Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Autumn Reading (and watching) List

As promised, here are the books I was able to make it through on my wonderful vacation. I've also added in a couple of movies I saw. Ps. I know you're supposed to underline book titles but I don't know how to format that so you'll have to settle for quotes.

"The Street of A Thousand Blossoms" by Gail Tsukiyama

This was a really lovely fiction work that followed the life of one Tokyo family from the middle-end of the Second World War to around the sixties, with well incorporated side-stories scattered within relating to the supporting characters. Historically this was a nice piece of fiction, if not a little tame for my tastes (sometimes I worried the author was writing in a style anticipating a young child would accidentally pick it up.) There were times when I felt the story was consciously PG'd, if only because at others, like the passage concerning the night of the Tokyo firebombs was scathingly bleak and graphic. Overall, a quick and enjoyable read, and at times quite a page-turner.

"The Supreme Court: The Personalities and Rivalries that Shaped America" by Jeffrey Rosen

I ordered this from Barnes and Nobles after reading a great interview of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens
The ordering was pretty painless; it cost me $2.50 but the book was discounted since I was ordering it so it worked out and also arrived pretty quickly. Basically in this book the author sets up three or four comparisons of two justices of the same era and makes examples of how their personalities played major roles in policy making, with the exception of Marshall vs. Jefferson, as Jefferson never sat on the court. I found this to also be a good read, accessible but still smart, with notes on the cases in the back in case you needed them. I always felt a little mystified by the Supreme Court and wanted to learn more about it as I never felt is was adequately covered in any of my classes. I think this was a good start on the subject for me, and I'll probably look for another title on the same subject as soon as I have some free time again.

"Life of A Poet: Rainer Maria Wilke" by Ralph Freedman

I bought this on impulse at the Hammer bookstore (they have a pretty great store with a great selection, albeit not so well organized or user friendly) as Wilke has always been among my most very favorite poets (coming to his works as a result of being a Rainer Maria fan- how lame and high school hipster is that!)
The work is definitely an academic, and not pop/mass market endeavor. The best part about it is that it makes a unique turn to combine critical investigation and interpretation of Wilke's prose with the influence of his life's events. The not so good part is the excruciating detail the account often veers into. Seriously though, I don't think Wilke's English muffin on Wednesday and his croissant on Friday made that big of a difference to his creative trajectory. Okay, so that's an exaggeration, but I promise you a not-too-far-off one. This was a much slower read than everything else I had my nose in last month, and to be perfectly honest I'm still a little shy of polishing it off. But that's probably because I got in the habit of always saving it for last (to help me fall asleep.)

I also picked up the latest installment of the art theory and criticism journal "October," looking forward to Rosalind Krauss' Sol leWitt tribute/investigation. The rest of the issue is related to Vertov, and I'd be a lame-o poser if I tried to pretend I was some kind of know-it-all Vertov enthusiast so that bit while intersting was a little wasted on me. The Krauss was good, dense, and interesting, as is, if you really want to get your nerd on, the Jeff Wall article in the most recent issue of "Afterall."

And a few oldies, newies, and in-betweenies that I liked/disliked that you might want to see/avoid:

Blame it on Fidel Thumbs-up
Transformers Thumbs-down, unfortunately :(
Mighty Heart Thumbs-in-between
The Chorus (French) Thumbs-up
Elizabeth (the newest) Thumbs-in-between
The Lives of Others Thumbs-way-up!

And I saw this ages ago, but if you haven't sent Kolya you should see it. You should rent it for Thanksgiving, and make your relatives suffer through it. That or Goodbye Lenin

Gobble gobble
xo r

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