On my last trip to Phoenix during the New Years holiday, I got to go to the greatest book store eva’ three times. Bookmans is a fantastic bookstore that has the most comprehensive book collection I’ve ever seen in a used book store. I loaded up my duffel bag with loads of purchases. I love Bookmans because they not only have a kick ass book collection, there are CDs, DVDs and magazines too.
I got some great purchases at Bookmans – please visit it if you can.
The Complete Shorter Fiction of Virginia Woolf by Virginia Woolf. I love Virginia Woolf – one of my favorite books of all time is Mrs. Dalloway, and The Hours is one of my favorite films. I was looking for a collection of her short stories because there are some Dalloway stories not included in my edition of Mrs. Dalloway (I’m still looking for the Dalloway reader). While paying for the book, a fun gentleman with an incredible hat made a comment on Woolf, mentioning that she found James Joyce’s Ulysses too complicated – we both shared a laugh at how “difficult” Mrs. Dalloway can be. I loved Woolf’s diaries, too – I wrote a paper on Woolf’s life in London post WWI.
Ballykissangel: The New Arrival by Hugh Miller. My partner made fun of me for reading this book. I love movie or TV tie-ins. Ballykissangel is a fun dramedy from England about an English Catholic priest assigned to a tiny village in Ireland. He has to deal with a colorful cast of characters – some of whom don’t take too kindly to an English priest. There is romance, comedy and drama in this book, as it covers the main character – Father Peter Clifford – as he gets introduced to the village and its inhabitants. He’s already made some enemies, but he’s also made friends, and has been able to make his mark. This isn’t great literature by far, but it’s still a fun escapist kind of read.
Shakespeare Wrote for Money: Two Years of Reading Begat More Reading, Presented in Easily Digestible, Utterly Hysterical Monthly Installments by Nick Hornby. I love Hornby’s writing – High Fidelity and About a Boy are some of my favorite books. Hornby’s a funny writer, but not afraid to go to darker places with his fiction. With Shakespeare Wrote for Money, I got a collection of his essays for the Believer magazine about the books he read and bought. I get some great reading suggestions from these collections.
The Best American Movie Writing 1998 edited by George Plimpton. I love the “Best American Writing” series – I collect the best mysteries, food writing, and short story anthologies. I didn’t know about The Best American Movie Writing. I was able to read a few essays already – there’s a great ironic article about Barbra Streisand by Paul Rudnick’s alter ego Libby Gelman-Waxer, “Pretty Is As Pretty Does” which goes into length about Streisand’s 1996 picture The Mirror Has Two Faces. Bonnie Friedman’s essay on The Wizard of Oz is an excellent feminist look at the classic MGM musical, and how viewers should rethink how they interpret the Wicked Witch of the West. I’m a fan of Jasmine Guy and she’s featured in Isabel Wilkerson’s “Hollywood Shuffle” which is an excellent look at how black actresses have a hard time of it in Hollywood. Donald Bogle’s “Beauty and the Beast: Did Hollywood Destroy Dorothy Dandridge?” goes over similar themes in his essay about Dandridge’s tragic life. I also found Daniel Harris’ writing on camp very good too.
Clementine in the Kitchen by Samuel Chamberlain. Food memoirs is my favorite kind of novel. This is a story about a family who moved to the United States from France to escape WWII, and took along their chef Clementine. This is a cute book with recipes.
Lost Tribe: Jewish Fiction from the Edge edited by Paul Zakrzewski. Jewish fiction is often pigeon-holed as bucolic, pastoral, and quaint. I wanted to get this book, because this collection of writers is a bit more diverse than many other collections like these. Some of these stories go over Jewish diaspora, alienation, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Kosher life, etc.
The Adventure of Food: True Stories of Eating Everything edited by Richard Sterling. This is another collection of food essays, but they’re also travel essays. I got the book because the back cover includes names of authors included in the book, like Frances Mayes (Under the Tuscan Sun) and Jeffrey Steingarten (The Man Who Ate Everything). This collection combines two genres I love: travel narratives and food writing.
Murder, She Wrote: Dying to Retire by Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain. I love these Murder, She Wrote books. Even though the show’s been cancelled for over 10 years now, I still get a kick reading these books. Like the show, each book takes the heroine, Jessica Fletcher, on some great journey, where she meets some interesting people and runs into murder. Dying to Retire has Jessica joined by some retirement home residents who help her out when she has to solve a murder.
Murder, She Wrote: Madison Avenue Shoot by Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain. Toward the end of Murder, She Wrote‘s run, the writers moved Jessica Fletcher to New York to teach at a fictional Manhattan university. The new setting gave Jessica some glamor and injected some excitement into the show’s episodes. This book has Jessica joining forces with her favorite nephew Grady (who was a recurring character on the TV show), as she tries to unravel the mystery of a murdered film executive.
It’s All Greek to Me! A Tale of a Mad Dog and an Englishman, Ruins, Retsina – and Real Greeks by John Mole. This book has a blurb that trumpets Peter Mayle and Frances Mayes – both great travel writers. I don’t know much about Greece, nor have I read a lot of books on the country – I did love the 1988 film Shirley Valentine that is set in Greece.
Fade Out: The Calamitous Final Days of MGM by Peter Bart. I don’t want to go too much into this because I will be giving a review of this book. It’s a great, page-turning drama about how a once-great movie studio limped to a sad and ignominious death. I will give a full review because I finished the book in two days – that’s how good it was!
Nobody’s Perfect: Writings from The New Yorker by Anthony Lane. Initially I picked this up, thinking it was a book on the making of the legendary Billy Wilder-Marilyn Monroe comedy, but instead it’s a collection of film writing by Lane – a sharp-tongued film critic. I thumbed through the book and found his acidic take on John Singleton’s Poetic Justice to be particularly funny and barbed. I picked up the book to read other arched reviews of films.
The Age of Grief: A Novella and Stories by Jane Smiley. Jane Smiley is one of my favorite authors because of her Pulitzer-winning rehash of Shakespeare’s King Lear, A Thousand Acres. I read another one of her books, Moo, and while it’s well-written I didn’t find it nearly as interesting. I’m putting together a class and want to get some good short stories, so I thought this would be a good addition to my library.
The Polysyllabic Spree: A Hilarious and True Account of One Man’s Struggle with the Montly Tide of Books He’s Bought and the Books He’s Been Meaning to Read by Nick Hornby. This is another collection of Hornby’s essays about the books he’s bought and read from the Believer magazine.
“Just Another Day” by Queen Latifah. Queen Latifah’s one of my favorite rappers, and think she’s severely underrated. This is a single off of her 1993 album Black Reign. This is the first maxi-single I found of Latifah’s, and was happy to see some of the remixes including Teddy Riley’s Newe Jack Remix. I’m hoping to find other Latifah maxi-singles with dance mixes.
Hat Full of Stars by Cyndi Lauper. This is probably Lauper’s greatest album after her debut She’s So Unusual. This is a 1993 release with songs that deal with socially conscious topics like domestic violence, racism, sexism, and abortion. Lauper’s voice is fantastic and she’s a great singer-songwriter. She’s teamed up with a great producer, Junior Vasquez, known more for his DJing. This album flopped mightily when it was released, and was probably her least successful set, which is a shame because it showed how much Lauper has grown as an artist.
Funny Lady (Original Soundtrack Recording) by Barbra Streiand. The movie Funny Lady – the sequel to Streisand’s Oscar-winning debut Funny Girl – was a pretty terrible film, but I’m a Streisand completist, so I got the soundtrack – the only one of her albums not released on Columbia Records. Aside from Streisand, there are contributions from the film’s other stars Ben Vereen and James Caan.
“Jump They Say” Compact Disc Maxi-Single by David Bowie. This is from Bowie’s 1993 album Black Tie, White Noise, his return to white soul and dance music. This CD single has a few club remixes – while I like Bowie’s glam rock, I favor his dance music.