Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation
As those who visit Giant Bomb I am sure you are all familiar with Aisha Tyler. Comedian, voice of Lana on Archer and the video game industries mercenary frontwoman extraordinaire for E3 is fucking hilarious. Sort of written as a longform introspective take on her podcast Girl on Guy, this book really deserves to be listened to as an audiobook. Before Aisha Tyler when I was much younger I used to subscribe to Christopher Hitchens notion that women just aren't’t funny. When you’re a young man, and you act this way, it’s really quite invigorating to find out just how wrong you were. The way Aisha handles herself and just how prepared she is at all facets of her comedy did a lot to dispel this notion of mine. She is grody but also quite feminine but first and foremost she has such quick wit much in the same way as our late Ryan Davis. I've listened to this audiobook twice this year, and both times she had me cackling.
The Blood of Heaven
After participating in the Idle Thumbs Book Club for Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall I decided to see what other historical fiction there was that people were recommending. Almost in the same breathe as Wolf Hall, The Blood of Heaven was mentioned. Being that the novel takes place in West Florida I was immediately interested. The Blood of Heaven really just punches you in the face with how violent it can get from the first line on. It did a wonderful job of depicting West Florida then and by effect now. The hypocrisy, which is at the core of what this book is about, that he exhibits in his characters is a generational type of hypocrisy that lives on to this day. While I didn't relate too well to Wolf Hall because at the end of the day I’m not British, I did take to The Blood of Heaven because, well, I too heard pervasive wonderful stories of violence as a child of the past exploits of my family in a loving way. If I needed to do any more convincing as to why you should read this novel, it comes down to the fact that it encapsulates itself in the Kemper Rebellion. Arguably this rebellion was one of the most important events in American history, but few Americans have ever read about it, and this is a visceral way of doing so.
Vampires in the Lemon Grove
This is an extraordinary accumulation of short stories which all string from singularly unexpected sources. What’s great about all the stories in the collection is that they Karen Russell pits all her characters up against literal manifestations of their fears, desires and dreams. While all the stories on their face are bizarre(the send off story is a tale where all ex-presidents are a reincarnated as horses), they’re really all just a way to take intramural feelings and blow doors open so to speak. There isn’t really much else that I could say that wasn't spoiling the stories. They’re just a solid eight stories that you should read.
Love Minus Eighty
While reading this book my mind was in a constant state of the soundtrack from Magnolia. If I were to make a comparison of this book, it’s Magnolia meets Code 46. What it shares with Code 46, like a lot of science fiction of this ilk is a fantastical premise. Love Minus Eighty’s is award winning. Will McIntosh constructs a near future differing from a lot of scifi where ancillary details of society are unexplained, departed from many of the clinical miss givings that a lot of science fiction finds itself in. Instead like Magnolia it focuses on the interconnected lives of strangers in a near future where rich men buy beautiful women who died and have been cryogenically frozen. You know there’s melancholy, then there’s a brew of nostalgia and sorrow distilled down then shot with a syringe straight into your temple. The latter is Love Minus Eighty.
Tenth of December
When I’m asked, “What is America to you?” Part of my answer to that question would have to be George Saunders. That’s due to his debut collection of short stories Civilwarland in Bad Decline. A humanist, Saunders has a way of capturing the language of Americans with subtlety and intelligence really nobody else I've read has. Tenth of December is a collection of short stories published from the mid to late aughts by Saunders mostly published originally in The New Yorker. His writing in it, as usual, is slightly science fiction but not quite, something apropos of Edgar Allan Poe or Kurt Vonnegut’s science fiction. On it’s face all these short stories in this collection have matching tones and the characters are one dimensional. This isn't at a fault for Tenth of December because Saunders doesn't allow himself to be mired down in such bullshit. Instead he buckles down on getting the language of his characters right.