I’m having the most terrible dream. Please, somebody wake me up.
Page 2 of 51
I read Carl Hiassen’s Razor Girl after seeing several rave reviews, such as two in the New York Times (“irresistible” and “elegant”), one from NPR (“hilarious”), and one in Kirkus Reviews (“unbridled fictional invention”). The book is currently no. 2 on the NYT hardcover fiction best-seller list.
I had read Hiaasen before, so I knew what sort of thing to expect. While the novel mostly delivered on expectations, I did not like the book so much as those reviewers. A few thoughts:
- The book could be thought of as a kind of parody detective story, similar to The Big Lebowski. Donald E. Westlake and John D. MacDonald seem to be influences.
- Hiaasen’s characters are mostly stereotypes: the ruthless mob boss, the rapacious lawyer, the slutty gold-digging girlfriend (a favorite: there are a number of these), the weaselly Hollywood agent, the dumb-as-subsoil thug, the racist cracker, and so on. He disguises their conventionality through grotesque flourishes and exaggerations. Grotesquery is one of his strengths, but some experienced fiction readers might find this an insufficient alternative to actual character development.
- The manic character exaggerations are matched by an overheated storyline. Together with the lack of character depth and story-oriented exposition, this gives the book a brittle quality.
- Hiaasen is an efficient writer. His grotesque elements are made more effective by a clear, compact prose. He has a talent for colorful compounds — shitweasel, fuckwit, numbnuts, thundercunt, fuckwhistle, shitsucker, and so on.
- This sometimes manifests in dialogue: “Baby, you kiss like a blowfish on batteries.”
- The best idea behind Razor Girl is a Duck Dynasty parody. A television reality show features four brothers who are presented as Louisiana poultry farmers. The kidnapping of the alpha brother by a crazed fan who as ransom demands being added to the show as a fifth brother is the fulcrum for the plot. The kidnapping occasions a crise de foi in the victim —an excellent concept, but Hiaasen never really gets sufficiently into the victim’s head.
- The bayou brothers are presented as Louisiana poultry farmers; in fact they are accordion players from Milwaukee. But as a former Wisconsonian, I can report there is rich material there that remains almost entirely unmined by Hiaasen, whose backstories are always sketchy.
- The title concept, which alludes to car crashes perpetrated as a con by a young woman engaged in mechanical vaginal hygiene, is not as fascinating as Hiaasen appears to believe.
- Hiaasen’s heroes are stoners who love nature and sex and his villains are connivers who love money and sex. Mostly they fight over nature and money but sometimes they meet over sex.
- Potentially the most interesting character could have been Buck Nance, “Captain Cock” of the Bayou Brethren clan, as he is the only character who undergoes any development over the course of the novel. Unfortunately, his development is sketchy.
The story arc did not contain many surprises, though Hiaasen certainly makes the details distinctive. This is a diverting book that you will probably want to read quickly so that it doesn’t take up too much of your time.
I think of this photo as having a bit of a Richard Misrach quality.
Museums, let’s face it, tend not to be good at marketing their product. This envelope contained a membership pitch. Is “Experience it all. Again. And again.” supposed to whip me into a frenzy of art lust? Or is it supposed to be ironic?
Who knows? But all it actually does is make me as weary as Madeline Kahn’s character in Blazing Saddles (she’s been with hundreds of men, again and again).
After a $3 million rebranding that was “widely derided,” the Met is cutting some 100 jobs (following voluntary buy-outs). Facing tens of millions of dollars in deficits, director Thomas Campbell plans to rack up profits through what we all know is the easiest possible way: “We are putting greater emphasis on our publications.”
The Met rebranding was supposed to make the museum look more contemporary. Yet it bears a striking resemblance to the Metropolitan opera logo from about forty years ago. Back to the future?
- Wired: The Met explains its logo
- Vulture: The logo is a “typographic bus crash
- Hyperallergic: Meh-tropolitan
- Observer: The Met explains
I found the lyrics to this tune, which I posted here in 2010 and recently reposted over at Tom’s Garden.
I make out the first line to be “Make me a spritz, make me a spritz, make it good with a slice of lemon.” But the Italian is unconventional, I guess a Veneto dialect, and if anyone more accomplished than me can provide a full translation I would love to hear it.
This would be a good tune for a ukulele.
Fame un spritz – Sir Oliver Skardy & Fahrenheit 451
Fame un spritz, fame un spritz, famelo bon co ‘na fetta de limon
Che caldana par Venessia in camminada umido, suori, maieta petada
le alghe fa spussa da fogna
se bevo so come ‘na spugna
A mexogiorno so come ‘na fritata go la gola che par carta vetrata l’oasi del campo se ciama ostaria xe meio ‘na sosta, dopo vado via
Sta ostaria che xe sempre be?a piena
chi xoga le carte chi va via a pansa piena ti magni, ti bevi e ala fine ti paghi
vecioti o studenti va tutti imbriaghi
Costava poco un spritz ai nostri tempi desso xe un lusso par fighetti dementi
‘Ndemo fora a ciapa?r un fia? de aria caigo fisso dal Lido ala Baia
bicieri de carta, bicieri de vero
ma queo de sora xe incassa? nero
Largo ai giovani, va remengo el vecio, gerimo in cale el ne ga lava? col secio
el dise che el xe stufo, che ciama la Polissia e dopo i se domanda perche? i fioi scampa via
Fame un spritz, fame un spritz, famelo bon co ‘na fetta de limon
tanto ‘ndemo fora a tirar su un trombon
Right Reading does not normally do product recommendations. But recently we ordered this product, and so far we are encouraged by the results. You just drill down. The label does advise that “the decomposition, depending on the density of the trump, make take several weeks or months.”
1616 was an eventful year, the British Shakespeare died, the Spanish side of the car also died Sevan Tethys, years ago, Thomas Christensen wrote tasty Universal Modern History, interception of the title of the year is 1616, the year of motion! Shakespeare referred to the book and the death of the Cypriot public, as if that were not the Soul Lihen Tang Gongzi, it was not bad, anyway, but I can not Linchuan Four Dreams realize what’s contemporary …
So Google translates … something. An article or a catalogue, I guess. I’d give a link if I was sure it wasn’t some ripoff. Regardless, though I don’t know what the original says in Chinese, I think the big G’s translation is marvelous.
People who skip the sports section miss some extraordinary writing.
Advancing to the Western Conference finals, a championship team will step up its game. And the San Francisco Chronicle sportswriting team did not disappoint. Today’s Sporting Green is an astonishing mix of strained conceits, purple patches, and semi-literate clichés. Let’s focus on the conceits. Here are our awards.
STRAINED CONCEIT CHAMPION
This award has to go to Bruce Jenkins, who writes:
Cruising a straight-line highway with another NBA championship in mind, the Warriors always knew there would be an intersection when the playoffs arrived. The signpost would read SAN ANTONIO, and everyone around the league was in on the secret. ¶ Well, it seems there’s a maintenance crew about ready to change the lettering ….
A highway sign that everyone knows about but is nonetheless a secret, which a maintenance crew is preparing to reletter. Riiiiggght. (What he means is “The Warriors expected to play the Spurs but they might play the Thunder instead.”)
STRAINED CONCEIT RUNNER UP
A trumped-up story many writers got mileage from (on Bruce Jenkins’s straight-line highway?) was Dubs forward Draymond Green saying before the game that Portland was done in the series. It inspired Rusty Simmons to write this:
If their teammate was publicly going to out on a limb [sic] like that, they had to reinforce the tree.
Good thing a maintenance crew is already on the scene!
STRAINED CONCEIT HONORABLE MENTION
Scott Ostler’s conceit is not in the same category as these. It’s too good not to quote. He writes that last year’s Warriors team
were like kids on their first trip to Disneyland. This season they’re Mickey Mouse, taking a break behind the castle, removing his head to have a smoke before wading back out there to wave and thrill the kiddies.
Nifty shift from plural to singular there.
So there you have it. All of these guys must have read Raymond Chandler at an impressionable age.
I’ll resist the urge to introduce additional categories, such as the “BIG SAVINGS FROM LAYING OFF THE COPY EDITORS AWARD.” That’s a dull category in which there is competition every day. Today it could go to Simmons for writing “to out” instead of “to go out,” but I would give it instead to Ann Killion for “ Portland grew it’s lead to double digits.”
For more examples, from “he ain’t no one-engine pony” to “his ceiling is through the roof” to “I have to put my head to the grindstone and keep grinding” to “I’m going to turn this team around 360 degrees,” visit my Away with Words.
Image via http://bit.ly/1s2hC0k
Sorry, folks, for all these category sticky posts, which will head pages in various categories and gradually gather together helpful links outside the blog relevant to them. I don’t think I can remove them from the blog home, but they will slide down the page soon enough. This is all the result of recent website reorganization in which I have begun using separate home pages for desktop and mobile devices.
This post will be sticky in the “publishing” category. Really about 80 percent of the content at rightreading.com is related to publishing, but a subset of posts at blog.rightreading.com is devoted explicitly to publishing. Enjoy.
A few links for starters:
- How to get a book published (the traditional way)
- The most helpful books about writing and publishing
- Tom’s Glossary of Book Publishing Terms
- How to figure an advance against royalties
- How to read a book
- Mercury House Publishing
- North Point Press
- Catamaran Literary Reader
- Notable rejection letters
- On blurbs