Tyler's New Pick!
A sort of Phillip Marlowe with acid flashbacks. That is how I would describe the main character of Inherent Vice, Thomas Pynchon's latestnovel. Pynchon, who lived in Southern California through the sixties andearly seventies, takes his first literary step into the mystery genre witha story of missing persons, hippies, drugs, sex and politics in Californiacirca 1972. As with Pynchon's other writings, Inherent Vice is filled withcultural references (high and low), paranoid ramblings, complicated plots,and a subversive subtext.
The detective narrative is well paced with enough twists, memorablecharacters, and intrigue to stand alone as a mystery. However, InherentVice has all the characteristics of a Pynchon novel without thenine-hundred pages or convoluted plots that can make some of his earlierworks intimidating. On the surface the story centers around a privateinvestigator, Doc Sportello, who stumbles through a missing persons casewhile smoking copious amounts of dope. The backdrop for this mystery isfull of paranoia and corruption; Governor Reagan's post-sixtiesCalifornia set on edge due the recent Watts riots and Manson killings,President Nixon's clandestine efforts to suppress revolutionary groups andideals, suburban sprawl, racism, gentrification, and the dying dream ofthe sixties living in the strung-out surfer town of Gordita beach. Pynchoncreates a complex mix of characters and events, absurdities juxtaposedwith political realities, in this, his most accessible work of fiction.
Wake Up is Jack Kerouac’s best attempt to retell the story of Siddhartha Gotama as he wanders the ascetic’s path on his way to enlightenment. Unlike most of Kerouac’s other fiction, this story draws upon a lot of original source material in an attempt to bring the story of the Buddha to the average American reader. The book reads similar to Herman Hesse‘s Siddhartha except that it uses less allegory and more direct teaching giving the story a feeling closer to scripture than Beat fiction. The teachings of Kerouac’s Buddha often give a new spin on Western morality, for instance; “…not for the sake of heavenly birth should you practice gentle deeds but…rightly free from thoughts unkind…you may strive to get rid of all confusion of the mind and practice silent contemplation; only this brings profit in the end…” Reading Wake Up may require a=2 0little more effort for the casual reader, but those with a taste for Eastern thought or a thirst for new spiritual realities may find exactly what they’re looking for in Wake Up.
Naomi Kline gives a great account of free-market ideology and practice in the twentieth century. Kline uses hurricane Katrina, Latin America, and the Iraq war to show how governments use traumatic events to privatize social services and sell public land. Well researched and extremely relevant, this unsettling book is great for those interested in economics as it related to both politics and history. Naomi Kline writes for The Nation as well as Rolling Stone and is one of the best leftist writers dealing with equality and economics. This was definitely my favorite book of 2008.
This is one of my favorite pieces of literature and certainly my favorite tragedy. Hardy published the book in 1895, but the books views on class, sex, religion, as well as its dark nature upset much of the public. Because of the stir caused by his book, Thomas Hardy never published another piece of fiction again. Today, this is Thomas Hardy's most famous piece of writing, probably because of his detailed prose and the story's ability to still shock readers, both with its content and quality. This is a great book for the brooding winter months, I would recommend this book to anybody wanting to read a dark, thought-provoking piece of classical fiction.
I generally don't read ideologically conservative books because they irritate me, however; I often wonder if excluding certain viewpoints from my reading is a form intolerance or narrow-mindedness. So every once in a while I like to test my ability to be open-minded and read something I am otherwise disinclined to read. Mr. Levin writes about the fundamentals of what he believes the conservative platform needs to be. He uses a lot of historical and contemporary references to give context and credence to what he believes; his chapters are concise and his audience is broad. Mr. Levin writes of fundamental truths to the conservative platform (small government, static constitution, individual freedoms) while addressing many contemporary issues such as immigration, welfare and the financial instability. I did not agree with many of Mr. Levin's positions or conclusions, but much to his credit he does not spend his chapters berating his opponents, defending President Bush, or relyin g on antiquated platitudes like others may be tempted to. Mr. Levin is certainly appealing to sympathetic minds in Liberty or Tyranny, but all of us who are politically inclined would be well served to give Mr. Levin a chance to make his case, if not to reaffirm our own political prejudices (of either persuasion), then at least allowing ourselves the possibility to seeing things differently when we open our minds.
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is Annie Dillard's Pulitzer Prize winning account of her time spent in the Blue Ridge Valley of Virginia. This book draws a lot of comparisons to Thoreau's Walden in that Dillard spends a good deal of time recounting her observations and epiphanies in the woods. Dillard displays a wealth of knowledge, both in nature and theology, creating a close bond with the earlier transcendentalist writers such as Emerson and Thoreau. The one thing Annie Dillard has, which the others are missing, is her unique style of prose. She has a way of wandering through her own thoughts, weaving narrative with observations on nature and musings about god; her style is very engaging if for no other reason than it can synthesize her attitudes with her information. She writes so effortlessly, drawing on many fieldes of study, packing her chapters with insight and wisdom making Pilgrim at Tinker Creek a great pleasure read with the ability to stimulate numerous ideas and reflect ions for its readers.