Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Absurdistan - Gary Shteyngart

Another glorious exploitation of the NYPL, I borrowed this in the same Shteyngart batch to read in 20 days. At this point I must profess I am somewhat saturated by satire, Russian culture, and the author.

A large portion of this book the author devoted to himself, or his literary incarnation of Jerry Steynfarb author of the the Russian Arriviste's Hand Job. Amusing, yes. Noteworthy literary achievement, no.

Half of this book is a discussion of food, which is to my liking. The author crams sturgeon, vodka, and whatever else restaurants can conjure to feed a 325lb man. Shteyngart shows some breadth here, creating completely different character from V.Grishkin of the last book.

Amidst the absurdity of Abusrdistan, mockery of Hunter College (who's students are poor and impressionable), and the nativity of the protagonist, the book two punchlines:
1. It's all a sham: There is no oil and everything is a corporate machination.
2. The bigger punchline is that of Jewish-Russian parental love and attachment. This seems to be a recurring theme in Shteyngart's work and servers as its main redeeming feature. While this invokes embarrassment (Sixty-Nine Cents, short story in the New Yorker 'Food' issue) or annoyance (D├ębutante's Handbook), it's ultimately heart warming. While it's possible to explain slang, gangsters, and soviet life, unconditional parental love seems to be out of scope.

All I have to say:
Humongous G ... bitches!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Russian Debutante's Handbook - Gary Shteyngart

For me this book symbolizes freedom, a sense of accomplishment, and a borderline obessive-compulsive joy of finishing things I've started but abandoned.

I picked the book up originally from the BPL based on Igor's ranting and recomendations. It turned out to be a delightful read (I'm still waiting on payback for Almanac Of The Dead) but I was unable to split my time between last semester of school, a master's thesis, and a book. I tend to be a very absorbed and dedicated reader.

I was very conflicted about giving up the book so I ended it on the boundry between New York and Prava, Republic Stolovaya.

The NY portion I found a little hard to digest partially because it's too crammed with witty remarks and side comments and partially because the experience is too familiar. While I have not yet reached the protagonist's stage of life, I have survived through similar circumstances.

I picked up the book again, a Master of Science in Computer Science and a Software Engineer and found it to be a more pleasant and enjoyable read. The book came from the NYPL and I still owe the BPL ~$20. The MidManhattan NYPL branch is 2 blocks away from work, so I made due with a library card.

Fully stocked with $1 honey roasted street peanuts and a lemon Snapple from work, I embarked on this glorious quest of picking where I left of 7-ish months ago.

The Prava chapter seems a bit unrealisitic and slightly too believable at the same time. Perhaps I have not been to Europe for the book to be set in better context. Apparently I found myself in Norwalk, CT instead.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Liar's Poker - Michael Lewis

Captures such a distant moment, its well worth the read

Monday, October 1, 2007

When Genius Failed - The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Managment by Roger Lowenstein

Read it after my dad in about two weeks. Great literature to read during August 2007 Credit Crunch. The market situation resembled the shenanigans in the book: same words, same money, same problems, same solution, same assholes.

While a bit too long, the book goes to great length to heighten the suspense and stretch the pleasure of the inevitable collapse. It's as if the author takes some pleasure in prolonging the enviable and using foreboding language. It goes to some length to explain the finance and math involved. It's hard to say whether the characters arrogance was correctly captured, justly portrayed, or accurately reported.

The Pragmatic Programmer - Andrew Hunt, David Thomas

This was a 'class' assignment during training for work. The book starts off strong with good style suggestions, clever ideas, and funny interjections. It's a well written book, with many of what I felt are good points. However, I have managed to come up with some harsh words for it:
  1. Its exactly not what it's promises to be: pragmatic
  2. As many 'punchline' books do, this one starts of strong with a pre-boiled set of points, and keeps chewing on them for the rest of the book.
  3. In the spirit of above, the later chapters of the book lose focus and discuss some minor irrelevant points.
  4. It feels like a 20% auto-summary of every blog post on JoelOnSoftware