Book Club: need suggestions for our May book

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by kholmes, Apr 25, 2009.

  1. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    I've been derelict in my duties. Time to make suggestions for our May book. I'll throw Q&A back into the vote, since I finally got it from the libary.

    Tomorrow, I'll post our discussion thread on Queen of the Road, our April book. I'm almost done reading it.

    Hope everyone is having a good weekend. Beautiful warm, spring weather in Albuquerque.

  2. gapsych

    gapsych New Member

    I just went to Barnes and Nobel with my sister and found two books. Disclaimer, I have not read them.

    The first was "Everything Hurts" by Bill Scheft

    Since you have to have to have an account with the NY Times to access the review and some may not want to take the trouble to do that, I have pasted it below. Warning, it is long. I also wonder if the fact the book deals with physical pain the author has had in real life, might bee offputting to some people on this board. On the other hand, it might be a good conversation starter.

    I will do the second book in another post. I need a nap. gap

    April 16, 2009
    Books of The Times
    Who (Besides Himself) Can Help a Self-Help Guru?
    Skip to next paragraph

    By Bill Scheft

    275 pages. Simon & Schuster. $24.
    The seminal event in Bill Scheft’s third comic novel, “Everything Hurts,” occurs “two years after souls had gorged themselves on chicken soup, two years before the same souls would stop sweating the small stuff while wondering who moved their cheese.” The year is 1995, and the self-help book craze is in full swing. Phil Camp, this novel’s perpetually achy hero, decides to write his own self-help book as both a joke and a means of paying alimony. He is getting over a marriage that “lasted three years, which apparently is as long as it takes to convince the average woman that you’re not kidding when you say you don’t want kids.”

    Phil uses the nom-de-guru Marty Fleck to write a parody called “Where Can I Stow My Baggage?” Among its chapter headings: “How Much Baggage Will I Claim?” and “Anything Else to Declare?” The book is an exercise in cynicism, but it’s just dopey enough to become a big hit, thanks especially to its author’s gift for bite-size oversimplifications. “Marty Fleck reduced childhood to ‘Yes or no: My mother wasn’t my type,’ ” Mr. Scheft writes.

    So far, so good: the self-help field is a satisfying target. Even better: Mr. Scheft throws right-wing talk radio into his story. Phil has a half-brother, Jim McManus, a “conservative radio gasbag” who has been addicted to painkillers. Since it is usual for a roman à clef to drop the real names of its targets in passing, Jim is said to be “a voice of almost-reason in a forest of Limbaughs.” Jim is also an ex-football player worth comparing to Tom Brady, which makes him by far the better physical specimen in the family. Jim and Phil don’t get along.

    Now comes the part about pain. By 2004, after writing a Marty Fleck advice column for years, Phil has developed a prostate problem and an aching back. Such complaints give “Everything Hurts” an old-guy spirit even if its 46-year-old main character isn’t all that ancient.

    For instance the combined effects of his physical problems keep him constantly hobbling toward bathrooms. (“Again?” he imagines people sitting behind him at ballgames or movies saying irritably. “Maybe that’s why he’s limping.”)

    Physical misery eventually sends Phil into the clutches of exactly the kind of person he wanted to skewer: a self-help author. He winds up amid the cult followers of a book called “The Power of ‘Ow!’ ”

    The many mordant one-liners in “Everything Hurts” underscore that Mr. Scheft is a skillful television comedy writer who can find laughs in unlikely situations. The less funny use of Phil’s back pain as a plot point is, sure enough, autobiographical. (“Count the doctors, win a prize!” he writes about the long list of people thanked in this book’s acknowledgments.)

    And the ability to set up comic ingredients better than he throws them together seems to be true of Mr. Scheft’s books generally. His previous baby-boomer comedy, “Time Won’t Let Me,” was at its best in its early stages, establishing its premise about a garage band forced to reunite — about 30 years too late.

    Like Peter Lefcourt (“The Deal,” “The Dreyfus Affair”), another high-concept humorist with show-business flair (Mr. Lefcourt is a screenwriter), Mr. Scheft has a gift for guy-minded grousing. So “Everything Hurts” enjoys wallowing in Phil’s suffering. (“It had been, as bouts of hysterical paralysis go, a productive four hours on the floor for Phil.”) It fumes about Dr. Samuel Abrun, the “Ow!” king, who is a doctor to patients who shuffle into his office “in a variety of pretzel shapes” and is their last best hope for recovery. “You either accepted his diagnosis,” Mr. Scheft writes, “or you moved along to the doctors uptown with the transparent nail polish and the unnecessary surgery.”

    How do all these elements, and Phil’s romance with Dr. Abrun’s daughter, manage to gel? They don’t; “Everything Hurts” is cheerfully messy. Marty Fleck is a mixed blessing. Phil’s prostate wears out its welcome. And the story risks veering toward sentimentality in its later stages.

    At least Phil gets the chance to wonder whether he is the first Jew ever to be compared to Hitler by his own brother (Jim McManus’s radio show uses Marty Fleck as a punching bag) before a spirit of reconciliation takes over. It may be warmly satisfying for Phil but it’s far less so for Mr. Scheft’s readers when the brothers reach the Erich Segal part of their relationship and hit a love-means-never-having-to-say-you’re-sorry note.

    Mr. Scheft achieves what is doubtless his desired effect by making Phil the most appealing part of a novel that seems to be autobiographical. After all, Phil is a guy whose exercise routine on his Nordic Track machine takes an extra five minutes “to remove all the clothes hanging on it.” Phil, in his Marty Fleck professional guise, can write: “Author’s note to self: find out if one can be sued for plagiarizing a fortune cookie.”

    Phil likes sports, is full of grumpy bonhomie and even knows his way around a newspaper, where a man of 62 is “114 in newsroom years” and “manual-typewriter reliable with his litigation-eligible remarks.” This is enough of an old-guy book to really relish its old-timers.

    [This Message was Edited on 04/25/2009]
  3. gapsych

    gapsych New Member

    You can read the review on Amazon, however I wasn't that impressed. Seems a bit too sentimental for my taste, but thought I would mention it as a candidate. Plus it makes sixty years old seem, well, old, meaning it is the time of life to settle down and wait for your death.

    It sounds like the author's vision of the age sixty does not match mine and I am sixty!! Sixty is the new 45, LOL!!!

    My opinion but other's may have a different take on the Book Review.
    [This Message was Edited on 04/25/2009]
  4. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    I'll add it to the vote. Too tired this evening to look into it, but I will tomorrow! I like your "sixty is the new 45." The way I feel tonight, 43 is the new 80. ;)

    I also wanted to add "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" to the vote. I'm #11 on the hold list, so not sure how soon I'll get it, but a friend is reading it and recommended it to me.

    Rock: I read quite a bit of the Christopher Plummer book. His account of filming the Sound of Music ("S&M") gazebo scene was hilarious.

  5. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    Yes, the bageezbo scene reminded me of those outtakes and blooper shows.
    You can find some on Youtube. Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman breaking up, e.g.

    Well, I recently finished an autobiographical book by a drug addict; a book of letters
    written by Civil War soldiers; an Uncle Scrooge anthology; and an old book by
    Jonathan Kellerman. Also finished a heavy book (in terms of weight) on the first
    100 years of the movies.

    Am reading a book on ancient animals and a heart-warming Christmas story. I'm
    beginning to suspect the latter is not worth finishing.

    Alas, I fear none of the above would be a really good book of the month. Two of
    the books I read, Ken, had questions in the back for book clubs. Not so good
    as yours though. (One of them was Queen of the Road.)

    Am about to start a fantasy by Terry Brooks. Not only an author, but previously the
    manager of one of my favorite singers John Gary. ("In those days we had voices.")

    Gap, if that review were any longer, there'd be no need to read the book. Anyway it
    sounds interesting to me.

  6. gapsych

    gapsych New Member

    Didn't I tell you that if someone asks me the time, I tell them how a clock works?

    I chose this one since it was especially long. It spoke to my inner self, my humanness, plus it was the first one I saw, LOL!!

    I am still upset about not getting any money for my answering your question. Please take pity as it is the end of the month. My children will starve despite the fact that they make more money than I do and don't live with me.

    Don't feel guilty. Maybe I will at least lose some weight from not eating.


  7. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    Rock: What was the book on the first 100 years of the movies that you read?
  8. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    Ken, the author of the film books is Jeanine Bassinger, Professor at Wesleyan
    University. Looks like a character actor: older, plump, aunt or grandmother.
    She has written ten books on film. A wonderful author

    I tried to get the exact titles from the www and from the LA Library. Could't do
    it. Anyway the first book I read had a title like "The Star Machine". the second
    was something like "100 Years of Film".

    The first had more depth. The second had more span. Haha

    OH, yeah, I meant to say earlier that you are not derelict in your duties. Always happy
    when you feel well enough to post.

    Thank you for telling me not to feel guilty, Gap. Happy to report I don't. I thought
    the offer of a drink would suit you to a "T".

  9. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    Any more suggestions for our vote?
  10. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    Can't think of anything, Ken.

    I read a lot of thrillers, but doubt that many folks here want to do that.
    Kawinkadinkally, I am reading two historical thrillers right now. Both set in
    England. One in the 20s and one in 1902.

    Oh, wait a minute. The 1902 one is in Vienna. Although the cover illustration
    looked more like Venice. Well, I am easily confusiated these days.

    Somebody mentioned Amy Sedaris recently. Was it on a book club thread?
    I read a couple books by her brother David. I have one called Wigfield by Amy
    on hold.

    Wigfield is a small town. Speaking of which, anyone know a good place to move?
    Loved the trip to Tombstone, AZ last October. But when I looked at AZ and New
    Mexico, it seems the top half is too cold and the bottom half too hot.

    Thought about Missouri, the gateway to the West. Some of our posters live there.
    But I read they had 90 tornadoes in a recent year. Dorothy had a soft landing,
    but in real life one might not.

    I used to live in Ventura, CA. It's between LA and Santa Barbara. But the small
    town around there are 70 to 90% Latino. I only know menu Spanish.

    Well, looking at towns on the net gives me something to do when I'm not sleeping
    at night.

  11. gapsych

    gapsych New Member

    Okay, I am officially brain dead but I read a book a couple of years ago which deals with the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. Absolutely fascinating.

    At the same time there was a serial killer on the loose.

    This is a true story and was suppose to be made into a movie. They even have a tour bus in Chicago of the two events.

    There's all sorts of trivia in the book such as Walk Disney's father built many of the entertainment booths which were considered a "lower" form of entertainment.

    I think the world's first or largest Ferris wheel was also built for the fair. While building the fair, the workers had to literally fill in a swamp.

    If some one knows the title of this book, please take pity on this addled mind.

    I'm not necessarily nominating the book for May but it is a great read.

  12. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    Gap: Murder in the White City? I read that a while back. Thought it was excellent. The history of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair was just as interesting, if not moreso, than the actual murders.

    Rock: You and Gordon thinking about moving? If you don't mind Mormons, Salt Lake City or environs looks like a good place to live. How about Austin, Texas? Great climate, lots of culture.
  13. Pippi1313

    Pippi1313 New Member

    The book club sounds very interesting!

    I also read that one about the serial killer & the Chicago worlds' fair. I liked that, but I read it a long time ago & wouldn't mind reading it again.

    Hey, Rock. I love living in my city & would reccomend it to ya, but it's so steamy & sultry here from late April to early October, y'all might mildew! LOL!
  14. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    Don't recall any book about the world's fair and a serial killer, Gap. Yes, the ferris wheel was named after its inventor and the 1893 fair wheel was the first. It was huge. Tall as a

    I read somewhere (Wikipedia?) that the wheel was used again in St. Louis. As in
    Meet Me in St. Louis, Judy Garland.

    Judy Garland was also from Minnesota. And, speaking of steamy and sultry, Pippi, so
    was Jane Russell. And so was Garrison Keillor.

    I am reading his book "Liberty" now. It is one of his best. I don't think we've ever had
    one of his books as our b. of the m.

    I recommend WLT: A Radio Romance. It's about the early days of radio.

    I used to listen to radio programs like the ones he describes on the radio in my dad's
    restaurant. They were only on during the day. First came the theme song: Hello, Every-
    body, Hello. (I think Halo shampoo used to same tune years later.)

    And then there'd by the farm report: Wheat is down, hog bellies are up. And the
    weather: continued cold and more snow.

    And then Audrey Bigalk would sing "Redwing".

    Then the band would play. Musta been 4 or 5 instruments. They only played
    cowboy songs, Norwegians polkas, sentimental favorites. Then there would be
    feeble applause. Probably only 6 or 7 people in the studio.

    Even as a child I appreciated the fine arts and was already a critic. I thought no applause would be better than this limp attempt.

    It helps to be Minnesotan and Lutheran to read Keillor, but it's not essential. Just being
    human is enough.

    Ken, in our house we had several books by foreign writers including Balzak, Chaucer,
    de Maupassant, Stendhal. I didn't like any of them. Of course I was much too young.
    But when I looked at them again as an adult, I still didn't like them. Probably because of
    the time when they wrote rather than because of their foreignness.

    Wildlife report: just had a possum at the front door. Looking for water and cat kibble.
    I put some out. Last night I was reading a Smithsonian book on the history of comic
    books. The early Pogo the Possum had a pointed snout. Did not look anything like
    the famous cartoon character of a few years later.

    Pogo was born about the same time I was. He has kept his looks better. Haha!

    Ken, I wouldn't move to Utah or Texas. Was just reading about Garrison's recent visit
    to Texas to speak at a church. he said when he walked in he was accosted by burly
    security men who warned him that this was a Bush church and told him not to
    discuss politics.

    So once again we see that diverse topics (Bush, Garland, marsupials, comic books and
    religion) are all connected. Connected by what? Me. Haha!

    No, Gordon and I are not thinking of moving, but I am. He is 60, and figures he cannot
    get another job. He wants to wait and move after he retires.

    I am 9 years older and figure I'll be dead by the time he retires. So I'd like to move to
    a small town and modify our relationship to e mails and visits. LA was nice when I
    move here 40 years ago, but now I hate it.

    That's all for this chapter.

  15. gapsych

    gapsych New Member

    Thanks!! It is "Devil In The White City". I also found the World's Fair more interesting than the serial killings. But it did add something to the book.

    I should put on my detective's hat and see if I can find out if they are going to make a movie. I would think a movie would dwell on the murders as it would be hard to show all the interesting background.

    Hey Rock, I want to move to the LA area someday. I lived there as a child. Do you know somewhere cheap to live? Is that an oxymoron?

  16. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    Well, you can buy cheap houses in small towns. Often for under $100,000.

    This is generally a more suitable plan for retired folks like me, since jobs are
    often scarce in these little town.

    I don't think there are any cheap places to live in southern CA unless you go
    out in the desert. When I moved here 40 years ago I rented a brick duplex half
    a block from the beach in Ventura. $150 a month; furnished. What would it be
    now? Ten times that much? Probably more.

    I have been looking on the net at small towns in northern CA. I don't want to go
    back to those fierce winters I knew as a kid. Some places in n. Ca only get two
    inches of snow all winter. I could probably tolerate that.

    Where did you live? Wherever it was, it's probably changed a good deal.

    An oxymoron, by the way, is a contradiction. Like Rush Limburger, the oxy addict,
    castigating drug addicts on his show.

    Red Bluff, CA sounds nice. A little south of Redding. Pop 20,000 or 26,000 depending
    on which site you read.

    We are all nomads in this life. Some just go farther and faster.


  17. gapsych

    gapsych New Member

    I lived in the LA area when I was eight until twelve. I always thought I would be discovered by some Hollywood Agent.

    Right before I got sick I was going to take a job in Pasadena and they offered me a $10,000 bonus if I stayed there three years. At the time they were doing this around the state for teacher's certified in math, sciences and special education. Because of the economy in California, I doubt that school districts are still doing this.

    My daughter, moved out there 10 years ago and she lived in West Hollywood in the cutest little bungalow Cute until I found out how much they pay in rent.

    She just got married and she and her husband bought a home in East LA (?). All I know is that you can see the Griffith Observatory from their back yard but I don't think that pins down their location. If you go to google maps and type in her address you can virtually go down the street where she lives. I have not seen their new place but will this summer.

    Now don't hold me to any of the locations above. Everything in front of me is north. I need a personal GPS.

    Have you googled Places Rated(?) where you can type in what you are looking for in a town and it spits out several places?

  18. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    All the places I'd like to live are so expensive. Here in New Mexico, I'd consider a move to Santa Fe, but homes aren't affordable there anymore. In Ca, Shasta is extrememly beautiful but very new-agey, and probably very expensive. I would love to live in Ashland, Oregon, too, but it probably costs a fortune to live there as well. Ashland is probably my favorite town on the west coast. Also love Bellhingham, Washington, way up on the coast near Vancouver, but it gets that cold, dreary Seattle weather. Sounds like you're thinking about going through a big change? I hope you are doing okay, my friend, and Gordon, too.

    Gap: it's fun to look at satellite images of towns and neighborhoods. My uncle and aunt live in Pasadena, and I found their home on Google Earth. It feels a bit voyeuristic to look down on somebody's house, but it's fun to do. A $10,000 bonus if you stayed in Pasadena? I've never gotten a teaching offer like that. LOL.
  19. gapsych

    gapsych New Member

    When I googled my daughter's address, the results were from the perspective of someone walking down the street. It starts with the front of her house and you can move around the neighborhood.

    I think this must be a new feature. Out of curiosity, I looked up the address of a former boyfriend in Houston and it gave me the same kind of image. It made me feel like a stalker, but I do not look like Glenn Close.

    I could only the images from above with places in Chicago. You would think that by the time they get the virtual walking pictures/video online, the neighborhoods would be changed.

    I wonder who goes around taking these pictures or videos. I'll have to go ask the guy who is lurking down by my corner with his camcorder, if that is what he is doing.

    [<i>This Message was Edited on 05/05/2009</i>]
    [This Message was Edited on 05/05/2009]

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