Arts Desk

Five Books I’d Read

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


1. Showtime: A History of the Broadway Musical Theater, by Larry Stempel.
The cool kids at the theater camp I attended in the summers of 1990 and 1991 would so have appreciated this soup-to-nuts (or, should I say, Showboat-to-Rent) history of the Great White Way. But, even if free copies of Larry Stempel's ("Larry Stempel" = a name for a Broadway historian way too awesome for me to have made up) comprehensive tome had been distributed gratis, horny campers would not have been distracted from their main mission: getting to third base in the woods behind the theater with nothing between them and loamy Pennsylvania soil but a stained Les Miserables towel.

2. Computer, by Paul Atkinson.
Computers have evolved. First, there was ENIAC. Then, in semichronological, totally noncomprehensive order: the IBM PC, the Apple, the Apple II, the Apple IIe, the Apple IIGS, the Apple III, the Intel and a bunch of other crappy PCs, the iMac, the eBook, the G4, the G5, and now the iPad. What a relief that, now that the iPhone 4 is released, there is no more planned obsolescence and there no are no further possible advances in computing imaginable!

3. In Utopia, J.C. Hallman.
This book is about "utopian literature and thought in the narrative context of the real-life fruits of that history," like my as-yet-realized dreamworld where bicyclists never smugly ride the wrong way down one-way streets, the phrase "going forward" is verboten, and The Fugitive is always on AMC.

4. The Pages, by Murray Bail.
This novel is about a hermitish fellow who obscurely toils away Salinger-style on a book of philosophy on a remote Australian sheep farm. Soon to be a major motion picture starring that pug-faced dude from (500) Days of Summer and Inception that's a little bit like The Da Vinci Code, but more like Angels & Demons.

5. Koko Be Good, by Jen Wang.
This graphic novel has been sitting on my desk for six months while I waited for its release date to approach so that, in this column, I could say something clever about it when the time was ripe. Now the time is ripe and, though I've flipped through Koko Be Good dozens of times, I'm still not sure what it's about. According to the flap, it's "[h]onest, wrenching, and sharply funny...a stunning debut about human nature and the inhuman efforts we make to find ourselves." So, that's good to know. Maybe it's not that much different than Ulysses or Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. At first, I thought it was well-drawn, but the more I look at it the more it looks like Hanna-Barbera or something. So, since this book and I haven't really clicked in the half-year we spent together, I'm going to put it on the giveaway table here at the office and forget about it (if that's OK). I will say that it smells excellent. (Most graphic novels smell better than most hardback books, and definitely smell better than crappy review copies serious book reviewers like me receive every day, but that's another story.)

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