyday horror story and if you can handle the wanton cruelty, you may wind up enjoying it overall. [+]

The Magus by John Fowles

A friend pushed this into my hands and said "you HAVE to read this" and I was immediately nervous that I wouldn't like it. My fears were unfounded, this book is a brilliant novel in the Dickian style of complete and total paranoia. A man goes to a Greek island to teach at a private school, strange things begin to happen, he tries to figure out what is going on. Various other characters promise that they will tell him the whole truth about what is happening .... tomo, let alone be interested in. It's a well-researched history book that lists everyone that lives in the town, every bird that's been seen in the town, slices of life, details about the schools and churches and cemetaries and some poetry and little stories. The big kicker is -- this book has a picture of my house! Or, rather, a picture of the barn as it apepared in 1929. The barn was surrounded by about eight other buildings, one of which was moved and become my house and the rest of which have completely disappeared since the photo was taken. The barn even looks completely different, but there was a street map confirming its identity. I am a big fan of old school history, and this book was a pure delight. [-]

Numbered Account by Christopher Reich

Annie Proulx drove me to this book. I was reading her book Accordian Dreams and I just could not go on any longer. So, I figured I should cleanse my palate with a good Swiss banking thriller and return to it. So I picked up this book someplace and was pleasantly surprised. It won't go down as any of the world's great literature, but it has a snappy plot, some believable characters [even the women, who do not just sit idly by and get kidnaped] and I didn't feel cheap and dirty at the end as I do with most thriller-type books that I read. It's big, really big, so you have to make a commitment to it to read it all the way through. Fortunately, this is not difficult. [+]

Square Dancing in the Ice Age by Abbie Hoffman

If you like Abbie Hoffman in general, you will like this book. If the only thing you have read by him is Steal This Book, then you may not. This book is a collection of essays that are loosely grouped around the time when he was underground, travelling disguised and under an assumed name. The essays lack some of the urgency they must have had at the time now that Hoffman not only beat that rap but has since died. The book has a few Hoffman-esque capers, some astute political observations -- my favorite is his description of trying to arrange a meeting with fellow fugitive Philip Agee -- and a remarkably good-natured tone considering what he was dealing with. [+]

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie's first book since The Satanic Verses is a fantastical tale of a boy and his storyteling dad and the weird world they get mixed up in. Rushdie's skillful use of literal and figurative language gives this book a rich texture and a delightful story that will appeal to many different kinds of people. The creatures that are constantly being introduced during this whirlwind magic carpet ride have such fanciful names I often though I was being set uop for an elaborate shaggy dog story. The story itself becomes a classic tale of good versus evil with just enough magic tricks tossed in to make it a lot of fun. [+]

The Island of Lost Maps by Miles Harvey

Wow, does this guy say some nasty things about librarians!

"...he sounded just as you might expect a librarian to sound, from the nasally voice to the precise, even persnickety, way of putting words together."

"Librarian -- that mouth-contorting, graceless grind of a word, that dry gulch in the dictionary between libido and licentiousness -- it practically begs you to envision a stoop-shouldered loser, socks mismatched, eyes locked in a permanent squint from reading too much microfiche"

This is another one of those adorable pop history books -- this one about a map thief. Since Harvey had very little access to the thief, who refused to speak with him and even threatened him with a restraining order, he had to recreate much of the man's story, much like -- he muses endlessly -- a cartographer creates an approximation of a place. The book is a good solid read with just the kinds of tantalizing facts you expect from a history book written for the general public. The illustrations are reduced to grey-scale selections from some of the maps in question and the bad guy does get caught and [more or less] punished. I ended up thinking, 'wow, that was an interesting topic, I'd like to go read a book about it..." [0]

Call if You Need Me by Raymond Carver

I always feel sad when I read Raymond Carver. Not always because his stories are sad, though they are, or all his charachters seem sad, which they do, but mostly because every time I imagine Carver writing these bleak tales of woe, I suspect "these characters may be as emotional as he is/was" This is a collection of some stories found after Carver's death, put together with some of his essays, books reviews and other tidbits until it formed a book long enough to be sold. While I have always admired Tess Gallagher in sort of a general way, her introduction to this piece and explanation for it makes her seem like more of a professional widow than I ever thought of her before. If this book was all you knew about Carver, you would assume that he loved his children, parted fairly amicably with his first wife, licked alchoholism, had many close friends and was partnered with person whose talen was equal to his own. I get a chill on my neck thinking that that might not be the case, and that this deception was the point of this volume. After reading story after story of people unable to communicate, feel deeply, or otherwise engage their world, this book left me with more questions than answers. [+]

Looking for a Ship by John McPhee

I would read anything McPhee writes that is not about rocks. This is about the world of the Merchant Marines -- people who are in the union and head to the union halls in various coastal cities looking for a ship to head out on. The Merchant Marine is gradually becoming extinct due to so many companies using "flags of conveniece" ships that are registered in countries with much more lax rules, regulations and lower pay than the US. The men who comprise the trip mcPhee goes along for are mostly in their fifties and sixties. They go to South America, they deal with boredom, storms and real-life pirates. They tell sea stories. McPhee tells their stories, and you can almost hear the sepia-tone photos of days of yore beign described, even though these people exist in the present day. [+]

Like Being Killed by Ellen Miller

Picked this book up at 11:30 and read it straight through until 5 am. This is a particularly well written story of addiction and need, chronicling in somewhat non-linear fashion the life of a girl with a bad self-image and very little esteem. She turns to drugs. She has difficulty finding meaning in the world around her. She gets involved in a sadistic relationship with her plumber [these scenes are not for the sqeamish]. She watches friend die and watches herself head towards death. She knows she is smart enough to save herself and can't find a reason to do it. The characters are mostly two-dimensional besides our hero, a cat-owning junkie with a voracious appetite for reading. Bleak but worth the effort. [+]

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

European magical realism! I read this book because the movie sounded really stupid and indeed the movie replaces the central evil priest figure with an evil mayor figure. Switching the movie to a political battle where the book details a spiritual battle. I am generally a sucker for any book with candy and sexy gypsies and this book was no exception. It outlines what happens to a small European town when a new mystery woman comes to town and opens a chocolate shop, which is open on Sundays, which makes the priest angry, which in turn makes the townspeople conflicted. Pretty language and complicated characters, a quick read. [+]

Why Moths Hate Thomas Edison by Hampton Sides

This book is a collection of questions and answers from Outside magazine, answering some of our most pressing questions about the natural world. In this book I learned that there are few wild camels left, that llamas have two kinds of spit, ostriches do not bury their heads beneath the sand, and why moths hate Thomas Edison [because they used to orient themselves by flying relative to the moon, now they get confused and burn up]. The book has a chatty tone and the questions are generally answered by experts, with some bad puns added by the editors. [+]

Savage: The Life and Times of Jemmy Button by Nick Hazlewood

Got this as a proof copy in the Utne Reader offices. It tells of the long inexorable path towards progress that takes place over sixty years in Tierra del Fuego, beginning with the missionaries and ending with the settlers. In the process, an entire race of people are wiped out, Darwin has some inspirations, and Britain has many internal squabbles over the worth of Christian prostyletizers in foreign lands. The character in the title, Jemmy Button [ne Orundellico] is taken from his family and brought to London as an example of the savages that need taming. He becomes a constant thread as many missions return to Tierra del Fuego and seek him and his people out for further study and attempted conquest. [+]

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

I sort of got the impression that this started out its life as a novella. The book is standard paperback size, but the type is very very large. I read it in a night. It tells the classic story of the normals that live on one side of the wall and the supernatural folks who live on the other side and what ensues after one of the days that occurs every nine years when the two towns intermingle. Straighforward fantasy writing with Gaiman's touch of including just the right amount of unbelievable in with the believable to make it ring true as well as provide escapist outlets. [+]

The Old Patagonia Express by Paul Theroux

This guy is a great travel writer. While not as amusing as Tim Cahill, his observations on the nature of people and things are interesting, esxpecially since he seems to be a bit of a crank, like myself, so I could relate. This book is a travelogue of trains. Starting from his home in Boston MA, he takes [more or less] trains heading South, armed only with his Cook's Timetable and a suitcase and a few novels. He winds up in Patagonia much much later after being through some of the most lengthy, dusty, boring, terrifying and harrowing ordeals. In one chapter -- my personal favorite -- he meets Jorge Louis Borges in Argentina and winds up spending several evenings reading to the old man. This chapter alone is worth reading the rest of the book. [+]

How to Screw the Post Office by Mr. Unzip

Ah, more lovely books about getting around the tyranny of the government from our favorite pseudonymous nutjobs at Loompanics. I read this at the bookstore while I was working behind the counter. It's short and seems to be primarily concerned with sending mail out with less than the required amount of postage. The author somehow got to sift through all of the the phone company's tossed out bill envelopes during a time of a PO rate change and "proved" that bills with the old postage rates or incorrect rates altogether were still getting through. Of course, anyone with a background in stats knows that this means nothing without knowing how many envelopes [if any] did NOT make it through, but why press the point? It's not suprising when you think about it. There are many many fun diagrams of cancelled stamps. The book also goes into some more useful topics like how to establish a mail drop and how the post office actually processes much of the mail they receive. [0]

The Immortal Class by Travis Hugh Culley

Culley is nuts about bicycling. He had a bicycle epiphany during a Critical Mass rally after being a bicycle commuter for a few months out of impoverished necessity. He saw the light and became a cycling activist and soon a bike messenger. Culley elevates the messengers to the ultimate workers, travellers, thinkers and partyers. He simultaneously lumps himself among them and distances himself from them through the sheer act of writing this book. There is a bit of wide-eyed awe in this first person account of messengering and Culley can be a bit of an apologist for the bad behavior of cyclists everywhere, but the book really shines when he discusses his own day to day submersion into the Bike Cult and describes who he finds there. [+]

The Funhouse Mirror: Reflections on Prison by Robert Ellis Gordon

Gordon taught writing classes in Washington state prisons for a very long time. At some point, he burnt out, but at some point before that be became enamored, even addicted to prisoners themselves. This book contains his writings and writings of some of his students, some still on the inside and some not. It also contains his reflections and criticisms of the prison system itself. This book is required reading for anyone not familiar with prison life, and still a good read if you consider yourself well educated on the prison industry. The writing of his students is some of the most haunted and chilling [and well written, I need to add] storytelling I've seen in a while. [+]

The Avengers by Rich Cohen

Another [better] book by the guy who wrote Tough Jews. This one is about Jewish freedom fighters -- or whatever your euphemism for people that kill the bad guys during wartime is -- during World War II. The kicker is that two of them were women. Badass gun-toting women who helped people get out of Lithuanian ghettos and emigrate to Israel. This book -- like Cohen's other book, Tough Jews -- is about Jews that went against the stereotype and fought back instead of resting on their intellectual laurels in the face of barbaric adversity. Avengers includes interviews with some of the surviving partisans from the war and many stories are recollected. It's fascinating reading, including a lot of pictures and many many eyewitness accounts. [+]

The King by Donald Barthelme

This book is really good looking and totally incomprehensible. Like many books that are allegories of other books I have never read, I can't tell if this book would have also been mystifying to someone who was not familiar with The Death of King Arthur. Since Barthelme can be a bit obscure even on his better days, I am guessing this would be the case. Super writing, tending towards the absurd, and odd juxtapositions of medeival warfare and modern-day conveniences make this fun even if you don't know what's going on. The copy I have also had some splendid woodcuts specifically made for it which lended a nice classic tone. [0]

Two or Three Things I Know for Sure by Dorothy Allison

Allison uses this slim book to tell some more autobiographical tales of growing up poor in the deep south. The book was originally created as a performance piece and the rhythm of the words is really mesmerizing. The title is the constant refrain, as in:

two or three things I know for sure and one of them is that telling the story all the way through is an act of love

it gets repeated in different forms like a mantra, such as:

two or three things I know for sure and one is that I would rather go naked than wear the coat the world made for me

Allison had a hard life growing up, filled with bad role models, sexual abuse, and general poverty. She emerged from her adolesence a hardened woman ready to become part of the radical women's movement but not yet ready to accept herself. This book seems to be working through some of the issues contributing towards her eventual self-acceptance. It is lovely. [+]

The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick

What do you know, there was more Phillip K. Dick on the house that I hadn't read yet, so I dug in. This book was a little less easy to get into -- somewhat like the Valis Trilogy -- because it would sometimes veer off into tangents where I found it tough to follow. The basic premise is great: We lost World War Two and our country was taken over and split into regions by the Germans and the Japanese. Jews are hated all over the country, and people scratch their heads trying to appease the Japanese [since most of the book takes place in California which is a Japanese region]. Throughout the book, there is a book which appears that tells the story of what the world would have been like if America had won the war, and some people grow attached to that book, even though it is illegal in many regions. As with many Dick novels, it can be tough to tell what is real and what is unreal but the characterizations are great and the pages turn. [0]

Women With Men by Richard Ford

Fifty cent book. Well worth it. Ford tells sad stories of people trapped in their lives and with each other, making decisions that leave you wincing. This is a collection of three longish short stories all about men's relationships with women and vice versa. The characters are awkward yet sincere and the situations they get stuck in are sad yet also touching. I saw Ford read from one of his other books once and was really impressed with his rapport with the audience and general approachability. [+]

The Non-Designer's Design Book by Robin Williams

This book has very few words, which is good because it's about design. With two distinct chapters, one on design principles and one on typographic principles, Williams explains why some pages look good and why some pages don't. She outlines these ideas In funny, easy to read bullet pointed lists and even tosses in a quiz or two to make sure you get the idea. She has no snob quotient, she really wants you to understand this stuff, not just bow down to her mad designer skillz. I've been doing my own form of herky jerky web design for years and I still learned a lot from this book. [+]

Tom the Dancing Bug by Ruben Bolling

Tom the Dancing Bug has nothing to do with animated insects. It's mainly about a few of Bolling's favorite characters: Charley the Australopithecine, Harvey Richards, Lawyer for Children, and Louis and His Imagination [I am reading off the front cover here but I really did read this]. And that weird character that no one knows what it is. It was really funny, not incredibly memorable, except for the kid lawyer jokes which I always find hilarious, and there was no forward, by the author or anyone, which always kind of bums me out. [0]

32 Stories by Adrian Tomine

There's a chick on the cover of this collection of Optic Nerve mini-comics and I assumed from that point on that Adrian was a chick. I even know guys named Adrian. I even read -- I thought -- the intro where he talks about making tough autobiographical episodes easier by giving the main character a sex change. So I thought I got it when all the stories, mostly, were about this black-haired guy and not the blonde on the cover. I feel dopey. Anyhow, the book was great, the stories are short moving personal accounts of alientation and nerddom as many comics are. There's a chunky intro you can really sink your teeth into which talks about his evolution as an artist as well as comments on some of his more notable pieces. The strips are even more or less in order so you can watch his skills improve and his stories thicken up over time. [+]

Fermat's Enigma by Simon Singh

There's a guilty pleasure in liking these pop history books, for me. Books like Longitude and Genius and The Professor and the Madman. Sure they're about complex subjects, and very smart people, but they contain a steady stream of anecdotes sure to keep you from getting bogged down in any of the heavy stuff. They have very linear plotlines, and as many pictures as you can reasonably expect -- in this case, many mug shots of famous mathematicians through the ages. This book was a real page turner but I guess I'm suspicious about any math book that is that interesting. Like it must be cheating somehow. Sort of how I feel about NPR's distillation of the nightly news -- it only works because they flatly ignore the complications inherent in the news. And then we all talk about the same simplification of the news [or math] at cocktail parties. Anyhow, I really liked this book -- an account of the final proving of Fermat's Last Theorem -- but I am not completely comfy with the ease at which I tore through it. [+]

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

If I ever had any suspicion that Buddhism might not be for me, this book clinched it. Though maybe it is just Hoffman I dislike. The idea of explaining Taoism through one well-loved somewhat dim bear was a great idea, and it is hard for me to explain why I didn't read this book until now. I think I thought it might be difficult. Instead, I found it too easy, and I found Hoffman to be pretty dismissive of other people and lifestyles, for a Buddhist. Don't get me wrong, I still eat meat and do things that are bad for me, but I don't call other people "ludicrous" just because they work too hard or tell them they will die sooner than good old self-actualized me. Hoffman does. He is a Buddhasnob. The overview of Taoism is useful. The rah rah "we're number one!" jingoism can stop anytime. [-]

The Buddy Chronicles by Peter Bagge

I sort of love the fact that I can't find this book on Amazon. It's a collection of Bagge's Buddy Bradley stories from old issues of Hate. I don't even know much about Bagge, as I'm sure true fans will, but I love his ugly characters, their petty concerns and the nasty way they treat each other. It's everyone's human foibles magnified into their full-color unbelievable awfulness with words put into their mouths. It'll make you squirm from time to time, but just as often you'll say "hey, I did something like that once..." [+]

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick

I've seen Blade Runner a zillion times and still managed never to read this book. It's great. Dick was an inspired genius, even if his talents were influenced by a pink light or temporal lobe epilepsy, which ever story you prefer. The story takes place in some distant post-apocalyptic future where most of the people still on Earth are misfits or halfwits. Some android escapees from Mars kill some humans and come back to Earth. They need to be "retired." The only way to distinguish an android [the new models come out all the time] from a human is to adminster an empathy tests. Humans have the capacity for empathy, androids don't. There is a poignancy in this story -- there is a subplot about the humans all having some sort of animal, some can only afford crickets while others spend more money on expensive decoy electric animals -- that is Dick's specialty. [+]

Enigma by Robert Harris

Ever since I read Cryptonomicon, and probably even before, I've been fascinated by the people who worked with ciphers back in the early days before computers during WWII. This book is a spy-type novel about a made-up character in a real life setting, working to crack the Enigma codes quickly enough to save lives during the war. Hard work made more difficult by rationing and other wartime limitations. The author goes into just enough detail about cryptography to make it interesting without it being a treatise about codes. [+]

Pulling the Strings by Fred Woodworth

The subtitle of this longish pamphlet is "How businesses and institutions attempt to control the small press." Fred Woodworth is the longtime publisher of the periodical The Match which he prints all himself on letterpress equipment. He is the Real Deal. He's a bit of a crank, but a lot of his politics are right on. This pamplet talks about how trying to get a distributor for your independent press publication is basically akin to making a deal with the devil. A sucker's bet. A bad idea. He backs this up with explanations of his own attempts to find distributorship for The Match, and what a complete hassle it was and how tough it was to get paid. It's depressing, but well-researched and very compelling. [+]

American Splendor by Harvey Pekar

Graphic novel time. This is a collection of Pekar's real life stories illustrated by R. Crumb and others. It's text heavy, somewhat talking head-ish and very interesting to read. Pekar worked as a file clerk and did writing in his spare time. Some of his stories are about work, some are about his fondness for jazz albums and some are about his friends and people that he meets. The intro by Crumb helps explain who he is before we get his own words on the subject. Beautifully illustrated and slice-of-life interesting. [+]

Tough Jews by Rich Cohen

This is Ben's first book and it shows. It is a somewhat personal-feeling history of Jewish gangsters in New York and elsewhere. I got this book because it was one of two of Cohen's books that a Jewish friend of mine forced into my hands and said "read these and we can talk about them later" The other one is probably better but this one was shorter and so I read it first. The stories are interesting, the characters tough to track -- they all have first names, last names, and gangster names; Cohen refers to them interchageably by all three -- and the history well researched. Cohen does have that same crime writer angle where he downplays the extreme violence or at least tries to match it with extreme goodwill meted out by his subjects. There seems to be a lot of apologizing or explaining away of bad behavior and a focus on good looks and hero worship. Not that I minded too much, but if your parents had been killed in a gangland slaying, this book would offend the hell out of you. [0]

Sliver by Ira Levin

Well the book cost 50 cents and I had been curious about the movie but not into seeing Sharon Stone any more, so I had skipped it at the time. It's an interesting, if quick, tale of surveillance and intrigue and somewhat about voyeurism. Though really, the voyeurism is a plot device. It's mainly about a guy spying on his girlfriend [and others] and then she finds out. And some people have been dying. And the girlfriend gets suspicious. And the guy lies a lot. And he gest busted eventually. And there is no cat torture, though cat torture was threatened throughout. The book is fine, just fine, no better, though not much more than a mouthful pagewise. If you take it on a long plane trip, bring a backup. [0]

Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson

I wanted to like this book so much. I have adored everything else Stephenson has ever written and admire his attempts to keep a low profile. However, this futuristic tale of intrigue and robots just didn't do it for me. It was an epic novel in some ways, and a herky jerky pulp fiction book -- complete with armies of naked girls and overwrought race wars -- in others. There is no doubt that Stephenson can spin a great yarn, and he knows a lot of big words, but the story within a story here [the Young Girl's Illustrated Primer alluded to in the subtitle] did not hold my interest. The book would be too graphic for younger readers, I'm guessing, and the kid parts were too dull for me. [0]

Teach Us To Outgrow Our Madness by Kenzaburo Oe

You almost feel bad for liking this book. Its characters are damaged people with battered psyches who are hard to understand and sometimes even tougher to sympathize with. Oe creates a few scenarios in this collection of short novels that seem to be drawn more or less fom his own life -- an overweight father trying to protect and raise his mentally retarded son, a man whose father had an uncertain end during the war, etc. The stories are tough to read for their emotional content, and a joy to read for the elegant writing and the deft description of otherwise complicated and tough to decribe events which they contain. [+]

The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day was the tireless creator of the Catholic Worker movement -- a group of radical Catholic activists working to change society's relationship with the poor. They create houses of hospitality and fight against class injustices. This is Dorothy Day's autobiography which begins with her upbringing, her conversion to hardcore Catholicism, the birth of her daughter and her lifelong companionship with fellow activist Peter Maurin. While the account can seem somewhat hagiographic at times --even though Day herself is fairly low key -- it is a good primer to the underpinnings of the Catholic Worker movement and the forces behind its inception. [+]

Willard and His Bowling Trophies by Richard Brautigan

Willard is a bird sculpture and he and the bowling trophies are almost incidental to this story of..... of what? It's hard to say what this story is about. I had always been curious about it since it is one of the more difficult Brautigan books to track down. The fact that two of the main characters spend a large amount of pages discussing veneral warts may have something to do with this. The bowling trophies have been lost and the brothers who own them are trying to find them. The trophies are in the house of two couples who have troubles of their own. Standard good Brautigan writing, eclectic prose, weird characters. Try to find it. [0]

The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Pinkwater

"My house is me and I am it. My house is where I want to be and it looks like all my dreams" So sayeth the main character in this book for children, who paints his house all sorts of nutty colors [and adds a clock tower] after a bird drops a can of orange paint on his roof. Neighbors complain that the street is no longer a "neat street" but after having late night lemonade over at Mr. Plumbean's house -- while trying to convince him to straighten up and fly right -- they all decide to let their freak flags fly in their own special ways. [+]

Whiteout by Greg Rucker & Steve Lieber

This is a graphic novel illustrated by my friend Steve. It's a murder mystery set in Antarctica. I also have a friend living in Antarctica now. I am sending her this book to see what she thinks about it. It's a neat story, with some boss female characters, but reading it made me very very cold. It was a fun action novel, and had really interesting illustration and a fairly complex plot. If you're usually not much of a graphic novel reader, pick this one up and see if it can change your mind. [+]

Monkey Food by Ellen Forney

Like Ellen Forney, I was seven in 1975. This book is the collection of the "I was 7 in '75" series that I was also lucky enough to read in my local paper. It captures all the weirdness that was growing up in the permissive seventies when people's parents smoked pot and didn't go to jail for 30 years to life, and visited family nudist camps without being locked up for child abuse. I remember those times somewhat and enjoy reliving them, somewhat, through these comics. Forney is a great illustrator with a knack for telling a good concise story where even the bad guys seem human. [+]

Dyke Strippers by Roz Warren

I really groove on Ellen Forney and Allison Bechdel and Roberta Gregory, but with the exception of the cartoonists I already recognized who were collected in this anthology, I didn't find a lot of other new and hidden talent. This book is a collection of work by lesbian cartoonists and maybe it's just because the pool of talent is small, or maybe it's because the selection was off, but I found some of the work in this book downright amateur. Does that matter? I don't know, it did to me. [0]

What is This Thing Called Sex? by Roz Warren

Another collection by Roz Warren. This one I enjoyed more. I'm not sure if it was the subject matter -- racy beats out political in many ways for me -- or the collection of authors, but I enjoyed this book a lot. There is some of the same weirdness that haunted the other book -- small strips with not much detail get full pages to themselves while series strips get crunched together and were tough to read -- but otherwise it was an amusing book and a good conversation starter to have on your coffee table. That is, if your idea of a good conversation has to do with the intricacies of vegetables as sex aids and the like. [+]