David Sedaris - Barrel Fever, 1994
I read Naked a number of years ago and I remember really liking it. But I couldn't even get through a 1/3 of this book. Bad bad short stories. Not funny at all to me. Dated and straining way too hard to be clever. Maybe I just like his memoir type stuff? I'm not willing to write him off based on my dislike of this twelve-year-old collection of magazine pieces but I won't be trying another one for awhile.
Douglas Brinkley - The Majic Bus: An American Odyssey, 1994
Chris Larry raved about this book and told me that I had had had to read it. I feel like I let him down when I stopped reading it. It is really fucking long. The first 100 pages were interesting enough but I couldn't fathom reading the whole thing. Brinkley is a history professor who took his class on a history tour in bus in 1992. Chris really liked it because of the whole '92 vibe of it. I think I disliked it for the same reason. Am I anti-nostalgia? I don't think so. I don't know, maybe I was just annoyed with all of the kids on the bus? Maybe I just didn't like Brinkley's writing style? Maybe I would have rather just been on the bus myself?
I felt a little guilty when Brinkley was heavily featured in the Spike Lee Katrina documentary. He seems like a swell guy.
Monica Ali - Brick Lane, 2003
I was kind of enjoying this but after 100 pages I'd had enough. Balgavy told me to wait for the movie when I asked him if I should continue reading it. Weasel told me to finish it.
Bangladeshi woman - arranged marriage. She can't truly become herself until she starts cheating on her loving but stifling older husband, years into her marriage. I didn't make it to the exciting sexcapades portion of the book.
Nicholas Davidoff - The Catcher Was A Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg, 1994
I really enjoyed most of this book. Some of it became slightly tedious at times that I wouldn't have expected. Berg was a third string catcher in the 1930's who ended up becoming a spy during World War II. Later in life, he became a mooching eccentric.
As a player, he was content to live the life but not really play much. One season he only had 11 at-bats. He liked traveling and meeting interesting people. He didn't have much use for other ballplayers, he was much smarter than them, he thought. He was a media darling and he could speak almost ten languages. One year, he showed up late to the season because he was finishing his year in law school.
He enjoyed two trips to Japan as a player and as the legend goes, taught himself Japanese on the boat trip across the Pacific. He traveled around S.E. Asia and he would dazzle the players in the bullpen with stories of his travels.
As a spy, he claimed to once be in charge of deciding whether or not to kill a German scientist if he thought that Germany was close to building a nuclear bomb. He lived it up in the world of espionage and was sad to see the war end.
He spent the rest of his life trying to relive his glory days of baseball and spying. He never went back to his lawyer days. He wanted to remain a spy but his eccentric behavior had irked too many higher-ups. It is unclear if Berg did as much as he said he did during the war. His routines and odd behavior after the war make for interesting reading as does his baseball career. As a regular citizen, he loved to regale folks with stories of his baseball days. Oddly, it is the war section that kind of bored me. Davidoff relies too much on rote history lessons that he seemed bored to be writing. I skimmed a lot of this part.
Still, the book overall was pretty damn interesting. I didn't know anything about Berg and Davidoff's research and insight into what made him tick makes for fascinating reading.
A gift from Jeremy.
Jonathan Kozol - The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, 2005
Obviously, not the most pleasant read. This is the second Kozol book I have read, my first since grad school. The other one I read, Savage Inequalities, was about two kids - one in St. Louis and one in East St. Louis and the vastly different lives they led. Within that context, Kozol wrote about the reasons these differences had developed. In this book, he attacks the same subject but with his thesis in mind first and then by backing it up with examples from across the country.
Rather than be depressed by the whole thing, I was struck by Kozol's overall sense of hope, of still fighting for the cause of true integration in our schools. I suppose he's dedicated his whole career to this fight so he can't give up now. This is a must read for anyone who wants to know how we've gotten in the mess we've found ourselves in. The promise of Brown vs. the Board of Education is nothing but a cruel joke at this point for most of the country.
This book is a good companion piece to this season of The Wire. Both feature good people struggling to do the best they can in the public schools despite crushing indifference.
A gift from my sister.
Mets 11 Padres 2
1 day ago