High Five to Ask The Dust

November 19, 2008

I know it’s only Wednesday, but I already finished Ask The Dust. This happened for three reasons. First, and most important, I’m awesome. Second, I really enjoyed the book. And third, I’ll be at an offsite for work from tomorrow to Saturday. Don’t get too excited, I promise the offsite won’t be fun. In fact, it is so not fun that I won’t even write a joke about it. _____________________ Notice that empty space where there should be a joke? See that space and think of me bored at a work function for the next few days. But, loyal readers (mom), don’t fret. While I’m off being miserable you can read my posts over and over again. The joys of the internet.

So, like I said, this book is very good. John Fante’s writing style is a little like mine. I don’t mean that it’s bad like mine, I mean that it’s very random like mine. Also, similar to me, he likes to write in short sentences. As an example of his writing style, check out the first paragraph of the novel:

“One night I was sitting on the bed in my hotel room on Bunker Hill, down in the very middle of Los Angeles. It was an important night in my life, because I had to make a decision about the hotel. Either I paid up or I got out: that was what the note said, the note the landlady had put under my door. A great problem, deserving acute attention. I solved it by turning out the lights and going to bed.”

Dang, that’s good stuff. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to post material from his book here. I hope Mr. Fante won’t be too mad at me. Just to be safe, if you read that paragraph then please send the publisher a quarter, or, if you’d prefer, then send me $10. Ask The Dust is funny, quirky, tells a great story, and (in the end) is quite sad. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes to write, or for someone who is looking for something different to read. I’m impressed by Mr. Fante, and at some point in the next year I’m sure I’ll read another of his books.

Before I go, I’ll leave you with one more quote from the book. This is taken from a letter that the main character Bandini writes to an aspiring writer who is dying and looking for help writing: “Under ordinary circumstances I would call this a tragic situation. But having read the bile your manuscripts contain, let me speak for the world at large and say at once that your departure is everybody’s good fortune. You can’t write, Sammy. I suggest you concentrate on the business of putting your idiotic soul in order these last days before you leave a world that sighs with relief at your departure.”

I get your message loud and clear John Fante. And, with that, I won’t be posting for the next few days.


The Mentalist vs John Fante

November 19, 2008

John Fante had incredible will power. For example, this is what the back of the book has to say about him: “He was stricken with diabetes in 1955. Complications from the disease brought about his blindness in 1978 and, within two years, the amputation of both legs. He continued to write by dictation to his wife, Joyce, and published Dreams from Bunker Hill.” Holy crap, he writes even as a blind amputee, and I can’t write when The Mentalist is on tv. In my defense, The Mentalist is a little bit like Santa Clause – he knows when you’re watching, and he knows when you’re not. He might even know when you’re bad or good (so be good for goodness sake), but that’s beside the point. Anyway, if John Fante is that dedicated to writing, then you know his book is good. Likewise, if I’m so easily distracted, then you know this blog is horrible. However, you probably already knew this blog was horrible, and that’s not because you’re a mentalist, it’s because you can read.

Ask The Dust

November 17, 2008

There comes a time in every man’s life when he needs to choose a second book. Actually, that’s not true, some people don’t read books. And, even worse than that, some people in oppressive countries don’t get to choose what books they read. Anyway, I’m off topic (I got off topic in two sentences, that’s a new record for me! <streamers begin to fall as the song Celebrate blasts over the radio>).

Before I tell you about my second book, let’s talk about my apartment smelling like gas. I’ll desperately avoid the fecal humor, and move straight into the facts. For the past few days my apartment has reeked like gas. There must be a leak somewhere. I’m convinced that this can’t be good for me, but maybe (just maybe) it will make me a better writer. Dostoevsky had gambling, Hemingway had alcohol, and I inhale gas. Everyone has their vice. Actually, on second thought, I’d rather not die so I’m staying the night at Melinda’s apartment. Plus, they have a big screen tv and a Wii, so it’s a nice place to stay – but a hard place to read.

My second book is Ask The Dust by John Fante. I’ve never heard of this book, or this author, but I’m reading it because of one man’s dedication. I tried to make that last sentence sound very dramatic, almost like a guy carried the book across the desert and died handing it to me, you’ll soon see that it’s not that dramatic at all. Actually, last week I told a few of my co-workers about my book a week mission, and one of them got very excited and told me to read Ask The Dust because it changed his life. Bold statement, I know. I usually reserve statements like that for gifts from God such as chocolate milk and mayonnaise. When he mentioned this book last week he also said that he’d bring it in for me to read. Honestly, I completely forgot about all of this until the first thing he said to me this morning was, “Here’s the book,” as he slowly handed it to me. I was quite impressed that he remembered today was new book day, so I’m going to read it.

While looking for this book on Amazon I noticed that it was turned into a bad movie in 2006 starring Colin Farrell and Salma Hayek. Maybe after I read it this week I can ruin everything by watching the movie. Or, maybe not.

I’m feeling a little over-confident this week since Ask The Dust is 165 pages with large font, rather than the 505 pages of Crime and Punishment. In fact, I didn’t read at all today (too busy sniffing gas). I really do look forward to starting tomorrow (if not tonight) and I’ll keep you all updated.

The Reading Hokie Pokie

November 15, 2008

It’s official, I have finished Crime and Punishment. One book down, and fifty-one to go.

Don’t get me wrong, my life is normally not very exciting, but this past week has been the antithesis of exciting. I would come home from work, eat dinner, and then read until bedtime (yup, I still call it bedtime). Even on the special occasion where I’d get to go out to dinner with friends I’d still bring good ol’ Crime and Punishment along in case I could sneak in a few sentences while my friends weren’t watching. I think my friend Margaret summed it up best when she said to Melinda, “And he’s going to be doing this for a whole year!?” Yup, a whole year of exciting sitting on the couch for an hour, butt gets sore so I stand up for an hour, feet get sore so I lay down for an hour, reading adventure! It’s a very sad version of the hokie pokie.

I feel so unqualified to write a review of a literary classic like Crime and Punishment, but I will say that it is a great book. It’s exciting and interesting from start to finish and was definitely worthy of being my first book in this whole escapade. What I’m most surprised about is how relevant this book is. Crime and Punishment was written by a Russian in 1866, and yet it still makes sense to a random guy like me (a Californian) in 2008. Well done Dostoevsky. Well done. It’s no surprise that this book was such a big hit in Russia that even Sarah Palin could see it from her porch in Alaska (I realize this reference is a bit stretched, but I couldn’t help myself).

Also, in case nobody noticed, I finished Crime and Punishment a day early. Boo ya! That means I can spend tomorrow running around town and causing trouble. Yup, that’s right, I’m going to the science museum! Just because I’m reading for a year doesn’t mean I’m turning my back on my natural math and science nerdiness. Then, starting on Monday, I’ll start the hunt for book number two. Hmm…the options are endless.

Crime and Punishment

November 13, 2008

Well, I’m half way finished with Crime and Punishment, and I must admit that I’m feeling a little dirty. This dirtiness seems to be caused by the fact that I have just about everything in common with the main character. For example, listen to what the narrator says about him on the first page: “He had become so completely absorbed in himself and isolated from his fellows that he dreaded meeting, not only his landlady, but any one at all.” I read this sentence while nodding my head and thinking, “Yup, so?” Just tonight I dreaded meeting people so much that I ignored 5 phone calls (not only do I avoid meeting people, I avoid meeting their voices), haven’t said a single word in 5 hours (not an exaggeration), and even sat in complete stillness as my landlord walked by so she wouldn’t know I was home (despite the fact that my car is in the driveway). The worst part is, unlike the main character in Crime and Punishment, I’m not even late with my rent. I have absolutely no excuse to be this anti-social. And now you know why I feel dirty.

This made me question whether or not this whole book a week thing is a good idea. I’m already dreadfully anti-social, I don’t know if sitting alone in perfect silence every day to read is the right thing for me. I know how this story goes. First comes anti-social, then comes crime, and then (worst of all) comes punishment. Holy crap, I’m all good with the crime part, but the punishment thing is never good. Garett, feel free to insert dirty joke here.

Luckily, I’m only half finished with the book now. Maybe I’ll have some redemption. Maybe Dostoevsky was being ironic when he titled the book Crime and Punishment (perhaps Dostoevsky was a hipster). Maybe what the book should be called is Crime and Wonderment. Only time will tell. With 250 pages to go, I’m really hoping that the main character (me) gets more wonderment, and less punishment.

Book Number One

November 11, 2008

I have chosen my first book. I wish I could say something ominous and cool sounding like, “The first book chose me,” but I can’t. I have the good sense to realize I’m a slow reader and if I want to finish a decent book before the week is over, I┬áhave to get started today. When I say I’m a slow reader, I mean it. I read so slowly that the Slowsky turtles from the Comcast commercials would be bored by my progress.

Anyway, my first book is Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Why I chose this book is quite simple. It was sitting on my book shelf. All 500 pages of it. Argh. Reading about 50 pages an hour, that means I have 10 hours of reading ahead of me. However, don’t fret, I already came up with a way for me to read more quickly. I hate to admit it, but it’s a slight loophole to the third rule.

After picking up the book from my apartment with Melinda, I jumped in the car and began to drive the two of us to her place for dinner. I hate to admit it, but I asked Melinda to read the book out loud to me. Despite being a great idea, it only lasted for about a paragraph thanks to Melinda not putting up with my ridiculous ideas. She had the good sense to realize that you only read out loud to kids 10 years and younger. Maybe if I hope for long enough NPR will start to have a series where they read Crime and Punishment out loud during the hours I’m driving to and from work. A man can wish, can’t he?

Okay, enough typing, I need to start reading. It’s going to be a long year.

The Third Rule

November 11, 2008

I’m already glad I reserved the right to create a third rule. I knew that rules always came in threes, and that by only having two rules I was breaking some sacred law of the God of Rules. My third rule is this:

The Third Rule: Listening to a book on CD or tape does NOT count as reading a book.

Listening to a book on tape is like watching a cd on video, it doesn’t make any sense (never mind MTV). I know there are plenty of people that swear by books on tape, but these aren’t people worth knowing. Would the God of Rules permit listening to a book on tape? No way, because that would be breaking the third rule.