Women

Bukowski demolished my theory that the first sentence indicates preference for the rest of the book; although now that I look back, it’s not a bad first: “I was 50 years old and hadn’t been to bed with a woman for four years.” I turned my back on Bukowski due to limited exposure leading me to believe he was brutal to women; upon closer glance, women are also brutal to him, thus balanced brutality. And it was just damn good, in-your-face, real writing. Women describes the ebb & (mostly) flow of Chinaski’s sex life. Pages and pages of sex, drinking, hangovers, poetry readings where the audience and Henry snarl at each other and where he always gets the girl.
“Then we were out on the porch, wrestling. We tripped on the stairs and fell to the pavement. The bottle smashed and broke on the cement. She got up and ran off. I heard her car start. I lay there and looked at the broken bottle. It was a foot away. Lydia drove off. The moon was still up. In the bottom of what was left of the bottle I could see a swallow of scotch. Stretched out there on the pavement I reached for it and lifted it to my mouth. A long shard of glass almost poked into one of my eyes as I drank what remained. Then I got up and went inside. The thirst in me was terrible. I walked around picking up beer bottles and drinking the bit that remained in each one. Once I got a mouthful of ashes as I often used beer bottles for ashtrays. It was 4:14AM. I sat and watched the clock. It was like working in the post office again. Time was motionless while existence was a throbbing unbearable thing. I waited. I waited. I waited. I waited. Finally it was 6 AM. I walked to the corner to the liquor store. A clerk was opening up. He let me in. I purchased another pint of Cutty Sark. I walked backed home, locked the door and phoned Lydia.” (p41)
” I knew plenty of women. Why always more women? What was I trying to do? New affairs were exciting but they were also hard work. The first kiss, the first fuck had some drama. People were interesting at first. Then later, slowly but surely, all the flaws and madness would manifest themselves. I would become less and less to them; they would mean less and less to me.” (p 74)
“Where did all the women come from? The supply was endless. Each one of them was individual, different. Their pussies were different, their kisses were different, their breasts were different, but no man could drink them all, there were too many of them, crossing their legs, driving men mad. What a feast!” (p174)
“Every woman is different. Basically they seem to be a combination of the best and the worst– both magic and terrible. I’m glad that they exist, however.” (p188)
“Generally, I decided, it was better to wait, if you had any feeling for the individual. If you hated her right off, it was better to fuck her right off; if you didn’t, it was better to wait, then fuck her and hate her later on.” (p189)
“The car was parked in the lot in back of the antique store. The street to my left was backed up with traffic and I watched the people waiting patiently in the cars. There was almost always a man and a woman, staring straight ahead, not talking. It was, finally, for everyone, a matter of waiting. You waited and you waited– for the hospital, the doctor, the plumber, the madhouse, the jail, papa death himself. First the signal was red, then the signal was green. The citizens of the world ate food and watched TV and worried about their jobs or their lack of same, while they waited.” (p213)
“It was a Mexican place in a snide hippie district of Hermosa Beach. Bland, indifferent types. Death on the shore. Just phase out, breathe in, wear sandals and pretend it’s a fine world.” (p 226)
“There was something wrong with me: I did think of sex a great deal. Each woman I looked at I imagined being in bed with. It was an interesting way to pass airport waiting time. Women: I liked the colors of their clothing; the way they walked; the cruelty in some faces; now and then the almost pure beauty in another face, totally and enchantingly female. They had it over us: they planned much better and were better organized. While men were watching professional football or drinking beer or bowling, they, the women, were thinking about us, concentrating, studying, deciding– whether to accept us, discard us, exchange us, kill us or whether simply to leave us. In the end it hardly mattered; no matter what they did, we ended up lonely and insane.” (p241)
Recommended by my lifecoach, Dan TheHand.

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The Kite Runner

I finally got into this one sixty or so pages in, very near my threshold for giving up. Glad I stuck with it b/c I was unable to put it down once into the story. A boy from Afghanistan lives with a shameful secret about his boyhood friend/brother Hassan, and years later goes back to rescue the boy’s son. Kite running = chasing after the fallen kite during kite fighting, where you try to cut your opponents’ strings. Definitely worthwhile.

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The Tender Bar

Completely readable and entertaining; a memoir by JR that speaks lovingly of 2 things: his mother, and the bar in his hometown (named Dickens, then renamed Publicans) where he learned to be a man and lived many of his best memories. Definitely funny material throughout. Fatherless JR, constantly battling the issues around his name (what does JR stand for?), living at Granpa’s with ducttaped furniture and Grandpa saying “Do boo-boo”, scrolling through radiostations on the dial searching for The Voice (his dad), Cousins McGraw and Sheryl, shuttling between Arizona, Manhasset NY, and Yale. The bar characters of Uncle Charlie, Steve, Bob the Cop, Cager, Bobo, Fuckembabe, Joey D. Bill & Budd the recluse hermits in the bookstore in the abandoned mall, tearing covers off books and giving the books to JR. The connection between alcohol and writing yet again underscored. Yalie mugging pre-NY Times interview. The wisdom that cacti grow another arm when they start to tilt in an attempt to balance themselves. Days at the beach with Uncle Charlie, Joey D, Bobo; body-surfing, sundials in the sand.

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Music through the floor

I’ve always wondered how it is that authors (or more realistically, editors) order the stories in a short story collection. This group starts out strong and trickles into less as the nine stories tick by. There are brief flashes of brilliance, it is entirely readable and sometimes surprising.
“The trick was, always, to remember his real life was elsewhere.” (Diablo, p 77)
“… Mr. Yeats is a mentally ill person who lives poetically through swans.” (Essay #3: Leda and the Swan, p 24).
“She was the only alcoholic yoga enthusiast I’d ever met. Once she asked me what I did for a living. ‘I work with some retards,’ I said. ‘Right,’ she said, commiserating. ‘I know what you mean.’ ” (Children of God, p 13)
“The boy’s father looked down at his lap and then seemed to glance around the store for the first time, his face losing its brightness and taking on a customary distraced gloom, even a tinge of anger, and he turned to the man inspecting the tank to say, The boy wants some neon tetras, as if it was the boy’s own idea and his father were just bending to a whim.” (Neon Tetra, p 101)
“Caitlin comes charging through the door. She’s holding scissors. In the other hand, she lifts our mother’s hair like a snake– grinning at me, ecstatic, waiting to be loved.” (Animals Here Below p 176)

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The Areas of My Expertise

Singularly goofy and madcap. Crazy frothings of a madman. Pure fantasy. Amusing at times and entirely skimmable. Hodgman is at his best listing the top 700 hobo names (Salad Fork Ron, Beef-or-Chicken Bob Nubbins) with detail on the extensive hobo wars and symbols, prohibition-era euphemisms for alcohol and the fact-based “Were you aware of it” sections such as:
“The famous Cole Porter tune ‘I’m in, you’re in’ was actually Porter’s typically wry response to the urine-drinking craze of the 1920s.”
“Before it was common to wear a wristwatch, Americans had to either purchase the correct time at a time parlor or, if they lived in a rural area, wait until the time peddler came to town.”
Scan the table of contents and if anything in there makes you laugh, read it.

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Indecision

“The trouble with going on living would seem to be the mortifying implication that somehow you approve of yourself.”
Dwight Wilmerding undergoes a mental crisis in the days leading up to his high school reunion, breaking it off with his girl in NYC, losing his job, flying to Ecuador, taking a drug that helps him make decisions, partaking of local hallucinogens & tree roots that cause hair loss. The book is delightful, if irritating in a persistent, under the skin, prodding kind of way. Dwight is EveryMan in the postmodern sense– if only we could all attain his clarity. Better than average writing, and first mention of 9/11 I’ve come across in fiction (I’m sure there’s more…) nicely juxtaposed against taking ecstacy in the wee hours pre-attack.

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Never eat alone

Skimmable wisdom from the networker extraordinaire. Basically, help others connect, build and utilize your network, merge personal with professional contacts, have fun doing it. Be yourself and vulnerable to connect at a more real level with people. Birthday rememberance is a nice touch to reaching out to the corners of your network not as frequently accessed.
Nothing earth shattering, but quite readable.

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Adventuring in Belize

A somewhat average guide to Belize; several things worked against it– minimal maps, dated information (written in 1994, Hoffman suggests writing away for information from the mountain lodges before you go– as in POSTAL mail) and no web addresses. It did have a few things going for it– instead of the usual list of places to eat generated by a journalist only in the area for a few weeks, Hoffman takes a more realistic approach and asks locals what their favorite spots are. And he interjects personal travel tales to liven up the prose– like diffusing a gasoline theft at Guancaste National Park with humor (Thirsty? I have water.)
Best snorkeling near Placencia: Man-of-War Cayes and Laughing Bird Caye

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Moon Handbooks Belize

More goodness from Moon Handbooks. I like their guidebooks in general because of the detailed mapping and off the beaten track information. This was more of the same.
The trip is now looking like this:
* Northern Cayes (San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker)
* Cayo District (San Ignatio as a base to see Caracol, Rio Frio, HIdden Valley Falls, Xunantunich and Tikal)
* Placencia in the Southern Coast
* Orange Walk: Chan Chich Lodge???

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