News for January 2013

God Bless you, Dr. Kevorkian

by Kurt Vonnegut

I got this book for my birthday because the person heard that I liked Vonnegut and he liked the green cartoon cover. I scanned the back cover and found it ironic that I got a book about death on my birthday.


I shrivel up at any mention of death. One vivid memory of childhood was crying myself to sleep about the imminence of death, something that was (and hopefully still is) so far away that it almost didn’t seem real but it is more real and more reliable than anything else in the world. I no longer cry myself to sleep about death but I still fear it immensely, not so much for myself, but for other people and what would be the result of me when I’m left all alone.

I’m quite selfish that way.

Vonnegut, with the aid of Dr. Kervokian, has several near death experiences just so that he can interview the already deceased in heaven. Well Vonnegut can’t step in heaven but he can hang around the pearly white gates and interview those that are around. He gets up and close with the likes of William Shakespear, Newton, Mary Shelley, and many many others.

We hear some insight from the greats through the charmed writings of Vonnegut, it is so lovely of a read, even if it is about death.

the entire book will take you about 30 minutes even if you are not that fast of a reader.

Highly recommended, feel light afterwards, and it’s exactly not as it seems.


“One last question,” I begged. “To what do you attribute your incredible productivity?”
Isaac Asimov replied with but a single word: “Escape.” And then he appended a famous statement by the similarly prolific French writer Jean Paul Sartre:
“Hell is other people.”

Posted: January 31st, 2013
Categories: BOOKS
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A Working Theory of Love

by Scott Hutchins

A new year just started and i’m already behind schedule with the book reviews! I’m actually behind on the book reading too, but that’s fine, if i read another book by Sunday I’ll be back on schedule! I’ll choose something that’s doable and i have the perfect book in mind.

This is a debut novel about a mid-30s man living in San Francisco while working at a technology company. It seems like if you live in San Francisco, there’s no other occupation, at least as far as characters in books go. Everything sort of has to revolve around some start-up in some hip ipod-shaped building with minimalism and eames chairs. His name is Neill and he is working on a artificial intelligence based on his dead father’s (death via suicide) carefully recorded journals over the years. His boss, him and a Indonesian coder are all trying to win the Alan Turing prize. The conditions being that the computer must appear human (to another human) more than 30% of the time.

Neill wasn’t close with his father and realized that the greatest gift that he has ever received from him was this job after his death. That’s a pretty depressing thing to think about, or to mention. Neill is once divorced and currently single. He lives in an apartment and leads a barely-there life. He later meets 20 year old Rachel while posing as a tourist at a hostel and falls in love with her, but of course he doesn’t realize that until later. Rachel is one…mess, big mess, I would say.

I haven’t felt engaged by a book in a while. This book, if nothing else, kept me engaged for a good 3 days. I couldn’t fully give Neill my heart and soul and torn out hair. I didn’t feel particularly attached to him or any of the characters. In fact, the only character that I did feel slightly conflicted with was his dead father, which in this case, is represented by a computer. Maybe that’s the point of the novel, to show the reader that one could easily devote feelings to lines of code in a computer based on a person, even if a person in the past tense.

The writing style is neat and careful. Neill says and thinks a lot of interesting things, but his general attitude towards love, life and career reflects that of the every man. The attitude that I assume a lot of men takes toward life is general detachment, things happen on their own whether good or bad, whether one needs to be concerned about it wasn’t a huge deal. Of course, I am largely generalizing and I’m sure that a lot of people must disagree with me. But it felt to me, that general detachment was the way to go. Neill makes observations about San Francisco and the people around him. The observations are just thoughts passed by, but when they are written down, it feels like they would definitely be poignant (see hipster quote) or at least attempt to be.

I haven’t felt extremely excited about a book in a long time. And sadly with this book, the same situation plays out into a flattened tone. I felt depressed by the book at times, the humourous aspect of the writing was definitely there, but I couldn’t feel it. I didn’t want to laugh, I didn’t have high prospects for Neill or any of the people around him. It would be more correct to say that I just didn’t care about anyone and I wouldn’t have died with regret if I didn’t find out.

It seems like that is my attitude towards a lot of things these days. Maybe I am not generalizing the every man but that of myself, I am detached, even with books, I am detached.

I’d give this book a B, because it has a decent plot, non too disgusting characters, something to be learned and wit that’s half way there. .

Some Quotes…. these are the ones that i liked and probably the ones that made me sad.

page 2:

He was disoriented, of course, but the truth holds. He’s not self-sufficient; he’s just alone. This revelation shouldn’t matter so much, shouldn’t shift my life one way or the other, but it’s been working on me in some subterranean manner. I seem to have been relying on Fred’s example. My father, not otherwise much of an intellectual, had a favorite quote from Pascal: the sole cause of Man’s unhappiness is his inability to sit quietly in his room. I had thought of Fred as someone who sat quietly in his room.

page 54:

frnd1: what were her strong points?
drbas: ????
frnd1: strong points = good qualities
drbas: she’s beautiful, spirited woman of great class
frnd1: did you admire her or love her?
drbas: i have the highest admiration for those work with the poor
frnd1: did she need you?
drbas: who?
frnd1: your wife
drbas: she needs me to pick up the drying cleaning by 5 pm.

page 57

There’s more to life than happiness. The words of an unhappy man committed to his unhappiness.

page 65:

The ride home seems colder, shorter, grimmer. On Valencia Street, I look out the window at the hipsters on their fixed-speed bikes. The tight clothes, the tiny hats – their major struggle as a generation seems to be reducing drag. As if success in life requires being ever ready to slip through a narrow opening.

page 136

We’re sitting on the couch in the window, and I gesture to the warm and sunny side walk. Beautiful couples pass by on their golden errands – buying peaches, buying panettone – hands held, arms swinging in metronomic synch, as if keeping time to some unheard music. the revolution of the heavenly spheres. “Mechanical optimism.”

page 288

At home, I removed my shoes, peel off my socks, and climb into bed, moving right to the middle, where I sleep best. I take my weighted eye beanbag and lay it over my eyes. It smells of green tea and vanilla and is as relaxing as the package promised. I run my hands over the seersucker coverlet. I’m just a person suspended in a series of rented rooms, in a city barely seven miles by seven miles. Far from the place I was born. Far from my father’s plans for me. I’m a temporary person. But, of course, so was he.

Posted: January 18th, 2013
Categories: BOOKS
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This is How you lose her

by Junot Diaz

A new year, 52 new books to be read!

The first book is a cheat, because I started it some time in December and finally got around to finishing it now. It is Junot Diaz’s latest short story collection revolved around a character named Yunior.

This book was on top of so many best-of lists last year and I didn’t feel it nearly as much. But the thing is, if you stick to it, it does get a lot better and I feel like the second half of the book was so much better than the first half. Also, there’s so much Spanish! I know no Spanish, and there are words that I could guess from context what it meant. Perhaps swear words, or instead of so blatantly saying penis, cock, vagina, or pussy or whatever. It is more stylistic to say it in Spanish then italicize the shit out of that foreign word.

The book is beautifully written, stylistically, it’s one of the most interesting styles I’ve ever read. Most of it is written in second person, which is rare to begin with, and the fact that it doesn’t get confusing or take away from the plot is an achievement in itself. But in terms of the plot, I didn’t feel like it achieved nearly as much as people claim that it did. Books about self-destruction, hell, blogs about self destruction do not interest me. People who self-destruct for any purpose makes no sense to me. All this pain, that I cannot hold in my hand, hence I need to wreck my own life and those around me continuously just so that I can make sense of it all. Because I love pain, I do not loathe it, I want it to wrap its chubby little fingers around me because that’s the only way I can feel. And when I am destroying, I am feeling.

That kind of thing is just fucking bullshit to me.

Maybe I’m really really simple and finding all of this pedantic, but self destruction in itself is not beautiful, it is not haunting, it does not make me want to get with you to take some of the pain away. No..

But I can’t really say I completely hated it, even though I did read a bunch of 1 star reviews on amazon to make me feel like I’m not just being a hater.

It’s a nice read, beautiful style. I just didn’t appreciate the plot all that much.

Posted: January 3rd, 2013
Categories: BOOKS
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