Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sleepwalk with Me and Other Painfully True Stories by Mike Birbiglia

For once, I saw the movie before I read the book. Birbiglia's movie Sleepwalk with Me is a based-on-real-life story about a young man finding his way in comedy as the rest of his life falls apart.* The title is drawn from his struggles with REM sleep disorder, which causes him to act out his dreams. The movie alternates between funny, awkward, and sad. I found it unsettling but worth watching.

Despite the title, this book doesn't share much content with the movie, just the last few chapters. It also includes some of the same stories/jokes Birbiglia uses in his stand-up routines, but he provides more detail here to appeal to hardcore fans.**

Anyway, it is hilarious. Birbiglia is a likable "average guy" sort of character with a great sense of humor. My only complaint is that the stories are not in chronological order, which is sometimes confusing, but I suppose he chose this format because it mimics a stand-up routine.

* It seems strange that Birbiglia would fictionalize such a personal story, but I suppose it gave him more creative leeway with the movie script (this book is not fictionalized, as far as I know).

** Does Birbiglia have any hardcore fans?

Hardcover                Paperback               DVD                       Instant Video


Sunday, June 09, 2013

Wrong Train

I took the train downtown this afternoon for a late lunch/early dinner. It works out great for me because if I head back home within two hours the return trip costs only 25 cents (it's considered a "transfer"). On the way home, I heard the "CTA voice" announce on the PA, "Welcome aboard Red Line run 909."

Damn, I wanted to be on the one after!

(What was really weird was when I switched to the Brown Line train and found myself seated behind the same woman I had been behind on the train downtown. She must have been on the "return within two hours for 25 cents" plan, too!)

Signspotting 2: More Absurd & Amusing Signs from Around the World compiled by Doug Lansky

This is the second Signspotting book I've read (there are four), and it's the second book from Lansky I've read this year. It's mostly pictures of unintentionally funny signs with brief, often groan-worthy comments. Beyond the introduction, the only pages of text are "stories behind the photo" that frankly *yawn* should have been excluded. It's the kind of book that most people just flip through at the store without buying, but I got a good deal on a remainder. I liked it, but I seem to remember the first book being better (isn't it always?).

Here's the whole Signspotting series so far:


Saturday, June 08, 2013

Such a Pretty Fat: or Why Pie Is Not the Answer by Jen Lancaster

This completes the trilogy of Jen Lancaster books that I took a chance buying all at once when Borders in Wilmette closed. From flipping through and reading bits, I thought I'd like her, and mostly it worked out.* Unfortunately, I'm liking each book less than the previous one. Even more unfortunately, I already bought four more of her books because I had anticipated that I would like them all.

Lancaster can be very funny and entertaining (despite my XY chromosomes excluding me from her target market). My problem with these books is that they are like cotton candy: tasty but lacking much substance. I laugh a lot but when it's over I don't feel like I've gained anything from the experience.

Though Such a Pretty Fat documents Lancaster's efforts to lose weight, her editor is the one who should have been trimming fat. There are some hysterical episodes, but there is a lot of forgettable and irrelevant crap in between. Also Lancaster's style and personality are becoming more exhausting with each volume; she just babbles annoyingly. Yet the most disturbing thing to me in this book is her revelation that she needs to move out of the city. Being sick of New York City memoirs, I loved that she lived in Chicago. She'll probably fade from my life just like my friends who moved to the suburbs.

After looking at the Amazon reviews for her later books, I wonder whether it's even worth continuing through Jennsylvania. I mean, everybody gets some lousy reviews, but when the negative ones are rated "most helpful", that's a bad sign.

* Incredibly, this purchasing behavior is not such a rare occurrence for me. I have at least three books apiece from two more authors whose work I haven't read yet (Mary Roach and Michael Perry), and I have two books from many others. I am a shopper of opportunity, so I'll buy something that looks interesting whenever I see it cheap regardless of whether I've confirmed that I like the author by actually reading one of his or her books. Such is the life of a book hoarder.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

May Wrap-Up/June Theme

For May's theme of work, I read ten books. A few covered many occupations while others focused on one. I learned something about at least 240 jobs, and a lot about 12 or so. My favorites were Big Dead Place, Canned, Ambulance Girl, and You Want Fries with That?. The only one I really disliked was Malled. As for conclusions, as I suspected, most of the books I read in May made me glad I don't work anymore.

I had a little trouble choosing a theme for June, but since Rosco died I need to try to keep from getting too depressed. He is the fourth pet we've lost in 16 months, and he was with us since the last century. Therefore June's theme is laughter. I have lots of books by comedians as well as humorous writers like Dave Barry, Laurie Notaro, and Jen Lancaster. So I probably won't learn anything profound this month, but at least I hope to keep smiling.