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Barely Making a Dent: February 2017 Books



In which our narrator tries to read his way through the endless stacks of books that are slowly overtaking both his bookshelves and his life.

My politics-induced malaise has not only made writing difficult lately, but it's also slowed my reading. I've been so worn out from reacting to the constant stream of insanity flowing out of the White House that I can't seem to muster the energy to read much in one sitting lately. This means I'm progressing at a snail's pace through the one novel that I'm reading now...

Currently reading

Moonglow, by Michael Chabon. I'm about a third of the way through Chabon's new novel. He's most likely my favorite novelist, so it disappoints to admit this, but so far Moonglow hasn't hooked me. That said, it's still filled with passages and even sentences that absolutely sing, in that way that Chabon has of making words strung together seem infinitely more meaningful and beautiful than you'd ever thought they could be. So while I feel like the story, which is one of "truth and lies" as the publisher's website tells us, is meandering along, I'm still enjoying myself when I can find the time to read it. At this stage I'm not expecting it to rank with my favorite novels of his (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Wonder Boys, and The Yiddish Policeman's Union), but I still have plenty to go and I expect Chabon will work some more of his literary magic on me as things progress.

Interestingly, my wife is currently reading Kavalier & Clay for the first time. I read it when it came out, sixteen or seventeen years ago, and have reread a few more times since. I'm a crazy fan of that book and can barely be subjective about it; I unabashedly love it. She's nearly done and has enjoyed it overall, but feels it drags in spots (sure, I'll concede that), and a lot of the comic book references are lost on her (I've offered to help with that but then I go off on tangents about obscure creators or characters and I see her attention wander...). Nonetheless, I'm thrilled that she's finally reading it, so we can discuss it. There's nothing better than critically discussing a book with someone else who's read it.


The Fantastic Four, by John Byrne. It's Byrne, it's 1980s Marvel, and it's the Thing shouting "It's clobbering time!" at least once an issue. It's a truly auteur work in the field of mainstream comics, with Byrne plotting, scripting, and illustrating his entire lengthy run on Marvel's first family. I owned some of these issues as a kid but this is my first full read-through of Byrne's five years on the book. I was never the biggest Fantastic Four fan but that's all changed in recent years. I adore them now, and even like to jokingly refer to my own family as the Fantastic Four. We have two women in our group, which makes my wife Sue Storm the matriarch and my daughter the fierce and funny She-Hulk. My son's named Benjamin and he certainly likes to clobber things, so he's got to be the Thing. I'm Reed Richards all the way, graying hair and all.

That noise you hear? Don't be concerned, it's just the nerd alarm. It's stuck in on the on position after that excessive bit of nerdery.

Recently and not-so-recently acquired

Pleasure  and Pain: My Life, by Chrissy Amphlett, with Larry Writer (that has to be a pen name, right?). For years whenever "I Touch Myself" came on the radio I used to tell anyone who would listen that not only was that a great song but the Divinyls were a killer band for a while. Sure, I didn't know a lot of their music but what I knew rocked. Then, when recently writing about a moment in time that will forever be linked to the Divinyls' biggest hit single, my interest in the late Chrissy Amphlett and her band was reignited. I've been discovering songs of theirs I never knew before and blasting their music on a regular basis. Our kids seem to be fans, which warms my heart. And before you ask, no, I haven't played them "I Touch Myself" yet. Itching to know more about Amphlett, I found her autobiography on eBay for a song. The book was published a few years before Amphlett passed away from cancer in 2013, at the terribly young age of 53. She was, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most unique and electric singers I've ever heard. I've sampled the first few pages and it's clear that her prose writing is just like her songwriting: brutally honest, defiant, and witty.

1984, by George Orwell. This is an old copy that I pulled off the shelf recently and set aside, to possibly read in the coming months. Gee, I wonder why? The book seems eerily prescient these days, doesn't it?

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