Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Book Depository: Part VI

118: A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole. A co-worker of mine suggested I should read the character of Ignatius with the voice of "Comic Book Guy" from the Simpsons in mind. That worked for two lines and then I went back to my recurring Two Minute Hates. A Confederacy of Dunces is a comic Pulitzer Prize winning novel set in New Orleans where Ignatius is this obnoxious character who apparently was not properly socialized as a small child. He is something of a mental case, insists on talking and whining about his "valve", does not bathe or clean anything in his room. His white sheets are stained yellow from dirt, cannot hold down a job without getting fired. At one place he tries to make the factory workers rise up in revolution, but if anyone has anything like a rational opinion Ignatius is enraged.

I struggled. I did not laugh. I did not even smirk. Ignatius was such a disgusting protagonist that all I really wanted out of the novel was for someone to do great violence to him. Alas, Ignatius soldiers on making everyone else look stupid somehow. Please, someone tell me that New Orleans and the French Quarter is not populated by the people in this novel. Please.

119: Kitchen Confidential - Anthony Bourdain. Bourdain's memoir of his life in the world of professional cooking, where he came from, and what his experiences in the culinary industry have been. He has led something of a rock and roll lifestyle before he cleaned himself up and the kitchens he has worked in have frequently reflected that. Loud, intense, fast paced (all kitchens are fast paced), and populated by characters of dubious backgrounds but with a talent and capability to show up for work every day and do a damn good job. It's a fascinating look at what it takes to cook for a living and then Bourdain does something interesting by showing us the kitchen experience of another chef who runs a kitchen nothing like the way Bourdain runs a kitchen. Bourdain's personality comes out in Kitchen Confidential and we see how his personality is reflected in the kitchen that he runs. Very good book.

120: Kitty Goes to Washington - Carrie Vaughn. This is the second book in the two volume Carrie Vaughn set that I won in an online contest earlier this year. As I said when I wrote about Kitty and the Midnight Hour, I was not excited to win this one because...well, it's a werewolf novel. But, Vaughn does such a good job in building the character of Kitty, a late night radio talk show host who has a show about the supernatural and oh yeah, just happens to be a lycanthrope herself.

Kitty has been exiled from her home in Denver because she has broken with her pack. So, she takes her radio show on the road and each week does the show from another station. She finds out from her lawyer she has been summoned to Washington because the Senate is holding hearings on the supernatural. The hearings could be because of her show (she recently had Senator Joseph Duke, a hard core Bible Thumping Christian as a guest), but a government department also just went public about its funding and research into vampires and werewolves. What awaits Kitty in Washington?

Carrie Vaughn just spins a bloody entertaining story that needs to be devoured. Yes, bad puns intended. The novel flows from scene to scene, builds what we know of Kitty and her world, and transitions into a very surprising climax. After winning the first two Kitty novels in a contest I am going to willingly seek out the next Kitty novel when it is released in 2007.

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