Intuition

Science experiments gone awry! Instead of a sci-fi book, this tale of dissected mice and cancer treatments is more of a love story. Cliff, the post-doctorate whose lack of success leads the lab to request him to discontinue his experiments, suddenly has a breakthrough with R7, which injected into tumor-laden mice causes the tumors to melt away. Robin is entangled in a love affair with Cliff, and begins resenting his success. After breaking it off with him, she starts investigating the truth of his claims, bringing 3rd party inquiry into the lab. His sloppy record keeping is only partially to blame; he also disregarded some of the results to just focus on the improved mice. Besides the Robin/Cliff angle, there is also Sandy/Marion’s sexual tension as partners managing the lab, spending untold amounts of time together. Their spouses are not jealous, but Marion’s husband (Jacob) ends up planting the seed of doubt in Robin’s head that Cliff’s results are too good to be true, which starts the unraveling of the lab. There’s also Sandy’s daughter Kate’s infatuation wtih Cliff; and Sandy’s daughter Charlotte’s breakup with news-hungry Jeff.
Good writing, disparate plot lines, and suspense get you through the pages on this one. I found it much more readable than Kaaterskill Falls, another Goodman book which got discarded by page 30.

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Purple Cow

Ah fluffy fluffy. This book is probably only useful for those who haven’t been actually DOING marketing over the last few years. Maybe. I like Godin’s constant challenge to be different, to be unique, to be measurable; but there is nothing in the book that isn’t obvious. Shake things up. Don’t settle for being mediocre. Go for the extreme. Well, yeah. For most of the people reading this, the clearest call to action is to quit their current job and start something else. The challenge to move a large company towards Purple Cows (the remarkable) is an enormous task. Only some of us are up for it.

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Are you print-worthy?

You’ve heard of self-publishing services before. But you haven’t seen anything like the quality of books that the good folks at Blurb.com produce. I recently joined the Blurb team, and during the interview process I familiarized myself with the books they had scattered throughout the offices. The aha! moment came when I compared Blurb books with competitor books– and there’s really no comparison. Flimsy covers, low quality paper & color can’t match what Blurb offers. Blurb books are drool-inducing, high-quality, hardcover books (starting at $30) and softcover ($19). What are you waiting for? Go make a book!
Full disclosure– I am an employee of Blurb Inc. But I wouldn’t endorse the product on my personal site unless I were a believer!

Why Moms Are Weird

My admiration continues for Pamie’s written contributions to the world. While this isn’t the grandest, greatest story I’ve read this year, it was entirely enjoyable & readable. Least favorite part: quoting Good Will Hunting’s scene of “every day I come by hoping not to find you”. Lots of other good parts, bumping into Mickey at the supermarket, parking lot trysts, Boobs organizing all her mother’s lovers around the dinner table, Boobs’ interactions with her mom & sister, Boobs’ relationship and surprising restraint with the married “eye candy” Zach.
Still reeling from her father’s death, she goes back to Virginia to rescue her mom & sister from their existence, her mom stumbling around with a broken leg & her sister too entwined with a psycho ex-con boyfriend. Revelations about love and relationships abound. Why do the ladies persist in writing about love?!

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Crossing California

Despite the intense wordiness, I got swept away by the story of these Chicagoans in the late 70s/early 80s. Langer has a great feel for characters, convincingly writing (among others!) the perspective of a conniving, overachieving 12 year old Jewish girl then seamlessly switching to the perspective of her 40ish old mother who is counting the days to ending her marriage so she can fly off to Paris and live in solitude. Add Larry, the 18 year old brother, into the mix (whose band Rovner! is a mix of puns & Jewish rock, and huge reminder of Portnoy’s Complaint character). And Michael, the dad, who pathetically hits on his best friend’s mistress and who *might* be gay. Stretching beyond the Rovner clan, Langer tackles the Wasserstroms (Jill, 12 and hellbent on losing political causes; Michelle, 17 and sampling drugs, booze, acting, singing, but smart enough to ace her SATs and withstand the overtures of male teachers; Charlie, the dad who loses his job at the restaurant but ends up marrying the woman whose review got him fired). In addition to those 2 families, there’s also the Silverman/Wills (Muley, the audio producer turned film director, who created the character of Peachie Moskowitz in order to win a role on a kids radio show; Deirdre, his mom who reads every book in the local library’s literature section and refuses money from Muley’s showbiz dad; Carl who woos Deirdre after stealing her dad’s music and earning buckets of cash from the rights).
So many characters, marauding plot lines, intriguing stories.
Includes glossary, for those of you who need Bob Dylan, cockblocking, “hava nagilah”, and honkey defined.
***
Great recommendation from Fishman

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A Coffin For Dimitrios

Detective story for highbrow readers, quick read & enjoyable… Charles Latimer is an academic turned detective novelist, vacationing in Turkey when he stumbles upon the supposedly-closed case of Dimitrios (fig-packer turned pimp turned assassin turned heroin smuggler turned bank director). Latimer becomes curious about doing real detective work, thus embarks across Europe to follow the traces of Dimitrios, encountering Mr. Peters in his train compartment (then later in his hotel room, rummaging), and various other helpful individuals. The corpse Latimer witnessed in the morgue was not Dimitrios, but Visser (one of the Parisian drug gang of 7), with an identity card qualifying him as Dimitrios. Mr. Peters enlists Latimer’s help in blackmailing Dimitrios for 1M francs, which goes awry and P & D end up shooting each other. Latimer leaves the cash behind and dashes off to the safety of writing detective novels.
****
Reco’d by Momma R

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Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Found this a bit bland; the mother succumbs to morphine haze while her sons and husband get progressively drunker. Jamie, the oldest brother, admits to wishing ill of his brother, Edmund, who has consumption and is about to enter a sanatorium for 6 months. Tyrone, the tightwad father, always yammering about the value of a dollar. Mary, the mother, reminiscing about childhood days in the convent, dreaming of becoming a nun, then meeting Tyrone and falling in love, briefly. They all end up outside themselves, drunk on booze or morphine, not embracing the moment.
***
By way of Mark Eitzel’s LitQuake reading

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Cowboys Are My Weakness

Quick girlie read; slightly heaving chest & perfumed hankie, slightly good writing. The narrator (always a woman), reveals her taste for bad boys, cowboys, and at the end, an affair with a woman never consummated. It all seems superficial, looking back over the pages. Cheating men & empty promises & strong women who choose to be treated as such.
***
Mentioned by Sarah, not necessarily recommended.

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Diary

Bizarre tale, well written. My head is spinning, the dizzying tales of Misty & Peter who meet in art school, she not turned off by his pinning fake jewelry through his skin, a different hole every day to maximize the sensation. Waytansea Island is where Peter lures Misty, pregnant (after messing with all her birth control) and having to care for his mother Grace after his dad Harrow died (or did he?). Peter goes crazy one summer, walling up kitchens, linen closets, entire hotel rooms after scrawling graffiti on the walls. Misty & Angel uncover each message; Angel turns out to be Peter’s ex-lover, a man. Her daughter, Tabbi, fakes her death. Her mother-in-law confines her to bed, leg in cast, and sets her painting. Every 100 years a man from the island marries an artist, brings her to the island, where she paints and saves the island from outsiders. This was a quick read, but so much happens that to try and make sense of it post-finishing, my head swims. I’ll probably check out other Chuck P books now.
***
Andrea Siegel recommenation

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The Boys of My Youth

Yes, yes, yes. Another amazing book of short stories… I am gobbling these down like red hots, burning my tongue on the tales and reveling in the great writing. The sad tale of Bonanza, where Jo succumbs to the sadness of her grandmother’s stale life, realizing that they have empty, unenjoyable days with obligatory living. Cousins laden down with descriptions of country life with her cousin, from early age through marriage. The story of narrowly escaping a mass-murder by going home early, and dealing with the aftermath of having a shooting rampage take out your colleagues and friends. Driving out of Florida through Alabama, escaping the raving lunatic trying to push her off the road into an empty road to kill her, shaking with fear, anxiety, anger. Through these tales hearing snippets of divorce, the husband who cheated, wandered, grew bored. Stories of Elizabeth (“Liz”) and boys of their youth.
The only story I didn’t completely love was Coyotes, where the descriptions of the coyote in the wild fell a bit flat, I kept skipping ahead to read what was going on with Jo Ann & Eric at the campsite.
***
Another recommendation by Andrea Seigel

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The Woman Who Cut Off Her Leg at the Maidstone Club and other stories

Shudderingly good book of short stories. Each story is told from the 1st person perspective: the woman who lusts after the lawn boy and swallows him when they kiss (cum shooting from her mouth at the dinner table after he masturbates inside her!); the pudding that sits on the kitchen floor for a month as family tensions ebb and flow; the chef who falls for a girl and whose existence revolves around finding out her name; the woman whose lover falls to pieces: thumb falls off, hair in clumps, legs, until he is a pile of bones arranged on the bed and shouting at her new lover (through her?); the woman who grows teeth all over her body and who receives gold caps from her dentist affair; the man who saves Max the lobster from certain death by dining in the airport; the baby blanket that transports the man into a stupor of well-being and which he can’t escape even after weighting down and tossing into the lake. Each story well-written, engaging, different, all with various personal issues of trust and intimacy.
From the lobster story:
“I leaned against a cement pillar across the corridor and tried to read my paper. But I couldn’t stop looking over at Max. He looked so sad. I was startled by a hand on my arm. A short woman, twenty-five maybe, looked up at me. ‘You’re right about that lobster,’ she said. ‘It’s inhumane. I’m a vegan myself.’
“I nodded, then noticed her looking at my hand to see if I had a ring and clenched my jaw to keep from asking her if she wanted a cup of coffee, or for her phone number. I saw the satisfied smile of my therapist. ‘Getting involved with a woman at the airport. Perfect.’ he’d say, tapping his fingers on the teak coffee table that my twelve years of therapy helped to finance. ‘She’ll fly off and you’ll never see her again.’ The woman could tell by my polite smile, and the silent language that single people speak to one another, that we weren’t going anywhere. She said good luck and walked off with her Le Sportsac. Who knows? Maybe she was the one. Probably not.” (p 127)
***
Recommended by Andrea Seigel

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Guest Shot

Beach reading, the kind that works best after a few pina coladas and a game of horseshoes and it’s the last book in your pile to read. Gradually got more and more into it as the plot unfolded. I must register a complaint that the author didn’t reveal the jury’s verdict at the end. Just pick one, guilty or not. To leave it unfinished is… blech. Not the finest story or writing I’ve been exposed to recently, but it was definitely readable. Basic idea is that a Mystery Guest calls a talk show to announce that he’ll begin a killing spree and come on the show to talk about it afterwards. He begins to execute scum & criminals that would leave a guilty verdict in question (because he is cleaning up the world). A hot female NYPD detective, DZ, is on the case, who happens to fall in love with charming small-town Charlie. By the end, she’s preggers & they’re going camping. Yowza.
***
Recommended by the Max

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Everybody Into The Pool

Thirteen short glimpses into Lisick’s Northern California life, from her parents taking a hippie babysitter in, to wandering around the Mission district lugging her stuff from the sewage infiltrated loft in a shopping cart and pretending to be a narc so the annoying druggie left her alone. She lays her life out with an “oh I’m not really abnormal” attitude which ultimately means her stories are not abnormal either, just on the edge of tired. I wasn’t particularly enthralled by any of the writing or stories.
On meeting her husband Eli after his band played, he described one song as “It’s about how the meter maids let people park in the median on Sunday because they’re going to church, but if you park in the median and you’re not going to church, they give you a ticket.” This struck a timely chord with me, since I was just explaining this phenomenon a few days ago. Valencia street’s middle lane turns into legal parking on Sunday, but only if you’re church-bound.
Update: this morning thinking about another of her stories– how she secretly wished that when she was covering the nightlife for a local publication that she could condense all the events into one evening because going out every night sucks when you’re old. Her comment about wanting to arrive at a club midway through the band she wanted to hear definitely resonated. Missed out on Pere Ubu last night because Bottom of the Hill shows start too late for my old bones.
***
Recommended by various folks over the years, but it was Andrea Siegel’s reminder that put it on my list finally. My girl-crush is waning slightly.

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