Arts Desk

Five Books I’d Read

in which the author discusses five books he'd read, if time permitted.

537061861. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, edited by Hugh Haughton, illustrated by John Tenniel.
Pop quiz: Without reaching out to any lifeline (parent, friend, lover, child, roommate, neighbor, cab driver, doctor, lawyer, barber/hairstylist, dentist, garbageperson, boss, underling, 1951 animated Disney adaptation or reviews of same, recent Tim Burton adaptation or reviews of same, Google, Wikipedia, library shelf, etc.), summarize the plot (plot = fundamental conflict, narrative arc, climax, and resolution/denouement) of Alice in Wonderland in 50 words or less, if you think there is one. No partial credit.

2. The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life, by James Martin.
I want to be a priest, but not a normal, run-of-the-mill priest with slick-backed hair, bad breath, dandruff, and a cowlick that teaches CCDers about Communion and the Books of the Old Testament and Transubstantiation and the dates of all of the Holy Days of Obligation while, on Sunday, giving sermons about respecting parents and teachers while (when those parents and teachers aren't looking) sneaking handsome tweens into the sacristy for a bit of old-fashioned Vatican-sanctioned sex abuse. Instead, I want to be an unusual, unorthodox, liberal, renegade priest like that severe-looking dude in The Exorcist with a lush mop of jet-black hair who's not just a priest, but a psychiatrist who teaches at Georgetown U. (or at least hangs out there a hell of a lot) and is from New York (The Bronx? Brooklyn? Queens? I'm still unsure after repeated viewings of The Exorcist), and who smokes a lot and runs track in well-fitting sweatpants. I guess I want to be a Jesuit. Everybody knows they'd get all the (over-18 and legally datable) girls, if they (they = the Jesuits) weren't already wedded to Christ.

3. Misadventure, by Millard Kaufman.
This seems to be some kind of hardboiled murder mystery by a recently-deceased nonagenarian ("nonagenarian" = "in his 90s." Don't feel unworthy. Sure, unlike me, maybe you didn't know what it meant but, if it makes you feel any better, I had to double-check the spelling.) author who stormed European and/or Japanese beaches on D-Day (Upon reflection, I realize that this is an incorrect use of "and/or," since it's unlikely that one soldier could have stormed beaches in the European and Japanese theaters on that one fateful day during which the Greatest Generation proved its mettle). I emphasize the author's nonagenarian status because it seems a pivotal point of the McSweeney's publicity campaign surrounding this book. I've thought a bit whether this PR tactic is legitimate—should we be impressed when authors of books are very old or very young?—and have come to no conclusion.

4. White Masks, by Elias Khoury, translated by Maia Tabet.
This seems to be some kind of hardboiled murder mystery by a Lebanese author that was just recently translated into English. I'd have preferred to read it in the original Arabic, but I've been recruited by the CIA (which, eager to exploit my Arabic-language skills, offered me an incredible salary and benefits), whisked away to a black op in an undisclosed location, and, as I sit in this anonymous cafe waiting to swap briefcases with a mustachioed contact (Codename: John Mayer), find that the original Arabic version isn't available in the rogue, non-NATO nation from which I write. As-Salāmu 'Alaykum.

5. Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci, by Joseph D'Agnese, illustrated by John O'Brien.
I finished Calculus before breaking up with math, and so should probably be able to explain the Fibonacci sequence (0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21...), and how it's derived, and eloquently discuss its alleged importance in nature, but I had to empty out the part of my brain that stored this information so that I could have better access to arcane plot points of obscure Seinfeld episodes (like the finale of the second season where Jerry and Elaine get back together—FYI, when the third season begins, they're broken up again, with no explanation!). Thus, I leave further examination of the Fibonacci sequence to the 9-through-12-year olds for whom this book is intended.

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