Resolution challenge: the overdue final post from 2008

13 Feb

books

The last of the book reviews from my 2008 Resolution Challenge (25 books, 50 movies). I ended up reading over 30. Let’s see if I can type up this post while simultaneously patting myself on the back.

I Love You, Beth Cooper, by Larry Doyle

Written by one of the writers of “The Simpsons,” I Love You, Beth Cooper is a teenage humor novel that adopts an arc similar to Sixteen Candles, with the nerdy kid from high school setting his sights on Miss Popular. The plot is cartoonishly dramatic – e.g. instead of breaking up a housefight, someone drives a car through the front window and threatens to run over the bully, etc. – and thus, not exactly my cup of tea. While it’s a solid gift recommendation for a teen, most of us adults looking to scratch that high school novel itch might want to check out King Dork, one of my favorites. Grade: C+

McSweeney’s Book of Book Jokes

Satire for smart people, most of the collection of super-short pieces will only make sense if you’re versed in literary classics like Shakespeare, War and Peace, et al. I’m a voracious reader, and out-and-out bookworm, and even I had to skip roughly half the stories due to my reference-point ignorance. A great read for the brainiacs, though, as the quick-hit pieces offered were sharp and spot-on. Grade: B

Boys Will Be Boys, by Jeff Pearlman

The quintessential “athletes are completely insane” book, Boys Will Be Boys recounts the behavior exhibited by the mid-90s Dallas Cowboys. We’re talking ladies, drugs, the whole debauchery-filled nine yards. A stellar read for anyone even remotely interested in football or the lives of professional athletes.

Here’s the thing: whenever I read a book, I dog-ear certain pages or passages that I want to reread later. I’ll say this, I’ve never dog-eared so many pages before. Not even close. Here are a few memorable learnings I feel compelled to pass on.

– Jerry Jones is a total asshole. Mere days after he bought the team, he fired co-workers who’d been with the team for no good reason, via notes in their office. “Be out by 5 pm.” Ouch.

– We forget just how god-awful that Herschel Walker trade was. The Cowboys essentially received about ten draft picks for one decent starting running back.

– At his first NFL press conference, Emmett Smith showed up wearing bright purple shorts and a matching vest sprinkled with gold polka dots. Loafers with no socks and a white Cowboys hat. I’d say that pretty much sums up the fashion choices in the early ‘90s.

– Here is how much Don Shula didn’t respect the intelligence of his own son: as the Dolphins coach, he allowed Jimmy Johnson to recruit defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt only if he took his son, then offensive coordinator, as well.

– Steve Beuerlein once held out during training camp with the Raiders, and Al Davis responded by signing him and putting him on the inactive list for the entire season. It’s nice to be reminded just why everyone thinks Davis is insane.

– Charles Haley apparently has a massive unit and loved walking around the locker room completely naked and, um, pleasuring himself. I’d get in to more, but I’m already nauseous.

– Haley also one time took a dump, walked into a film room, wiped his ass and threw the soiled toilet paper at a coach. This actually happened.

– Michael Irvin used to charge $10,000 to appear at charity basketball games.

– A Christmas gift Emmett Smith once gave to his teammates: a copy of his own autobiography.

There are about a hundred more tidbits I’d love to pass on, but it wouldn’t feel right. Go buy the book.  Grade: A-

The Dart League King, by Keith Lee Morris

The Dart League King is a short novel that takes place over one night in a small Idaho town. The story is told from a few different viewpoints as their mostly forgettable lives intersect during the town’s dart league championship. The plot covers drugs addictions, single parenting, accidental deaths and more. In other words: dark. Considering the tenseness and slight number of pages, I breezed through it in a couple days, but a semi-random ending left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Close to great. Grade: B

Jim the Boy, Tony Earley

Considered a bit of a classic in the “young-adult novel” category, Jim the Boy tells the story of a ten-year-old growing up with his mother and three uncles in the old south. He farms, he goes to school, etc. Simple American life. Fans of Where the Red Fern Grows and similar works of art will find this one right up their alley, but I’m not a huge fan of such tales of innocence. Wrong demo, I guess. Grade: B-

On Beauty, by Zadie Smith

On Beauty is a drama surrounding a biracial family of five dealing with life in adademia, race relations and the charged hormones of both the children and the parents. The writing is overly detailed – single conversations go on for tens of pages, no kidding – with a flair for the slang. Like Smith’s first novel White Teeth, the main challenge with On Beauty (464 pages) is simply getting through it. Smith creates such vivid characters, and no one can advance plots using just a conversation, but my enjoyment was compromised due to the over-detail. Grade: B

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, by David Foster Wallace

I’ve tried to read this book twice before, but it never stuck. Maybe it’s the first chapter, a run-on sentence that goes on for three pages. Maybe it’s the following chapters that boil down to short first-person diatribes written by different sources that don’t relate to each other in the slightest. It may be genius – and judging from the praise showered on DFW seemingly agreeing he is the best writer of the generation, it must be – but the ethereal out-there-ness of the content left me confused and bored. Sorry. Grade: Incomplete (only got through half the book, and though I see that as a major accomplishment, I can’t offer a grade)

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2 Responses to “Resolution challenge: the overdue final post from 2008”

  1. lattewarrior February 16, 2009 at 10:37 pm #

    30 books in a year is a tremendous clip.

    RE: Pearlman’s book

    So, if Charles Haley and Visanthe Shiancoe were teammates, do you suppose they’d get along or would they cross swords?

  2. B. February 16, 2009 at 10:44 pm #

    /Throws up on keyboard

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