this week's review
December 15, 2000

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What I Read to Keep from Going Crazy in Y2K

My new year's resolution is to create books and make Picture of the Day my avocation. You, yes you, can make this dream a reality and help stave off the Reaper, for a day or two, by heeding my advice and buy-buy-buying these books (also available free at your local library) from the trusted and cherished website (by clicking through the numerous links on this page). I tell you this because I love you. If I don't, who will? The world is a cold and lonely place and it's only getting scarier, but books such as these can help you through a troubled night and make you wake up stronger.

O Holy Cow!: The Selected Verse of Phil Rizzuto
Phil "The Scooter" Rizzuto was shortstop during 1950's Yankees dynasty, later became "Voice of Yankees" on WPIX local NYC radio and TV stations. His was the fatherliness I never had in the home. This book is broadcast transcripts broken into linebreaks making true American poetry. Example:

...You know, it might,
It might sound corny.
But we have the most beautiful full moon tonight.
And the crowd,
Enjoying whatever is going on right now.
They say it might sound corny,
But to me it's some kind of a,
   Like an omen.

Both the moon and Thurman Munson,
Both ascending up into heaven.
I just can't get it out of my mind.
I just saw that full moon,
And it just reminded me of Thurman.
   And that's it.
August 6, 1979
Baltimore at New York
Ron Guidry pitching to Lee May
Fifth inning, bases empty, no outs
Orioles lead 1-0

With William Burroughs: A Report from the Bunker
"The Bunker" was the converted windowless YMCA shower room that was Burroughs's home when he lived in NYC from 1974 - 1980. This book collects conversations with his visitors during that time. I'm not the biggest fan of his fiction, but these interviews contain gobs of illuminating and spooky plainspeaking wisdom from the grand-daddy of the Beats.  

CASH: The Autobiography
Hello, this is Johnny Cash. I was most intrigued by his mystical experiences: the escape from suicide in a Tennessee cave, benign ghosts in Jamaica, and a startling encounter with a retarded Jewish boy in a NYC church. Less apologetic and born-again than his previous memoir, you're still not supposed to think he's a bad-ass after reading of his wild drinking, driving, and drugging exploits--but how could you not?

Post Office
by Mr. Charles Bukowski
An autobiographical novel by America's best writer detailing the 15 years or so he spent working for the US Postal Service. Drinking, screwing, and mail-sorting abound, described in an off-hand yet precise and hilarious style that makes most other writers read like puke. The description of the hospital birth of his illegitimate child is tragic in its simple adherence to the facts of bureaucratized miracles. Goes down quicker than a chiliburger and stays with you a lot longer. Also contains one of the best last lines of any novel ever. I also read:
Betting on the Muse
The Last Night of the Earth Poems
What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire
Love is a Dog from Hell
Play the Piano Drunk like a Percussion Instrument until...
South of No North
All of these are available as gorgeous Black Sparrow paperbacks.

Old Patagonian Express by Train through the Americas
by Mr. Paul Theroux
Theroux boards a commuter train in Boston, then transfers and switches his way all the way by passenger rail to southernmost Argentina. An enviable ride wittily and vividly described. Do you love the train? I do.

The Power Broker
by Mr. Robert Caro
When I was a child at Christmas riding in the back seat across one of New York's cheerily illuminated bridges I asked my parents why we had to pay tolls when it seemed likely that the bridge had already been paid for. Why I remember asking that I don't know, but I'm glad I do because here I am now 25 years later with the answer: Robert Moses, who for 40+ years almost singlehandedly shaped the face of New York City for better (nice beaches and parks) and worse (the LIE). Brilliant and ambitious, Moses's acquisition of power and the bad things he did with it is unlike anything I've read--except for Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, which details Hitler's backroom powergrabs and eventual undoing due to hubris, in much the same thoughtful and thorough manner.

A People's History of the United States: 1492 - Present
Howard Zinn
Wanna get depressed, indignant, and possibly radicalized? This well-documented and meticulously researched book replaces with plain facts the lies, myths, and propaganda that has for hundreds of years constituted "American history" as it has been recorded and taught in schools. They say history is written by the winners, and the winners since the time of Columbus's "discovery" of America have been members of a ruling elite (Columbus's patrons, British colonial governors, the founding fathers, robber barons, corporation boards, bootleggers and Bushes) who stole the land, plundered its resources, committed genocide, enslaved Africans, exploited workers, waged wars for profit, and kept the majority of the population off-balance, cowed, and disorganized through unjust laws, political deceit, and deadly force.

more soon - ask me what
also! why not buy nice xmas books for the kidz?

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