Archive for February, 2009

img023Only in Austin (or at least in very few places but Austin, I’m guessing) will the inauguration of a bottom-end used-book store be not only celebrated with live music, but have its aisles jammed with jostling shoppers (and its side streets crammed with circling would-be parkers) not 20 minutes after opening its doors of a Saturday noon.

This is just exactly what I didn’t need. The Austin Public Library opening its own used-book outlet, Recycled Reads. Paperbacks are a buck. Hardbacks $2. Some really juicy stuff is marked at $5 and, in a few cases, $10.

I got this slightly rusty slipcased Random House edition of Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past — bound to be right up there with Finnegan’s Wake as one of the least read of all famous books — for $5. I know it’s too common to be collectible, but it’s a better looking reader’s copy — ahem — than I’m ever likely to find for that price in paper.


Also scored: tight clean hardbacks of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago and Isaac Bashevis Singer’s The Collected Stories, the catalog for Houston’s FotoFest 94 (eventually I’m going to stumble into all of these), a slim hardback Aperture #79 (I seriously doubt I’ll ever find all of these) with some really creepy Jerome Liebling photographs of corpses, and, last but hardly least, this incredibly beauty at right, which is the kind of gorgeously designed but marginally livewithoutable sort of title that I frequently fondle and forego at, say, $15. But $5? The fighting Indians of the West are coming home with me.

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whatchew readin fer?


I was in Nashville Tennessee last week and after the show I went to a Waffle House, right, and I’m sitting there eating and I’m reading a book. I don’t know anybody, I’m alone, I’m eating, and I’m reading a book. And this waitress comes over to me and — tch tch tch — whatchew readin for? Not what am I reading, but what am I reading for? Well goddammit you stumped me. I guess I read for a lot of reasons, but the main one is so I don’t end up being a fucking waffle waitress.” —Bill Hicks

A friend of mine turned me on to Bill Hicks and I got to see him at Rockefeller’s in Houston not long before he died. (A different friend later turned me on to Mitch Hedberg, who I also got to see not long before he also died. I don’t go see stand-ups anymore unless I really, really hate them.)

I would have done this sooner, but I had an incredibly boring computer problem. Bill Hicks died about 15 years ago. David Letterman recently aired for the first time a Bill Hicks routine that a younger and timider Letterman initially excised from his show 15 years ago. That’s the YouTube embed below.

I used the anniversary as an excuse to write about Hicks in the Texas Observer — an article you can read here.

By the way, my article doesn’t mention, and no remembrance or appreciation I’ve read (and Hicks is thoroughly remembered and appreciated) has mentioned, that Hicks, for all his supposedly enlightened political and cultural prescience, was even here, at the very end of his career, squeezing an uncomfortable amount of mileage out of appeals to and mockery of gay stereotypes. I don’t know if that’s worth noticing, but it’s hard to miss in the clip, from the let’s-hunt-and-kill-Billy-Ray-Cyrus bit to “Heather Has Two Mommies,” and it’s starting to seem just a little weird that I’ve never heard anyone mention it. Heroes aren’t supposed to be homophobes, I guess.

Not that Hicks was one. I wouldn’t know. And not that that kind of material was even core to his comedy. But listen to the Letterman crowd’s cheers when Hicks expresses (granted) faux disgust at “Daddy’s New Roomate.” Hicks took that hate and ran with it, you know? I’m just sayin.


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library-5187More crap news, a few days old, but worth sticking up here, I guess:

The Washington Post Book World is shuttering as a standalone review.

I guess that means they’re not hiring.

Probably means plenty of work for the Post’s Pulitzer-winning critic Michael Dirda, though.

I couldn’t keep myself from buying this when Dirda was in town a few months back — I missed him — at the Texas Book Festival. So now I have a book I haven’t read full of reviews of books I haven’t read.

That’s gotta be some sort of meta.

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