Tag Archives: cheryl

On Our Nightstand, May 25th-31st

Here’s what we’re reading this week at Diesel!

Anna in Brentwood
Tokyo Fiancee
By Amelie Nothomb
A charming and lush autobiographical novel about a young Belgian woman who moves to Tokyo and the relationship that develops between her and a sweetly eccentric Japanese man. Nothomb’s cultural analysis is witty and astute.

Cheryl in Brentwood
There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby
By Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
This collection of “fairy tales” is a great look at the twisted, odd, and perverse from a Russian perspective.

Grant in Oakland
Our Band Could Be Your Life
By Michael Azerrad
A history of indie rock and punk in the ’80s, which is awesome because it’s less about the music and more a cultural history of the movement.

John Peck in Oakland
Who Needs Donuts?
By Mark Alan Stamaty
The most terrifying kids’ book since The Rainbow Goblins.

Kim in Malibu
Civilwarland in Bad Decline
By George Saunders
Saunders is the funniest writer I’ve come across since David Sedaris. He’s the king of (hilarious) dystopia.

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Top Big Top Books

Cheryl in Brentwood reports:

Today is Circus Day, commemorating the opening of the Ringling Brothers Circus in 1884. Now, I’m not a huge fan of the circus, one reason being that I think clowns are creepy. (I’m not alone on this!) And yet, some of my favorite books are about the circus: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, Circus ABC by Jason D’Aquino, and The Circus of Dr. Lao by Charles G. Finney. What draws me to these stories are the sideshows filled with genetically altered humans, mythical beasts, and mysterious people preying on your darkest fears and desires–which, I’m sure you’ll agree, are not nearly as creepy as clowns.

On a related note, I was recently invited to an author’s dinner for the upcoming book Creepiosity by David Bickel. Of course I had to attend (that’s me third from the left):

Fortunately there were no clowns, but I did try the chicken feet.

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On Our Nightstand

Taking a page from NPR, here’s the first in a series of (hopefully) weekly updates on what we’re currently reading here at Diesel.

Anna in Brentwood
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother’s death and her family’s bloody history.

Cheryl in Brentwood
Extraordinary Knowing by Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer
Extraordinary Knowing is an attempt to break through the silence imposed by fear and to explore what science has to say about various “inexplicable” phenomena. From Sigmund Freud’s writings on telepathy to secret CIA experiments on remote viewing, from leading-edge neuroscience to the strange world of quantum physics, Dr. Mayer reveals a wealth of credible and fascinating research into the realm where the mind seems to trump the laws of nature.

Geo in Brentwood
No. 44, the Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain
Based on Twain’s boyhood memories of the Mississippi River Valley and of the print shops of Hannibal, the story is set in medieval Austria at the dawn of the printing craft. It is a psychic adventure, full of phantasmagoric effects, in which a penniless printer’s apprentice—a youthful, mysterious stranger with the curious name 44—gradually reveals his otherworldly powers and the hidden possibilities of the mind.

John Evans
Rhythmanalysis by Henri Lefebvre
Rhythmanalysis displays all the characteristics which made Lefebvre one of the most important Marxist thinkers of the 20th century. In the analysis of rhythms–both biological and social–Lefebvre shows the interrelation of space and time in the understanding of everyday life. With dazzling skills, Lefebvre moves between discussions of music, the commodity, measurement, the media, and the city. In doing so he shows how a non-linear conception of time and history balanced his famous rethinking of the question of space.

John Peck in Oakland
You’re A Horrible Person, But I Like You: The Believer Book of Advice
A compendium of advice from the producers, writers, and actors of The Office, Saturday Night Live, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Knocked Up, Flight of the Conchords, The Daily Show, Arrested Development, Reno 911!, and The Hangover along with other people who should really never give advice.

Kim in Malibu
2666 by Roberto Bolano
The lives of a throng of unforgettable characters—including academics and convicts, an American sportswriter, an elusive German novelist, and a teenage student and her widowed, mentally unstable father—intersect in the urban sprawl of SantaTeresa—a fictional Juárez—on the U.S.-Mexico border, where hundreds of young factory workers, in the novel as in life, have disappeared.

Margaret in Oakland
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
Julie Orringer’s astonishing first novel, eagerly awaited since the publication of her heralded best-selling short-story collection, How to Breathe Underwater, is a grand love story set against the backdrop of Budapest and Paris, an epic tale of three brothers whose lives are ravaged by war, and the chronicle of one family’s struggle against the forces that threaten to annihilate it.

Thomas in Brentwood
The Story of Art by E. H. Gombrich
The finest introduction to art ever written!

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Films of a Feather Flock Together

Cheryl in Brentwood reports:

Word on the street is that Noah Baumbach and Ben Stiller are in negotiations to join 20th Century Fox’s film adaption of Mr. Popper’s Penguins. This was one of my all-time favorite stories as a child: I lost track of how many times I read it. If they do it justice, every child who sees it will have dreams of owning a penguin and turning their home into an ice-filled playground. Cool.

As for other adaptations I’d like to see, Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson is another fave book of mine that is just begging to make it to the big screen. Eccentric aunts kidnapping children (for a very good reason, of course), mythical beasts, and a quest to heal the world. Tim Burton, are you listening?

And last, but certainly not least, is The Pharaoh’s Secret by Marissa Moss. The only woman pharaoh, Hatshepsut, is reaching out from the beyond to young Talibah in order to preserve her place in history from being erased. Modern Egypt with ancient secrets shrouded in mystery. Yeah, I’m hooked.

Are you hooked on our National Poetry Month videos yet? Let John Evans give you another push with his reading of Robert Creeley‘s “The Birds”:

Check out the full archive of poetry videos here!

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Travel Far, Pay No Fare

This cool post about literature that inspires travel inspired us to think about some of our favorite armchair adventures!

I spent one summer, one very long summer, reading Marcel Proust‘s Swann’s Way, getting wrapped up in the reverie and romance of 20th-century Paris, wanting to walk alongside his characters (or maybe a little bit behind them) down the Champs Elysees. I read the book in my backyard, waiting for the day I’d see Paris. The time finally came, and Paris for the most part lived up to my high expectations. Except for the Champs Elysees. I don’t think Proust’s avenue was lined with shoe stores and posh boutiques, was it? — Geo

When I was in elementary school I read Marjorie Braymer’s The Walls of Windy Troy: A Biography of Heinrich Schliemann, about the archaeologist who unpredictably located the actual legendary city of Troy. It lit my imagination so brightly that for the next five years or so I wanted to be an archaeologist. I started reading mythology, histories of the ancient Mediterranean, and the novels of Mary Renault. All of this helped to create an imaginary Mediterranean world that I was certain I would one day visit. In college, I took a semester in Vienna and went to Greece on spring break, spending two weeks by train, boat, bus, and ferry traveling through nearly all the parts of the country I’d been vividly imagining since childhood. I was accompanied by my new favorite book on Greece, The Blue Guide, which opened up a world of travel guides to me. — John Evans

Joanna Kavenna‘s The Ice Museum, which tracks her present-day search for the land of Ultima Thule (the mythical Northern land first described by Pliny the Elder), is both a travelogue and a brooding tribute to the icy North. I’ve been to a few of the remote locales in this book (most notably Iceland), but it made me want to visit nearly all the others—Greenland, the northern coast of Norway, Svalbard, and particularly the Estonian island of Saaremaa, where Kavenna stands at the very spot that may have spawned the word “Thule.” It’s a fantastic read for anyone who, like me, has a bit of Tolkien-esque nostalgia for the mysterious lands of bygone eras. — John Peck

Paul Auster‘s books had been recommended to me before, but it wasn’t until City of Glass was heavily campaigned to me by the cute girl at the coffee shop two doors down that I decided to give Auster a shot. The story of a phone call to the wrong person set in New York City, this novel was so good I had to do two things upon finishing: 1) Buy everything Paul Auster has ever written and 2) Go to New York City. — Jon Stich

By Night in Chile, one of Roberto Bolano‘s shorter novels, flings you into a variety of new worlds. With great design, he sporadically jumps between the bucolic, metropolitan, and holy orders of Chilean cities and European countries. It’s always a god-awful hour as you’re murmuring and shouting among the political and literary circles of Chillán, Santiago, or La-bas. Dark evenings where night classes on communism are underway for men of the Chilean interior. Patios and endless paragraphs are overgrown with lush South American foliage. The Araucaria trees stand proudly. The bird life has not completely fled the industrial noise of humans and quick European trips across the old landscapes steer into cathedrals and monasteries protected by menacing falcons (not to mention the falconers themselves). A great trip through winding cities and the labyrinthine mind of Bolano. — Thomas

Neil Gaiman‘s Neverwhere is about an entirely fictional place: a mysterious, magical second London that exists beneath its streets and in its forgotten places, a London of everything—and everyone—that’s ever fallen through the cracks. London Below may not be real, but Gaiman’s descriptions of the (real enough) neighborhoods the characters visit are intensely vivid, to the point where even their names become imbued with special meaning: Blackfriars, Earl’s Court, Islington, Hammersmith, Knightsbridge. When I finally got to go to London—my white umbrella with a map of the Underground on it stuffed into my bag, of course—I found myself shivering pleasantly every time I passed a place-name I recognized, as if I’d brushed up against the uncanny. — Anna

Continue on your voyage with Cheryl in Brentwood’s recitation of Sylvia Plath‘s “Soliloquy of the Solipsist”:

Check out the full archive of poetry videos here!

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Good Ink

Cheryl in Brentwood reports:

Prisoner art fascinates me. It’s a creative means to ward off insanity or channel demons for those doing time. Ingenuity thrives, as the cons have to resort to easily obtainable everyday materials and rudimentary tools. Hyaena Gallery in Burbank, CA, a favorite haunt of mine, has a notable collection of prisoner/true crime art, which you can peruse here.

Perhaps the most well-known form of prison art is the tattoo. Prisoners and gang members have a long history of getting inked, traditionally updating to reflect multiple prison stints. Russian criminals take this premise a step further. Not only are the tattoos themselves representative of crimes and beliefs, the position on the body and where the tattoos are placed in relation to one another tells a life story. Danzig Baldaev, a Russian prison attendant, collected over three thousand examples during his career. His photographs, drawings, and texts are compiled into three encyclopedic volumes of Russian Criminal Tattoos.

Graphic, dark imagery predominates with sexually explicit and political themes. Every part of the body is considered a canvas, including eyelids and the occasional penis (ouch!). Women also receive their fair share of tattoos. Some tattooing is done forcibly while the recipient is under restraint. A diamond is commonly applied by force, denoting a stool pigeon. Bad enough to be labeled one, but it also strips the individual of all status and makes them a target for rape.

In recent history, tattoos have transcended the ubiquitous butterfly and tramp stamp (enough already!) to ornate sleeves and back pieces. Tattooists are true artists, and their influence has spread into fashion and now book covers, with Penguin commissioning tattoo artists and book illustrators to come up with new cover designs for six classics. Penguin, you rock!

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