Monday, August 30, 2010

Willow In A Storm: A Memoir - James Peter Taylor/Kathleen Murphy Taylor

Willow In A Storm/James Peter Taylor-Kathleen Murphy Taylor/Scarletta Press/2007/pgs320
Memoir/Biography/Prison life/Sexual Identity

At age 30, James Taylor is convict to a life sentence for the murder of a Minnesota banker named Kenneth Lindberg, a family man with a hidden past that tragically ended his life. Taylor grows up with multiple opportunities at his fingertips; a small haven he calls home in suburban Michigan, living in a newly developed wealthy community afforded by his successful father and loving mother, a caring extended family living nearby. He is graced with athletic greatness that continually helps him throughout his life. He spends his summers in Connecticut with the likes of Martha's Vineyard as his playground. However, beneath the surface is a dark secret.

Jim has a vague notion that he is not like other boys. While his cousins play outside, he makes his way to closets in order to wear women's clothing, lying in the dark, in a bra and dress, in awe of how the fabric feels on his skin. His sexual orientation becomes confusing at such a young age only to be magnified by sexual abuse from his father and an older boy in his community who he looked to as a mentor. These experiences not only cause emotional repercussions on his esteem and psychological being, but also start a spiral of needing approval which eventually leads to the cause of his imprisonments. He seems to start moving from one scheme or person to another only to prove to his father that he can make a successful life on his own, failing to prevent hurting those who try to make paths in Jim's life such as his wife and daughter.

Imprisonment forces Taylor to return to his homosexual ways, casting on womanly roles in order to survive life. Even with his feminine manners, he suffers from great injuries some that cause severe and permanent damage such as blindness. However, prison was also where Jim learned about faith and redemption. Learned repentance and forgiveness which the idea of the book seems to stem from as it works as an apology for all those he has wronged. The memoir contains plenty of darkness but there are glimmering rays of light in the end.

Overall thoughts: The memoir captures the absolute bleak nature of prison life, detailing dangerous and psychological warfare prisoners face. He spares no detail of his life, which at times seemed to lag a bit, especially moving from one prison to another. Perhaps, I judge this somewhat unfairly because as I was reading, I kept thinking of all the wasted opportunities, the people he hurt, and the situations he got himself into. Although I do not think imprisonment was his absolute destination, I kept referring back to these facts in my mind. I did feel some compassion for him and noted how well-written his accounts and apologies were manifested. Definitely not a book for light reading

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Eating The Dinosaur - Chuck Klosterman

Eating The Dinosaur - Chuck Klosterman/Scribner/2009/pg245
Humor/Pop Culture/Social Aspects/Essay

Chuck Klosterman is known for his take on all things pop culture but even beyond that, for his own personal take on everything ranging from music to movies to the culture of Kiss in Fargo. He has his own brand of wit and humor which transfuses into his writing, creating interesting coffee table reading that is laced with sarcasm and one-liners.

Eating the Dinosaur offers his thoughts on being interviewed and the intention and necessity of lying; the legend of Nirvana and the comparisons between Kurt Cobain and David Koresh; time travel and the eight key steps as to why it doesn't work resulting in the eating of a dinosaur; sports coverage including the rise and fall of basketball player Ralph Sampson; voyeurism; the career of Garth Brooks and his alter ego Chris Gaines; the wonderment of football; ABBA; the characteristics of laughter; the world of advertising; the meaning of being literal in an ironic world; technology and the truth seeping in Ted Kaczynski's aka The Unabomber thesis titled, "Industrial Society and Its Future."

I love Klosterman's humor and his books always give me a new outlook or sometimes a new world view/mantra as the idea of deconstructing Save by the Bell episodes for some universal truth that important things are inevitably cliche never really occur to me before him. His writing possess sharp wit and hilariously obsessive detailing over subjects that most writers and people would dismiss as brainless and shallow yet he pulls it off flawlessly.

Read also: Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Klosterman, Chuck Klosterman IV, Killing yourself to life by Klosterman

Monday, August 2, 2010

I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti: A memoir of Good Food and Bad Boyfriends - Giulia Melucci

I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti: A Memoir of Good Food and Bad Boyfriends by Giulia Melucci; Grand Central Publishing 2009; 278 pgs

Giulia Melucci dishes out on her serial dating experiences. This seems to be a plot line like most "chick lit" novels, divulging about bad dates, weird habits, men who are supposedly mature but act as though they have just arrived to the senior prom. Melucci definately has encountered her own set of dating woes, from the man who was forever a cool teen, the aging hipster who owns a scooter and goes to bars to watch his son's band play, to the man who could have made her his wife.

The twist to this book is the cooking which is obvious from the title. Melucci is known for her cooking skills and she artfully writes about the woes of dating while enjoying the comfort of food, whether its consoling or celebrating, healing or energy, however food doesn't seem to be just for nourishment. I loved how each man is represented by his different eating habits and how they manifest as an outlier for how the relationship will unfold. Whether this is just evident after the fact and in line with the narrative or just keen observation, I liked it nevertheless and thought it was a perfect way to tie both of the books pivotal elements together. I truly envy her relationship with her mother, not only for her enduring support but also fantastic culinary skills that I wish I could learn.

I read this while traveling and it was a great read. The writing is fast paced and is outlined as short stories featuring one relationship per chapter. All the while including recipes for the dishes she makes which is fantastic as the book doubles as a cook book. And I have to say the dishes sound wonderful and easy enough for a novice cook like me to try. I can't wait and will definitely add on to this post as I try some out. I would recommend this for someone wanting a summer read, entertainment, and a little soul searching for the quest of finding someone to make you continually smile when life gets in the way.