Day: November 19, 2012

Reading

How I Became a Famous Novelist – Steve Hely
I knew when I picked this up that it was a novel, a satire of our current pop culture where anyone can become famous regardless of how much (or little) talent they possess. But I’ll admit, I just might have been hoping to find the secret to getting published while making my way through it.

If only it was as easy as the title suggests.

Angry after getting an invitation to his college girlfriend’s wedding, Pete Tarslaw decides that he must do something to upstage her on the big day. His best idea? Becoming a famous novelist. He quickly develops a formal, based on careful review of what is on the Best Sellers list, that is guaranteed to accomplish just that. He cranks out a novel that ticks all the spots on his checklist, and, thanks to some good fortune, gets published. So far, so good. More good fortune finds Tarslaw and soon he is, if not the toast of the literary world, at least a famous author with a best selling novel to his credit.

As you would expect, it all unravels quickly and hilariously.

Hely, who has written for David Letterman and The Office, nails the vapidity of our entertainment world. Even when Tarslaw’s world is falling apart, his book climbs the Best Seller list. We are more interested in spectacle, controversy, and train wrecks than true art.

Maybe he did figure out the secret to writing success.

Last Night at the Lobster – Stewart O’Nan
Perhaps this is the book Pete Tarslaw wanted to write. Slim, less than 150 pages. Brief, taking place over a 16 hour day. And tidy, set in a single restaurant with a brief foray across the parking lot.

But this is Stewart O’Nan writing, so there’s nothing cheap or manufactured about it. As always, he somehow builds a group of deep characters with the barest of brush strokes. I wish I knew his secret.

This time it is the crew running a Red Lobster in Connecticut, four days before Christmas, in the midst of a blizzard. It also happens to be the store’s final day of operations before the corporate office shuts it down for poor performance. That doesn’t sound like much, but O’Nan weaves his magic and turns it into a beautiful little tale.

This is the fourth O’Nan book I’ve read. With one exception, they’ve all been exceptional. And the fourth was very entertaining. He has a way with language and pacing and stories that is unmatched, in my mind, by any other current author. I think one of my reading goals for 2013 might be to complete his collection.

Weekend Chaos

An oddly busy Monday, with a couple appointments in the morning and the need to squeeze some leaf collection activities in before St. P’s lets out for the day. So I’ll try to crank out some notes here.

A mixed bag of football action for me over the weekend. The two teams I care about, the Jayhawks and the Colts, got thrashed. But the games I didn’t have a vested interest in, particularly the K-State-Baylor and Stanford-Oregon games, were terrific to watch.

KU’s loss was frustrating after a month of them playing better and twice coming close to beating ranked teams. Fortunately it was over early enough that I was able to concentrate on the more interesting games elsewhere.

That Stanford-Oregon game was tremendous. All of a sudden the wide-open Pac-12 turned into the rough-and-tumble SEC. I have a hard time liking Oregon for a variety of reason, mostly because Chip Kelly seems like a real dick. I should like them, with their crazy offensive attack and pure speed DNA. But he kind of ruins them for me. So I enjoyed Stanford shutting them down an sneaking out with the win.

I always root for chaos in college football, so between Stanford winning and K-State going down1 in Waco, it was an awfully fun night. Shame that it’s letting Notre Dame and an SEC team to be named later take the two front seats for the BCS title game.

My other thought for a football post last weekend was a cautionary note to all those who were penciling the Colts into the playoffs. It seemed awfully early, especially for a team that lost two more defensive starters a week ago, to assume they would make it, especially with a game at New England and two with Houston left.

I should have gone ahead with it, as the Patriots made that seem painfully obvious yesterday. I don’t think the loss is that big of a deal. The Colts ran into an excellent offensive team, had a few breaks that went again them, and it snowballed into a rout. It happens. We’ll see if/how they shake it off going into next weekend. They’ve already overachieved this year, and GM Ryan Grigson seems to know what he’s doing in acquiring talent through the draft.

Yesterday’s American Top 40 was from 1984, and Tina Turner’s “Better Be Good To Me” was in the top 10. I had never made the connection before, but as Sunday Night Football began last night, I wondered how old Faith Hill was. As though she was reading my mind, my wife said, during Hill’s SNF intro, “Huh, she’s 45.” I laughed, as I was about to look it up, too.

I quickly looked up Tina Turner. In 1984 she was 45. Hmmm. Remember what a big deal it was that Tina looked how she looked in 1984? As if she should be sitting at home in pantsuits like a grandma. Faith Hill looks fantastic, too. I commented to my wife isn’t it interesting that while we acknowledge that she’s got it going on, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal that a 45-year-old woman can pull off tiny skirts on national TV these days. There are dozens of women like that in the entertainment industry, and if you go to your local gym, you’re sure to find plenty of “middle aged” women who can show a lot of skin.

Sure, some of it is thanks to the wonders of plastic surgery and injections that hide the aging process. But a lot of it is that an entire generation of women has been working out for decades. It shows. And it’s a good thing. And Tina deserves a lot of credit for being one of the first women to tell the aging process to piss off.


  1. Sorry for the jinx Friday, K-Staters. I wish I had that kind of power. If I really did, I’d spendd more time in Vegas. 

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