Wednesday, January 25, 2017

BOOK: 39 Years of Short Term Memory Loss by Tom Davis

39 Years of Short-Term Memory Loss: The Early Years of SNL from Someone Who Was There by Tom Davis  (9 h 17 min)
read by the author

Tom Davis was part of a comedy pair, Franken and Davis that started in the late 1960s. Davis and Franken (yes, that Franken, Senator Al Franken) attended the same high school in Minnesota and came of age in the hippie '70s and were present at the beginning of Saturday Night Live.

I've never really heard of Davis and don't remember him from SNL, although he was primarily a writer. Near the end of the rambling, pointless book (more on that later), he reads a recent bio of Al Franken where Davis is virtually unmentioned. Paraphrasing the article: Franken was part of a comedy duo, known as an actor from SNL, here's a picture with 'a friend', running for senate. Davis seems a little upset by his non-recognition. I thought it wasn't surprising considering Franken and Davis had a bitter break up (they seem to be friendly now), and much of their growing different sensibilities could probably be traced back to the point where Al go married, had a child, and stopped hanging out and doing drugs all the time. Surprise! Franken grew more famous after stopping doing drugs all. the. time.

I was actually expecting a point where Davis would describe his rock bottom and how he stopped doing drugs, especially after chronicalling the death of John Belushi and Chris Farley. But nope. More stories about his friendships with Jerry Garcia, and Timothy Leary. He was a major Dead Head fan of the Grateful Dead.

Davis includes the emails he wrote to Franken while writing this book as Franken provided details which I assume Davis had no clue about due to all the drugs he did. Franken wrote the introduction and Davis does a remarkable job reading in Franken's voice.  All this book really made me think about was how much I'd like to read an Al Franken book, especially after seeing some of his work during the Senate confirmation hearings.

The book is just a bunch of random stories about people he knew and comedy sketches throughout his life. The sketches were funny, mostly, and Davis is still pretty proud of some of his funnier skits. The SNL stuff was the most interesting, hearing some of the behind the scenes stuff of the early years with Lorne Michaels and Dan Ackroyd.

But I couldn't sense the greater overall point of the story. He likes drugs. He wrote comedy. He knows a lot of famous people. (He didn't seem a fan of Mike Myers, who didn't seem impressed with the drug use of Davis when they met. Point for Myers, who I have recently written about gushingly.) I listened to it all, but eventually played it at 1.75X the speed just to get done. If you want a comedian's memoir from a SNL actor, try Martin Short or Mike Myers.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

BOOK: The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
read by the author, 4 h 40 min

A raw, non linear memoir, covering many topics but primarily non-traditional family and pregnancy. Nelson is married to the artist Harry Dodge,a gender fluid trans man, inherits a step-son, and surprisingly to herself, wants to get pregnant.

Interspersed between the personal, are references to queer theory which Nelson debates or comments on.

“A day or two after my love pronouncement, now feral with vulnerability, I sent you the passage from Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes in which Barthes describes how the subject who utters the phrase “I love you” is like “the Argonaut renewing his ship during its voyage without changing its name.” Just as the Argo’s parts may be replaced over time but the boat is still called the Argo, whenever the lover utters the phrase “I love you,” its meaning must be renewed by each use, as “the very task of love and of language is to give to one and the same phrase inflections which will be forever new.”

The writing is dense, full of ideas and I easily would go back five or ten minutes to re-listen to a passage and still miss parts of the narrative. This might have been a book that the print version would have been more beneficial to me. I had to take my time to absorb the language.

Much thinking required, but Nelson's thinking is so different from my life experience, that I liked the parts I got. She is not afraid to discuss anything, and much was deeply personal. 

This book is from the list 40 New Feminist Classics. 5/40 read

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

BOOK: Canada by Mike Myers

Canada by Mike Myers, 304 pages

Thank you Mike Myers.

You have written a wonderful book, a love letter of sorts, to Canada. For its 150th birthday! 

I so enjoyed this book. There are probably a number of reasons for this:

1. Mike Myers is awesome and funny. He is also so quintessentially Canadian - talented, funny, appreciative, humble. This is really what his book is about, what makes Canada, and what made Mike Myers.

2. Mike and I are both of a certain age (50ish) so he hits all my cultural markers of growing up in the seventies/eighties. That's also what the book is about - the era of the 'making of a great nation' from 1967-1976, when Canada came of age as a country, from Expo '67 to the Montreal Olympics.

3. Mike is famous. The section about his making it big drops a lot of names, and I almost forgot how big and funny he was. I mean, Wayne's World? Classic comedy. He also dishes about how Wayne's World, while set in Illinois, is really very Canadian, and he purposefully included all these Canadian references. 

4. Did I say he dishes? Not true. Myers is too nice to dish. He only has wonderful things to say, and if he was less than impressed with someone, he does not name names. This comes down to his innate goodness and wanting to look at the good side of things, and be appreciative of his opportunities. He periodically thanks Canadians as he talks about them in the book.

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I posted some pictures on Facebook as I was reading the book, wanting to share my fun. This Fitness Award badge generated lots of comments and memories. In the seventies, a government department promoted fitness  Participaction commercials and the Canadian Fitness Award. All students across Canada competed in 5 or 6 challenges and got bronze, silver, gold or award of excellence badges. (I never got an award of excellence fitness badge - the bar hang got me everytime down to bronze.)

Mike shared his memories of the Fitness Award in the book. The book is filled with pictures and random memories of growing up in Canada. (25 cent bags of Ketchup chips)

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The first part of the book contains all the cultural notices, things that make Canada Canada. Pictured above, Stompin' Tom Connors, and the Canadian Tire, aka Crappy Tire, logo. True fact: every Canadian has a drawer stuffed with Canadian Tire money. 

I'd be interested to hear what a non-Canadian thinks of this book. I have to say again, I loved this book. It reminded me of a cross between Martin Short's autobiography, I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend, and Douglas Coupland's more visual Souvenir of Canada.  

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Myers covers a lot in the book - his childhood, getting into show business, getting famous. Also, Canada and how the nation grew and evolved, the differences between Canada and US. Some political stuff - he was a huge fan of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, and then he ends with Justin Trudeau, which is such a stark contrast to the politics in the States right now. (Sorry, says this Canadian)

Image may contain: textThanks again, Mike.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: 2016 Releases I Meant to Read (But TOTALLY Plan To)

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish each week. This week's topic is Ten Books from 2016 Which I Meant to Read (But TOTALLY Plan To). I am taking the titles from some of those 'Best of 2016' lists, and trying to focus a little more on nonfiction for this year.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalinithi (and it is read by Cassandra Campbell!)

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

Time Travel: A History by James Glieck

March: A Trilogy by John Lewis

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong

So, have you read any of these? Plan to? 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

BOOK: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert  ( 12 h, 59 min, read by the author)

When you don't read a book when it first comes out and everyone raves about it, then you don't read it when everyone starts criticizes many aspects of it and it gets so much backlash; when you wait that long, and read it, it falls somewhere in the middle of love and backlash.

I think this critique (Spoiled Little Rich Girl or Brave Woman?) sums up my feelings about the book. There are aspects of the book which feel self-indulgent - I don't want kids, I don't want to be married, who am I?, I'll travel the world! (with a book deal). But overall, who wouldn't like that opportunity - move to a country, by yourself and learn something new. And while I imagine it would be cool, I'm not the kind of person who could or would do that. But reading about someone else doing it is kinda cool, cool by association. That is why I like reading about other places and other people - to imagine what it would be like to do that or to be there.

Summary: girl gets divorced, feels crappy. Goes to Italy, and eats pasta, learns Italian. Moves to India, lives in an ashtam, eventually gets her brain to shut up so she can meditate; heads to Bali and makes some great friends and finds love even though she wasn't looking for it. Then Julia Roberts plays her in the movie.

I had bought the book at a book sale, but ended up listening to an audiobook from the library. When I listen to a book really quickly, I know I liked the book quite a bit. The author read it and  I think it helped, hearing how she laughed, and getting her perspective on conversations. It was a great book to start the year off with, and helps me with my informal goal of reading more nonfiction this year.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

CHALLENGE: My List at the Library

Last year I made up a challenge called Once and Again to read that second book by an author whose first book I thoroughly enjoyed. I had great success and read almost all 6 books I picked out. I was going to do it again, but realized I set too particular parameters, leaving out the third or fourth book, or even the first by an author.

What I really want to do is read those books I had placed on my Library List. Does your library have this? I can place books I want to read, or have read a great review of (thanks friends!) on a digital list. Not requested or anything, just my own personal TBR. There are books on that list now that I have no idea where I heard of them!

Libraries! What would I do without my library! I search and check there first, I can List it, or request it. Plus, PEI is so small, that all the branch libraries are part of the whole Provincial Library Services, so the catalog includes all the books in the province. I can see in which library the book I want is located. I can pick it up at that library if it is close, or request it and they mail it to my base library. Actual snail mail! Our book club reads nearly all our books from Book Club Kits available from the library.

So, here are the books that called out to me the most from my library list that I hope to read by the end of 2017. Join me if you want - read books from your library!

Wild Dogs by Helen Humphreys

Carry Me Down by MJ Hyland

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell

Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson

Slammerkin and/or Landing by Emma Donaghue

How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz

Glass Harmonica by Russell Wangersky

The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perotta

Mr Clarinet by Nick Stone

Live by Night by Dennis Lehane

West of Sunset by Stewart O'Nan

Redshirts by John Scalzi

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Top Ten (or so) Books of 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish each week. This week's topic is supposed to be Ten Books I'm Looking Forward To For The First Half of 2017. However, I never did get my Best of 2016 list posted, so here we go:

Number of Books Read = 118
Number of Audiobooks = 56
Number of Female/Male Authors =  73/45
Fiction/Nonfiction =  102/16

Best Mystery
The Trespasser by Tana French

Honourable Mentions Best Mystery (because I read a lot of mysteries)
Reykjavik Nights by Arnaldur Indridasson
The Door in the River by Inger Ash Wolfe

Criminal by Karin Slaughter

Best Start to a Series
The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

Best End to a Series
End of Watch by Stephen King

Best Historical Mystery
Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

Best Recommended Book
The Last Policeman by Ben H Winters

Best Childrens
Zap! Nikola Tesla Takes Charge by Monica Kulling

Best Young Adult
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E Lockhart

Favourite Characters
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Best Science Fiction/Fantasy
The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty

Best Book by a New to Me Author
The Hero's Walk by Anita Rau Badami

Best Historical Fiction
The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

Best  Book by a Tried and True Author
The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
The Wonder by Emma Donaghue
A God in Ruin by Kate Atkinson

Best Epic Apocalyptic
The Fireman by Joe Hill

Best Short Story Collection
Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie

Best Short Story
The Grown-Up by Gillian Flynn

Heartburn by Nora Ephron

Most Heartbreaking
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Runner up Most Heartbreaking
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Creepiest Novel
Her by Harriet Lane

Most Unique Book
The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys

Best Audiobook
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Best Nonfiction
Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steven Sheinkin

Best Debut Book
The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

Monday, January 2, 2017

ETC: First Book of the Year


Sheila at  is hosting a First Book of the Year event, which seems like a fantastic idea!

Reading: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

Listening: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert