Side Piece – Anil’s Ghost

casperSummer is approaching and you need to line up your beach reads. Like CSI type stuff? Of course you do. Hit the wall with Patricia Cornwell and Alex Cross? Take a whack at Anil’s Ghost, about forensics expert Anil Tissera, and you will get a whole lot more than blood work…mysticism, idealism, history, descriptions of life in Sri Lanka, vignettes that reinforce the level of terror the local people lived under during their Troubles. Fascinating book. Lots of neat, intertwining details and memorable moments. Endorsed. You’ll enjoy it.

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Tropic of Cancer

tropicAs often as the word cunt is used, it probably should be called the Tropic of Uterine Cancer. You may find parts of it you like, but the consensus was that the book was dogshit. You could imagine the barriers it broke when published and credit Henry Miller for that, but the lives of the skells it chronicles really was unforgivable. There wasn’t one character in the book that anyone cared a lick about. So we have to guess that this really was just an exercise in writing past the boundaries of 1930s common decency. Early shock jock material. Unless you feel you need to add it to your resume to be somehow enlightened, there is no reason to waste your time. If the book ever comes up, just say you are outraged that it was banned and you’re covered.

To be fair, one Brother started to read Tropic of Capricorn to see if Miller had anything else to offer. He burned the book.

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

oscarPackaging. It’s important. Chevrolet realized that when it couldn’t sell Novas in Mexico because folks didn’t like a car that translated as “No Go.” It work’s that same way with guys who are ready to worship a beautiful woman, but don’t have the looks. This can be overcome via muscles (see, Carrot Top), cash (see, assorted old billionaires), drugs (see, the bouncer at your local strip club), confidence (see, Marc Anthony) or a decent rap (see, Salmon Rushdie.) In many cases, it’s not overcome…Cyrano de Bergerac, the Jonas Brothers (we can’t get a date!), John Travolta at a massage parlor and the protagonist of Junot Diaz’s book, Oscar De Leon.

The main story details the life of Oscar, a Dominican geek with no game amongst females, as told by his counterweight, the narrator Junior. It stylishly describes his sudden mega-crushes, which all end in crushing rejection. Compounding those disappointments, the realm outside his love life also serves up heaps of rejection, pushing Oscar into the sanctuary of his Sci-Fi writing.

When we know who Oscar is, we are given the stories of his sister Lola, mother Belicia and his grandfather Abelard. All good reads. Oscar at times seems simply a supporting character until the book validates its title in final stretch. The mythology and superstitions of old Caribbean peoples are not ignored as the book presses on and the golden mongoose combats the Cabral family curse.

You get a few stories in this novel, a little interesting Dominican history, some geek speak and wondrous writing. Diaz’s use of slang, New Rican Spanish, Tolkienisms and footnotes are dazzling, but don’t forget this guy’s isn’t just bullsh1tting at a barbarcue, he wrote it. He packaged some well know sentiment beautifully. For example…”Sucks to be left out of adolescence”…”But you can’t regret the life you didn’t lead”…”Let’s-Be-Friends Vortexes”…”We all know how tolerant the tolerant are”…”You can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in.” Couple that with the passages about feeling the knot on Belicia’s breast and daaaaaamn, you have someone in touch with being a human being.

Obviously, this book has been praised in many quarters, and we find that the praise is well deserved.