Friday, August 23, 2013

Battleborn...No, not THAT Battle Born

I know, you think I read this book because of its title.  Well, I'll have you know that I read this book before I had my Killers breakdown.  And I bought this book way back, last fall, when The Killers were just my favorite band (and not my only reason for living). And further, I was only slightly tempted by the fact that both the new Killers album, and the book had the same title...I was all the way tempted by the cover of the book. It's SOOOOOOO pretty!

If you were one of my former Goodreads friends, you may have read this review already.  Well, here's a spruced up version I wrote for my monthly staff pick at the store in an attempt to actually sell the damn thing. I agonized over this review the first time...and I agonized over it again the second time. Anyways, here it is.


Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins

Okay, halfway through this review, you're gonna ask yourself, "Why is she even recommending this book?"  Just hear me out, okay?

Another reviewer somewhere said, "Watkins shows promise." I think that's a great way to describe this debut collection. I liked many of these stories, absolutely LOVED one or two (and I mean loved with every fiber of my being-LOVED), and was frustrated by the rest.

Sometimes I really trusted Watkins, was drawn in by her obvious need to find hope in the hopeless. But then her genuineness would slip away to reveal a different author, a less confident author, an author working too hard at being provocative. Sure, sex and violence and drugs and prostitution and infidelity are "edgy"; or to use that horribly overused and demeaning adjective (but only actually used to describe a female author when she dares enter the "realm" of "male" writers)..."gritty" (please note all " " in that last sentence are meant to be read as enthusiastically, sarcastic air quotes...and sorry for all the parenthesis). But a story doesn't become provocative simply by their inclusion and in truth, she's at her most provocative and genuine, when her subjects aren't so "edgy". Not surprisingly, Watkins really shines when she isn't working so hard.  Most of the time I just wanted her to get out of her own way, because she does have know, promise.  So try Graceland and The Diggings for some phenomenal writing.

However, what she does do well, she does really well. Her characters are flawed and unlikable in just the right ways, her subjects unique, and sometimes her words simply soar. But what she does best is write about the desert. For as much as a story would be pissing me off, it would be dragging me in with the smell of creosote; the shimmer of heat waves; and that great, big, western sky stretching on for miles. The desert does something to a person, burrows in deep and never leaves. And to be able to capture that and the raw ache and emptiness of missing the desert when not there; that, I find truly remarkable. Watkins is a child of the desert and she writes it well.

I read these stories compulsively, and they are really very good...and if the first part of this review doesn't indicate that it's because I think they could be so much better, I think she could be really great. I DO think she's phenomenal, and she certainly knows her way around a sentence, AND this is the best new book I've read all year. UGH! What this terribly muddled review is trying to tell you is to read this book; it might make you crazy, it will make you cry, and you may just slam it shut from time to time. But you're gonna be compelled to open it back up, again and again. You won't be able to stay away. People, this is your chance to get in on the ground floor of something big...Claire Vaye Watkins is gonna be huge.

And now, won't you please enjoy the song Battle Born, off the album Battle Born, while you read my review of the completely unrelated book, Battleborn. Bonus: if you watch the whole video (and you really should) or if you fast forward to 8:44, you'll see the moment that Brandon Flowers and I brush hands...and the world was never the same again.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Travis is a Nice Name

Next stop on my musical odyssey: TRAVIS!
Seriously loving this...

...and this...

...and a new album coming on August 19th.
God bless the library, and YouTube, and Wikipedia, and other bands, and other fans for pointing me towards all the great music I missed before.

Side note...want to own it? Buy it from one of these awesome record stores!

Double side's a beautiful and sad chronicle of the closing of Easy Street's Queen Anne location. BRICKS & MORTAR, people...bricks and mortar.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Winner, Winner, Chik'n Dinner

This blog is sooooo boring. Blah, blah, blah books. Blah, blah, blah Killers. I'm going to fix that by; (1) expanding the content focus, and (2) drawing more pictures using Microsoft Paint. That's right. I am proficient in MS Paint. That's on my resume.

So here's the one-two punch:

(1) New Content:
I try not to eat meat. At least not meat that grew up in a feed lot. That's right, instead of eating the meat of an animal who's life was so monumentally horrible* that it probably would have killed itself given the option, I like to eat the meat of an animal who's happy, hormone-free life was cut short by my need for a cheeseburger. Just doing my part.

But seeing as "happy" meat is so damned expensive, the majority of my meals are meat-less. So, I thought I would chronicle some of my veggie creations, or recipe attempts. For example: I just made a sandwich using a whole wheat English muffin; cream cheese; a fake, meat, chik'n patty; and Sriracha.

I will never eat anything else. Ever. Again.

(2) Microsoft Paint!
* Please see Food Inc.
** roosters are hard to draw, and rooster sauce is not made with actual least I don't think it is.

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Guide for the Perplexed

I'm so lucky that I can get my hands on the brand-spanking-new books of my favorite authors. It's a bookseller perk. And it's a great one. It's so great that if and when I become a lawyer, it will be hard to leave behind. We booksellers do what we do because we love it. Unbelievable as it may be, we don't make the big bucks. You can thank these assholes and a general dismissive, disdain towards retail for that. Bookselling is not your average retail career. I know a lot of lifelong booksellers; people who are smarter than me, and smarter than you. These people sell books because it means something to them; because reading, and getting that perfect book into someone's hands is important to them. It truly is an art. Public service announcement over...

So, back to the topic at hand. As a bookseller, I get to read new stuff before you do (this totally makes me feel super cool). But, I have a hard time reading advance copies from authors I've never read before. So, I love, Love, LOVE when an advance copy surfaces from one of my favorites. It's like Christmas. Truly. And this year has been a banner year for me. Lots of authors I love are emerging from wherever it is they go, and finally putting out new stuff. It's fantastic.

But, it seems that I don't really like my favorites anymore (let's not talk about Michael Chabon). Case in point: I got an advance of Night Film from Marisha Pessl who wrote Special Topics in Calamity Physics, a book I LOVED. Her only book, in fact, which was published way back in...I don't know when, the early 2000's. And so, the fact that she is finally publishing something new is huge. And I got to read it.


I didn't like it. Disappointing, sure. But, they can't always hit it out of the park. Not to be thwarted, when I learned that Dara Horn is finally releasing something new, I was over the moon. The World to Come is one of my all time favorites. In the Image is also fantastic. But, then I read the new one.

I don't really have much to say about it. I finished it a few weeks ago, and nothing really stuck with me. It's about sisters and sibling rivalry, a computer program, a hostage situation, asthmatics (really), unfaithful partners, and of course, Horn's customary shifting timelines and Jewish lore. Now, you should know, it's not just isn't as good as it could have been; as good as I want it to be. After all, she did have four years to write it. And while it is interesting, just sort of blah. Some big ideas that don't pan out. Characters that just aren't likable, but not unlikable in an interesting way.

I've often thought about changing reading tastes, and I'm sure that has something to do with my current apathetic feelings towards truly talented writers. Law school did mean a three year gap in my career as a reader; there were bound to be some shifts. And I have found some new authors that I'm excited about. Sadly, they are only new to me, most of them being already dead (John Williams, Shirley Jackson, Stella Gibbons, Tove Jansson, Herman Melville). I guess what this all means is that I should be a little more open minded about advance reader copies and maybe pick up a few from authors I've never heard of...or I could just reread Moby Dick.