Archive for December, 2011

An Incomplete Review of Media I Consumed in 2011

December 26, 2011

84 Charing Cross Road

This is just a wonderful little book: a ~20 year epistolary between a New York author in search of rare books from a (very) British bookseller. Reading this almost makes me wish I lived in the time before the internet, when people could actually build relationships through letters, never having met. I encountered this book after I went to London last year and told my mother that I stumbled across the eponymous road, which happens to be filled with used bookstores. Apparently this book was a favorite of her and my father.


A young woman incites national riots suggesting that the elderly should be given incentives to kill themselves in order to prevent the country from being bankrupted by Medicare and Social Security. The further along I got in this book the less it seemed like satire, and the more I thought that it was a genuinely good idea. After a while, however, the book slows down and I found myself plodding through just to see how it ends, only to be met with one of the lamest endings I’ve read in a while.

Burn after Reading

I loved it, girlfriend hated it (“What was that even about?!”) Classic Cohen brothers flick. It was no “A Serious Man,” but certainly worth watching and very entertaining. I enjoyed the DC shots, of course.

Homage to Catalonia

Orwell makes war sound awesome. He seems to spend most of his time hanging out around his trench, dodging the occasional bullet shot by an inept enemy, and only rarely encounters any real horror. The lengthy discussions about subtle differences between various socialist factions get tedious, but overall this is a wonderful, meandering book that’s easy to pick up here and there for a few pages at a time. I finished this at the very end of the summer at a beach house in Virginia, and it made for excellent lazy afternoon reading.

I am Charlotte Simmons

My first Tom Wolfe novel. He has an incredible eye for detail. The college experience he describes here didn’t remotely resemble my own, but there are so many details—college parties, different cliques, ways of speaking—that he just nails. It’s a long read and rather melodramatic/incredulous at times, but it’s not supposed to be his best work. I’m looking forward to eventually reading Bonfire of the Vanities.

Midnight in Paris

Wonderful Woody Allen flick. It’s no Hannah and her Sisters or Annie Hall, but all of the standard elements of a Woody Allen movie (old music, pompous intellectuals) are there. And unlike “Whatever Works,” (which did not, in fact, work,) this movie felt sufficiently different from his earlier movies to merit a second viewing. I don’t think that people will be talking about this one 30 years from now the same way they talk about his more famous films, and I don’t think it will fall in the “Excellent but underrated” category with such films as Broadway Danny Rose and Curse of the Jade Scorpion. But it’s still a wonderful little movie. It doesn’t feel like he’s just phoning it in.

Radical Chic and Mau Mauing the Flak Catchers

Tom Wolfe makes fun of liberal elites (Leonard Bernstein & Co.) for allying themselves with the very people who want to destroy them (Black Panthers) in order to assuage their guilt. A wonderful sociological observation. And who doesn’t like making fun of elitist, guilty, urban liberals?