Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Since January is almost gone, I figured I should at least try to compile one year end list, since such compilations are required by law in the blog world. I was going to do a music list much like last year, but I realized too many of the best this time were re-issues (a sure sign of encroaching old-fartism).

Instead, here's a list of my personal favorites in the world of books (you remember, those clunky old fashioned rectangular things that don't have a cursor). These aren't necessarily the best books around, but they're the ones that stuck in my mind:

Spanking the Donkey by Matt Taibbi

With the loss of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, who is left to apply a well deserved bullshit detector to the sad spectacle that is politics in America today? We might just have a candidate. Matt Taibbi went on the road for the 2004 presidential election and files acerbic reports that amuse, horrify and enlighten. Highlights are his confrontation of a hilariously meager pro-war counter demonstration, a stint as an undercover republican in Florida, and his contest to determine who's the biggest hack journalist in the mainstream media today. He's also currently the only reason to even consider reading Rolling Stone these days (OK, they do have the great Get Your War On as well).

Go here to see Taibbi's take the Katrina disaster (not included in the book).

The Trouble with Tom by Paul Collins

Collins is an oddball bibliophile, allied with the McSweeney's crew, whose view of history tends toward the eccentric and weird. In this book he traces the tale of revolutionary democrat and pamphleteer Tom Paine, who some say sparked the American revolution, and the strange story of his missing remains. Along the way we meet 19th century spirit channellers, radical thriller writers and find out about the true nature of grass roots democracy, often demonized by the powers that be. Plus Collins is damn funny.

Killing Yourself to Live: 85 % of a true story by Chuck Klosterman

If Matt Taibbi's picking up where Hunter Thompson left off, Chuck Klosterman's taking up the torch left by the late Lester Bangs. The premise is that Klosterman will visit sites involved with the deaths of rock legends--from the swampland where Lynyrd Skynrd crashed to the Chelsea Hotel where Sid Vicious checked out and all points in between. This conceit is just a scaffold for Klosterman to hold forth on his failed relationships, his theory on how Radiohead's Kid A prophecied 9/11, the difference between potheads and coke fiends, and living in a world where wall to wall pop culture colors your reaction to everything. A digressive, entertaining road trip.

The Perfect American by Peter Stephan Jungk

It's a tricky proposition to write a novel based on a well known public figure. This novel about the last days of Walt Disney succeeds because of the way the author plays with his public persona and reveals the darker egocentric currents behind his all-American image. Jungk tells his story through the eyes of a disgruntled Austrian artist who worked on Sleeping Beauty, only to fired by Disney. A book that has more to say about the differences between American and European culture than a shelf full of Henry James, and revealing of a certain strain of American pop megalomania.

Camus & Sartre by Ronald Aronson

It's not all pop culture fun and games here at corkscrew. We read serious intellectual books about existentialists too, honest. This book is both a great introduction to the French mid 20th century milieu that Camus and Sartre inhabited and a gripping detailed account of how their friendship turned to enmity. The way Aronson weaves their lives with their writings and intellectual debates is masterful, scrupulously fair, and surprisingly readable.

More tomorrow....


Blogger Miata Nut said...

Hey J....I haven't a direct e-mail or contact for you. Got to your blog through tracking down your little sis. Gave her the contact info and she was agonna send it to ya'll. Blast me direct at fencing (that little sign that goes between things)earthlink.net.
This weekend is the annual HST memorial Vegas weekend, so I may be busy until Monday...

8:35 AM  
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11:14 AM  

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