Archive for July, 2007

Jul 20 2007

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

Published by under Books

by Michael Chabon

The title of this book turns out to be an appropriate description of the story with more emphasis on Kavalier’s adventures than on Clay’s. A very good story with lots of twists and turns along the way to a rather weak “The Graduate” style ending (it essentially leaves the characters standing and waving goodbye).
It is a period piece that runs from 1938 through 1954, starts in Prague and then moves to NYC from which it then makes a few side trips. Joe Kavalier is a Jewish teenager from Prague who has been trained by a magician and in an art school before the Nazis gain control. He is then sent to freedom by his family and with the help of the magician who has trained him. In NYC he comes to live with his cousin, Sammy Clay who is an aspiring comic book writer. Joe wants money to free the rest of his family, Sammy sees how well Joe can draw, sells his boss on starting a comic book series called the Escapist which is a hit and various adventures, tragedies and farces ensue.
Comic books, magic tricks, and Jewish customs and stereotypes play a very large role in providing a context for the story. I almost wrote ‘stories’ since the book is divided in major sections with breaks in time and place. Comics, their creators and their role are hit on many times. Seemingly with good historical accuracy, but I can’t be sure since I don’t know that history. Real people and events(?) are mixed into the book which I always find a little unsettling. I’d like a better sense of what is real and what is fictional but don’t want to do the research or historical reading to find out. That always bothers me a bit.
Good story, good characters, complex twists in plot, but strains credibility at times. But then the title is Amazing Adventures……..

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Jul 19 2007

Inflation?

Published by under General

Depending on what numbers you read, the US “cost of living” has recently been increasing by 2.5% to 3% annually. At my local BuyRite grocery store, the cost of a gallon of milk, non-fat, has gone from $3.99 to $4.99 in the last four to six weeks. That’s pretty close to a monthly increase of 20%. Let’s hope it is a very rare annomoly.
Or, maybe a bargain is being eliminated. A Google search comes up with $4.65 for a gallon of fat free milk in Danbury Connecticut. In any case my personal CPI has gone up.

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Jul 18 2007

The Machine Stops

Published by under Books,General,retro

E. M Forster

I have long remembered reading this short story in some high school English class. I didn’t remember it very well, but it is probably the only specific story that I can remember reading after around 50 years. It obviously had a strong impact, and I wanted to ‘read’ it again to refresh my memory. This time I listened to an audio recording provided by Libivox rather than turning pages. The story was written almost 100 years ago and is amazingly prescient about some aspects of the Internet as it now exists. But, it is a dark tale and very much a cautionary tale about over reliance on technology. A highly recommended listen or read. (Internet “haters” will love it.)

If reading it via the Internet is not too uncomfortable, the full text can be found here, and here.

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Jul 10 2007

Stupid; but funny

Published by under General

This afternoon I noticed this message written on the sidewalk outside a corner bar on 16th St. “The liver is evil, punish it!”. Maybe an old line, but new to me.

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Jul 07 2007

If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler

Published by under Books

by Ttalo Calvino

This is another book that I bought and read by chance. I was looking for “The Cosmic Comics” by the same author when I found this book in a second hand book shop. And, it is an unusual book. Initially, it reminded me of stories by Luis Borges and it still does to some extent; recursive regresses and lots of talk about books and libraries. Books, writing books and reading books is the theme. That may make it sound like an academic book, but it isn’t. I read the whole book and enjoyed most of it.

The boo has an unusual structure consisting of 10 or 12 first chapters of fictional stories interspersed with chapters about the readers and writers of those truncated books. Most of the ‘first chapters’ are good first chapters that seem capable of being developed into a story, but they are never continued. The other chapters tell the story of two would be readers of those books and the imaginary authors or translators of them. The plot of the book is not important to the story, but the structure of the book provides a framework for an experienced author to relate a compendium of thoughts about writing, reading, and the relationship between authors and readers. Sounds dry, but it was kind of fun.

It was written near the end of Calvino’s long career as a novelist and it seems that the author was playing with all the ideas he’d encountered along the way and wrapped them into a last novel. Calvino died a few years after this book was written.

I plan to read at least one other of his book as he seems very clever and can writes interestingly.

PS. If you are wondering, “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler” is the title of the first fictitious book in the real book!

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