Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Books of the year 2010

No, I'm not going to list them all here, but if you are interested in some of my favorites, click here to visit the NPR podcast area where you can easily download my appearance on this morning's Your Call Show.

In addition to highlighting some of my picks, callers were plenty, offering up both book suggestions, as well as giving big audio hugs to their favorite independent bookstores in the Bay Area. Lots of love from the Santa Cruz area, by the way. . .

Thanks Rose, and KALW, for having me on; and thanks also to Rachel from Booksmith for joining me on the show, and for trying to get a word in edgewise - there was soooooo much to talk about!

~Have a very merry one, and we'll see you in 2011~


Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Carols

Chistmas Carols are proven to increase jolliness. I just made that up. Furthermore, R. Kelly's new album is great and the Christmas remix of the title track totally makes it even more worth bringing home to your family and playing again and again. Buy it from us!

Does anyone know any good Christmas rap music?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The best books I read this year

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Nina

Being prompted to choose favorites can sometimes be an annoying experience. It reminds me of the save-or-kill scenarios that people sometimes bring up, e.g. "If you were on a crashing plane with your mother and father and there was only one parachute to save one of their lives, who would you give it to?". Considering my rather confused sense of morals I usually don't participate in such mind games or arbitrarily and generously respond, "He who has not made peace with the Lord must live another day". This time around though, when asked to select my two most beloved books of 2010, it was easy to comply and I left the Lord out of it, too. See below my shelf talkers for two literary gems I'll always hold dear to my heart:

Dolly City by Orly Castel-Bloom

If I had written this book, I'd be so purged of all the vile filth festering in my mind, that I'd bake wondrous pastries for strangers out of pure saintly impulse. That's how satisfyingly sadistic Castel-Bloom's little masterpiece is. Gratuitously violent isn't a sufficient tag, as this story is also a finely crafted satire of statehood (Israel) and the art of mothering (fucking up) a child. Orly, you're my new favorite matriarch and I'd light your cigar for you anytime.
(Dolly City was also described as the "the most important Israeli novel of the last four decades" by Tablet's Liel Leibovitz)

Heartsnatcher by Boris Vian
This is a queer, cockeyed dog of a novel. In it, horses are crucified for their unwholesome sexual appetites, the elderly are auctioned off for the young to abuse and farm animals get days off. Prominently featured, too, is one of my favorite character types, the overbearing and reliably psychotic mother. For a taste of Vian's comedic skill, read pages 58-59, starting with "Vulgar, vulturous, vulpine villagers!"
(Boris Vian had a particularly interesting life. He was a Jazz trumpeter, film actor, author, playwright, cabaret singer, translator, record company executive and Transcendent Satrap of the College de Pataphysique. The man also had a heart condition and, to make up for the lost hours anticipated by an early death, hardly ever slept. He calculated that at the age of 40, he would have lived as long as someone 102 years old who had slept normally. He died in 1959, aged 39, watching a film version of his satirical erotic novel, J'irai cracher sur vos tombes (I Spit on Your Grave), of which he strongly disapproved.)