Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I Liked Some Books

David Sedaris, When You Are Engulfed in Flames

This new collection of essays by America's greatest living humorist is, as Karin would say, hiLARRYus! Really. When I say it's "laugh out loud funny," I mean that I was frequently howling with laughter, pounding the armrest, gasping for breath, and rolling back and forth in helpless convulsions of mirth. Mrs.5000 would glance up from her long, difficult, experimental French novel with a look that, if not exactly distainful, at least carried the hint of a suggestion that I might be overdoing it. This, of course, would set me right off again, and although at no point was I actually rolling on the floor per se, it was touch and go a few times.

Topics include, you know, things like family, language, life, death, international travel, and the struggle against tobacco addiction. But it hardly matters. Sedaris could make a trip to the morgue funny. In fact, he does.

John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man makes me vaguely wish I was still teaching world geography, just because it would be such great fodder for classroom conversation. The author chronicles his involvement in international economic consulting during the 1960s and 1970s, and presents a lapsed insider's look at the business end of neocolonialism. His claim, in a nutshell, is that governments and the "corporatocracy" deliberately colluded to cripple the developing world, tricking countries into acquiring a massive foreign debt that would ensure their permanent subjection to the established order.

Perkins doesn't really bring much to the table that is both new and verifiable, but for people who have paid some attention to modern geopolitical history it's an interesting new perspective. For people who have not paid attention to modern geopolitical history, it could be a pretty accessible introduction. The material can be a bit depressing, but the autobiographical format and the sheer force of Perkins' personality and big-as-the-moon ego have enough entertainment value to keep you reading.

But What Next From The Reading List?

With help from Blog Dork Rex Parker and Vice Dork Rebel, each of whom selected a random number for me, I have chosen the next two books off of the official L&TM5K reading list. I am well into The Big Sleep, not exactly the most rigorous book on the syllabus. Kafka's The Trial is on deck. I'll let you know what I think of 'em. It's what I do.


Jenners said...

Just read "When You Are Engulfed By Flames" too. One of my favorites was the one with Helen -- the foul and cranky old lady in his apartment building!

Thanks for your other suggestions at my book blog. I knew I could count on you to come up with some stuff. Your one about the Shackleton expedition reminded me of another one to put in my real-life survival section -- The Last Place On Earth by Roland Huntford. It documents the race to get to the South Pole first. One contender: Roald Amundsen's competently run expedition -- a "how to" in polar exploring. The Other Contender: Robert Falcon Scott--a incompetent whose ill-conceived expedition --"no skis, no dogs" -- resulted in his own death and the death of his men. If I remember correctly, I believe he actually attempted to use ponies...but I might be wrong--its been awhile since I read it but it was totally gripping and your Shackelton recommendation brought it back to me. Thanks...I might actually reread this now!

Elizabeth said...

If you have never heard David Sedaris' impression of Billie Holliday, put that at the top of your to-do list. I really liked his "Me Talk Pretty One Day" - life learning French while living in Paris. And, well, pretty much everything he's ever written.

Rebel said...

I <3 David Sedaris! The bit where the people in his French class try to explain Easter is one of my favorite literarly pieces of all time. And when I was in Paris (on Easter!) I couldn't stop laughing every time I saw a chocolate bell. "A bell - that's fucked up."

DrSchnell said...

Sedaris is also hilarious in person - if you get a chance to see him do a reading, do!

And Confessions... is also great- I use part of it in my Globalization course....

Anonymous said...

No, it wasn't disdain coursing through me when you were engulfed in laughter (certainly not distain...sniff), so much as curiosity, affection, and more than a tinge of envy--not just because I was finishing the long slog through Perec's Life: A User's Manual (I mention this hoping someone will have read it and explain it to me), but because I knew when I finally had the David Sedaris book in my hands I wouldn't react the same way. And it's true: I read it, I enjoyed it, and yet I did not howl with laughter. Is this a character flaw on my part? Am I a humorless dried-up block of wood? (No one is allowed to answer yes.) I like David Sedaris quite a lot, and yet can't imagine anything in print could be half as funny as Michael laughing at David Sedaris.

mysterymoor said...

I have to get my hands on that Sedaris book! I love him! I read holidays on ice every christmas since I bought it, it's like a ritual.

Karin said...

oh! David Sedaris, he's my hero. I heart him, too.

If you *really* wanna laugh out loud, read Me Talk Pretty One Day (or listen to it on your morning run) and Dress Your Family in Courdoroy and Denim, which is just as funny, but, in my opinion, is the first book of his to reach deeper into the why and how of who he is. Digging deep and making me laugh my ass off? That's all I ever want in a book. LOVE him.

And...have you read Haven Kimmel's A Girl Named Zippy and She Got Up Off the Couch: and other heroic acts from Moreland, Indiana? She's my hero, too!