It’s hard to believe that a person could be such a brilliant, en pointe writer for so very long. Many of the stories (if not all?) in Look at the Birdie seem to have been written later in Vonnegut’s life. The illustrations are all from the few years before Vonnegut died in April, 2007. Somehow, incredibly, these works are as mesmerizing, as darkly humorous, and as meaningful as any of his previous works – including Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five. I have more experience with Vonnegut the novelist than I do with Vonnegut the essayist or short story writer (though I did read A Man Without A Country – also brilliant!) but, I must say, I am so grateful to the publishers and family for allowing a posthumous printing of these incredible pieces. Particular favorites include “Petrified Ants,” “Confido,” and “Hall of Mirrors.” The Sci-Fi/Fantasy element is certainly still there, as well as Vonneguts interest in the super/paranormal; still, as always, Vonnegut manages to incorporate these elements so naturally, so realistically, that it’s almost impossible to separate them as fiction from the fiction. This is an absolutely solid anthology of short fiction from one of the best and greatest American writers and satirists of all time – and a must for any Vonnegut fan.
Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger
This collection of short stories has been sitting on my shelf for about a year. I love J.D. Salinger, but I suppose I was a bit leery of reading his short stories, as I’ve only read his novel The Catcher in the Rye and his dual-novella Franny and Zooey (Both of which I highly recommend). I had nothing to worry about, though. These short stories – admittedly, some more effective than others – are pure Salinger. They’re witty, sarcastic, sad, entertaining, and original. I particularly enjoyed the elliptical stories (the first and last stories in the collection) “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” and “Teddy.” They were incredibly moving and fantastically written. I will definitely read most of these stories, if not the whole collection, many times over.
Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim
Probably one of the best gay fiction(?) novels of all time. Painful, funny, dangerous, sexy, mature, and playful. Fantastic read.
Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania by Andy Behrman
Nothing special. Behrman tries too hard to be psychotic.
The Ways of White Folks by Langston Hughes
Absolutely beautiful collection of short stories, chronicling race relations in the American Jazz Age. Hughes writes a stunning anthropological study of the white race, in response to Dubois’s The Souls of Black Folk.
The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson & The Olympians #3) by Rick Riordan
Just another fantastic installment of the great “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series. Each new story is better than the last – the action is getting more intense, the danger more real and more powerful. Plus, Riordan’s knowledge of Classical Greek Mythology is superb. He turns that knowledge into something both useful and entertaining – education can be fun! I would recommend this series to anyone who enjoyed Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or similar fantasy genre series’. It’s not nearly as sophisticated as Lord of the Rings and the narrative construction doesn’t “progress” through time the way that the Harry Potter novels do, but it’s still a worthy, exciting read. Light but fruitful. Can’t wait to get number four!
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare’s exploration of the human conscience – the meaning of “madness” – is what made this play so revolutionary and it is what has kept the play so popular for over 300 years. Hamlet breaks tradition from previous revenge tragedies of the Jacobean, Elizabethan, and classical tragedies in that Shakespeare provides a “method” for the madness. The purpose of the “ghost” of Hamlet’s father remains debated today. The discussion of protestant vs catholic vs pagan beliefs is exciting.
The Arden edition is especially beneficial to students of literature or of Shakespeare because it provides excellent explanatory notes, appendices, introductions, etc.