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Reviews Written by
Robert Carlberg (Seattle)
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Smoke Signals
Smoke Signals
Price: CDN$ 16.23
14 used & new from CDN$ 12.64

4.0 out of 5 stars Rare Live Mole!, Aug. 2 2001
This review is from: Smoke Signals (Audio CD)
What a treat it is to have live evidence of one of the quirkiest, unfulfilled and most short-lived bands in the whole prog-rock arena. The recordings are surprisingly good, and the playing is considerably harder-edged than their studio recordings.
A very nice package too.

Amnesia Moon
Amnesia Moon
by Jonathan Lethem
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 18.95
28 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, Vertiginous Tour de Force, July 9 2001
This review is from: Amnesia Moon (Paperback)
What an amazing accomplishment is this book. It is simultaneously funny and sad, familiar yet very strange, and it moves along with a predictable rhythm while never actually going where you expect. Ever.
Lethem has written some of the most inventive novels I've ever read -- "Girl in Landscape," "As She Climbed Across The Table," "Motherless Brooklyn" -- and he's just as creative here. His characters and the situations he puts them in ride the knife-edge between absolute believability and (some kind of) science fiction outlandishness, but it's to Lethem's credit that you never lose your attachments to his cast.
The twists in this book -- which if you've read it you know about, and if not I couldn't BEGIN to explain them to you -- rank it right up with "Girl" for audacity. I was reminded of the movie "Being John Malkovich" or some of Fellini's work perhaps. Definitely the work of a major talent, both in scope and skill. His writing is so good it gave me vertigo.

Breakup: The End of a Love Story
Breakup: The End of a Love Story
by Catherine Texier
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.06
27 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Here's Why It Is Interesting, July 5 2001
Okay, so Catherine and Joel's breakup was bitter, vitriolic, venomous, and dragged on for far too long. Texier's description of the push-and-pull is by turns harrowing and sensationally honest.
HOWEVER! The real reason for reading this book isn't for wallowing in all the sordid details, which are not uncommon in any breakup after an extended relationship. What I found fascinating was what Catherine left out because she could not see it:
* How indecisive she was; allowing Joel to continue to live with her (and share her bed) long after his affair was in the open
* How insecure, self-centered and manipulative she was
* How abominably they both used their daughters as pawns in their power-plays (with apparently no concern for what it was doing to them)
* How all of Joel's complaints about her -- relayed secondhand by her own text -- played out as really accurate in the end
Not that Joel was guilt-free either. He shamelessly used his wife and their apartment as a "safe haven" while he was schtupping his editor, waiting for a payday big enough to move out in comfort. Neither party escapes a Pyrrhic resolution. As in many divorces, everybody loses -- but you still gotta do it.
A fascinating, unusually-honest book which proves the maxim, "never sleep with a writer."

Ship Of Fools A Novel
Ship Of Fools A Novel
by Richard Russo
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
17 used & new from CDN$ 2.97

4.0 out of 5 stars What An Odd Novel -- But Very Good!, March 11 2001
Russo's Carlucci novels aren't "hard sci-fi," so I wasn't sure what to expect from this, a 'deep-space saga.' What it turned out to be, primarily, is Russo working against all expectations of the genre.
He breaks several defacto rules, and presents some very unusual twists. Without giving away too much of the story:
* The narrator is imprisoned for 7 months, and misses everything that happens during his absence
* The main love interest is left unconsummated, and ends in a death
* Several major plot directions just evaporate, halfway developed (just like real life...)
* The ending leaves more questions unanswered than not
Russo's short stories in "Terminal Visions" were highly developed and fully consistent, which makes all the more inexplicable the errors of scale here, a sort of "Star Trek" myopia:
* The Argonos has visited a number of star systems within the lifetime of the narrator, which completely ignores the distances involved
* Although set is a far-distant future of interstellar travel, telephones, video screens and ship controls are present-day
* The population of the ship is "several thousand" which isn't enough for a true breeding colony
* The ship is listed as self-sufficient, but the infrastructure for self-sufficiency isn't evident
* For a ship/colony large enough to be self-sufficient, there are only a handful of characters who figure in the plot
But these concerns didn't really detract from the novel. Russo's strength, throughout all of his books, is his characterizations and "Ship of Fools" is no exception. He creates 3-dimensional people you can believe in, and runs them through a storyline that is unpredictable, generates some genuine feelings of dread and uncertainty, and does it with page-turning intensity.
Despite breaking all the conventions of the genre -- or perhaps because of it -- this novel is a worthy addition to the pantheon.

Jargonwatch: A Pocket Dictionary for the Jitterati
Jargonwatch: A Pocket Dictionary for the Jitterati
by Gareth Branwyn
Edition: Hardcover
20 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars English is a Liquid Language, Feb. 6 2001
...and Branwyn documents the steady drip, drip, drip of new words, from the already-well-established like webmaster, trolling, e-tailing and spam to cutting edge entries like prairie dogging, kevork, salmon day, keyboard plaque, stress puppy and seagull manager. Keep it by your square-headed girlfriend so you can liven up your e-mail tennis using TLAs with toy value better than dancing baloney. Just don't get caught or you might get uninstalled (decruited).

Terminal Visions
Terminal Visions
by Richard Paul Russo
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 22.65
25 used & new from CDN$ 2.98

5.0 out of 5 stars The Concise Russo, Jan. 4 2001
This review is from: Terminal Visions (Hardcover)
Russo's novels (at least the ones I've read, Carlucci's Edge and Carlucci's Heart) offer a dark, Blade-Runneresque vision of a near-future San Francisco in which chaos rules the streets and cops keep their heads down.
Terminal Visions is both wider and narrower -- wider in that these short stories are set in a variety of locales with differing casts, different premises, and different tones (although 'noir' seems to be the prevailing one). Narrower in that, like John Varley's short stories, these are miniature universes unto themselves, sketching out in a few hundred words an entire scenario for a possible future. Russo's spare use of language, and haunting ideas, make this one of the best and most thought-provoking collections of shorts I've read since The Barbie Murders.
Wonderful stuff.

Outbound
Outbound
Price: CDN$ 13.72
19 used & new from CDN$ 12.95

5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Showstopper, Nov. 4 2000
This review is from: Outbound (Audio CD)
Sorry "dtneal" this is not Hamm's first solo album but his fourth, and easily his best yet.
As "Christopher" points out this is much more of a band effort, due to the addition of a duo known as 'Youth Engine' and a hot guitarist named Mark McGee. Although Hamm's bass technique is still kaleidoscopically great, the other musicians enfold it and give it perspective, resulting in one of the sweetest instrumental rock albums I've ever heard.
Restraint is a valuable asset for a instrumental god to learn, and this album shows the maturing of a major talent.
Two last thoughts: The song he calls "The Tenacity of Genes and Dreams" sounds an awful lot to me like "Levi Stubbs' Tears" by Billy Bragg, and Hamm's solo version of "The Star Spangled Banner" is truly stunning (I never knew how beautiful that tune could be!)

Grow Fins - Rarities 1965-1982
Grow Fins - Rarities 1965-1982
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 287.35
6 used & new from CDN$ 153.09

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Kind of a Sham, Really, Oct. 31 2000
I agree with the other 20 reviews posted to date, and haven't got any special expertise to add.
But I don't think anybody has mentioned yet that the much-lauded disc of so-called "Trout Mask Outtakes" is really nothing of the sort. A good two-thirds of it is simply the album tracks playing in the background while somebody talks in the foreground -- these aren't alternate takes even! They're right off the stinkin' album for cripes sake.
The live tracks are dismal, the booklet is in unreadable colors, the information presented is of questionable value, and the set is way over-priced for such a collection of garbage.
And of course, I had to have it. =:o

Girl in Landscape: A Novel
Girl in Landscape: A Novel
by Jonathan Lethem
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.99
36 used & new from CDN$ 0.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Achieving the Impossible, Sept. 12 2000
Lethem has attempted some very difficult goals in "Girl in Landscape," but by and large he succeeds admirably.
* Writing a believable 13-year old girl
* Creating another habitable planet
* Describing a non-human culture
* Moving between a dream state and waking reality without the seams showing
Lethem is so deft in his tightrope act that I found myself exclaiming "Wow" aloud several times while reading. His skill is palpable, but the book never comes off as flashy or bragging.
In fact, aside from a uncharacteristically weak dénouement, the book is nearly perfect.

You Can't Catch Death: A Daughter's Memoir
You Can't Catch Death: A Daughter's Memoir
by Ianthe Brautigan
Edition: Hardcover
22 used & new from CDN$ 22.77

5.0 out of 5 stars What A Lovely Memoir, Sept. 12 2000
Ianthe's first book is perfectly lovely. It achieves just the right tone in eulogizing, mourning and seeking after her father -- respectful without being overweening, comic without being self-conscious, and truthful without giving the upper hand to either her father's talent or his problems. I'm sure her father would have loved the book -- but then it would be a different book if he'd lived, wouldn't it?
There are a fair number of poetic images worthy of a Brautigan -- the rain becomes Richard's tears, a typewriter is left unplugged to keep her father from temptation, her father's ashes remain unburied for reasons you'll have to read about -- but there are also stretches of Ianthe's unique voice, her level-headedness and practicality -- traits which seem to have skipped her father's generation.
There are many chapters so quotable I've already sent them to my writer-friends. There are images so poignant that I'm crying now just remembering them. And there are laughs to alleviate the hurt.
A marvelous first work. I hope she has several more stories to tell.

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