For those few, fine folk who actually read this blog on a semi-regular basis, I apologize for skipping out on a couple of days. I have a tendency to try and take weekends off, but sometimes that’s not always the best idea for me schedule-wise (but a very good idea health and sanity-wise). In any case, Monday and Tuesday were consumed with work on an almost laser-like intensity, the result of which is me being more or less back where I should be.

Over the weekend I finished reading a couple of books–neither of which were very good.

The Midden by Tom Sharpe (1997) – I’m a big fan of British author Tom Sharpe. His stories tend to feature vageuly normal people caught up in outrageous situations. Farce ramped up to max. His main characters are often people who are just trying to live their lives. They’re weak, vain, venal, sometimes stupid, sometimes smart. In other words, they’re very much like real people without the veneer of idealism often attached to fictional characters. Many of the out-of-hand plotlines are spurred on by misunderstandings and stupidity–just like real life. Oh, they go over the top at some point, but the germ of every plot seems like something that reasonable people should be able to handle for a while. At least until things get unreasonable. I’d highly recommend any of the Wilt books, or The Great Pursuit, Vintage Stuff, and Blott on the Landscape. I can’t recommend The Midden, however. It’s very difficult to find any likable characters here. All of them are too flawed to comfortably identify with, and some of the actions taken are reprehensible, and their attitudes and prejudices simply couldn’t be overlooked. It’s a mean book about mean and stupid people doing mean and stupid things, and the author seems to have been in a very mean mood while writing it. Several innocent animals get hurt or killed, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a few weren’t injured during the actual writing of the book. It really is a study in vile. I think the only reason why I pushed through it was to see how awful it could get. While there may have been a tiny amount of redemption by the end, the journey was just atrocious. Sharpe has written a few mean-spirited books (particularly his two set in South Africa), but this one takes the cake. Not a recommend. Read Wilt on High. A pleasant sort of book and more recommended.

Whiter Shades of Pale: The Stuff White People Like, Coast to Coast, from Seattle’s Sweaters to Maine’s Microbrews by Christian Lander  (2010) – This is a follow-up to his book Stuff White People Like. What he means by “white people” is actually “college educated liberals between the ages of 25 and 35 who are probably, but not necessarily, of caucasian stock and can afford to shop at Whole Foods.” You won’t find rednecks addressed, nor neo-cons or the religious right. You won’t find a lot of blue collar representation here either. And pretty much what he does (as he does in the previous book almost exactly) is take items of common interest to his particular group (of which I identify to a certain degree, admittedly) and mocks them. I think he thinks he’s being funny, but it comes off smarmy and belittling. Kind of like Dennis Miller’s comedy these days. Not as funny as he thinks. I suppose to be fair, the author is just trying to make a quick buck using a time-honored tradition. This is essentially a rehash of such classics as The Official Preppy Handbook, Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche, The Redneck Dictionary, and The Hipster Handbook. There’s nothing original in what he’s doing, and it gets old very fast. People who read this who do not fall under the author’s version of “white people” will be scratching their heads wondering what the joke is (besides how lame we are), and those who are the author’s version of “white people” will wonder what his problem is with gourmet coffee and eco-vacations. So? I’ve heard it described as “an attack on privilege” but I don’t buy that. At least not coming from where I’m coming from. I’ve heard it called “self-satirical” which I suppose might be valid if it were funnier. The most telling point comes at the very end where the author expresses his surprise in being allowed to write not one, but two books like this. I have to say, I share his surprise.

In other news, I’ll be setting up at the Pawtucket Arts Festival this weekend selling prints, paintings, and books. I may be also featuring guest artwork by Rose Sipperley who does outstanding work. I’m busily getting everything together as this is the first time I’ve tried something like this. The clock is ticking on a bunch of prints and mats I’ve ordered as I’ll be spending a long night mounting and bagging. I need to make signs. I need to get other accessories ready, and I’m trying to finish a special set of screen-prints I’m preparing just for this.

Busy, busy!