Thursday, May 27, 2010

Soup and Salad: "My Life With the Lincolns," Shirley Jackson, Mark Twain tells all, Bill Murray

On today's menu:

1.  Gayle Brandeis talks to largehearted boy about the music that infuses her new novel My Life With the Lincolns in the website's regular feature Book Notes.  Like the rest of largehearted boy's site, Book Notes blends books and music in a very cool way--sort of like an "extra" on a DVD--where writers discuss how music directly or indirectly influenced their book.  (For Fobbit, it would definitely have to be U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb--but I'll save that discussion for a future blog post).  Brandeis' new book sounds like a good one and I'm adding it to my wish list right now.  I really enjoyed her The Book of Dead Birds; and when I was in Iraq, she was kind enough to send me an early draft of the novel which eventually grew into Self Storage.  If you haven't read any of her work, today's as good a time to start as any.

2.  Helen Oyeyemi nicely dissects Shirley Jackson in a review at The Barnes and Noble Review:  "Like Poe, Jackson repeatedly linked chills and laughter."  If I failed to mention it earlier, Jackson is also high on my reading bucket list.

3.  Someone who's not on my bucket list, but who famously kicked his own bucket on at least two separate occasions?  Mark Twain.  I know, I know, I should bow down and revere Mr. Clemens, but he has never clicked with me.  Somehow, I got off on the wrong foot with him, and though Life on the Mississippi is competently written, it's just not the be-all, end-all.   Same goes for Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.  In fairness, I probably should give Twain another try, but right now that's so far down on the list, it's below the bucket.  Even so, I'm very intrigued by the news that his autobiography, sealed for 100 years, will soon be released.  Is this just another publicity stunt from the grave, or will the book really reveal some scandle which Twain wanted to keep secret for a century?  What could be in there which needed to be kept from readers until now?  A bastard child prone to painting fences?  A mistress with the pet-name "Puddin'head"?  Or perhaps the revelation that "Mark Twain" is not a riverboat navigation term but the name of a popular 19th-century toothpaste?

4.  Bill Murray!  Better yet, Bill Murray!!  (The dude deserves two exclamation points)  It's time to celebrate the ingenuity of Baby Ruths floating in the country club pool.  Paste Magazine opines on the Top 10 BMs.  I have no quibble with what's on there (despite never having seen Ghostbusters, Broken Flowers, or Lost in Translation), but I probably would have swapped out one of their picks for what I believe is an equally-great BM: his endearing camp counselor in Meatballs ("It just doesn't matter!  It just doesn't matter!").

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