Fahrenheit 451 by Kyle Vernier

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I read Fahrenheit 451 in high school, that is when you read it when I was in school. Now I imagine you read it in middle school. I'm not sure. Anyhow, the impact to me 35 year old me wasn't as great as it was to 15 year old me. It is still good and the hound is still creepy. I found it hard to read this and not think of the movie the entire time. 

The Burglars (8/10) by Kyle Vernier

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Of the Goodis books I've so far read I liked this the least. The more surreal passages didn't connect with me as well as they normally do. It was still good, but it wasn't my favorite. 

Farewell, My Lovely (9/10) by Kyle Vernier

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The plot in this kind of goes all over the place, but I like how Chandler isn't double crossed by the girl at the end. The thing I love about Philip Marlowe is how readily he'll take a beating. He is constantly knocked out and beaten to a pulp, but he is so tenacious. 

An Island to Oneself (10/10) by Kyle Vernier

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Memoirs of men going to live off by themselves are a big one for me. Walden, One Man's Wilderness and now An Island to Oneself. I've had this on my want list for years and finally it was reprinted, used copies were going for a ton. It is the story of a man who goes to live on a coral atoll 200 miles away from any other civilized population center. I loved it. 

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Kyle Vernier

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A Canticle for Leibowitz has been my commute listening for the lst month or so. It was nice to come back to hear more and Brother Francis or Abbot Dom Paulo everyday. I missed Brother Francis when his part ended.

8/10

Is this Guy for Real? by Kyle Vernier

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I've alway been really interested in Andy Kaufman. This comic biography focuses a lot on his involvement in wrestling and his friendship with Jerry Lawler. Box Brown has a way of boiling things down into simple little scenes that can convey so much information. I've read a number of Andy Kaufman biographies so there wasn't much new here content wise, but that didn't detract from it at all.

9/10

Andre the Giant by Kyle Vernier

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As a kid I wasn't a huge wrestling fan. I remember watching it from time to time. I was aware of the main wrestlers. I had a few action figures. But I didn't keep up with it the way a lot of the kids I grew up with did. But I've always been a fan of Andre the Giant, I think everyone one was. Anyhow, this graphic biography of Andre the Giant is pretty great. Box Brown has a sort of Osamu Tezuka style, he draws in this simple cartoony way and the format is similar to manga volumes. The book is also well researched and includes a bibliography in the back. The book is a fun read and I really liked it. 

8/10

How to be Idle by Kyle Vernier

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I heard about this book in an interview with Maris Bamford. She praised To Hodkinson's idler philosophy and its impact on her life. There are entire chapters of this book I only skimmed. The chapters on drinking meant little to me.  But I found the chapter on idle living at home very interesting. I'm ripe for the ideas in this book right now. I feel very trapped by our focus on work over life in the US. It is an honest struggle I'm having daily. But here is the thing about this book, it assumes a high level of privilege. It was written before our culture was caught up in the idea of privilege, but none the less it assumes that most people are capable of independently producing the necessities of life. This is obviously not true. For many people 40 hour weeks would not produce enough income to sustain themselves and their dependents let alone a reduced work week. So there are problems with his ideas, but I think the main ideas contained in here are true; find happiness when and where you can, get to know yourself and your true dreams and desires, slow down, resist the demands of outside influence, work towards independence. 

7/10

361 by Kyle Vernier

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361

By: Donald E Westlake

 

I wish these Hard Case Crime reprints had the same cover art as the original paperback. I've read a number of Donald Westlake novels (mostly writing as Richard Stark) and I haven't even scratched the surface of his published work. This was a fun crime novel with all of the fun twists and turns. It lacked the wildness of a Jim Thompson novel, but had a lot of cold grit. 

7/10

The Complete Jack Survives by Kyle Vernier

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I picked this up after I heard Chris Ware talk about Jerry Moriarty in an interview. Jack Survives is a painted strip comic starring the eponymous Jack. Jack is a confused and innocent everyman. The strips are painted, not drawn. This helps add humanity to the comic, the hand of the artist is ever present. With many comics the artists disappears in the storytelling, and the art can at times feel mechanical (especially in mainstream comics where the various creative tasks are handled by a small group of people). Chris Ware wrote the introduction to this collection and his admiration is obvious.

8/10

The Executioners by Kyle Vernier

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The Executioners was the basis for the Cape Fear movies. I've actually never seen either of the filmed versions, but I've added the 1961 original to my watch list.

The book can be oftly cornbsyat times. At first that really turned me off. But the plot is compelling and the dark psychological elements help to even out the cornier material. 

During the Korean War Sam, a former navy lieutenant, lawyer, husband and father of three, is witness to a rape. His testimony puts the rapist, Mac Cady an Army private, behind bars for life. But for some reason the Army decides Cady has served his time after 14 years and they let him go. In those 14 years he's done nothing but plan revenge on Sam. Now Sam, a true law abiding citizen, has to defend his family against an unpredictable force. 

It's a quick read, which makes some of the more objectionable parts easier to tolerate. 

6/10

 

The Lady in the Lake by Kyle Vernier

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I love how Chandler weaves little bits about World War II America into the story. My favorite bit being the rubber brick sidewalk being pulled up so the rubber could be used for the war effort. Who knew sidewalks used to be made from rubber bricks? 

Marlowe is such a full character. He would much rather be at home solving chess problems but he is reluctantly compelled to follow all clues where they lead him. Including into bodily harm. 

8/10

Violent Saturday by Kyle Vernier

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Here is another book that is basically a novel length movie treatment. Of course they made a movie, and it stars Lee Marvin, so that had been added to the watch list. As far as the book goes, it isn't a revelation or anything. But, the pacing and the multiple storylines keep it interesting and keep the momentum going.

 

7/10

Vacationland (audiobook) by Kyle Vernier

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I love the cadence of John Hodgman's voice. I listen to his podcast, Judge John Hodgman, as much for his hilarious and thoughtful insight as for his voice. I loved reading Vacationland the book a few months ago and I equally loved listening to the book, which I did mostly at work. That was tough because while it is easy to explain away small chuckles and chortles it is harder to explain away tears. 

10/10

Dark Passage by Kyle Vernier

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I got this collection of David Goodis novels published The Library of America as a gift from my brother and his girlfriend for Christmas this year. First I want to say I love The Library of America. They are a nonprofit publisher of significant American works of literature who produce archive quality editions of the work they publish. 

Dark Passage reminded me a lot of a Jim Thompson novel. The main character, Vincent Parry, has these sort of internal conversations with himself and other dead people.  He is an escaped convict, imprisoned for the murder of his wife. Honestly most things go his way, and unlike most Jim Thompson characters he is not a total pyschopath. I didn't think Dark Passage was as cinematic in feel as Nightfall was, but it is a very compelling read. Goodis ends each chapter on perfectly placed cliffhanger. 

8/10

The Three Coffins by Kyle Vernier

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The Three Coffins by John Dickson Carr

 

The Three Coffins is considered one of the greatest "locked room" mysteries. It's less "who done it" than "how it was done." I'm more interested in crime novels generally, but I'll be honest there was a certain thrill of figuring parts of the crime out. Also, there is a great section of this novel that breaks the fourth wall as Dr.Fell, the criminal detective genius, explains that all of the participants are characters in a locked room mystery and goes on to explain the tropes of the genre.  

I'm glad I read it, but I don't know that this kind of mystery is my thing. 

 

6.5/10

 

33 1/3: Master of Reality by Kyle Vernier

Each 33 1/3 book is dedicated to exploring a single album. Usually this is some sort of non-fiction discussion of the album by a single author. John Darnielle, of Mountain Goats fame, had a different idea. This technically serves as Darnielle's first novel. Darnielle explores the impact of music and specifically Black Sabbath on a teenager during their stay at a mental hospital. Darnielle puts a lot in here; a song by song break down of Master of Reality, the album's place in the Black Sabbath canon, the deep personal connection music can have for certain young people, the Satanism panic surrounding heavy metal music like Black Sabbath, and impact that that panic had on the lives of certain young people. 

I'm a fan of The Mountain Goats and I've read both of Darnielle's other novels, both of which I liked. At times this book comes off as a little obvious and simple, but maybe that is intentional. I mean, it is the view point of a 16 year old kid, they aren't known for their depth. For those looking for a in depth discussion of the album Master of Reality you'd be better off reading the wikipedia entry. Still, I liked this book well enough, and it is always fun to read the early work of authors you like.

7/10

Seconds by Kyle Vernier

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 A wealthy mid-level banker is given the opportunity to start over with a new identity, face, and life of leisure as a painter. But, he has trouble giving up his past.

The movie version of Seconds is like a feature length Twilight Zone episode, only more brutal and cynical. The book is much the same. If anything the book is less brutal. I don't know that this story would work as well in the present of 2017. Really it only works when played against the optimistic veneer of the early 60s.  

8/10

Do Not Sell at Any Price (8/10) by Kyle Vernier

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I'm a casual record collector. I attended a local record show usually once a year. I go to several local record shops a couple times a month. And basically every time I go out of town I visit a shop or two. I say casual because it is just something I do occasionally with my free time. It isn't my life. Don't Sell at Any Price is about collectors of shellac 78 RPM records, basically the first form of mainstream recorded music. Many 78 collectors are obsessive. As mentioned in the book, comic artist R. Crumb is a famous collector of 78s. Anyhow, the book is really good. The author, Amanda Petrusich, writes about her meetings and interviews with major collectors of 78s, puts the records they collect and the collectors themselves into their historical contexts and writes about her own search for 78s to build out her own collection. 

I'm probably the best possible audience for a book like this. I enjoy the music that many of these collectors obsessively search for. I own a number of compilations culled mostly from the collections of the collectors featured in this book. I also own a handful of 78s myself, because they are old and sort of fun to have. Lastly, I might not be an obsessive collector of records but I am a collector of all sorts of stuff and I feel a kinship with people who collect things, especially old things. 

I found Don't Sell at Any Price to be a really compelling read.