The Junior High Book Report Has A New Name And Address!

Newly named “The Junior High Book Report” and living at a new URL:


Ant Farm Claims Revisited

As it turns out (that phrase intended to reference part of The Salmon of Doubt by Douglas Adams), some people (i.e. Carter) have told me that the quote I selected here (to demonstrate my thoughts on Ant Farm by Simon Rich) is not that funny.

As a second try, I am including a link to Simon Rich’s mySpace page where he has published two outtakes from Ant Farm. I think that “I still remember the day I got my first calculator” is hysterical.

Since I was curious about what others thought and wanting to try the new Facebook poll, I posted a question yesterday. Seems only 3% agree that Ant Farm is the funniest book ever, but 20% responded that it is “quite possibly” the funniest book ever.

It is still a minority so I continue my search.

The Last Sentence

I have often thought that the best first sentence in a novel is in The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger.

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. (3)

Prior to reading Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (which I wrote about here), I thought the best last sentence was in the published version of A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (though, from what I understand, there are lots of unpublished endings, but I will have to look that up later).

After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain. (332).

Now I think that sentence is tied for my favorite with the last one from Never Let Me Go (though, arguably, it is exactly the same in feeling and intent, if not the explicit words or preceding story).

I just waited a bit, then turned back to the car, to drive off to wherever it was I was supposed to be. (288)

The Feminine Mistake

I first learned about The Feminine Mistake by Leslie Bennetts when I read a review of it in the Washington Post here. Suitably intrigued, I picked it up and read.

The Feminine Mistake darts around like a minnow and continually circles back to a couple of core points. It is a little Momento-ish since each chapter reads like the first, which can be disorienting, but, ultimately, it drives home her main point.

Bennetts main point is that “stay-at-home wives” (a term she uses frequently) risk financial security when they become economically dependent on someone else. Basically, the old “a man isn’t a plan”.

But, this is the thing, “a job isn’t a plan” either. The logic doesn’t flow straight to financial security from staying employed. Lots of people make lots of money and are still not secure in their future because they don’t have an actual financial plan. I think “only a plan is a plan”.

Exercise guru Bill Phillips said “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Even though he wasn’t referring to money, I think that might be better advice to take to the bank.

That all being the case, I did like the general “you can do it” (succeed) theme of the book. It is a welcome message when many people say “it can’t be done”.

The Feminine Mistake is over 300 pages long, but I would say the entire word of caution that she is preaching can be summarized in this giant quote:

Given the likelihood that you will have to fend for yourself at some point in the future, protect yourself against economic hardship by maintaining the capacity to support yourself. Protect your children by making sure you can take care of them financially should anything happen to their father. Protect your future happiness against the nagging doubts harbored by frustrated stay-at-home mothers who can’t shake the guilt and regret they feel about failing to explore their full potential. Protect yourself against the desolation of the empty nest, which inflicts the deepest sense of loss on full-time mothers with no other identity or outlets to sustain them. Protect your older self against the feelings of uselessness and isolation experienced by so many women who didn’t cultivate meaningful work that could nourish them in their later years. (317)

The Funniest Book Ever

A collection of vignettes called Ant Farm by Simon Rich is the funniest book ever. I know that is a big statement, but it is true.

You must arrange to come in to possession of this book, but you can’t read it yourself. You have to find someone to read it to you (and then switch off in all fairness), because it is not readable through the tears of hilarity.

I simply could not read this book to myself. It is that funny.

I chose this quote because it not only illustrates my point, but uses similar imagery.

Where are all the time travelers? They’re on Wall Street, smoking Cuban cigars and laughing so hard that tears are streaming down their fat faces. Meanwhile, we’re sitting around like morons, betting our money on random dogs and horses and talking about how smart Stephan Hawking is. (117)

Of course, if my endorsement is not enough, Jon Stewart is quoted as calling it (among other things) “hilarious”.

Guy Kawasaki Reads Faster Than Me

(plus, he gets interviews sometimes.)

When it comes to non-fiction (and maybe fiction, but I am not sure), it seems that Guy Kawasaki is always out in front and cranking out the book reviews and author interviews.

Sometimes, I have already bought the book and am wondering when I am going to read it and “boom” Guy posts something about it on How to Change the World (his blog). Or, other times, I am reading as fast as I can, but he posts about it first so I never get to it (but, I plan to). But, mostly, I am wasting time discussing Lost with the Quip and not focusing on the books.

A couple examples (in order of his posting not preemption):

He interviewed Penelope Trunk who is the author of Brazen Careerists: The New Rules for Success on his blog here just when I was mulling over purchase. I did write about The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Phillip Zimbardo here, but Guy got the interview here while I was still waiting for the Amazon box to arrive. Again, he wrote a post here on Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days by Jessica Livingston before I was even past page 30.

The list goes on and on.

This Book Is As Tight As A Pilates Instructor

Some books don’t wrap it up well (The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve, Becoming Strangers by Louise Dean, A Certain Age by Tama Janowitz and many, many others) and they leave the divination to the book club.

The workplace novel Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris is the only book that I have ever read where the narrative is constructed so that one of the characters explains what the book is about to the reader (at the end of the book). The construct sort of works (and it is a surprise).  Ultimately, it makes the book tight without a single loose end.

On the back cover it is called the “the Catch-22 of the business world”. I don’t think that is accurate. The book is mostly funny’ish, but mostly it is serious and only a little outlandish (but, here is the thing, not outlandish enough to be funny in a Joseph Heller sort of way).

I really did want to read a book about the workplace that would make me laugh so next up it Company by Max Berry.

Now, even though Ferris didn’t nail the humor throughout, one brilliant part of the book is that it is predominantly narrated by a collective “we” and that is cool and often funny.

Literally, almost all of the book is written in this voice:

Half the time we couldn’t remember three hours ago. Our memory in that place was not unlike that of goldfish. Goldfish who took a trip every night in a small clear bag of water and then returned in the morning to their bowl. What we recalled was that Karen didn’t let up on the story, day after day for an entire week, and when that week was over, we all had a better idea of Joe than we had gotten in his first three or four months. (63)

I like the collective “we” and was annoyed when he reverted perspective to the individual point of view. While I was reading it, I thought the author could have cut out the entire section titled “The Thing to Do and the Place to Be” (so boring it made my eyes bleed). But, then, at the end of book, one of the characters explains why it has to be there and I have to agree (I just don’t like it).

“Antique, Illogical And Democratically Indefensible”

Recently, the Queen of England came and went (Carter had some interesting comments here in a post titled “Send the Queen Home”).

Isn’t it totally absurd that any modern country has a heredity ruler (figurehead, whatever)?

Jeremy Paxon (author of On Royalty: A Very Polite Inquiry Into Some Strangely Related Families) was on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart a couple nights ago. Paxon called the monarchy “antique, illogical and democratically indefensible” (after about three minutes of a meager justification – some indecipherable stuff about the embodiment of a nation blah, blah, blah).

It really just makes no sense.

Wonder Woman!

A new Wonder Woman, written by Jodi Picoult, is coming out. I really enjoy graphic novels and think that they (hands down) make the best movies (300, Sin City, A History of Violence, V for Vendetta etc).

I am certainly excited to read what Picoult produces despite the fact that I have never read any of her books. Nineteen Minutes is her newest book and is in second place on the NY Times hardcover fiction list, but I don’t think I’ll be able to read that any time soon (if ever).  In fact, it might be that all of her books are just a little too sad to read (My Sister’s Keeper, Mercy and others, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll read The Tenth Circle).

Anyway, yeah for Wonder Woman!

Quote Of The Day – 4/26/07

It has been almost twenty years since I bought a magnet with this quote on it (attributed to Mark Twain). I think it is useful advice.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.