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“You are who you pretend to be, so be careful who you pretend to be.”

That is the central thesis statement of Vonnegut’s  Mother Night as well as its most powerful line. While I enjoy Vonnegut in general and am also a particularly big fan of Slaughterhouse Five, God Bless You Mister Rosewater, the short story collection Welcome to the Monkey House  among his works, this book, I think, is the pinnacle of Vonnegut’s creation.

It’s about a man who by day works as a propagandist for the Nazis and by night is a spy for the Allies. Pretty straightforward stuff, right? Only this man is wracked by guilt, both in the sense that he worries about what people might think of him in the West when they realize what he’s really doing and also, on a personal level, whether the stuff that he’s doing for the “good guys” is equal on a moral calculus to all the propaganda he’s put out for the Nazis. These are not questions with easy answers, and Vonnegut deftly maneuvers his way through this issue, all while keeping the wit that brings us to read Vonnegut about him.

Vonnegut uses a framing approach to this book, pretending that it’s actually a memoir being written by the main character while he is awaiting trial in an Israeli prison, which lends an extra bit of verisimilitude to the whole shebang. This also would have made it quite topical for the time, as the book’s release (1961) coincides with the capture, trial, and execution of Adolph Eichmann (caught in ’59, tried in ’61, hanged in ’62). Eichmann, of course, always claimed that he was little more than a bean counter in the Nazi machinery. The main character’s role in advancing the Nazi cause was, if anything, greater, and yet he seems at once more sympathetic and, because of the spy connection, perhaps a bit more likely to be set free.

Mother Night  might not be the best introduction to Vonnegut, although unlike, say, Faulkner, it is hard to make a misstep in just picking out one of his works. I might recommend Slaughterhouse Five if, somehow, you have managed to avoid reading him up to this point. That being said, Night is in my opinion his best book, so I guess I could also say that if you are only going to read one of his books in your lifetime it ought to be this one. That being said, take care to read lots and lots of Vonnegut. He’s good for the soul.

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This blog is rather… cluttered, so I went ahead and opened up a new one. It is, for now, abookadaythatsallweask.wordpress.com. So everyone who came here for the capybara pix, this is still your place!!!

So, just to get back into the hang of writing and to get this blog going a bit more, I think I’m going to try to go through my voluminous book collection and, once a day for the next year, review one of the books from it. Will I succeed? Will this endeavor last more than a week? Tune in, dear reader, to find out!

I have a couple of new reviews up over at Pop Bunker. Specifically, “The Men Who Stare At Goats” and “Away We Go”. I am emo.

So I am currently in London capybara capybara. The 3.25 people who read this page capybara are probably already aware of this because they are my parents, a friend who I pay $50 a month to read this site, and the daughter of the Humanzee who is omnipotent. Still, here I am and that means more pix when I get back. Speaking of which, if anybody wants pix locations in particular, let me know. As noted, there are no capybara in the London Zoo and I cannot frankly think of any reason why there’d be one anywhere else in the city. The Aquarium, perhaps, if they keep sharks in there and ran out of fish.

Should I be worried that 3 of the top searches to this site involve the word “capybara”?

So we got our big holiday sale gift certificates in yesterday (in a nutshell, where I work had a big contest over the holidays wherein they would get you pretty good sized gift certificates for stuffs if you sold enough phones… then they took the better part of 2 months to give everything out because some peeps had to cheat to get their $50 off at Bed, Bath and Beyond… the idiocy of some people just plain amazes me) and as such I just blew 100 smackers on books. This, in turn, led me to Amazon.com, which in turn led me to some of the wonderful, award-winning reviews I have written over the years.

I want to point out a couple things: one, because I am a skeptic at heart, I often employ a good deal of irony in a lot of the things that I do. Also, when I can’t think of anything better, sarcasm and a general mocking tone. I tend to oscillate between explaining everything that I am doing (as in, what I am doing right now) and purposefully skipping several steps between the set up and the punchline to… confuse isn’t exactly right. It’s more about rewarding the person who takes a few seconds to think about stuff.

The other thing that I wanted to point out is that I don’t, technically, read every book that I review. In that way I am like that one woman who was like the #1 Amazon reviewer, except that a. I don’t just put in stuff that will make all the fanboys of the books I review happy, and b. I am rated somewhere in the 5 millions rather than #1. It’s all about who you know.

The Cake Bible

The Most Unholy Bible Ever, March 9, 2007

Not worthy of a holy text.

Not worthy of a holy text.

I reviewed this primarily because I reviewed the Pie Bible, and while I have not actually read this book I will say this: nothing cake-related should ever have a Bible. Not chocolate cake, not carrot cake, not the band Cake… nothing. Cake is inferior and less worshipful than pie, which can be eaten at any occasion and not just dessert. Even “angel’s food” cake is less nutritive than chicken pot pie… and who in their right mind would eat chicken pot cake?

The Lord giveth (the Pie Bible) and the Lord taketh away (the Cake Bible).

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This review was rated 56 times, and out of those 56 times one person found it helpful. Pie heathens. Apparently, two people were so moved as to comment; unfortunately, this entire review was swept away in the Great Amazon Deletion Of Negative Reviews Of 2008, so it will never again see the light of day… except here.

Billy Beane is an awesome writer!, December 14, 2006

billy-beane-ttmI used to wonder how it was that Billy Beane is such a great manager or coach or whatever he is and now I know why: communications skills. Beane is not only baseball-smart, he’s book-smart. And not just “I read a book once” smart either. This is one of the few men in any field smart enough to write a book without the help of a ghost writer.

This is no faint praise. Throughout the book you will learn about such true-life travails and characters as Jeremy Brown, the catcher drafted in the 16th round because the Oakland A’s value fatness in their backstops, or Paul DePodesta, who went on after this book was written to get fired by no greater team than the Los Angeles Dodgers (no, not the one with both the Los Angeles and the Anaheim in their name, the ones who actually play in Los Angeles). Beane himself makes an appearance, although it’s rather off-putting that he refers to himself in the third person a la Bob Dole or Barry Bonds.

One thing that should be clear though: there is no such thing as “Moneyball”, and the sport Beane is actually referring to is baseball, not the lottery. Sadly, he does not give up the secret clues on how to win or even have a better chance at winning the lottery. I do not know these clues either (which is why I originally bought the book) but I did see a software program once so I know they exist.
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This review got 1 out of 7 positive remarks, which I can accept. Hey, maybe you don’t like it when my hard-hitting journalistic style calls Jeremy Brown fat (he retired, by the way, and now owns a donut shop LOL JUST KIDDING!!! he fat). The real head-slapper for me was that there are not one, but two comments that say something along the lines of “U STUPID IDOT BILLY BEANE DID NOT WRITE TEH MONEYBALLS!!!!”. Ugh. Seriously… how the flying freak can you read the above and not understand that it’s freaking ironic? Yeah. Pretty much everything negative that can be said about people who collect toys or go to Star Wars conventions, you can say about baseball statheads as well (note: I am one).

Finally, because I am a slavish devotee to the rule of three:

Awesome book, December 17, 2008

If you’re like me and two of your greatest loves are books about science and reading about natural disasters and calamities… seek help. Seriously. It’s just not right to have that particular set of amusements. But while you are in one of those old-fashioned “Girl: Interrupted” style mental wards, making fun of the girl who hides chickens under her bed, you should pick this book up and read it. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t want to let Whoopi Goldberg catch you because she knows you’re not really and truly crazy the way Angelina Jolie is and eventually she’ll let you out if you don’t give her reason not to, but still… if that compulsive liar can read the Oz books, you can certainly tuck this bad boy away.

I guess the reason why I like this book can be summed up in one neat and tidy phrase: even scientists can be dumbasses sometimes. Like let’s say for instance that you are a nuclear physicist and you know all about the harmful effects of radiation. Do you: a. conduct an experiment with a radioactive isotope using all kinds of lead shielding and so on, or b. conduct it using your hand and a screwdriver? Actually, that particular incident is *not* in the book; however, the twelve tales that are there are equally stupid. I just don’t want to give them away because, well, it’ll ruin some of the fun for you.

One final note: I am pretty sure that Simon LeVay is not related to founder of the modern Satanist movement Anton LeVay (well, he is an evolutionist so he’s going straight to hell lololololol!!!!). If he was, I’m pretty sure the first line of the book would be something like “I AM THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS’S BROTHER BOW BEFORE ME”, not something about a mortuary (and no, I am not going to give away why he mentions a mortuary).

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0 out of 2 people thought my review was helpful. HEY WHAT GIVES I GAVE IT FIVE STARS