the first week of ToB ended yesterday with another excellent match: Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown v. Raven Leilani’s Luster 📚 I happened to have read both of these; if I had to pick one to advance, I would have picked the same, but they were both fantastic
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another day, another great ToB round: Yaa Gyasi’s Transcendent Kingdom
v. Quan Barry’s We Ride Upon Sticks 📚 Sometimes these judgements are excellent, poignant writing on their own, and today’s is a case in point. Plus Barry’s novel sounds great, it’s on the TBR for sure
today’s ToB: Lydia Millet’s A Children’s Bible v. Bryan Washington’s Memorial. 📚 Extra eciting because I’d actually read one of these (A Children’s Bible), which I really enjoyed. its competitor sounds like a well-written and touching book of the type that I’m just not that interested in.
The judgement featured another of my favorite parts of this event: a recognition of similarities between books that on the surface don’t seem remotely similar:
That is why I was so surprised to find, from the first page, how many thematic and stylistic similarities Memorial shares with A Children’s Bible. It, too, is a story of estranged parents and children, told in short, breathing beats…
It’s the natural human impulse to look for patterns, spurred by these oddly (randomly?) paired novels, from which each judge has to pick a “winner”. It’s so crazy, it just [does] work.
first match of the opening round of the Tournament of Books (ToB): James McBride’s Deacon King Kong vs. Agustina Bazterrica’s Tender Is the Flesh. 📚 As is the case with most of the books in the tournament, I haven’t read either of these. Yet that reduces my enjoyment of each day’s rounds not a bit. One main thing I get from the ToB is high-quality additions to my to-be-read (TBR) list. Today, Deacon King Kong (spoiler alert: today’s “winner”) moved a step closer to my list, while Tender is the Flesh earned a permanent ban, a book that is clearly Not For Me, Thank You.
And then the other thing I get from the ToB shone through: the book-clubby beauty of the whole goofy event. I’d read the judge’s well-considered and well-written judgement, which went a long way toward convincing me that a dystopian story of a society that purposefully adopts cannibalism didn’t sound great. And then the very first comment (one of the still-astounding things about the ToB is that the comments are actually good(!)) laid out a case that made me see: well, okay, there’s some merit and some interesting themes to this book. It’s still firmly Not For Me, Thank You, but I got exposure to and a much better appreciation of this book because of this wonderful event.
And I’m glad to see Deacon King Kong advance. It sounds much better to me now than the blurb (or the hideous cover art) led me to think at first, but I’m not sure. Now there will be at least one more head-to-head ToB judgement, and more discussion, to help me to decide.
the Tournament of Books started today! a play-in round, a rare 3-way contest advancing one book to the main bracket: Ilze Hugo’s Down Days, Hari Lunzru’s Red Pill, & Gish Jen’s The Resisters. they all seem interesting, though not sure I’ll add any of these to my TBR 📚
Saturday’s beer: Buffalo Bayou Brewing’s Figaro, Figaro Figaro Fiiigaaaro
I don’t think I’d have picked out the fig flavor if I wasn’t looking for it, but gotta love a Belgian quadrapel, anyway 🍺
Saturday’s beer: Celis Brewery’s Coffee Porter
Fifty Fifty Brewing’s Donner Party Porter
Cheers to this winter weather, and here’s hoping our power & internet come back before we have to start eating each other
Texas Beer Company’s King Grackle Strawberry Chocolate Stout
No actual chocolate-covered strawberries this year; this will have to do
oof, another Liverpool collapse. they’re largely the same players as the last couple of seasons, but for some reason they just aren’t the same team anymore 💔⚽️
beautiful frozen rain like this contributed to our power being out for six and a half hours yesterday. an unnerving lesson in what we take for granted every day (heat, lights, Netflix)
finished a couple of good books recently, both contenders in this year’s Tournament of Books: Interior Chinatown, by Charles Yu, and A Children’s Bible, by Lydia Millet. they’re both weird, even somewhat surreal, but touching & thought-provoking. recommend x2 📚
I don’t know if the ideas in this post can or will be put into action by journalists, but boy they sound good
Effective today, you are no longer political reporters (and editors); you are government reporters (and editors).
Saturday’s beer: Oskar Blues Brewery’s Barrel-Aged Ten Fidy
Not a can design worth writing home about, but very smooth, and rich enough to make the wait till Saturday worth it 🍺
…also always a sucker for prog-rock bombast:
In these scorched and pitted times, as the world smoulders, there might be nothing less trendy than an hour-long psychrock epic by a band of Canadian grandmasters. Then again, there might be nothing we need more.
listening to the brand-new album The Besnard Lakes Are The Last Of The Great Thunderstorm Warnings 🎵 their style isn’t usually my thing, but somehow they’re one of my favorites
Saturday’s beer: Modern Times’ Black House, Vanilla Latte edition
Dark & smooth, like I like my… beer 🍺
finished The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker 📚 if I’d known this book was about the themes and situations it is, I don’t think I ever would have read it. but I’m glad I did; it was really good! perfect characterizations, good story & pace, just excellent
got a little choked up more than once today, but the good faith, professionalism, & sincerity on display in Jen Psaki’s day-one press briefing might be the highlight of the whole day. long may it reign
something special to commemorate a beautiful inauguration day: Destihl Brewery’s Dosvidanya
goodbye and good riddance, you monster. may we never hear of you again outside of arrest reports and sentencing news
please note that, per ISO, the idiom “can of worms” has been deprecated in favor of the more tactile, visceral, and just plain gross “bag of worms”. usage remains the same.
thank you in advance for your cooperation
- the management
watched The Night is Short, Walk on Girl last night 🎥 (HBOMax recently added some good anime features). it was great: funny, sweet, and very weird
Saturday’s beer: Lagunitas Brewing’s Willetized Coffee Stout (2020)
I thought this would be good when I picked it up, and it’s even better than expected. just excellent. 🍺
finished Uncanny Valley by Anna Weiner 📚 I don’t read much memoir, but really enjoyed this! as a member of the tech industry, it was fun & interesting to read this wryly observed outsider’s view. I nodded a lot while reading this; recommended.
we don’t see this every day in central Texas
Saturday beer: The Bruery’s Partridge in a Pear Tree
tasty, solid quad. here’s to the new year 🍺
read: Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death. though written 40 years ago, long before the internet, let alone social networks, this short book is profound and eye-opening. took me a while to get into it, but well worth it 📚
this, from a social epidemiologist predicting post-pandemic life, is what I’ve been thinking, too. maybe streaming services won’t kill movie theaters, after all
This future, Christakis predicts, will not come until society has had time to distribute the vaccine… But the vision he lays out for 2024 and beyond is one filled with experiences pined for in isolation: packed stadiums, crowded nightclubs and flourishing arts.
slowly making my way through Postman’s amazing Amusing Ourselves to Death. On the bombardment of isolated “news” stories from around the world:
You may get a sense of what this means by asking yourself another series of questions: What steps do you plan to take to reduce the conflict in the Middle East? Or the rates of inflation, crime, and unemployment? What are your plans for preserving the environment or reducing the risk of nuclear war? What do you plan to do about NATO… the CIA…? I shall take liberty of answering for you: You plan to do nothing about them.
You may, of course, cast a ballot for someone who claims to have some plans, as well as the power to act. But this you can do only once every two or four years by giving one hour of your time, hardly a satisfying means of expressing the broad range of opinions you hold. Voting, we might even say, is the next to last refuge of the politically impotent.
The last refuge, of course, is giving your opinion to a pollster, who will get a version of it through a desiccated question, and then submerge it in a Niagara of similar opinions, and convert them into – what else? – another piece of news. Thus, we have here a great loop of impotence: The news elicits from you a variety of opinions about which you can do nothing except to offer them as more news, about which you can do nothing.