From Wily Old Geezers To Middle Class Malaise: Other Books I Read In February

So I’d just like to start by saying THANK YOU for all of your lovely comments on my last post. I swear I wasn’t fishing for compliments (yes I was), but it’s still lovely to hear so many kind words of encouragement and to know so many of you can relate.

Now, onto business. In keeping with my goal of reading 52 books in 2013, I read four books in February. A slight decrease from the 5 I read in January, but in my defense, it was a short month, and two of them were over 500 pages (I know. That SHOULD be illegal). I already reviewed Ham on Rye here, but below are my thoughts on the remaining three.

1. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared

No, this is not what happened following Clint Eastwood’s latest speaking engagement… but good guess. It’s actually the title of this lovely little book by Jonas Jonasson:

100yrold

The 100-Year-Old-Man tells the story of Allan Karlsson, a Swedish octogenarian who, on his 100th birthday, climbs out the window of his nursing home with nothing but a pair of flimsy old slippers and a strong hankering for Vodka, and decides to start over.

You had me at “vodka”.

A series of hilarious and entirely unpredictable adventures ensue involving a stolen suitcase full of cash, an organized crime ring, unlikely friendships, and (what else) an elephant. What makes the plot even more interesting is that throughout the book, we learn that Allan is not your average centenarian. A munitions expert by trade, Alan somehow had a hand in everything from inventing the atomic bomb to saving General Franco’s life. He’s basically like the really old, Swedish Forrest Gump.

Except way, way older
Except way, way older

This book was silly, ridiculous, and I kind of loved it. I’m not going to say it was perfect- parts of the plot were downright unbelievable, and most of the characters were incredibly unrealistic, but I tried to tell myself this was all just part of its charm.

I think it would make a good Hollywood screwball comedy film, like a Hangover or Bounty Hunter type situation. Preferably one that would involve Gerard Butler wearing no shirt and massacring a Swedish accent.

Gerard Butler stars in Law Abiding Citizen.

Plus, it’s nice to see a lighter side to the Swedes after all that Girl With the Dragon Tattoo business.

For that, I give it 3.9 intellectual Dachshunds.

Too lazy to make this entirely accurate.
Too lazy to make this entirely accurate.

2. I Found This Funny by Judd Apatow

031

From famed Hollywood writer, producer and director Judd Apatow (Pineapple Express, Girls, The 40-Year-Old- Virgin) comes this collection of his favorite humor pieces: from short stories, to poems, to illustrations; even a failed TV pilot written by Conan O’Brien.

Apatow explains in the prologue that after the commercial flops of his first two TV shows Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared, he decided to take a year off from writing and just focus on reading.

freaks

He started with short stories, because that’s all he had the attention span for, and grew from there.

His career took off exponentially after that, and he attributes a lot of his success in his writing to that year he spent reading. I found that really cool, and something I could sort of relate to given this whole 52 book thing I’m doing.

I should warn you, though, that a fair number of these pieces are not funny at all. He admits this right at the outset – some are sad, poignant, or just plain confusing.. but if you’re open to it, these ones are cool too. The collection includes pieces by such famous writers as David Sedaris, Jonathan Franzen and Dave Eggers, but I think one of my favourites was a story by Paul Feig (co-creator of Freaks and Geeks) about his attempts at announcing his high school football games, despite knowing nothing at all about football.

This is a great coffee table (or, lets be honest, bathroom) book: one that you can pick up every now and again and read a piece from.

I give it: 3.7 intellectual daschunds.

Too lazy to make this entirely accurate.

3. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

I'm making a sad face because this book is fundamentally sad in nature. P.S. I got new glasses.
I’m making a sad face because this is an inherently sad book. Also, I got new glasses.

I was inspired to read this book based on a short story by Franzen in I Found This Funny. More than anything, I was struck by his vocabulary. I had to look up like 8 words in a 12 page story. It was kind of annoying, but I also like a challenge.

The Corrections centers around aging Midwestern couple Edith & Alfred, and their desire to have their three grown children, Gary, Denise & Chip, all home for one last Christmas. Enid is miserable, Alfred’s got Parkinson’s with a side of dementia, and the kids have got a whole host of issues I can’t even begin to describe here. Basically, Gary is a depressed alcoholic, Denise is a Grade A Homewrecker, and Chip is a broke screenwriter who was fired from his teaching job for “sexual harassment”.

Yeah, it’s all VERY uplifting. Did i mention it’s also like, 600 pages?

I really wanted to love this book. It received tons of critical acclaim (you might remember it from the infamous Oprah’s book club fiasco a few years back whereby Franzen basically told Oprah to go eff herself.)

They made up later. No one stays mad at Oprah.
They made up later. No one stays mad at Oprah.

And I did like parts of it. Franzen did a great job of capturing the nuances of family life and sibling relationships. However, it was also very long, slow-paced and emotionally draining.

If you’re into tangible malaise and a bunch of white people talking about their first world problems, then this book might be for you. Otherwise, stick to I Found This Funny.

I give it: 3 Intellectual Dashchunds.

3dasch

Question of the Day: What Book Are You Currently Reading/Have Read Recently?

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10 thoughts on “From Wily Old Geezers To Middle Class Malaise: Other Books I Read In February

Add yours

  1. Those first two sound right up my alley. I really liked The Corrections, which, despite its size and my being a slow reader, I powered through, kind of mesmerized by the whole calamity. I found his messed up characters engagingly, maddeningly real and I really fell for the controlled power of his writing. But if you didn’t much care for it, I wouldn’t recommend Freedom, which is self-indulgent and frustrating as a whole. Talented guy, though.

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    1. I really agree about Franzen’s characters being incredibly real- I thought Enid was especially spot on. She exemplified perfectly what I refer to as “Old bat syndrome” – a bored older lady who obsesses about everything/everyone around her. I wanted to write more about the book but kind of ran out of space- I see the good in it, it just wasn’t entirely up my alley I guess!

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  2. LOVE the new glasses btw… I am going to get me some of those bad boys!! . love the reviews too….I have made my way through a couple books recently. One was The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and the other one was The Secret Life of Bees. Both well worth reading.

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    1. Thank you! They are from Warby Parker- great deals plus they donate a pair to charity for every pair you buy!
      I’ve heard a lot about this Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.. might add it to my reading list!

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  3. I think I’d like to read the 100-year old man one. Even though the unrealistic characters could end up being a turn-off, but it sounds funny, and I like humor reads 🙂

    The Corrections sounds good too, although I do feel like it could be one I’d get stuck in the middle of. However, it could be one of those morbid “can’t look away” type of books for me, who knows.

    Either way, I’m liking your book reviews. Keep em’ coming!

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    1. The 100 year old is funny and light and has gotten lots of great reviews, I’d pick it up for something different. As for the corrections, I totally would have abandoned it had I not agreed to read all these damn books for the blog haha.. because it’s so long there is definitely the danger of getting stuck. Glad you’re enjoying the reviews!

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