New books, February 2014

New Books, February 2014

M. G. Lord, Astro Turf: The Private Life of Rocket Science (2005) – A memoir; family history told against the broader strokes of rocket testing in the 1960s.

Carol Shaben, Into the Abyss: How a Deadly Plane Crash Changed the Lives of a Pilot, a Politician, a Criminal, and a Cop (2012) – Journalism, and a family history, traced as well through a lesser myth of the NDP – the plane crash that killed Grant Notley.

Lucy Moore, Anything Goes: A Biography of the Roaring Twenties (2010) – A little book about a decade that I don’t know very much about.

Nell Freudenberger, The Dissident (2005) – A big novel, split into 80 chapters.

Michael Kodas, High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed (2008) – Everest may be my least favourite IMAX film. There’s nothing heroic about climbing a mountain – at best it doesn’t matter and at worst it’s selfish. There’s nothing inspirational about ‘sticking it out; achieving a dream; never giving up’ if the goal is so bluntly immaterial. It’s neat to watch a mountain climbing movie on a gigantic screen, so long as we’re clear that we’re watching is simple self-indulgence with all the meaning of Rolling Stones: Live at the MAX (which I also really enjoyed!) maybe this book will address that – the strange and eerie inspiration we’re all meant to derive from ‘Everest,’ the mountain, the construct. Or it could leave all that unexamined and talk about how the good name of Everest has been tarnished.

Joyce Carol Oates, A Widow’s Story (2011) – Somehow I never expected to read anything by Joyce Carol Oates, for no particular reason. There was a time in 1998 when I felt the same way about listening to Stereolab records, so these things do change.

Nicholas Carr, The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, From Edison to Google (2008) – a guide to the ‘cloud computing revolution.’ The more recent the book, the less inclined I am to read it, at least on the subject of computers, so I may save this for years, until it becomes a little history of this time.

Michael Lewis, The Money Culture (1991) – collected essays from 1986-1991.

Jonathan Franzen, Freedom (2010) – The weight of a ‘masterpiece of American fiction’ aside, sometimes it is fun to read a big novel or two and this was on the remainder pile.

Caleb Crain, Necessary Errors (2013) – a big pretty novel from PulpFiction. Set amongst young American ex-pats in Prague, 1990; as opposed to Prague by Arthur Phillips which is set amongst young American ex-pats in Budapest, 1993. I tried to read Prague once, and I’ll try again, if only for comparison.

Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter (1948)

Ed Willes, End Zones and Border Wars: The Era of American Expansion in the CFL (2013) – A strange history and one I’d forgotten about until I found this book.

Russell Wangersky, Burning Down the House: Fighting Fires and Losing Myself (2008) – Firefighting memoir, from the east coast. Sharon Butala referred to this often in the memoir seminar I did with her in 2009.

David Kushner, Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture (2003) – I never played Doom but I did play Commander Keen and other side-scrolling computer games between 1991 and 1994 or so. I knew about Doom from playing those games but it sounded awful, so I avoided it and, effectively, the next 20 years worth of computer and video games. Some of the same people made Commander Keen and Doom so I’ll read this for what I knew and for what I missed out on following.

ed. Thomas Frank and David Mulcahey, Boob Jubilee: The Cultural Politics of the New Economy (2003) – I bought but have not read the first Baffler collection, Commodify you Dissent! and I didn’t know this had been published until I found it in the underground Russell’s shop on View. Selected essays from 1997-2003.

Sherry Turkle, Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet (1997)

William Rathje and Cullen Murphy, Rubbish!: The Archaeology of Garbage (2001) – My fourth book about garbage, and written by the guy whose academic Garbage Project was covered in National Geographic in the early 1990s for an article that may have been the first garbage text I read.

Candace Savage, A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape (2012) – I read The Perfection of the Morning by Sharon Butala for a history course in 2004; this is a different history of the same space.

Kevin Barefoot, Victoria: Secrets of the City (2000) – A guide to everything that’s closed in the last 14 years.

Jamey Heath, Dead Centre: Hope, Possibility, and Unity for Canadian Progressives (2007) – I found this at Russell Books the same week that Jamey Heath did a workshop with my office.

Daniel Francis, L.D.: Mayor Louis Taylor and the Rise of Vancouver (2004) – Vancouver’s longest serving mayor, off and on between 1910 and 1934.

Alison Owings, Hey Waitress!: The USA from the Other Side of the Tray (2002) – I’m really excited to read this – waitressing in America, through oral histories. This was near the top of a pile of books at Russell. Another secret history – the last 50+ years, as told by women doing service work in restaurants.

Christopher Shaw, Five-Ring Circus: Myths and Realities of the Olympic Games (2008) – “the greatest sham on earth” says the back! At this point, the games seem most remarkable for how little they mattered, in the end, to the Vancouver that I know and live in. For years it was all that lay ahead and I worried that we’d forgotten how to get by without the ever-present anxiety but then it was over and we all forgot about it. This is a nice piece of nostalgia for that frustrating decade; nostalgia, also, for the nice old Duthie Books bookmark inside.

Frances Jewel Dickson, The DEW Line Years: Voices from the Coldest Cold War (2007) – Canada’s Cold War; radar stations across the Arctic.

Jeffery Simpson, The Friendly Dictatorship (2001) – Those heady days when Jean Chretien would never leave, and when he did we knew that Paul Martin would be around forever too. This was the situation I was raised in, and it’s still normal. Anything but 100 Liberal MPs from Ontario feels like an aberration, which is dangerous; anything else feels temporary, a brief moment that will come to a natural correction.

Kaitlin Fontana, Fresh at Twenty: The Oral History of Mint Records (2011) – This is another little history of a little piece of Vancouver. I was around for some of it – and had I not run for a position on the student society board in 2003 I might have spent a few more years going to shows and thinking about rock music. I didn’t do anything, really, between 2001 and 2003, compared to what a lot of people did about rock music. I just went to shows at a bunch of venues that aren’t around anymore to see bands that aren’t around anymore. Richards on Richards; the Sugar Refinery; the Pic Pub; the Blinding Light Cinema; Video In. I saw The Organ at the Milkbar and my pal Rich and I helped to carry their organ back to their practice space down the block. After 2003 I stopped paying much, or any attention to bands in town.

Dirk Septer, Lost Nuke: The Last Flight of Bomber 075 (2012) – I’ve seen this in the shop on the ferry and guessed that I could find it for cheap and I did at Value Village. A little story about a lost warhead off the coast of northern Vancouver Island.

Bernie Finkelstein, True North: A Life in the Music Business (2012) – In lieu of the Bruce Cockburn memoir that is coming sometime, this year, maybe, I bought his manager’s memoir from Russell Books at the same time as I bought the Mint Records book. Two sides, two histories, across the country.


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