Book Review: The Sun Also Rises (Unless You’re Black, Jewish Or Privileged)

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“I’m 34, you know. I’m not going to be one of those bitches that ruins children.”

Lady Brett Ashley’s decision to not “ruin” children with settling down and raising a family works out just fine for her. She is one of a long line of literary Delilahs who turn male characters insane with adoration. Another one is Gatsby’s Daisy. There are more – the early 1900’s were littered with them. For some reason these hapless foolish fellows fall deeply in love with women in words who lead them into their dens of promises and false hopes, only to crush them before the story’s end. The early 1920’s seemed a rough time for men desperately in love. And blacks. Jews too.
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Book Review: “The End Of Vandalism”

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This book has been on my to-read list for a few years now. I picked it off a “Top 50 Books Men Should Read” site. Can’t say that I’m sure why this book would make it into such a group which also included “Paris Trout,” “The Sun Also Rises” and “Master and Margarita.” I don’t think I reviewed any of those books here so obviously my reading headway through said list is turtle-slow. But life is like that. There’s just other stuff to do. Author Tom Drury knows this all too well. Continue reading

Book Review: Jonathon Livingston Seagull

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This thin book lasted roughly an hour from cover to cover. The words take up half of each page and other pages are packed with just as many photographs of
seagulls. Everything about the novel is pedestrian, except for the message – which I respect, but only halfway agree with. To wit:

All seagulls have human names and, in this edition, speak English, presumably with seagull accents(??). This story centers around Jonathan Livingston, a
seagull who desperately needs to break away from the demands of his society and just be himself. But seagull world ousts any members that choose to do more with their fowl lives than look for food. Jonathan is that member. He wishes to push himself, fly faster and farther than any bird; do fantastic acrobatics in the sky, and will risk his life day in and day out searching for his idea of the very best that he can be. And it doesn’t take long before he is sent packing by his seagull brethren.

I understand what is happening here. Bach is celebrating personal identity. Fine, I’m all for people doing what they want to do with themselves.  It’s all we did in New York City. But I don’t love Bach’s approach. Through JLS, he displays the view that not only is being different a right, but sheer brilliance as our protagonist not only tops himself and his kind physically, spiritually and mentally, but he literally attains more awesomeness than any human. He becomes a seagull Jedi Knight whose outrageous superiority even allows him to travel through time.

Yes, yes – the sky’s the limit! I get that too. Yes, yes – some people need this kind of self-help message. Also understood. But Bach’s “Break rules! Be different! Or you will never aspire to greatness” theme creates limitations for those who prefer a counter approach to life than his own, and is therefore underlyingly hypocritical. For instance… Jonathan knew the mandates of his community yet he chose to go against them, shun them, break them openly. If he was so dead set on his own agenda, he should have willingly took off on his own, free to do whatever he wants.

But no…Bach indirectly preaches rule-breaking instead, when rules are the very things that keep a society from falling apart and becoming chaotic. Destruction
and bedlam are what make the Joker and various other villains of yore so infamous.

Not saying JLS is a criminal mastermind in the making, but he is a seagull with phenomenal super powers, a psychiatric profile of lusting for personal gain and a history of life-altering rejection. All he needs is the straw to break the camel’s back and God help the seagull population…

Okay, got carried away a bit with that last paragraph. All in all, Bach put together a self-indulgent short with a strong message that one could call both good and bad. I am indifferent to it.

A Yelping Hand To The Small Business Owner

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As a chronic Yelper since 2008, I’ve reviewed over 700 businesses. It’s a genius free-labor model that I wouldn’t take part in if it wasn’t fun – made extra cool with my Yelp Elite status, granting me access to free stuff, exclusive social gatherings, etc. And I was recently contacted by a business because I am good at it.

This niche little shop in Sanford, NC is struggling for business. To the point where the owner and, presumably the owner’s friends, posted a bunch of favorable fake Yelp reviews about said failing venture to make it shine. But Yelp’s bullshit detection algorithms shuffled these bogus posts into the “non-recommended” pile to be ignored. So, apparently at his wit’s end as to what to do to save his livelihood, the owner reached out to me, a stranger, for help.

To anyone not in the know, Yelp is a business review site and its battery is members – normal folks like you and me – who write the reviews. It’s the most popular review site on the planet and its power can make or break a small business. But they also have a preferential member tier called the “Elite” which is supposed to be its most trusted review source. Reviews from Elite members never get thrust into the “non-recommended” file. And this business owner knew this when he contacted me.

It was a simple message: “I’m a small business owner not getting a lot of traffic. I’ve only been open for a few months and I’d rather not close down in a few months. I was wondering if you had any interest in my product, and if so, would you mind paying a visit and reviewing your experience? I’d be happy to admit you free of charge for your patronage.”

Cut and dried. No bribery attempt, no innuendos, just a businessman with an honest invite for me to do something I’d have probably done anyway (700 reviews, remember?) And don’t think I wasn’t leery at first. After all, I’m a victim of attempted bribery. While I was in NYC, this Moroccan place offered me a free dinner for a POSITIVE review and I told them to hit the bricks. Different ballgame here.

So I checked out the place and it looked really nice. Cool renovations from the last tenant’s textile production house. Really sweet staff. So very strange that this place was being so largely ignored. And that’s when it hit me: the location sucks! What was he thinking? Behind a strip mall?? That’s the first thing they teach you – location, location, location! Can’t see it from the street and if you’re not looking for it you’ll never find it!

And that’s what I said in my review. Four out of five stars, because though everything was really cool, it wasn’t an incredible experience and the location choice was just bad business. And though I’m merely just one goofy-ass internet addict, hopefully my review counted as the kind of help he was looking for. I honestly mean that because hell…I’m terribly biased toward small businesses. Good ones, anyway. So if you’re like this poor fellow and you’re worried about whether your little nest egg will last or vanish, reach out to a few Yelp reviewers personally and ask them over. It works…as long as you don’t suck, that is. Have your shit together or it will backfire.

As well it should.