Tom Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons

Tom Wolfe is usually associated with the 60s New Journalism movement and his habit of wearing all-white suits, but he is also, apparently, “America’s greatest living novelist.” This is according to the back cover of my paperback copy of Wolfe’s latest novel, 2004’s I Am Charlotte Simmons. I picked up Charlotte Simmons over Christmas break, mainly because I’d heard of Wolfe and read some his shorter stuff, but had never bothered reading any of his books; he always seemed like one of those guys I should read, but never really got around to. (And yes, I’m doing a book review of something that came out four years ago, but please indulge me anyway.) Continue reading

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Paul Neilan’s Apathy and Other Small Victories

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a cynical, white twenty-something slacks off at a job that he hates, is completely apathetic towards all his relationships, and routinely indulges in some bizarre activity to let off the steam of living in a fake, consumerist society. No, it’s not Fight Club or Office Space (or pretty much everything made in the 90s); it’s Paul Neilan’s first novel, Apathy and Other Small Victories. Apathy may not be the most innovative book ever published, but what it lacks in originality it more than makes up for in its sarcastic, brilliant humor, even if it’s a little disappointing in the end. Continue reading

Michael Chabon’s Gentlemen of the Road

Gentlemen of the Road, the newest novel from critically acclaimed author Michael Chabon, was originally titled Jews with Swords. It’s one of the greatest mistakes in all of publishing history that the original title wasn’t kept; Jews with Swords evokes a humorous, anachronistic sense of adventure that sums up the spirit of the book in a way that the bland title Gentlemen of the Road can never hope to do. The failed potential of its title aside, Gentlemen of the Road is still worth considering; not only is it an interesting departure for Chabon, but it’s also a quick, fun read, a light and entertaining adventure reminiscent of Dumas and other serial adventure stories. Continue reading

Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day

“Now single up all lines!” begins Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day, a fairly simple beginning for an author known for being convoluted and obscure. I’ll take any chance I can get to write about Pynchon, and the first paperback release of Against the Day seems to warrant it. In case you missed its original release last winter, the novel typical Pynchon: a sprawling epic filled with hundreds of characters, stretching across the world (and beneath it, and a few other places not on the map) and spanning the era from 1893 to World War I. Although it doesn’t quite equal the achievement of his earlier work, Against the Day is a solid entry into the Pynchon canon, consistently offering enough fantastic characters, absurd and expansive settings, and bizarre humor to make it his most entertaining work to date. Continue reading

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

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