this week's review

Search amazon:




Enter keywords:

A small percentage
of each purchase
you make at via my recommendations
helps keep the
Picture of the Day alive.

Drop me a line to receive email when new reviews are posted:

Martin Amis
  • Time's Arrow
    I don't like to use terms like tour de force, but really there is no other description which comes to mind when considering Martin Amis's astounding book Time's Arrow. A story told in reverse, where effect is cause and cause effect. The simple premise of telling a story faithfully in reverse, starting with death and ending with birth, yields achingly poetic descriptions and opens a whole can of metaphysical worms. What's most amazing is the degree of suspense in wanting to know where the protagonist (a tragic figure) was before he got to where he ended up. This book will fascinate anyone who's ever run films in reverse for the pleasure of watching water run uphill and bullets being sucked into guns.

Charles Bukowski

  • Ham on Rye
    There is not a single mention of ham, rye, or ham on rye in this book, so if that's what you want, go to a deli. What you will find are autobiographical reminiscences dating from Bukowski's first memories when he was two or so in 1922 Germany to December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy due to Buk's stunning defeat at the hands of an 8-year-old Mexican boy. Is this fiction? It hardly seems so, but Bukowski himself reveals how he learned the secret after being praised for a 4th grade essay in which he imagined having gone to see President Hoover speak: "So, that'swhat they wanted: lies. Beautiful lies. That's what they needed. People were fools. It was going to be easy for me." Lies these may be, but it didn't seem easy for Bukowski. Growing up was a relentless sequence of beatings, humiliations, and hospitalization. His only solace: books and alcohol. Many of these episodes are related in his poetry (particularly in the posthumous collections) and it's interesting to note the factual consistency. The key difference is that the prose renditions are often laugh out loud funny. Grim situations are made humorous through understatement and blithe observation of human nature. It is art without artifice. Bukowski is just a guy who had the guts to be honest with himself and used words to understand and share his experience. Beautiful.
  • Post Office
    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.
    [ more by Bukowski ]
  • Women
    There's Lydia, Lilly, April, Dee Dee, Nicole, Mindy, and Laura. Joannna, Tammie, Mercedes, Liza, and the two German girls who drop in unannounced: Hilda and Gertrude. There's Cassie, Debra, Jessie, Iris, Valerie, Valencia, Sara, and Tonya. They are students, pick-ups, groupies, trueloves, and casual encounters--the women of the title....
    [ read full review ]

[ reviews of poetry by Bukowski ]

John Fante

  • Ask the Dust
    Add to the California canon of Fitzgerald, Waugh, and West this bitter and funny account of a neurotic up and coming author living in the moral squalor of 1930's Los Angeles. Our hero and narrator Arturo Bandini careens from atheist nonchalance to guilt-wracked Catholicism, delusions of grandeur to depths of self-loathing, from suave self-assurance with women to practical impotence as he struggles to find the inspiration to write and win the heart of a Mexican barmaid who he alternately loves and loathes. Fante was Bukowski's hero and it's easy to see why--his writing is direct, vivid, and self-deprecating, showing more imagination than his disciple (another L.A. writer), who provides a heartfelt but understated preface to the Black Sparrow edition.

Alan Lightman

  • Einstein's Dreams
    I used to assign this book to my English students because it's easily digestible standalone chapters made for easy and entertaining reading. It's also a tiny book, perfect for carrying in one's pocket for quick little impromptu reads at bus stops and bank lines. Framed as the dreams Einstein might have had while formulating his theory of relativity, the vignettes are as poetic and humane as they are philosophically intriguing. Lightman, a professor of physics at MIT, rifs on different possibilities of the structure of time by couching the mindbending postulations in mundane contexts, deftly balancing theoretical physics with human interest. More than an intellectual exercise, it is a strangely consoling book which calls into question our preconceptions of the inflexibility, linearity, and irreversibility of time. So much so that it's the one book I gave my mother when she was diagnosed with cancer.

Henry Miller

  • Opus Pistorum
    This is the book Miller wrote for an LA purveyor of smut in 1941 for a dollar per page. Originally, only five copies were made, handbound, and sold to top Hollywood producers. The epilogue, an affadvit sworn out by the book's sponsor, Martin Luboviski, in Paris in 1983 on the occasion of its first regular edition is an interesting footnote to Miller's literary career. The book itself is a paean to John Thursday, Miller's most notable protagonist and no doubt the guiding influence of much of his life and work. Predating Lolita by 14 years, the first few pages of Opus Pistorum (pidgin Latin for Miller's Work), while addressing similar May-September relations, makes Nabokov's masterpiece seem puritanical by comparison. There's no real story here, but each page thereafter is equally astounding, outrageous, and hilarious. I open it at random any time I'm looking for a laugh and/or cheap frisson. Recently reprinted as Under the Roofs of Paris, the card catalog description of this book is a hoot and, oddly, not too far from the truth. A must for Miller fans and for those seeking sexy textual thrills.

    Warning: contains language and adult situations

fiction | non-fiction | art | comix | poetry
© 1999 robert zverina