Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Update

Hello, fun seekers! I was socked out with some sort of nasty bug last weekend, but I'm feeling much better now and am having a good week. I hope you are, too.

I went to the library yesterday to return some books and somehow found myself in the Friends' of the Library bookstore. Weird, huh? I browsed for a bit, and pulled down The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson to possibly buy. To my surprise, the gentleman standing next to me looked at me, looked at the book, and told me that he was a high school librarian, reading it right now, and finding it hard to get through. The story is good, he said, but it's written in period language and he thought it was kind of a slog to read. Not having much interest in slogging through reading for pleasure, I thanked him for his advice and put it back on the shelf. (Anyone read this one and want to weigh in? Is it worth reading? Is it a slog?)

A few minutes later, as I was thinking about leaving the store without buying anything (a horrifying thought, I know), he tapped me on the shoulder and handed me The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. It's great, he said, and if you are looking for some interesting YA, this was one of the best he'd read recently. Then we had a conversation about YA dystopian fiction - how much of it there seems to be right now, and I recommended he read The Hunger Games. You just have to love conversations with random strangers about good books to read! Especially when it's two adults talking about the best young adult books out right now.

In other fun news, Things from Another World has some deals now I thought I'd share with you.

Free Domestic Shipping on $30+ IN-STOCK ORDERS
Coupon Code: DOGDAYS
Ends 08/31/09

10% Off IN-STOCK ORDERS Over $50
Coupon Code: SCORCHER
Ends 08/31/09

Personally, I have my eye on the Serenity: Those Left Behind Trade Paperback. I suggest we all stock up on some comic books to read during August. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Review: Dead Until Dark, Living Dead in Dallas, and Club Dead (Sookie Stackhouse novels 1-3)

My husband and I have been watching True Blood since it started and, when it first came out, he bought all of the books the series is based on. Known as either the Sookie Stackhouse novels or the Southern Vampire Mysteries, the books, like the show, are set in a world were vampires are real and out in the world, and star Sookie, a petite, blonde waitress with the ability to read humans' thoughts. My husband read the books right away, but I resisted, as I was not sure that I would enjoy them, having already gotten to know the characters via TV. Eventually, though, I caved, and have been reading them in quick succession. They are pretty easy reading, and don't take too long to get through.

In the first book, Sookie meets Bill, the first vampire to move to Bon Temps, the small Louisiana town she lives in. He's from Bon Temps, too, but left after becoming a vampire after the Civil War. Sookie falls for him, hard, after she realizes she can't hear him think, which is a nice change for her. Then dead girls start showing up around Bon Temps, and while some people want to blame the vamps, Sookie knows Bill wouldn't do such a thing. So she starts listening in on customers at her bar, trying to figure out who did it, before she's next. Dead Until Dark is a really fun way to kick off this series, and definitely made me eager to read the rest.

In Living Dead in Dallas, Sookie is attacked by a mysterious supernatural creature, and her co-worker is murdered . But before she can do anything about either of these issues, she and Bill are hired out by Eric, Bill's boss, to vampires in Dallas to search for a missing vampire. There, she gets tangled in the snare of an anti-vampire church, the Fellowship of the Light, and discovers just how many other supernatural beings there are who might want to take a bite out of her. This book was a little disjointed to me, as there were two different storylines (one in Bon Temps and one in Dallas) with nothing much to tie the two together. But it was still a lot of fun to read.

In Club Dead, Bill messes up, big time, so Eric sends Sookie to Jackson to look for him, under the care of a werewolf named Alcide. As it says on the back of the book, "when Sookie finally finds Bill - caught in an act of serious betrayal - she's not sure whether to save him...or sharpen some stakes." I really liked the complications the new characters and situations brought to this book, and I thought it was a good story.

The inevitable question, of course is: how do the books stack up against the TV show (or vice versa)? Normally I much prefer the book over the movie/TV show made from it. In this case, though, I'm not so sure. I like them both, a lot. For one thing, while the first season of True Blood was based on Dead Until Dark, and so far, the second season is based on Living Dead in Dallas, the books have almost as many differences from the show as they do similarities. Its a little bit like trying to compare apples and, well, maybe not oranges, but pears, at least. So its easier to keep them separate and enjoy each for what they are. Plus, this doesn't hurt:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Happy (Early) Birthday, Ray Bradbury!

Years ago, I lived in LA and drove up to the Bay Area every other weekend to see my (then) boyfriend (now husband). The only thing that made the trip bearable was listening to audiobooks. After listening to everything worthwhile at my very small, local library branch, I started to venture out to some of the larger libraries in the city to find books.

One random night, after work, I stopped by the Palms/Rancho Park branch to see what they had in stock. When I arrived at the library, I was surprised to find the parking lot packed, every light on and a big crowd inside, so I asked a librarian what was going on. Ray Bradury was there, giving a talk and signing books. There was no special occasion or reason why that I could see, he just liked to do this every now and again to support the library. (Donations were being accepted but otherwise there was no fee.) He was great to hear and the evening was just a real treat for me.

If you would like your chance to hear Mr. Bradbury speak, and support the library at the same time, he has several upcoming events going on in honor of his 88th birthday (which is actually on August 22). The LA Times blog Jack Copy has information for several Bradbury birthday events.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Review: Broken (Women of the Otherworld, Book 6)

The Women of the Otherworld series is interesting in that, while the stories build off of one another, they each focus on a different character and event. While the books should be read in order, they don't have to be, as each stands on its own pretty well. But, as I said in my review of the previous three books in the series (Dime Store Magic, Industrial Magic & Haunted), I was looking forward to reading Broken, as it returns the focus to Elena, my favorite character of the series.
Ever since she discovered she’s pregnant, Elena Michaels has been on edge. After all, she’s never heard of another living female werewolf, let alone one who’s given birth. But thankfully, her expertise is needed to retrieve a stolen letter allegedly written by Jack the Ripper. As a distraction, the job seems simple enough—only the letter contains a portal to Victorian London’s underworld, which Elena inadvertently triggers—unleashing a vicious killer and a pair of zombie thugs. Now Elena must find a way to seal the portal before the unwelcome visitors get what they’re looking for—which, for some unknown reason, is Elena.
There was one really stupid oversight on Elena's part that made me roll my eyes in this book (like when a character walks into an empty house alone during a movie, making you think they deserve to have the bad guy jump out of them if they are going to be that stupid). But otherwise, I got really into this book and read it very quickly, enjoying the mystery at the center of the plot, and enjoying reading the character dynamics even more. This was a very fun read, and confirmed for me that my favorite books in this series are the ones centering on Elena - Bitten, Stolen and, now, Broken.

Buy Broken (Women of the Otherworld, Book 6) on Amazon.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Literary Geek Meme

I've seen this meme in several places, but recently I was tagged for it on Facebook. I figured it was worth posting my answers here as well.

1) What author do you own the most books by?
Agatha Christie (see question #2) followed by Gary Gygax. (I married a nerd, what can I say?) Not counting my husband's books, I'd say my #2 is Margaret Frazer. I collect both of her series.

2) What book do you own the most copies of?
There are 80-something books in our LT library that we own multiple copies of. Some are actually multiple editions of the same book (mostly textbooks) but many are due to overlaps in my husband and I's taste. For example, we both collected Agatha Christie books for a while, so we have duplicates of almost all her books. And we don't get rid of anything.

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?

4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Edward Cullen. HA! Just kidding! Hell would freeze over first. I'm not secretly in love with anyone.

5) What book have you read the most times in your life?
Alanna by Tamora Pierce, probably. Or from the Chronicles of Narnia, The Horse and His Boy.

6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
See #5.

7) What is the worst book you've read in the past year?
I can't think of anything truly awful, really, that I finished. I did read Twilight and New Moon, which are terrible in some ways but impossible to put down. I did abandon two; Roanoke: A Novel of Elizabethan Intrigue by Margaret Lawrence comes to mind first.

8) What is the best book you've read in the past year?
Just one? Old Man's War was fantastic, as was Never Let Me Go. The Hunger Games was so much fun. The Mote in God's Eye was great.

9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
I don't think I would, but I have been encouraging (pushing) the books in #8 on my friends. I have also, in the past, recommended Ender's Gam and, more recently, Old Man's War to many people, including those who swear an aversion to sci-fi. That's just because you don't know what you are missing, people.
10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for literature?
Uh, someone smart? Ask my sister, she knows these kinds of things.

11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
I can't wait for the Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie to come out!

12) What book would you -least- like to see made into a movie?
Most of them, really. I'm usually very wary when my favorite books are made into movies.

13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
I can't think of any.

14) What is the most lowbrow book you've read as an adult?
There are too many to count: I have very lowbrow tastes. Hence all the SF, YA, murder mysteries, etc. I don't like Romance, though, usually, as I don't like reading about sex.

15) What is the most difficult book you've ever read?
In grad school, I read a fair amount of architectural and post-modern theory, most of which is pretty difficult to get through.

16) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
They're all pretty great, but I know Shakespeare best. Unless we're not talking about in translation, because there's no way I'm reading Middle English.

17) Austen or Eliot?
Who? Just kidding! Kind of. I've never read Austen and I've only read Eliot's poetry, so I'm not sure I can compare.

18) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
See #17, I guess.

19) What is your favorite novel?
Again, too many to name.

20) Play?
I'm more of a musical theatre gal, myself (I can pretty much sing Guys & Dolls, West Side Story and Oklahoma! in their entirety), so I don't feel qualified to answer.

21) Short story?
Is The Awakening by Kate Chopin a novella or short story?

22) Work of non-fiction?
Favorite? Its so hard to choose these things. I love a lot of non-fiction, actually. Kitchen Confidential, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman, The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan... I bet I could go on. (I just noticed - there sure are a lot of food books in there, and I didn't even include any cookbooks.)

23) Who is your favorite writer?
All this choosing! Who can decide? CS Lewis, Tamora Pierce, Scott Westerfeld, Agatha Christie, Margaret Frazer, Robert Heinlein, John Scalzi, etc.

24) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
I don't know. Stephanie Meyer?

25) What is your desert island book?
Probably something by Heinlein - before I started blogging, I tended to be a pretty big re-reader, and it was not uncommon for me to read Stranger in a Strange Land and Time Enough for Love every year.

26) And ... what are you reading right now?
The Book of Unholy Mischief: A Novel by Elle Newmark. Its quite good, so far.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a link to your answers in the comments.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Review: The 19th Wife

When The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff first came out and I started seeing reviews of it, I really wanted to read it - I just knew I would enjoy it. So I finally got around to it this weekend and I was right. This was a fascinating book. Told via a first person narrative, memoir and historical documents (all fictional, but based on real documents and people), it is the story of polygamy's origins and modern incarnation.

The first story is about Ann Eliza Young, a wife of Brigham Young, the prophet and leader of the Mormon Church. Flouting everything she has ever known, she leaves him and embarks on a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. The second narrative is the tale of murder involving a polygamist family in present-day Utah. Jordan Scott, a young man who was thrown out of his fundamentalist sect years earlier, reenters "the world that cast him aside in order to discover the truth behind his father’s death, and hopefully set his mother free."

I have not read much about polygamy (nor do I watch Big Love), so this was my first lengthy introduction to the subject. I am not a Mormon, but I thought that Ebershoff did a good job of balancing the facts of the role the church played in polygamy's history and the modern church's take on the subject (in a nutshell: No polygamy). I also appreciated his handling of the way that faith can play an important part of a person's life, even when the church is not. It is the history and the narrative that takes precedence here, though, not religion.

The 19th Wife is not a perfect book - it dragged at times, especially during the "historical documents," and there were moments where I wish Ebershoff had focused on one story or the other, rather than cutting between the two - but its a powerful one, and one that I had a hard time putting down. I highly recommend this book.

Buy The 19th Wife: A Novel on Amazon.
Visit the Author's website.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Review: Terra Insegura

A few weeks ago, I read and reviewed Marseguro by Edward Willett. Terra Insegura is the sequel.
Marseguro, a water world far from Earth, is home to a colony of humans and the Selkies, a water-dwelling race created from modified human DNA. For seventy years the colony has lived in peace. Then Earth discovers Marseguro, and a strike force is sent to eradicate this “abomination.” But Marseguro has created a genetically tailored plague to use against Earth’s Holy Warriors. With the enemy defeated, the people of Marseguro feel they are safe. But Chris Keating, the traitor who signaled Marseguro’s location to the Holy Warriors, has fled to Earth, unknowingly carrying the deadly plague within him. The people of Marseguro feel they must send a ship to Earth with a life-saving vaccine. Only time will tell what awaits them when they reach their destination.
This back-of-the-book description really only scratches the surface of what happens in this book, but it tells you everything you need to know about Marseguro to enjoy Terra Insegura. Otherwise, Terra Insegura stands on its own very well. In fact, for some, I think it will even compare more favorably, as it is a real action-packed science fiction novel, with a lot less of the back story and philosophizing found in Marseguro. This is not to say that the characters in Terra Insegura don't grapple with some weighty issues - they do, and how - but they are much too concerned with surviving to spend too much time talking about it.

My only quibble (because of course I always have a quibble) is that the author has a habit of taking a cliche, pointing out its a cliche and then doing the cliche anyway. I loved this the first time he did it.
"As you know, Captain-"
Richard sighed. "Please don't start your explanation like that, Smith. It makes me feel like I'm trapped in a bad adventure novel."
After the third time a cliche was turned on its head, though, I started to think that just because you're pointing out the cliche, it is still a cliche. You only get to use a few, so use them wisely.

That criticism is minor, though, and really did not detract from what was otherwise a very fun novel. Anyone who likes their science fiction fast and well-written will enjoy Terra Insegura.

Buy Terra Insegura on Amazon or read the first two chapters at the author's website.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday and Architecture Humor

Since it was a quiet book week for me (again), I thought I'd end the week on a light note instead.

A few items that caught my eye on the Fail blog recently:

Best Western Window Fail

There's actually, I think, no way this was a mistake. Windows take a lot of work to install - someone frames the window, someone else installs it, then someone else flashes around it, then a crew plastered the wall around it, finally someone painted the wall. So even though it looks like the window slid, that was someone's intention. Maybe there's a stair that was in the way?

This one, though... Yeah, I have no idea.

House Design Fail!

And here's an architecture cartoon, via my father-in-law.

Have a nice weekend! I'll be back on Monday with a new review for Terra Insegura, the sequel to Marseguro.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Julius Shulman (1910-2009)

Archinect is reporting that famed architectural photographer Julius Shulman passed away. If you've ever seen the famous photos of the Case Study Houses, like the one at left of #22 by Pierre Koenig, then you've seen his work.

Taschen sells these huge, limited edition portfolio's of Shulman's work. They look lovely, but for those of us without a $7,000 budget for one, Amazon has a pretty good selection of books by, and about, Julius Shulman. I think I'd start with A Constructed View: The Architectural Photography of Julius Shulman. Looks lovely.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

5 Memories of Italy

Inspired by reading Passeggiata (review) (and borrowing from the wonderful Lenore), I thought I would share a few memories of my own time in Italy (spent with my friend V while we were on break from a college semester in Denmark).

1. We headed to the Vatican once we got to Rome, wanting to see all the fabulous buildings we'd been studying. What we hadn't realized was that it was a Sunday and, not just any Sunday, but the celebration for Pope John Paul II's anniversary of being pope. St. Peter's Square was packed! It was - hands down - the largest Mass I've ever been to.

2. In Florence, we were walking along the Arno River, just enjoying the view, when an American couple stopped us and asked if we would take their photo. After chatting for a few moments, we discoverd that they knew my friend's family. The gentleman, in fact, was the mayor of the small southern town where V's aunt and uncle lived. Its a very small world.

3. V had never had gelato (Italian ice cream) before, so I insisted we have some as soon as we got to Florence. After that, we had it for lunch every day, it was so good.

4. Also in Florence, we stayed at a tiny little pensione, as the hostel was full. We had a small room with twin beds and a tiny private bathroom. The landlady at the pensione offered to find us more girls to share the room with (to save on money) but we declined and enjoyed the luxury of our bathroom for a few days. It turned out to be fine, though, as the pensione was inexpensive and, since it was closer to the city center than the hostel would have been, it saved us the time and cost of having to travel around the city.

5. At Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square) in Venice, we watched an Italian TV commercial being filmed. The star would walk through a gathering of pigeons, sending them all flying as he spoke into the camera. Everytime they did a retake, an assistant would run out and spread some bird seed, to get the pigeons to come back for the next shot.

I'd love to hear about some of your memories of travelling. Please share them in the comments.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Review: Passeggiata: Strolling Through Italy

Passeggiata: Strolling Through Italy by G. G. Husak is a travel memoir about the many trips to Italy taken by the author and her husband. She chronicles their visits to all the well-known places, including Rome, Florence, and Venice, as well as many smaller towns and out of the way locales. This is not a travel guide - you won't find any names for the hotels and restaurants she visits - but a first-hand account of what its like to visit a country often enough to begin to treat it like a second home.

There is a lot of charm to this book, and it made me want to pack my bags and plan a trip for Italy as soon as possible. I loved the chapters about places I've already been, as they reminded me of some great memories, and I loved the chapters about places I had only heard of, as they gave me a real sense of what it would be like to visit.

My strongest criticism is that this book could have used more editing. The book is arranged so that while many of the chapters focus on a single trip or location, several focus instead on a single topic, like art or music. This is a nice idea, but created a lot of repetition. For example, a description of the standing room audience at the famed La Scala opera house was included in the chapter on Milan and then again in the chapter on music. I just think this kind of repetition dragged the book out a bit.

Although I do think this book could have been even better, I thought Passeggiata was a delightful look at travelling Italy.

Buy Passeggiata: Strolling Through Italy on Amazon.

Friday, July 10, 2009

(Barely Still) Friday Update

My husband and I are at some friends' wedding this weekend and I'm just getting back to our hotel room from a fantastic night out. There's not much book news for me this week - I was too busy to do any shopping and the book fairy didn't bring me anything new - but I hope you all had a great week.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


I can't remember where I heard about this one (a book blog, I'm sure), but it sounds wonderful:

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
In 2019, humanity finally finds proof of extraterrestrial life when a listening post in Puerto Rico picks up exquisite singing from a planet which will come to be known as Rakhat. While United Nations diplomats endlessly debate a possible first contact mission, the Society of Jesus quietly organizes an eight-person scientific expedition of its own. What the Jesuits find is a world so beyond comprehension that it will lead them to question the meaning of being "human." When the lone survivor of the expedition, Emilio Sandoz, returns to Earth in 2059, he will try to explain what went wrong.

Via Archidose:

Three Little Pigs by Steven Guarnaccia starring piggy Le Corbusier, Frank Gehry and Frank Lloyd Wright. Its not on Amazon (yet!) but does seem to be available at Unica Home.

Update: Its now available on Amazon: The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Review: Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life

Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life by Roald Dahl is a collection of seven short stories written for adults, and originally published in magazines during the 40's. The stories are all centered on life in a country village, just after WWII, and follow the exploits of a small cast of characters. The star is Claud, a working class, good natured guy who is looking for an easy way to get ahead in life. Life in Dahl's stories can be sweet, but is just as frequently sour, and is always funny. If you've ever read Dahl's children's books to your kids and thought, This guy is weird and I love it, you'll get a kick out of Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life.

Buy Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life on Amazon.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bookish Stuff

Here are some book related links that caught my eye as I cleaned out my Reader this past weekend.

The Johnson County Library in Kansas had the Barkley Ad Agency whip up some snazzy courier trucks (pro-bono) to help promote the library, classic lit, and reading. [Via Nicolette Mason]

Awful Library Books is a collection of the worst library holdings. The items featured here are so old, obsolete, awful or just plain stupid that we are horrified that people might be actually checking these items out and depending on the information.

And my favorite - book art:

The work of Guy Laramee, including this fantastic sculpture of Petra.
[Via Jezebel]

Monday, July 6, 2009

Review: Never Let Me Go

There are a lot of really spoiler-y book reviews out there for Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. I will try very hard to not make this one of them. I was spoiled for this book and still thought it was incredibly powerful, but I think it would be even better to not know. So, what can I say that doesn't give too much away?

Set in England, Never Let Me Go is narrated by Kathy, a woman on the edge of a major life change, as she looks back on her past, especially her years at an exclusive boarding school with her friends Ruth and Tommy. The book builds up slowly. Kathy's story is mostly chronological, but she jumps around as memories come to her and we learn about where all three of them go as adults. As the story comes together, realization emerges of just who these people are and why they were at Hailsham.

This is an incredibly powerful book. I found it to be very moving and sad, but in a very subtle way. This isn't a weepy book, where I need to carry a box of Kleenex around with me while I read. Instead, I felt like a blanket of sadness was being pulled onto me, as I gradually realized the magnitude of Kathy's story. When the book was done, I put it down and sat quietly for a while, just absorbing what I'd read, and in the days since, I've thought about it several times. (This is actually my next book club book and I'm very disappointed that I will not be able to attend the meeting, as I would love to have a long conversation about Never Let Me Go with someone who's also read it.)

I highly recommend Never Let Me Go. It was one of the best books I've read so far this year, and will stay with me for a long time to come.

Buy Never Let Me Go on Amazon.

Never Let Me Go is by the author of Remains of the Day, and was a Man Booker Prize finalist.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Friday Update

I love four day work weeks! I wish every weekend was a three-day weekend. Since I also like paychecks, though, I don't think that's going to happen.

As I may have mentioned, my birthday was earlier this week. Thanks to my wonderful family, I got several new items for my library. My husband bought me some new books:

Broken (Book 6 of the Women of the Otherworld series I've previously reviewed.)

Time of Your Life (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, Vol. 4)

The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1) by Patrick Rothfuss (who, based on the photo on his site of him wearing a Serenity t-shirt and the reference to Angel in a post about Rome, would entirely approve of me reading Buffy comics and his book at the same time).

My parents (deciding that I own enough books, perhaps) went instead with a fancy new library accessory: a personalized book embosser to label all of my books.

We're off to the County Fair with friends today. I'm predicting several rides, looking at farm animals, and eating funnel cakes and corn dogs in my future. Happy 4th of July!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Birthday Giveaway Winner

Thanks for all your birthday well-wishes! From, here the giveaway entrants in random order:

1. Teresa
2. Lenore
3. Julie
4. Missy
5. Mari
6. shananaginsbooks
7. drey

Congratulations, Teresa! Please send me an email (lorin_arch (at) hotmail (dot) com) with your contact info.

Review: I Love It When You Talk Retro

Do you know what a Venn diagram is? It's the kind of diagram with two or more circles, showing overlap between different groups. If you were to draw one with pop culture history books (like Don't Know Much About History) in one circle and pop culture books about language (something along the lines of The Mother Tongue) in the other, right smack in the middle of the diagram would be I Love It When You Talk Retro by Ralph Keyes.

In this well-researched,well written book, Keyes examines (mostly) common phrases and words with (sometimes) forgotten origins. According to Keyes, retroterms are "verbal artifacts that hang around in our national conversation long after the topic they refer to has galloped into the sunset... To qualify as a retroterm, a word or phrase must be in current use it yet have an origin that isn't current."

I would argue that many of the words he writes about aren't as mysterious as he makes them out to be - most anyone who took a college lit class is going to know who Lolita is and what that term refers to. But early on in the book, Keyes makes the point that just because a term is familiar to one reader, another may have no idea what it means. For his example, he tells the story of George W. Bush's White House press secretary, Dana Perino, confessing that she didn't really know what the Cuban missile crisis referred to. Once I got over my shock that such a presumably well-educated woman wouldn't know her American political history very well, I took Keyes point, and tried to go with it, so to speak. (Still, I wish Keyes had included an explanation somewhere along the line of how he chose what words to include. I also speculated whether he is holding some back for a sequel.)

For each word or phrase, the author shares the term's meaning, its origin, and an example of its use. One of the more delightful things about reading this book now, is how recent many of these examples were. The 2008 Democratic primary of Clinton v. Obama is referenced several times, as are recent books and articles. While it does make me curious about how well this book will age, it serves to make I Love It When You Talk Retro an excellent read for this day and age.

While I read this book (which I checked out of my local library - the cover really grabbed me) cover to cover, I think most readers would prefer it as a browsing kind of book. Based on the number of times I found my husband reading it in 5-minute snatches, I think he would agree. The kind of history readers who prefer 900-page volumes on intricate scholarship will probably find this book too elementary, but more casual American history fans, and those with an interest in language, will get a real kick out of I Love It When You Talk Retro.

Buy I Love It When You Talk Retro: Hoochie Coochie, Double Whammy, Drop a Dime, and the Forgotten Origins of American Speech on Amazon.

Here's a good interview with Ralph Keyes at Jacket Copy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Architecture Links

Check out And the Pursuit of Happiness: Time Wastes Too Fast by Maira Kalman. Its a lovely sketchbook about her visit to Monticello. [via mental_floss]

Two cool stories from dornob:

Wooden Wonderland: Massive Lofted Treehouse Design

Ghost Buildings: Accidental Art of Demolished Architecture. Some of these images really remind me of the work of Gordon Matta-Clark.

A brief write-up about Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies by Reyner Banham at Curbed LA. One of my former sci_arc professors, Joe Day, wrote a forward for a new addition of the well-regarded book.