Tuesday 19 May 2009

2 wins, 1 fail

This post title is brought to you by a website called FailBlog which I really enjoy browsing; it's a collection of, well, utter failures. Check the site and you'll see what I mean; it's the combination of funny and horrifying that I find particularly compelling. Admittedly, my liking this site makes me a bit of a jerk; but you already knew that.

If the third book I'm going to discuss in this post were either funny or horrifying in an even slightly compelling way, it might not be a fail. However, it's a FAIL in all caps because it straight up sucks too much for me to even bother finishing it. It sucks even more than that previous sentence.

WIN: Suggestion by Illegal Art. This book came into the store last week and I was intrigued as I often am by community arts projects. (Yes, I read PostSecret faithfully, but I find it a little repetitive sometimes. I didn't use to find it repetitive but I think it's perhaps time it was retired. It may be going on too long, like Friends or Star Trek: Voyager.)

Illegal Art is a group from NYC who took gigantic suggestion boxes and writing implements to the 5 Burroughs and hounded people to write something for them. They then picked as wide a variety as possible submissions from their collection to make up this book.

By turns hilarious, maudlin, offensive, weird, and rude (all at varying levels of literacy), the suggestions in this book made me think that perhaps humanity is more interesting than I've assumed (or than PostSecret makes it seem). Here are some of my favourites:
Free pumpkin pie every Thursday. (p. 15)

Always keep a bucket of bleach on hand. (p.83)

That the world be covered in linoleum so we could tap dance all day! - Adam (p. 89)

More Bollywood. (p. 99)

It shouldn't be called "blue". It should be called "ronk". (p. 189)

My friend, Jonathan, should kiss me. (p. 271)

I'd like to suggest that the Hassidic men consider a lighter summer look. (p. 298)

We suggest to take down the man. (p. 333)

Bring back the Pancho Villa mustache - by any means necessary. (p. 342)

I sejust they put more fish in it. (p. 392)

More Fellini. Less trophy dogs. (p. 407)
All good suggestions these, especially the ones involving pie and Bollywood. Ooooh, oooh! I suggest Bollywood/pumpkin pie/Pancho Villa mustache evenings! I'll be at your place at seven on Thursday!!

WIN: The Snapper by Roddy Doyle. I plucked this off the shelf to give myself a little break from Troyes' Arthurian Romances and it was a nice light snack - a BRILLIANT nice light snack. I mean that in a "what Adrian Mole or Harry Potter would say about something that really pleased them" kind of way, not a "genius" kind of way.

I'm embarrassed for myself a little. I read The Commitments back in 1994 or so and loved it and somehow never even tried to read any more Doyle after that. This book made me laugh SO MUCH. Customers would walk by in the store and see me reading The Snapper and tell me that they love it so much they've read it 5 times!

I don't know if it's good enough to be a 5-timer, but The Snapper has some of the best dialogue I've ever seen in a novel. Ever! I can't wait to read The Van, which my gushy customers assured me I couldn't deprive myself of. Right you are, gushy strangers, right you are.

FAIL: The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature by Neal Pollack. I'm not sure why I picked this one up. In any case, it doesn't recommend trying to read random things from my store just because we have two copies.

I got about 40 pages into this one before I decided (this morning) to kick it to the curb. This is another McSweeney's h-....er, guy trying his hand at the funny - so, a bunch of essays written with Hilarious Intentions and significantly too much self-assurance.

At first, I found it kind of funny (even though I'd already read a few of the pieces in Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans and didn't find them funny there) but then realized that Neal Pollock has only one joke (sending up literary pretension) - and I'm sorry, but there's only one person who can get away with telling the same joke repeatedly and that's Napoleon Dynamite. And also maybe my dad.


Verbivore said...

I love Roddy Doyle - Ha Ha Paddy Clarke and A Star Called Henry are two of my favorites. But I also liked The Woman Who Walked into Doors and its sequel Paula..(something).

He's fantastic. And the Snapper was made into a film, which is VERY good.

Stacy said...

The Snapper just went on my list. What could be more compelling than 'the best dialogue I've ever seen in a novel'?

A jerk? When did that happen?

I always wondered if the Hassidic Jews were miserable during the summer. And who exactly is the man?

I am with you on the PostSecret thing.

Celine said...

God, I totally totally second the recommendation for Roddy Doyle's A Star Called Henry. I love Mr Doyles work, but Star is just a fantastic book. The choppy style takes a tiny bit of getting used to at the beginning, but stick with it.
BTW, it’s difficult to believe, but his portrayal of everything in that book is spot on. Spot on.

Bookphilia said...

Verbivore and Celine: I'll definitely make a point of picking up A Star Called Henry sooner rather than later - the intensity of your approbation is quite convincing!

Bookphilia said...

Book Psmith: You clearly haven't read some of my more negative reviews!