Adventures in Reading

R.I.P. Challenge – Fiction: A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

“Charlie Asher walked on the earth like an ant walks on the surface of water, as if the slightest misstep might send him plummeting through the surface to be sucked to the depths below.”

After his wife has passed away, Charlie Asher comes to discover that he is a “death merchant,” or a collector of souls. Caring for an infant daughter and a thrift store, he acclimates to his new “career.” With a variety show cast of characters, Charlie Asher just might have to save the world.

A Dirty Job’s best feature is a curious reinterpretation of death and dying set in contemporary San Francisco. The characters are developed for novelty and amusement, and overall it’s a fairly amusing page-turner.

Moore’s humor in A Dirty Job didn’t always work though, and some of the jokes were just painful to read. At times he was trying so hard to make a joke happen and it simply wouldn’t be funny. Even one of the larger themes in the book, the idea of the “Beta male” that was meant to be humorous, was never effortlessly pulled off. Some of the humor also bordered on fratire or “dick lit,” which is usually just offensive and often relies on stereotypes (read racist and sexist).

With that said, I would still be willing to read another of Moore’s books to see how it compares. A Dirty Job has an interesting plot, was well developed, and was a quick read.

Conclusion: Available on Bookmooch.


Fiction: When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

“‘You’re going to study literature and get a job doing what?’” he said. “‘Literaturizing?’” From When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris.

If I were to ever write a book about my life, one chapter would be dedicated to my friend Eric and the numerous things he has suggested that I swore I wouldn’t enjoy and ended up falling in love with. This ranges from local theatre to the film Sophie’s Choice and after many, many years I took his advice and picked up a David Sedaris book and as he knew I would I loved the book. I read When You Are Engulfed in Flames in one large swallow and it was an evening filled with embarrassing snorts, barks, giggles, and raucous laughter. (Not to mention my recitation of passages to my poor partner.)

David Sedaris is a humorous essayist with various books under his belt. When You Are Engulfed in Flames is his most recent collection and takes the reader through family history, education, travels, and the caricatures of the many people Sedaris meets. If there is nothing apparently infectiously funny about Sedaris’ stories, it’s because Sedaris dry wit, sarcasm, and slow self-roasting is contagious. In the final essay of the book “The Smoking Section” this passage left me laughing so hard I nearly choked:

“I was in El Paso one afternoon, changing out of my swimsuit, and a young man said, ‘Excuse me, but aren’t you…’ When I say I was changing out of my swimsuit, I mean that I had nothing on. No socks, no T-shirt. My underpants were in my hand. I guess the guy recognized me from my book jacket photo. The full-length naked one on the back cover of the braille edition.”

The collection is addictive in allowing the reader introspective into their own dysfunctional relationships. If When You Are Engulfed In Flames was a television comedy, it would always have perfect comic timing. Sedaris is a wonderful writer (though now I’ve twice compared him to a disease albeit a very funny one) and I am looking forward to picking up another of his works.

One thing that has caught my interest is that at work Sedaris is listed under fiction rather than humor. I was somewhat surprised as When You Are Engulfed in Flames very much reads as biographical humor, which tends to be back with the other humor books.

There has been a lot of discussion on Sedaris’ When You Are Engulfed in Flames: Feminist Review, Tripping Toward Lucidity, The Hidden Side of the Leaf, books i done read, Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin?, and Necromancy Never Pays.

Revisited: Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle

Prior to Adventures in Reading, I had started writing the odd review/summary. Now to try and gather them all to one location and to compensate for my loss of reading time with my Spanish course, I’m going to post the old reviews and revisit them. I’ve commented before that my opinions of the books are always quite biased to the time of writing, and so I’m also looking at this as a project of my own opinion.

My second Roddy Doyle read and it was no less impressive than the first. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha is the story of a 10-year-old boy growing up in Ireland. His experiences range from boyhood friendships to the classroom to his parent’s domestic disputes. Doyle is immensely talented and consistently manages to embrace his characters and represent them in a nearly too real fashion. Paddy Clarke not only feels like it’s a story of a 10-year-old boy but is specifically narrated by a 10-year-old boy and by the end of the book one has to wonder “Doyle, who’s he?” Doyle’s narrative is addicting and moving and I had to have spent half the book asking people, “Do you remember when…” A definite must read for everyone.

I have adored everything that I’ve read by Roddy Doyle and since Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha I’ve read his chapter in Click and his short story collection The Deportees. While I’m not sure if I would call it a “must read” in retrospect, I would say Doyle is an author everyone should read at least once in a lifetime. His novels are funny and engaging, and my collection is steadily growing.

Other opinions: Nymeth.