J. Robert Lennon’s See You in Paradise

Ilogo don’t write book reviews often — in fact, I’m lucky to write one a year.  But there’s one author I’ve reviewed more than once, and that is J. Robert Lennon.  If you haven’t checked out his latest, please do.  You’ll be thoroughly entertained.

From the always wonderful Fiction Writers Review.

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See You in Paradise: Stories, by J. Robert Lennon

“Lennon not only balances the mundane with the fantastic, but makes the fantastic feel mundane in the context of this world”: Sung J. Woo on Robert J. Lennon’s new collection, See You in Paradise.

Maybe it’s strange for a reviewer of a collection of short stories to say that he is not a fan of short story collections, but I want you to know where I’m coming from. Don’t get me wrong—I love short stories. I love their intense focus, their fleeting brevity, an entire world contained and expressed in a few thousand words. What I don’t like is reading one after another by the same author, because I get tired of hearing the same voice over and over again. Also, reading another short story after having just finished one can feel like climbing a new mountain, because I have to get acquainted with another set of characters, and the setting is different, and so is the situation, and I miss those people from before…can’t they just come back and give me a break, please?

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What Is Your Favorite Font?

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“What Is Your Favorite Font?”

If you were to ask this question to a hundred people, my guess is that you’d get a response that actually names a font.  Times Roman, Comic Sans, Helvetica, Arial, etc.  Chris Hardwick, the host of The Nerdist, posed this question to Bill Gates on his podcast a few days ago.

His answer: TrueType.  Gates then proceeded to describe the technical concept behind TrueType, something about using all three primary components of color (red, green, blue) to produce the best looking (“anti-aliased”) letters.  The TrueType standard was developed by Apple and Microsoft, and my initial reaction was, “Way to dodge the question and pump up your old company, Bill.”

And then I realized something — Gates wasn’t dodging anything.  TrueType really is his favorite font!  After this interview, looks like The Nerdist finally lives up to its name.

Stewart O’Nan’s West of Sunset

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It’s a great day today, because a book I had the great privilege to read early is out: Stewart O’Nan’s West of Sunset. Here’s the 411:

In 1937, F. Scott Fitzgerald was a troubled, uncertain man whose literary success was long over. In poor health, with his wife consigned to a mental asylum and his finances in ruins, he struggled to make a new start as a screenwriter in Hollywood. By December 1940, he would be dead of a heart  attack.

Those last three years of Fitzgerald’s life, often obscured by the legend of his earlier Jazz Age glamour, are the focus of Stewart O’Nan’s gorgeously and gracefully written novel. With flashbacks to key moments from Fitzgerald’s past, the story follows him as he arrives on the MGM lot, falls in love with brassy gossip columnist Sheilah Graham, begins work on The Last Tycoon, and tries to maintain a semblance of family life with the absent Zelda and daughter, Scottie.

Fitzgerald’s orbit of literary fame and the Golden Age of Hollywood is brought vividly to life through the novel’s romantic cast of characters, from Dorothy Parker and Ernest Hemingway to Humphrey Bogart. A sympathetic and deeply personal portrait of a flawed man who never gave up in the end, even as his every wish and hope seemed thwarted, West of Sunset confirms O’Nan as “possibly our best working novelist” (Salon).

What I loved most about the novel is the utterly human portrayal of F. Scott Fitzgerald.  The Fitzgerald in West of Sunset is not a literary icon.  He’s just a guy with a tough job, a sick wife, and a daughter he hopes to keep in school with the few bucks he earns.  Which, as strange as it may sound, makes him even more heroic.

Stewart will be starting off his tour tonight at the Upper West Side Barnes & Noble, 7pm.  If you’re in the area, come on by!

Favorite Songs of 2014

“Even though we draw our lines / with very different ends”

Here’s a list of my top songs for this year, in an order that might be surprisingly mixable. These are not necessarily from 2014; I just happened to have heard them in the last twelve months.

Katie Herzig (The Walking Sleep) – Oh My Darlin’
Jessie Ware (Tough Love) – You and I (Forever)
Coldplay (Ghost Stories) – A Sky Full of Stars
Spoon (They Want My Soul) – Let Me Be Mine
Echosmith (Talking Dreams) – Nothing’s Wrong
Katie Herzig (Walk Through Walls) – Drug
American Authors (Oh, What a Life) – Hit It
Angus & Julia Stone (Angus & Julia Stone) – Get Home
Tennis (Ritual in Repeat) – Bad Girls
Delta Spirit (Delta Spirit) – Yamaha
Sam Smith (In the Lonely Hour) – Not in That Way
Ed Sheeran (X) – One
Katie Herzig (Walk Through Walls) – Human Too
Taylor Swift (1989) – Style
First Aid Kit (Stay Gold) – Heaven Knows
Bleachers (Strange Desire) – Rollercoaster
Tove Lo (Queen of the Clouds) – Timebomb
The New Pornographers (Brill Bruisers) – Champions of Red Wine
Stars (No One Is Lost) – This Is the Last Time
Jenny Lewis (The Voyager) – Just One of the Guys
Phosphorescent (Muchacho) – Ride on/Right on
Katie Herzig (Walk Through Walls) – Lines
Adam Levine (Begin Again) – Lost Stars

Katie Herzig makes four appearances here, and that number easily could’ve been ten.  I first heard her music in the show Rectify, the song “I Hurt Too,” which I later found out was also featured in the show Bones.  I guess her music translates really well to TV.  The standout this year one of hers, “Lines,” which showcases her beautiful, fragile voice.