Friday, May 02, 2008


The Book: P. J. O'Rourke, MODERN MANNERS: An Etiquette Book for Rude People. Atlantic Monthly trade paperback (first printing), 1990. Very good condition; spine is slightly sun-faded.
First read: 1990
Owned since: 1990

I'm not sure why I hung on to this book, except that it reminds me of a time and place I would not otherwise think of very often. Manners and humor are two things that change a lot over time and culture, and this satire is a time capsule of a specific American socio-economic class during the 1980s.

Once upon a time, such things as Yuppies roamed the earth. God help me, I aspired to be one of them -- though I was a little too young and a little too poor to do it properly. I am so far from the New York-Washington rat race now that I no longer know what people who used to be Yuppies now aspire to be -- helicopter parents, maybe, or even Dennis Hopper-style retirees.

I leaf through it now and find much of it downright quaint, although some of it is still pretty insightful: "We must be as obsequious as possible to famous people and do everything in our power to make them like us. Fame is a communicable disease."

What I Read This Week

Tana French, IN THE WOODS. This book won the Edgar for Best First Novel last night, and it's well-deserved. Twelve-year-old Adam Ryan goes out to the woods with his two best friends, Jamie and Peter, and only Adam comes back -- two days later, with his shirt torn and his shoes filled with blood. Twenty years later, a young girl is killed in the same area, and Adam is now a murder investigator who calls himself Robert. Robert is our narrator, still counting the cost of an ordeal he can't remember, and offering no easy answers for himself or for us. Moody, gripping, sad, and I've already got an advance copy of the sequel.

Chris Grabenstein, HELL HOLE. Yes, the title had me humming that Spinal Tap song off and on for a whole day. But this fourth John Ceepak mystery takes a much darker turn, as Ceepak and his partner/narrator, Danny Boyle, investigate the apparent suicide of an Iraq war veteran. We learn several surprising things about Ceepak, and the book ends with the promise of more troubling events to come. But Ceepak's rock-solid integrity remains a comfort to both Danny and us, and makes this series one of the most rewarding in crime fiction.

Nina Revoyr, THE AGE OF DREAMING. Jun Nakayama, a major star of silent films, left the screen abruptly in 1922. Forty years later, an eager journalist/aspiring screenwriter finds him and offers him the chance to return to filmmaking. As Nakayama considers the possibility, he remembers his rise to stardom and the terrible circumstances that ended his career. Revoyr gives us a unique perspective on the early days of Hollywood, retelling the story of the unsolved murder of William Desmond Taylor (thinly disguised) in a way that makes us consider the nature of responsibility and guilt. This is a beautiful, elegant book that deserves a great deal of attention.

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