Hello, diligent blog-followers!

It saddens me to say this, but I am not very good at keeping a blog.  I haven’t updated Books Ben Read in a very long time, and in the interim I’ve read some 40 or so books that I just don’t have the patience to write silly things about.  Is this blog over?  Probably.  Its future is certainly in peril.  

Unless…

Sell Your Boobs by Lisa Hanawalt
It should be well known to you by now that I have always quantified humor by measuring the rate of Giggles per Animal Boob.  The G/AB in Lisa Hanawalt’s Sell Your Boobs mini-comic is high— unprecendentedly high!!!  I’ve been a devotee of Hanawalt’s drawings since her comics started running in the Believer.  I’ve been a devotee of her writing since she started reviewing movies for the Hairpin.  I even have a framed Giclée print of hers hanging over my desk.  I know that I’m rarely as critical of artists as I am of writers on this blog, and I apologize for that.  But I concede: pictures are better than words.  There.  I said it.  I said it, and I’m never taking it back.

Sell Your Boobs by Lisa Hanawalt

It should be well known to you by now that I have always quantified humor by measuring the rate of Giggles per Animal Boob.  The G/AB in Lisa Hanawalt’s Sell Your Boobs mini-comic is highunprecendentedly high!!!  I’ve been a devotee of Hanawalt’s drawings since her comics started running in the Believer.  I’ve been a devotee of her writing since she started reviewing movies for the Hairpin.  I even have a framed Giclée print of hers hanging over my desk.  I know that I’m rarely as critical of artists as I am of writers on this blog, and I apologize for that.  But I concede: pictures are better than words.  There.  I said it.  I said it, and I’m never taking it back.

Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion
I’m going to be straight with you: Play It As It Lays didn’t make much of an impression on me.  It’s a sliver of novel.  I may go so far as to call it a novella, although I hesitate to argue the bold claim running along the top of its cover.  Putting “The Most Brilliant Novel of the Year” on the cover of a great author’s weakest effort reminds me of the bus benches back home.  Anyway, pontificating upon this book is making me tired, so, like in my last few posts, I will leave you with a reference to the David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ: Did you know that the internet is obsessed with Jennifer Jason Leigh’s feet?  How fucking weird is that???

Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion

I’m going to be straight with you: Play It As It Lays didn’t make much of an impression on me.  It’s a sliver of novel.  I may go so far as to call it a novella, although I hesitate to argue the bold claim running along the top of its cover.  Putting “The Most Brilliant Novel of the Year” on the cover of a great author’s weakest effort reminds me of the bus benches back home.  Anyway, pontificating upon this book is making me tired, so, like in my last few posts, I will leave you with a reference to the David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ: Did you know that the internet is obsessed with Jennifer Jason Leigh’s feet?  How fucking weird is that???

Ojitos Borrosos by Inés Estrada
Fucking Christ, I love Tumblr.  I love Tumblr more than Twitter.  I love Tumblr more than Facebook.  I even love Tumblr more than LinkedIn.  I love Tumblr.  I’ve been using Tumblr since I was 18 years old, and had we had babies without ceasing from that moment until now, me and Tumblr would have had six babies by now, with a seventh on the way.  Beautiful internet/human babies, full of code and apps and guts and eyeballs and social networking resources and hair and teeth and stuff.  I love Tumblr so much that minutes ago I was reading a book from 1936 in which the author refers to a “tumbler of wine” and my immediate reaction was, “he spelled it wrong."  I fucking need Tumblr.
I follow three categories of Tumblr: about half of the Tumblrs I follow are “IRL” friends.  Another half are the Tumblrs of booksellers/book publishers/cute baby animals/ironic television parodies/blogs referent to my hometown of Baltimore.  The final half are the Tumblrs of artists and people who draw comics and cartoons (which I consider to be comics that you read really, really quickly), most of whose work I discovered purely through the fully immersive, visceral, eXistenZ-ian medium of Tumblr.  Inechi.tumblr.com is among that third half.  Her comics and drawings are really great.  Check it out right now!  Okay, now come back here and finish reading this paragraph!  Ojitos Borrosos is an anthology of Estrada’s weirdo beautifully rendered vignettes, which range in content from Aimee Bender-whimsical to oops-I-clicked-on-the-wrong-porn sleazy.  And they’re all really cool!  And they’re all in two languages!  Just like Tumblr!

Ojitos Borrosos by Inés Estrada

Fucking Christ, I love Tumblr.  I love Tumblr more than Twitter.  I love Tumblr more than Facebook.  I even love Tumblr more than LinkedIn.  I love Tumblr.  I’ve been using Tumblr since I was 18 years old, and had we had babies without ceasing from that moment until now, me and Tumblr would have had six babies by now, with a seventh on the way.  Beautiful internet/human babies, full of code and apps and guts and eyeballs and social networking resources and hair and teeth and stuff.  I love Tumblr so much that minutes ago I was reading a book from 1936 in which the author refers to a “tumbler of wine” and my immediate reaction was, “he spelled it wrong."  I fucking need Tumblr.

I follow three categories of Tumblr: about half of the Tumblrs I follow are “IRL” friends.  Another half are the Tumblrs of booksellers/book publishers/cute baby animals/ironic television parodies/blogs referent to my hometown of Baltimore.  The final half are the Tumblrs of artists and people who draw comics and cartoons (which I consider to be comics that you read really, really quickly), most of whose work I discovered purely through the fully immersive, visceral, eXistenZ-ian medium of Tumblr.  Inechi.tumblr.com is among that third half.  Her comics and drawings are really great.  Check it out right now!  Okay, now come back here and finish reading this paragraph!  Ojitos Borrosos is an anthology of Estrada’s weirdo beautifully rendered vignettes, which range in content from Aimee Bender-whimsical to oops-I-clicked-on-the-wrong-porn sleazy.  And they’re all really cool!  And they’re all in two languages!  Just like Tumblr!

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
John Cusack is a total charmer.  Check it: I got hyped over two John Cusack movies when I was pretty young, High Fidelity and Grosse Point Blank.  They stained me right up in my brain parts and now I think John Cusack is incapable of wrong-doing.  He’s even played a worthwhile part of two or three other movies.  And have you seen his Twitter account?!?  The man is a fucking god.
Here’s something you may not have known about John Cusack: the man has laid down in some major turds in his day.  Like, pretty much everything on this list.  And yes, to answer your question, that list includes Serendipity.  Before receiving a college-level literary education, Serendipity was responsible for the only awareness of Love in the Time of Cholera I had.  For the uninitiated, after John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale share a magical winter evening together, Beckinsale writes her phone number in a copy of Love in the Time of Cholera, then sells it to a used book store.  Ideally, and should the pair be destined to spend their lives together, Cusack would find the copy and give her a call, then (spoiler alert) they would get married and have, like, a million babies.  Serendipity is a bad, bad movie.  Love in the Time of Cholera is not a bad, bad book.  But it is a mediocre one.
On my famous, trademarked Jude Law Quality Index (in which eXistenZ = Excellent and A.I. Artificial Intelligence = Poor), One Hundred Years of Solitude ranks eXistenZ and Love in the Time of Cholera rates A.I. Artificial Intelligence.  Memories of My Melancholy Whores hovers somewhere in the vicinity of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.  And there you have it; the JLQI never lies.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

John Cusack is a total charmer.  Check it: I got hyped over two John Cusack movies when I was pretty young, High Fidelity and Grosse Point Blank.  They stained me right up in my brain parts and now I think John Cusack is incapable of wrong-doing.  He’s even played a worthwhile part of two or three other movies.  And have you seen his Twitter account?!?  The man is a fucking god.

Here’s something you may not have known about John Cusack: the man has laid down in some major turds in his day.  Like, pretty much everything on this list.  And yes, to answer your question, that list includes Serendipity.  Before receiving a college-level literary education, Serendipity was responsible for the only awareness of Love in the Time of Cholera I had.  For the uninitiated, after John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale share a magical winter evening together, Beckinsale writes her phone number in a copy of Love in the Time of Cholera, then sells it to a used book store.  Ideally, and should the pair be destined to spend their lives together, Cusack would find the copy and give her a call, then (spoiler alert) they would get married and have, like, a million babies.  Serendipity is a bad, bad movie.  Love in the Time of Cholera is not a bad, bad book.  But it is a mediocre one.

On my famous, trademarked Jude Law Quality Index (in which eXistenZ = Excellent and A.I. Artificial Intelligence = Poor), One Hundred Years of Solitude ranks eXistenZ and Love in the Time of Cholera rates A.I. Artificial Intelligence.  Memories of My Melancholy Whores hovers somewhere in the vicinity of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.  And there you have it; the JLQI never lies.

William Blake: Selected Poetry by William Blake
Through two years and three apartments this book sat beside my bed.  Not because I have any particularly fond feelings for it, but because I had started it, placed it there, and just got used to seeing it there.  For almost an entire year it was tucked at eye level in the metal frame of my loft bed.  Every three weeks or so I would see it and think, “I should finish that.  Or put it somewhere else."  So I finished it. I could go into detail about how much cooler Blake’s poems are than any of the holy texts of any of the world’s religions (and thus much more reliable), or how fabulously complex his mythology is, but most of you probably read all of this stuff when you were teenagers so I’m going to skip all that and link you to some of the poems I earmarked:
-Proverbs of Hell
-The Nature of Infinity (from Milton)
-Jerusalem: The Emanation of The Giant Albion, Object 69

BONUS:  Below, links to a few of my favorite Blake plates:
1
2
3
4
5

William Blake: Selected Poetry by William Blake

Through two years and three apartments this book sat beside my bed.  Not because I have any particularly fond feelings for it, but because I had started it, placed it there, and just got used to seeing it there.  For almost an entire year it was tucked at eye level in the metal frame of my loft bed.  Every three weeks or so I would see it and think, “I should finish that.  Or put it somewhere else."  So I finished it. I could go into detail about how much cooler Blake’s poems are than any of the holy texts of any of the world’s religions (and thus much more reliable), or how fabulously complex his mythology is, but most of you probably read all of this stuff when you were teenagers so I’m going to skip all that and link you to some of the poems I earmarked:

-Proverbs of Hell

-The Nature of Infinity (from Milton)

-Jerusalem: The Emanation of The Giant Albion, Object 69

BONUS:  Below, links to a few of my favorite Blake plates:

1

2

3

4

5

Ubik by Philip K. Dick
Classic Dick: great story.  Mind-blowing mechanics.  A psychedelic thrill ride.  Horrible writing.  Read Ubik!

Ubik by Philip K. Dick

Classic Dick: great story.  Mind-blowing mechanics.  A psychedelic thrill ride.  Horrible writing.  Read Ubik!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I can be a real dick sometimes.  Case in point: I was in the fourth grade when the first Harry Potter book was published.  I should have loved it; I was a voracious reader and I had a total latent hard-on for magic, but for some reason the whole thing stunk of fad to me.  That it was being cast upon me by adults, and that all the other kids were reading it, also, and that it was being discussed by everyone, and that it came with a whole slew of merchandise attached to it, and that it was about wizards and wizards are fantasy creatures and I only read sci-fi because sci-fi is awesome and fantasy sucks, and for many other reasons (I’m sure) I did not read that book.  Nor did I read the six that came to follow.  In fact, the only passages I have ever read in any Harry Potter book come from the final two of the series.  The first was a single page from Book 6— the one in which (spoiler alert) Snape kills Dumbledore, one of the biggest reveals in the series— which my friend scanned in and posted on every HP Livejournal community the day it come out.  The second passage was the epilogue at the end of Book 7, which I skipped to after crashing on my friend Jen's couch. She had pre-ordered her copy and I just happened to be the one to answer the door when the FedEx guy brought it.  So now I know Harry Potter isn't worth my time, because Dumblebore is dead and everything turns out okay for Harry in the end anyway.  And sixteen years later, the whole thing still stinks of fad to me.
But guess what: The Hunger Games are totally different!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  This book kicks ass.  Fuck Harry Potter.  He sucks and everything he does is complete bullshit!!!!!!!!!!!  Katniss Everdeen is fucking boss and if they ever met in real life (humor me) she would shoot Harry Potter in the chest with an arrow and he would bleed to death and that is SICK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Kids have it way better these days.  Yeah, I saw the movie first.  But the movie was great!  And maybe (keep in mind here that I can be a real dick sometimes) I scoffed at all of those adults I saw reading a YA novel with a dumb bird on the cover on the train.  But I was wrong, and those adults are American Heroes!  I only wish this book were three times longer.
…OH, WAIT!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I can be a real dick sometimes.  Case in point: I was in the fourth grade when the first Harry Potter book was published.  I should have loved it; I was a voracious reader and I had a total latent hard-on for magic, but for some reason the whole thing stunk of fad to me.  That it was being cast upon me by adults, and that all the other kids were reading it, also, and that it was being discussed by everyone, and that it came with a whole slew of merchandise attached to it, and that it was about wizards and wizards are fantasy creatures and I only read sci-fi because sci-fi is awesome and fantasy sucks, and for many other reasons (I’m sure) I did not read that book.  Nor did I read the six that came to follow.  In fact, the only passages I have ever read in any Harry Potter book come from the final two of the series.  The first was a single page from Book 6— the one in which (spoiler alert) Snape kills Dumbledore, one of the biggest reveals in the series— which my friend scanned in and posted on every HP Livejournal community the day it come out.  The second passage was the epilogue at the end of Book 7, which I skipped to after crashing on my friend Jen's couch. She had pre-ordered her copy and I just happened to be the one to answer the door when the FedEx guy brought it.  So now I know Harry Potter isn't worth my time, because Dumblebore is dead and everything turns out okay for Harry in the end anyway.  And sixteen years later, the whole thing still stinks of fad to me.

But guess what: The Hunger Games are totally different!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  This book kicks ass.  Fuck Harry Potter.  He sucks and everything he does is complete bullshit!!!!!!!!!!!  Katniss Everdeen is fucking boss and if they ever met in real life (humor me) she would shoot Harry Potter in the chest with an arrow and he would bleed to death and that is SICK!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
Kids have it way better these days.  Yeah, I saw the movie first.  But the movie was great!  And maybe (keep in mind here that I can be a real dick sometimes) I scoffed at all of those adults I saw reading a YA novel with a dumb bird on the cover on the train.  But I was wrong, and those adults are American Heroes!  I only wish this book were three times longer.

…OH, WAIT!

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
I had the weirdest fucking dream, you guys.  I had just finished reading The Martian Chronicles for the first time since I was in middle school and I guess I had “Mars" on the "brain," because in this dream I was writing a short story and it took place on fucking MARS. In the story within my dream, a family like this lazes around their terrace.  But this is no ordinary terrace because this terrace is on FUCKING MARS!!!!!!!! And the attached building is retro-modern, a la the Farnsworth house, and the whole structure is towards the peak of a long sloping hill of red dust at the bottom of which is the shore of an endless blue lake.   Anyway, the husband is barbecuing on the terrace while his wife sunbathes (No silly Mars pun here; it’s the same sun as always, you dumb-dumb!) when suddenly she’s all like, “What about the fireworks?” and he’s all like, “Of course!” and slapping himself on the head or whatever the fuck I don’t know it’s a fucking dream I can barely remember it gimme a break you guys.  So then he grabs this small tin drum and runs as fast as can down the slope of the hill.  When he reaches the water, he jumps in and swims out about two hundred feet.  Then he flails around like he’s drowning until a helicopter swoops down and the pilot grabs the tin drum out from under his arm.  While the helicopter flies off, the husband swims back to the shore and returns to the terrace as quickly as he can, arriving just in time to watch the tin drum explode, killing the pilot and reducing the helicopter to smoke and ashes.  The family gathers around the barbecue, hugging and smiling.  Then I wake up…
0…ON FUCKING MARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :0
Not really.  But I did wake up.  And my question is this: WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
MORE INCIDENTAL STORIES ABOUT MY RE-READING OF THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES:
-At the moment in the last story when the Earth explodes, a bolt of lightning shook my house and we lost power and for about five minutes, if only for my familiarity with the ramblings of Glenn Beck, I thought an EMP had been detonated.
-Because I read this book as a child, I know where all the Indians went now.
-Ray Bradbury died.

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

I had the weirdest fucking dream, you guys.  I had just finished reading The Martian Chronicles for the first time since I was in middle school and I guess I had “Mars" on the "brain," because in this dream I was writing a short story and it took place on fucking MARS. In the story within my dream, a family like this lazes around their terrace.  But this is no ordinary terrace because this terrace is on FUCKING MARS!!!!!!!! And the attached building is retro-modern, a la the Farnsworth house, and the whole structure is towards the peak of a long sloping hill of red dust at the bottom of which is the shore of an endless blue lake.   Anyway, the husband is barbecuing on the terrace while his wife sunbathes (No silly Mars pun here; it’s the same sun as always, you dumb-dumb!) when suddenly she’s all like, “What about the fireworks?” and he’s all like, “Of course!” and slapping himself on the head or whatever the fuck I don’t know it’s a fucking dream I can barely remember it gimme a break you guys.  So then he grabs this small tin drum and runs as fast as can down the slope of the hill.  When he reaches the water, he jumps in and swims out about two hundred feet.  Then he flails around like he’s drowning until a helicopter swoops down and the pilot grabs the tin drum out from under his arm.  While the helicopter flies off, the husband swims back to the shore and returns to the terrace as quickly as he can, arriving just in time to watch the tin drum explode, killing the pilot and reducing the helicopter to smoke and ashes.  The family gathers around the barbecue, hugging and smiling.  Then I wake up…

0…ON FUCKING MARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :0

Not really.  But I did wake up.  And my question is this: WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

MORE INCIDENTAL STORIES ABOUT MY RE-READING OF THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES:

-At the moment in the last story when the Earth explodes, a bolt of lightning shook my house and we lost power and for about five minutes, if only for my familiarity with the ramblings of Glenn Beck, I thought an EMP had been detonated.

-Because I read this book as a child, I know where all the Indians went now.

-Ray Bradbury died.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Am I an expert on matters concerning the Pulitzer Prize?  
No.  
I am not.  
I am not an expert on matters concerning the Pulitzer Prize.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, I would like to explain to you everything there is to know about the Pulitzer Prize.  Founded in 1918 as the “Pulitzer Prize for the Novel,” the Pulitzer Prize has been awarded to one exemplary work of fiction each year and carries with it an air of prestige and the respect of the literary and (in some cases) pop-cultural world at large.  There have been, like, ninety-something Pulitzer Prizes awarded so far I think.  Of those ninety-something books, I have read three since I began keeping this blog, twenty-one months ago.  They are A Visit From The Goon Squad, Middlesex, and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. A Visit From The Goon Squad is an examination of time and story; it jumps from scene to scene, character to character, and moment to moment spasmodically, jolting backwards and forwards in clever and unexpected ways.  It peeks into the lives of characters from different worlds and generations bound only by a shared, little-observed cultural experience.  Likewise,Middlesexis an experiment in both narrative structure and the passage of time.  It moves between a “present-day” frame story and anecdotes from the lives of the central character and members of his/her family.  It covers three generations and an entire century. As with Egan’s book, its focus is a group representative of an esoteric monoculture, in the case of the former, Punk, and in the case ofMiddlesex, Turkish-born Greek immigrants living in Detroit, Michigan.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but here is a summary of Oscar Wao: A narrator examines the lives of three generations of a family from a very specific, oft-overlooked heritage (Dominican immigrants who eventually settle in New Jersey; nerd culture), jumping backwards and forwards in time in order to point out similarities and differences in their lives.  Of the three Pulitzer books I read these past two years, this is far and away the least compelling.
If I ever had a point when I started typing this up, it was probably this: there may be a formula for winning the Pulitzer Prize, and I have a meager serving of anecdotal evidence to back up my claim.  Whatever.  It’s my blog.  I can write anything I want here so fuck you.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Am I an expert on matters concerning the Pulitzer Prize?  

No.  

I am not.  

I am not an expert on matters concerning the Pulitzer Prize.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, I would like to explain to you everything there is to know about the Pulitzer Prize.  Founded in 1918 as the “Pulitzer Prize for the Novel,” the Pulitzer Prize has been awarded to one exemplary work of fiction each year and carries with it an air of prestige and the respect of the literary and (in some cases) pop-cultural world at large.  There have been, like, ninety-something Pulitzer Prizes awarded so far I think.  Of those ninety-something books, I have read three since I began keeping this blog, twenty-one months ago.  They are A Visit From The Goon Squad, Middlesex, and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. A Visit From The Goon Squad is an examination of time and story; it jumps from scene to scene, character to character, and moment to moment spasmodically, jolting backwards and forwards in clever and unexpected ways.  It peeks into the lives of characters from different worlds and generations bound only by a shared, little-observed cultural experience.  Likewise,Middlesexis an experiment in both narrative structure and the passage of time.  It moves between a “present-day” frame story and anecdotes from the lives of the central character and members of his/her family.  It covers three generations and an entire century. As with Egan’s book, its focus is a group representative of an esoteric monoculture, in the case of the former, Punk, and in the case ofMiddlesex, Turkish-born Greek immigrants living in Detroit, Michigan.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but here is a summary of Oscar Wao: A narrator examines the lives of three generations of a family from a very specific, oft-overlooked heritage (Dominican immigrants who eventually settle in New Jersey; nerd culture), jumping backwards and forwards in time in order to point out similarities and differences in their lives.  Of the three Pulitzer books I read these past two years, this is far and away the least compelling.

If I ever had a point when I started typing this up, it was probably this: there may be a formula for winning the Pulitzer Prize, and I have a meager serving of anecdotal evidence to back up my claim.  Whatever.  It’s my blog.  I can write anything I want here so fuck you.