Townhouse Books

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Big Over Easy: Jasper Fforde

Jasper Fforde is a nut. He writes science fiction police procedurals -- his first series concentrates on the overlap between literature and reality, and this book is the first in a series of Nursery Rhyme crimes. His stuff is funny, especially if you like absurd situational humor, obscure llterary references, and characters with punny names.

The idea is that the Nursery Crimes Division is a not-well-understood department in the British police force. Detective Inspector Jack Spratt is in charge, assisted by Sergeant Mary Mary. In Fforde's slightly-alternate reality, police work is judged by the success of write-ups in the Amazing Crimes detective magazine. None of the Nursery Crimes are ever featured, so DI Spratt toils on in obscurity. The Humpty Dumpty murder investigation is his big chance to earn membership in the Guild of Detectives. This one dragged a bit, and covered so many nursery rhymes that it's hard to imagine how he'll write another installment.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America: by Barbara Ehrenreich

I am really glad I read this book.

I remember listening the news in Rhode Island a few years ago and hearing then say that (something like) 70% of people in the Rhode Island homeless shelters had jobs. This book, where Barbara Ehrenreich goes to different cities and tries to find housing, live on minimum wage jobs, and make ends meet, exposes the "invisible" poor, who have little mobility, few safety nets, and suppressed expectations. For example, one waitress working with Ehrenreich is thrilled when the manager allows her to park her car, which doubles as her house, in the restaurant lot overnight. It's a safer location that other places she parks, but now she can't seek out a better paying job for fear of losing nighttime parking. Another interesting point is that people hired for jobs in Wal-Mart and such are slid through the process so seamlessly from dropping off the application to orientation, etc., that there is no point at which someone says "you're hired," and subsequently no point at which it seems appropriate to negotiate. It's not as though I grew up in a wealthy family or anything, but I haven't experienced this day-to-day struggle either. This book was incredibly eye opening to me. I'll never look at Merry Maids the same way again.

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A Confederacy of Dunces: by John Kennedy Toole

Couldn't get through it. I got about half way and then skipped to the end and read the final few chapters. Time and time again I thought maybe I should be laughing at parts, but they all just felt kind of sad I guess.

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Never let me go: Kazuo Ishiguro



I enjoyed this book. It reminded me of Oryx and Crake, and Children of Men. A dystopian future as told by a pybar. The first person narrative lends itself to an intimate view of the main character's life. The only thing is you feel like she is leading you to a grander revelation than there actually is. Although in one sense that leads to a more fulfilling yank at the end. The reader is left feeling incomplete, which may be the point. Definitely something to think about, although I wouldn't dwell on the technical aspects of the underlying story.

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