Gonzo by Jann S. Wenner and Corey Seymour

I never like to admit that Dr. Hunter S. Thompson is one of my favorite writers, mainly because I don’t want to seem like the type of person whose favorite writer is Hunter Thompson. In my experience, the average Thompson fan is the kind of person who only likes him for his excesses, his massive consumption of drugs and alcohol; a person who has seen the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas movie but never got around to reading the book. The popular perception of Thompson is his Vegas phase, but there’s a lot more to his life and work, which Gonzo, a new biography by Jann S. Wenner and Corey Semour, makes clear. Continue reading

Nick Hornby’s Slam

On principle, I should hate a book with a corny last line like “I think that’s what Tony Hawk was trying to tell me all along,” and it’s to Nick Hornby’s great credit that I don’t. Hornby is known for his skilled writing about stunted male adolescence and obsession in his novels High Fidelity and About a Boy and-despite the last sentence that sounds like it was ripped from a middle school essay-his newest novel, Slam, lives up to his well-deserved reputation, providing a quick and satisfying tale of growing up and taking responsibility. Continue reading

Radiohead’s In Rainbows–An Extra-Special Music Review!

“The infrastructure will collapse,” sings Thom Yorke on Radiohead’s new album, In Rainbows, which describes not only Yorke’s usually gloomy lyrics, but the effect of In Rainbows on the recording industry. More than enough words have been devoted to this in the past few weeks, but here’s a quick run-down, in case you haven’t heard: Radiohead, one of the most respected and commercially successful bands in the world, were without a label after their recording contract with EMI expired in 2003. The band began recording their new album in 2005, fueling two years worth of speculation over what label they would sign with. Then unexpectedly on October 1st they announced they would be releasing the album themselves in ten days, available only online through their website. Not only would the album only be released online, but downloaders could pick their own price, with even the choice of getting the album for free (another option was an $80 disc-box containing a hardcopy CD version, a double 12″ vinyl version, and a bonus CD to ship out in December). No doubt some pretty revolutionary stuff (and from the looks of it, successful too; In Rainbows had 1.2 million within two days of being released), but does the music live up to the immense hype? Continue reading

Stephen Colbert’s I Am America (And So Can You!)

If you’re a regular viewer of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, you know Stephen Colbert doesn’t trust books: “They’re all fact, and no heart.” Despite the printed word’s lack of “truthiness,” America’s favorite fake pundit has written a book anyway. I Am America (And So Can You!) has a lot of funny and trenchant moments, but ultimately falls short of the very high standard set by Colbert’s nightly TV show. Continue reading

John Hodgman’s The Areas of My Expertise

One of the questions that gnaws on my soul is, “If I were a hobo, what would my hobo name be?” Boxcar Ted? Half-Dollar Funk Nelson? Waspwaist Fritz? I’m sure this question plagues you too, Reader, but don’t give up hope: our prayers have been answered. A list of 700 hobo names has recently been published in John Hodgman’s The Areas of My Expertise, a glorious, hilarious book of fake trivia and faux history perfect for anyone with a taste for dry, absurd, and intelligent humor. Continue reading

Josh S. Porter’s The Spinal Cord Perception

Crafting a song lyric is different from writing a novel. The best pop music lyrics, like those of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, or Thom Yorke, are often abstract and wholly imagistic, and are supported by music; the novel is essentially a medium where plot is necessary and where no backup musician can salvage an awkward turn of phrase. This may explain why few lyricists successfully cross into the literary realm (the only example that comes readily to mind is Dylan’s obscure novel Tarantula), but that doesn’t stop them from trying. The latest crossover is Joshua S. Porter, better known as Josh Dies, the vocalist and songwriter of the underground post-hardcore band Showbread. Porter is no Dylan, though he is a decent lyricist, and his first novel, The Spinal Cord Perception, is a competent aping of several Generation X writers, but has enough prose problems to make of interest only to serious fans of the band.

Continue reading

Don DeLillo’s Falling Man

If there was ever an author who seemed suited to the challenge of making sense of September 11th, it would be Don DeLillo. DeLillo is, after all, one of the most important authors of the last 30 years, named one of the four best living American novelists by eminent critic Harold Bloom, and the themes of his best work-the inevitability of death, the power of mass media, the significance of terrorism-seem even more relevant after 9/11. DeLillo’s latest novel, Falling Man, is his entry into the burgeoning genre of the “9/11 novel,” and, though it feels off-key in places, is one of the most beautiful and insightful depictions of the seminal event of our generation, digging beneath the surface of emotions and politics to show how 9/11 relates to our most basic human condition.

Continue reading