Chronic Absenteeism

June 23, 2009

Oh, right, I used to have a blog.

Eight months of silence.  That’s not enough time to have someone declared dead in the real world, but online, I’m lucky WordPress didn’t give the name Small Victories to an inspirational LOLcats page or something while I was away.

But the worst part is, I wasn’t actually away.  I was just being really slack on reading.  You know how many books I read in the last eight months?  FOUR.  Two months a book.  And I took that much time, too, so by the time I finished reading them I could barely remember the start of the story and didn’t even feel qualified to write any comments on them here.  But I’m hopefully going to start reading at a reasonable pace again and posting reviews, so let me just get some long overdue, completely insufficient remarks down on these four now, and I’ll ideally return to give them another read later when I have time to give them the attention they deserve.

John Hodgman – More Information Than You Require: Not so much a sequel as a continuation of Hodgman’s brilliant book of fake trivia The Areas of My Expertise.  Just as last time he’s writing with the tweediest academic tone about such bizarre topics that it’s not what he’s writing but the fact that he’s writing anything about them at all that’s so hilarious.  Chapters called “How to Tell the Future Using a Pig’s Spleen”, “How to Buy a Computer from a Street Vendor”, and “Some Who Were Cursed to Become Ralph Macchio” detail exactly what they promise.  Hodgman’s previous comprehensive list of information on hoboes, including 700 hobo names, has been replaced by equivalent information on mole-men, but never feels self-derivative.  If you liked the first book (and you absolutely should), you will also like this one, and ought to be looking forward to his third in the series.

Bob Powers – You Are A Miserable Excuse For A Hero: Bob Powers, former author of Girls Are Pretty, has come up with a pretty amazing concept here: Choose Your Own Adventures books for adults.  Sort of.  First in his “Just Make A Choice!” series, Powers’ hero is a slacker temp who is forced into a really awkward kidnapping plot.  The various plots are surreal and depressing and exciting and pathetic, but always hilarious.  Give the first few branches of the story a shot here and see what you think.

John Sellers – Perfect From Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life: I was very excited about this one going into it, but as it went on, found it more and more frustrating.  John Sellers is an indie rock geek, writing his memoir through stories about listening to Guided By Voices and The Smiths and New Order.  Which is highly respectable, it’s probably the exact book I would write if I set out to write a memoir.  In fact, apart from the numerous chapters when Sellers gets to meet Guided By Voices and make an ass of himself, by the time I get to his appendix of lists like top musicians who are eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but have not been inducted, or hottest female bassists, or the top last tracks from great albums, I feel like any one of my music fan friends could have written it.  And that’s when I started to find the book frustrating, it begins feeling like only the other half of every music conversation I’ve ever had.  I don’t want to just read a guy telling me that he hates Bob Dylan, I want to discuss it with him over beer.  And prove him 100% fucking wrong.

Gabriel García Márquez – One Hundred Years of Solitude: This one definitely suffered most from the slow pace of reading, and it’s one I’m definitely going to go back to at some point.  Dealing with six or seven generations of a family, who only share about six names between them (there’s at least 20 characters named Aureliano) makes this narrative hugely confusing at the best of times.  Also, this is one of the greatest magic realism novels ever, so it seems like anything can happen at any time.  It’s endlessly unpredictable, but all written in a perfect matter-of-fact tone.  I wound up treating this more as a collection of short stories about a family than as one long narrative, but I still loved it.  I can’t wait to get into it again later on.

So, okay!  There’s four tiny reviews after months of inactivity, that’s something.  Hopefully I’ll be back on a somewhat regular schedule here soon.



  1. Welcome back, slacker.

  2. Hooray! I need more small victories in my life.

  3. I just saw Hodgman talk at the Boston BookFest and am excited to get his books. He’s such a quick wit.

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