Thursday, December 18, 2008

the answer: dinosaurs, snow, football, books; the question: what is "things that are distracting me right now"?

I don't know much about prehistoric times, but this is preposterous. Preposterously awesome.

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If I believe what the Local News stations tell me -- and I do, every word of it -- tonight is Snowpocalypse. The only time I ever wish to have a neighbor with a 10 year old kid is when it snows; a kid I could give a few bucks to dig out my car and scrape the ice off the windshield.

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I'm playing in my Fantasy Football league finals. This weekend. Smoking Babies (me) vs. the Well-Hung Ninjas (former roommate Charlie). Not since the early 1980s "Battle of the Network Stars" has there been a more anticipated fake athletic contest.

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I made a small, one-book-sized dent in that list of novels you all recommended. Like a Hole in the Head by Jen Banbury is everything Eric promised it would be: "It's like if Raymond Chandler worked for minimum wage at a used book store and did lots of inhalants." The style was on par with The Big Lebowski, a neo-noir where a simple misunderstanding spins out of control and the hero is ill-equipped but goes for the ride because she just needs to get something back. The narrator is a woman who is an underachieving loner who is kind of a jerk and also very funny. I wasn't fully satisfied with the adventure by the time it was over. The plot rips along and never gets boring; it's also, at times, whip-lash exhausting. A great book to take on a 4 hour flight. I would read another Jen Banbury book, but this is her only novel (published in 1999).

I went back to the library fully intending to find another recommended book and then got distracted. Don't go to the Lincoln Square branch of the Chicago Library and expect to find what you are looking for. Sure, you may find your book. You also may get hit by a wealthy dude in an SUV and get a million dollar settlement which is great because you weren't even hurt that badly, but suffer an occasional bout of vertigo due to head trauma that doesn't bother you -- because you have a million bucks! These things happen. I'm most content when I go with a long list of acceptable finds, because chances are, I won't find most of them. Or better yet, leave it to my whim and the ransacked shelves. I picked up Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down and looked at the front page with this quote.

"The cure for unhappiness is happiness, I don't care what anybody says." -Elizabeth McCracken, Niagara Falls All Over Again
I put the Hornby down and found the McCracken because I wanted to read the story with that sentence in it. Katherine Dunn (author of Geek Love, great book) gave one of the praise quotes on back of Niagara Falls All Over Again. Well! If Katherine Dunn likes it! It's the life-story of a vaudevillian, the "straight man" of a comedy duo. The time it covers is almost too expansive for a 300 page book, and parts of the story felt glossed-over. But Elizabeth McCracken's writing is so good and compassionate and full of humor that you're with it the whole way. I've moved on to her first novel The Giant's House: A Romance, a story set in Cape Cod in the 1950s about a spinster librarian and her relationship with the world's tallest boy.