Wednesday, November 30, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty, excerpt eleven)

from The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty:

As I lay, not exactly dying but close enough, I thought about Marpessa. Who, if the position of the sun high in the gorgeous blue sky was any indication, was at the far end of this very same street taking her lunch break. Her bus parked facing the ocean. Her bare feet on the dashboard, nose buried in Camus, listening to the Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty, excerpt ten)

from The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty:

Sometimes I wish Darth Vader had been my father. I’d have been better off. I wouldn’t have a right hand, but I definitely wouldn’t have the burden of being black and constantly having to decide when and if I gave a shit about it. Plus, I’m left-handed.

Monday, November 28, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty, excerpt nine)

from The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty:

The philosophy professor on sabbatical inbounded the ball. A personal-injury lawyer hit a corner jumper. Displaying a surprisingly good handle, a fat pharmacist cross-overed a pediatrician, but bricked the layup. The day trader air-balled a shot that sailed out of bounds and rolled toward the parking lot. Even in L.A., where luxury cars, like shopping carts at the supermarket, are everywhere you look, Foy’s ’56 300SL was unmistakable. There couldn’t have been more than a hundred left on the planet. Near the front fender, Foy sat in a small lawn chair, dressed in only his boxers, a T-shirt, and sandals, chatting into his phone and typing on a laptop almost as old as his car. He was drying clothes. His shirts and pants hanging from hangers hooked onto the car’s gull-wing doors, which were in full flight and hovering above like wings on a silver dragon. I had to ask. I got up and walked past the basketball game. Two players vying for a loose ball tumbled by. Arguing over possession before they got to their feet.

“Who’s that off of?” a player in beat-up sneakers asked me, his outstretched arms a silent plea for mercy. I recognized the guy. The mustachioed lead detective in a long-canceled but still-in-syndication cop show—big in Ukraine. “That’s off the dude with the hairy chest.” The movie star disagreed. But it was the right call.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty, excerpt eight)

from The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty:

It wasn’t necessarily a case of saving the best for last, but as Hood Day approached, Hominy and I had managed to install some form of segregation in nearly every section and public facility in Dickens except for the Martin Luther “Killer” King, Jr., Hospital, which is paradoxically located in Polynesian Gardens. Polynesian Gardens, aka P.G., being a majority-Latino neighborhood that carried a rumored reputation for being hostile toward African-Americans. In fact, local legend had it that the injuries black Dickensians suffered while driving through P.G. to the hospital were often more sever than the afflictions that had caused them to seek medical attention in the first place. Between the police and the gangs, navigating the streets of any neighborhood in L.A. County, especially any section not familiar with you, can be dangerous. You just never know when you’re going to get rolled up on for being or wearing the wrong color. I’d never had any problems in Polynesian Gardens, but if I were to be honest, I never went there at night. And the evening before our planned action on the hospital, there’d been a shoot-out between Varrio Polynesian Gardens and Barrio Polynesian Gardens, two gangs with a longstanding blood feud over spelling and pronunciation. So to ensure Hominy and I got in and out with our asses intact, I attached two small purple-and-gold Lakers pennants to the front fenders of my pickup truck and, for good measure, flew a giant Iwo Jima-sized, 1987 Championship Lakers flag from the roof. Everybody, and I mean everybody in Los Angeles, loves the Lakers. And driving down Centennial Avenue, even behind slow-moving lowriders that refused to go faster than ten miles an hour, the Lakers flags billowed majestically in the night wind, giving the pickup truck an ambassadorial vibe that allowed us to cruise through with a temporary diplomatic immunity.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty, excerpt seven)

from The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty:

For ten years, ever since our breakup, I’d periodically park outside her crib, wait until the lights went out, then through the binoculars and a sliver of open bay window curtain, I’d take in the life I should’ve been living, a life of sushi and Scrabble, kids studying in the living room and playing with the dog. After the children went to bed, I’d watch Nosferatu and Metropolis with her, crying like a baby because the way Paulette Goddard and Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times circle around each like two dogs in heat reminded me of us. Sometimes I’d sneak up to the porch and, in the screen door, leave a snapshot of the growing satsuma tree on her porch with Our son, Kazuo, says hello written on the back.

Friday, November 25, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty, excerpt six)

from The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty:

I balked at telling her about my father locking my head into the tachistoscope and for three hours flashing split-second images of the forbidden fruit of his era, pinups and Playboy centerfolds, in my face. Bettie Page, Betty Grable, Barbra Streisand, Twiggy, Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn, Sophia Loren; then he’d force ipecac and okra smoothies down my throat. I’d vomit my guts out while he blasted Buffy Saint-Marie and Linda Ronstadt on the stereo. The visual stimuli worked, but the auditory stuff didn’t take. To this day, whenever I’m feeling down and troubled, I crank Rickie Lee Jones, Joni Mitchell, and Carole King from the stereo, all of who were shouting-out California way before Biggie, Tupac, or any of the Ice Coons. But if you look carefully, and the light is just right, you can see the afterimages of Barbi Benton’s naked centerfold burned into my pupils as if they were discount plasma TVs.

“It’s nothing. I just don’t like white girls is all.”

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty, excerpt five)

from The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty:

That wintery day in the segregated state of Alabama, when the Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man, she became known as the “Mother of the Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement.” Decades later on, a seasonally indeterminate afternoon in a supposedly unsegregated section of Los Angeles, California, Hominy Jenkins couldn’t wait to give up his seat to a white person. Grandfather of the post-racial civil rights movement known as “The Standstill,” he sat in the front of the bus, on the edge of his aisle seat, giving each new rider of the once-over. Unfortunately for him, Dickens is a community as black as Asian hair, as brown as James, and after forty-five minutes of standing-room-only, all-minority ridership, the closest he got to a white person was the dreadlocked woman who got on at Poinsettia Avenue toting a rolled-up yoga mat.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty, excerpt four)

from The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty:

I minored in crop sciences and management, because Professor Farley, my intro to agronomy teacher, said that I was a natural horticulturist. That I could be the next George Washington Carver if I wanted to be. All I needed to do was apply myself and find my own equivalent to the peanut. A legume of my own, she joked, placing a single phaseolus vulgaris into my palm. But anyone who’d ever been to Tito’s Tacos and tasted a warm cupful of the greasy, creamy, refried frijole slop covered in a solid half-inch of melted cheddar cheese knew the bean had already reached genetic perfection. I remember wondering why George Washington Carver. Why couldn’t I have been the next Gregor Mendel, the next whoever it was that invented the Chia Pet, and even though nobody remembers Captain Kangaroo, the next Mr. Green Jeans? So I chose to specialize in the plant life that had the most cultural relevance to me—watermelon and weed. At best I’m a subsistence farmer, but three or four times a year, I’ll hitch a horse to the wagon and clomp through Dickens, hawking my wares, Mongo SantamarĂ­a’s “Watermelon Man” blasting from the boom box. That song pounding in the distance has been known to stop summer league basketball games mid-fast break, end many a ding-dong-ditch, double-Dutch marathon early, and force the women and children waiting at the intersection of Compton and Firestone for the last weekend visitation bus to the L.A. County Jail to make a difficult decision.

Monday, November 21, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty, excerpt three)

from The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty:

Dollscape I featured Ken and Malibu Barbie dressed in matching bathing suits, appropriately snorkeled and goggled, cooling by the Dream House pool. In Dollscape II, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, and a brown-skinned, egg-shaped Weeble toy were running (and wobbling) through a swampy thicket from a pack of plastic German shepherds leading an armed lynch party comprised of my G.I. Joes hooded in Ku Klux Klan sheets. “What’s that?” I asked, pointing to a small white Christmas ornament that spun slowly over the bog, glittering and sparkling like a disco ball in the afternoon sun.

“That’s the North Star. They’re running toward the North Star. Toward freedom.”

Sunday, November 20, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty, excerpt two)

from The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty:

We lived in Dickens, a ghetto community on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles, and as odd as it might sound, I grew up on a farm in the inner city. Founded in 1868, Dickens, like most California towns except for Irvine, which was established as a breeding ground for stupid, fat, ugly, white Republicans and the Chihuahuas and East Asian refugees who love them, started out as an agrarian community. The city’s original charter stipulated that “Dickens shall remain free of Chinamen, Spanish of all shades, dialects, and hats, Frenchmen, redheads, city slickers, and unskilled Jews.” However, the founders, in their somewhat limited wisdom, also provided that the five hundred acress bordering the canal be forever zoned for something referred to as “residential agriculture,” and thus my neighborhood, a ten-square-block section of Dickens unofficially known as the Farms was born. You know when you’ve entered the Farms, because the city sidewalks, along with your rims, car stereo, nerve, and progressive voting record, will have vanished into air thick with the smell of cow manure and, if the wind is blowing the right direction—good weed. Grown men slowly pedal dirt bikes and fixies through streets clogged with gaggles and coveys of every type of farm bird from chickens to peacocks. They ride by with no hands, counting small stacks of bills, looking up just long enough to raise an inquisitive eyebrow and mouth: “Wassup? Q’vo?” Wagon wheels nailed to front-yard trees and fences lend the ranch-style houses a touch of pioneer authenticity that belies the fact that every window, entryway, and doggie door has more bars on it and padlocks than prison commissary. Front porch senior citizens and eight-year-olds who’ve already seen it all sit on rickety lawn chairs whittling with switchblades, waiting for something to happen, as it always did.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty, excerpt one)

from The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty:

Most times cops expect to be thanked. Whether they’ve just given you directions to the post office, beaten your ass in the backseat of the patrol car, or, in my case, uncuffed you, returned your weed, drug paraphernalia, and provided you with the traditional Supreme Court quill. But this one has had a look of pity on her face, ever since this morning, when she and her posse met me atop the Supreme Court’s vaunted forty-fourth stair. Under a pediment inscribed with the words EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW they stood shoulder-to-shoulder, squinting into the morning sun, windbreakers dotted with the dandruff of fallen cherry blossoms, blocking my entrance into the building. We all knew that this was a charade, a last-minute meaningless show of power by the state. The only one not in on the joke was the cocker spaniel. His retractable leash whirring behind him, he bounded up to me, excitedly sniffed my shoes and my pant legs, nuzzled my crotch with his wet snot-encrusted nose, then obediently sat down beside me, his tail proudly pounding the ground. I’ve been charged with a crime so heinous that busting me for possession of marijuana on federal property would be like charging Hitler with loitering and a multinational oil company like British Petroleum with littering after fifty years of exploding refineries, toxic spills and emissions, and a shamelessly disingenuous advertising campaign. So I clear my pipe with two loud raps on the mahogany table. Brush and blow the gummy resin onto the floor, stuff the bowl with homegrown, and like a firing squad commander lighting a deserter’s last cigarette, the lady cop obligingly flicks her BIC and sparks me up. I refuse the blindfold and take the most glorious toke ever taken in the history of pot smoking. Call every racially profiled, abortion-denied, flag-burning, Fifth Amendment taker and tell them to demand a retrial, because I’m getting high in the highest court in the land. The officers stare at me in amazement. I’m the Scopes monkey, the missing link in the evolution of African-American jurisprudence come to life. I can hear the cocker spaniel whimpering in the corridor, pawing at the door, as I blow an A-bomb mushroom-cloud-sized plume of smoke into the faces that line the giant friezes on the ceiling. Hammurabi, Moses, Solomon—these veined Spanish marble incantations of democracy and fair play—Muhammad, Napoleon, Charlemagne, and some buffed ancient Greek frat boy in a toga stand above me, casting their stony judgmental gazes down upon me. I wonder if they looked at the Scottsboro Boys and Al Gore, Jr., with the same disdain.

Friday, November 18, 2016

the last book I ever read (Chris Bachelder's The Throwback Special, excerpt ten)

from The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder:

Someone on the field whistled. The football was placed on the ground in a patch of limp grass, then each team gathered in a huddle. The Giants huddle was rapidly generated and ill-formed. It dissolved almost immediately, and the defenders spread out in rough formation, awaiting the offensive alignment. The Redskins huddle was a perfect and intimate order, elemental and domestic, like a log cabin in the wilderness. Sarah and Deirdre, Brandon and Paul—they could perhaps sense in the huddle the origins of civilization. The men bent at the waist, hands on knees. Their helmets nearly touched inside the private sphere, where ten men listened for the secret, the invocation against evil. Their breath rose together from the center of the circle. They broke their huddle with a synchronized and disciplined clap, not bright but dulled by gloves and tape. They jogged to the line of scrimmage. Even the quarterback jogged. He wore number 7. His face mask was old-fashioned, a single bar. It was nearly ten o’clock, November 18. The rain fell steadily through the fog. Passing cars honked from the street, and a passenger in a truck yelled something mean-spirited and vulgar. It was odd, Paul thought, not to begin with a kickoff. He did not know what he hoped to see, failure or something else. The quarterback was under center. He looked to his right and then to his left. He looked again to his right, then to his left. He called, “Yellow forty-one,” he voice wavering. He called it again. The hooded man and the man with the baseball cap leaned forward, elbows on their knees. The sales associates sat closely together on the top row of the bleachers, their shoulders touching. The man in the yellow poncho stood completely still beneath the scoreboard. The ball was snapped then, and something happened, a single ruinous play, a discrete unit of chaos, violent and unlovely. The players grunted, their damp pads clacked through the fog. The entire play lasted perhaps five seconds. “Shit, flea flicker,” Brandon murmured as the running back pitched the ball to the quarterback. “Uh-oh,” he said. “Throw it, throw it.” But the quarterback had not thrown the ball. He had stepped up into the pocket to avoid the rush, and then crumpled beneath a lineback who had leaped onto his back. “That was not good,” Paul said. “Those old guys are not up for this.” Other defenders jumped on top of the quarterback, and a muffled scream came from the pile of bodies. Like a spell the scream lifted the players from the pile. One player, the one who had brought the quarterback down, gestured frantically to an empty sideline. He put his hands on his helmet. It was something the sales associates would remember.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

the last book I ever read (Chris Bachelder's The Throwback Special, excerpt nine)

from The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder:

Out in the hallway, something or someone slammed hard against the door, and the men laughed and coughed. Then Nate told a story. The story began with a kind of rustling or scuttling sound in the basement. Carl gritted his teeth. God help me, he thought, this is going to be a story about an animal in the house. Carl had been at the hotel for a little more than twenty-four hours, and he had already heard six or seven stories about animals in houses, identical in dramatic contour—the strange noise or scat or smell, the mystery, the false hypothesis, the persistence, the breakthrough, the discovery, the grim and triumphant resolution. The unstated moral: It’s my house. But Carl tried to be patient, he did. He understood that each animal in each house felt unique to the home owner. A man with an animal in his house is an archetype. He joins a long narrative tradition, and yet for each particular man in each particular house the event is not allegory. It is an urgent and singular encounter, exceptional and unrepeatable. Carl remembered very clearly the bats in his own attic. Those terrible little fingers. He knew that each man was entitled to his story about an animal in the house, and he tried to pay attention, tried to nod and sound surprised when it turned out to be a raccoon. “Are you serious?” Carl said. “What did you do then?” Nate had good hair, and it was a pleasure to cut. He had, at least in the decade that Carl had known him, always parted his hair in the middle. It was time, Carl thought, for a change.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

the last book I ever read (Chris Bachelder's The Throwback Special, excerpt eight)

from The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder:

(Chad had missed some of the story, but it seems that Peter had been roasting marshmallows by himself with his gas stove in the middle of the night when his seven-year-old son entered the kitchen and witnessed the scene. I thought I smelled something, the child had said, staring at Peter warily, refusing to return to be. Peter just stood there with two perfectly golden marshmallows on the end of a barbecue fork. Big deal, Adam said, still staring out the window. Continue, Charles said. He had the look of one betrayed, Peter said. I think he had a hard time with it, with the idea that this person he loved and trusted could roast marshmallows while he slept. It’s been a couple of weeks, and he’s had trouble falling asleep. He’s wet the bed a couple of times. I shouldn’t have done it, I guess, Peter said. It wasn’t a dessert night. A phone vibrated in a duffel bag. I’m glad you’re here, Charles. Charles, I’m glad you’re here. Chad waited in his wet socks, and the waiting felt emblematic.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

the last book I ever read (Chris Bachelder's The Throwback Special, excerpt seven)

from The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder:

Gear exchange was a chaotic and inefficient and lengthy and primitive process. Over the years there had been several sensible, even elegant, proposals for a more orderly exchange, but each had been ignored. As they did every year after the lottery, the men now roamed hallways with helmets, shoulder pads, and uniforms, searching for the men who required their gear, as well as for the roaming men who had the gear that they required. The cumbersome burden of the equipment was essential to the rite, as was the notion of quest, as was the act of bestowal, as was the inebriated sociability among fellow wanderers. “I hate to say it about my own kid,” Nate told Vince in the stairwell, “but he’s about the sickliest little thing I’ve ever seen.” In the fifth-floor hallway, Robert, having received downstairs the pristine Jeff Bostic gear from Randy, bestowed his Harry Carson gear upon Nate. “Carson,” Nate said, wiping his palms on his pants. Robert could hardly expect Nate to notice the mended chinstrap. In fact, if Nate noticed the chinstrap, it would probably mean Robert had not repaired it well. And he had repaired it well. When Robert was a child, his father had told him that there is never a need to draw attention to one’s own accomplishments. People notice a job done well, his father had said, but in Robert’s experience that had not been true. What people notice is tardiness, failure, moth damage. Robert’s father had been a corporate whistleblower who was pilloried in the press. He now lived alone in rural Illinois, where he sat erectly in a folding chair, listening to police scanners. He carted around an oxygen tank, but still had the power to humiliate Robert.

Monday, November 14, 2016

the last book I ever read (Chris Bachelder's The Throwback Special, excerpt six)

from The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder:

Trent picked Gil’s ping-pong ball from the pillowcase, and Gil, who had not been on the Redskins line in the past four years, was compelled by rule to select a lineman. Scowling, Gil chose right tackle Mark May, whom he considered not a good selection but the least terrible selection, given his options. Bald Michael, who had been Mark May three times, and Andy, who had been Mark May last year, made eye contact across the room. Gil was disappointed now, but he wouldn’t be for long. Once you had played May, you understood.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

the last book I ever read (Chris Bachelder's The Throwback Special, excerpt five)

from The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder:

Out of habit, Robert checked his watch, but failed to perceive the time. He looked up, squinting into the shabby light of Carl’s projector. How is one to live? When Robert helped his wife prepare a nice meal, he invariably thought of all the dishes they would have to wash later. When he loaded the car for his family’s summer vacation to the beach, he thought of how unpleasant it would be to unpack the car a week later. Even if the family vacation was “fun”—and often it did contain pleasurable moments for Robert—it would soon be over. While it was happening it was ending. As soon as the vacation began, it was eroding. How do you enjoy something that has, by virtue of beginning, commenced its ending? How, for instance, do you put up a Christmas tree? (All those fragile ornaments, wrapped in tissue.) There was in fact no beginning, or middle. It was all end. How silly, then, to load the car, to drive eleven hours for something that was just going to be gone. Wouldn’t it be easier to remain at home? That’s where they would end up a week later, with their sunburns and sandy towels and a thousand digital pictures of that time—which year was that?—that they went to the beach. Everything that had happened to Robert in his life was over, and the things that had not yet happened were on their way to being over. Some would be over sooner, others later. He often looked forward to watching a game on television, but when the game started, it was ending, and so he could not enjoy the game. Robert glanced at Charles, who was scratching his armpit. He wondered whether Charles was respected by his peers. When Robert heard a song he liked, he was aware that the song was dissolving in time, second by second. I like third verse, he would think. Here comes the third verse. Here it comes. Then the third verse just evaporated. What did it even mean to like a song? There was no song. The song wasn’t there. It was just like that cocktail in the screened-in porch after a day of hot sun at the beach, the happy pink children eating watermeln, the handsome and serious wife reading a frivolous magazine, her feet propped up, her toenail polish flaking, a breeze coming through. It wasn’t there, either. Anything good that would happen to Robert would be converted instantaneously to something good that had happened. And something good that had happened was, because it was already over, something somber.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

the last book I ever read (Chris Bachelder's The Throwback Special, excerpt four)

from The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder:

Since Peter used a side entrance, the men who had entered the lobby—even Robert in his stuffed chair—did not notice him. The woman at the front desk looked up and smiled at Peter as he passed, but he did not acknowledge her. He walked to the dining area, where he filled a cup with water at the juice dispenser. Upon opening the microwave he was momentarily stunned by the miasma of irradiated popcorn. He blinked his eyes against the vapors, steadied his legs. The interior of the microwave, like the interiors of all public microwaves, resembled the scene of a double homicide. He put the cup inside, closed the door, and programmed the oven to heat the water on high for one minute and fifty-six seconds. The start button was concave with history, like the stone steps of ancient cathedral. The microwave rattled and popped. A dim interior bulb cast a faint yellow glow on the revolving cup and the spattered walls. A sign on the top of the microwave, framed like the photograph of a family pet, asked that microwave users please demonstrate a respectful attitude toward fellow users. The clip art image on the sign, inexplicably, was of a guitar. Peter paced as the green digital numbers descended toward zero. He touched the new mouthguard in his pocket. On his phone he checked the weather, sent a text, renewed a prescription. He stood on his left leg, flexing his right knee. He had reached an age when a sore knee might mean either that the knee was sore, or that the knee was shot. He frequently had occasion to consider the phrase bone on bone. The microwave oven rattled along like some World’s Fair exhibit. Could this really be, in our age, the fastest method for heating things up? Peter looked around, but there was nobody else in the dining area. A long banner above the continental buffet station welcomed Prestige Vesta Solutions. On television, heavy wind pushed a car across a tennis court, eliciting nervous laughter and censored profanity from the amateur videographer. Peter ran his hand through his hair, which he had allowed to grow long in anticipation of a Saturday afternoon haircut from Carl. He did not particularly like Carl’s haircuts, but he got one every year, and he worried that he would hurt Carl’s feelings if he did not sign up. Peter stopped the microwave with two second remaining, and removed the hot cup of water. Then, following directions he knew very well, he dropped the new mouthguard into the slow boil. It floated there like a translucent semi-sessile annelid, the kind of tubular aquatic worm that is capable of regeneration. He left the guard in the water for slightly longer than directed, and instead of rinsing it quickly in cold water, as the instructions exhorted in bold font, he placed it directly into his mouth. He bit down hard, sucked vigorously to remove the air and water. He looked around, but there was nobody to remove the air and water. He looked around, but there was nobody else in the dining area. The plastic was soft, and it tasted like synthetic butter. With his finger Peter pressed the scalding plastic into his gums; with his tongue he pushed the guard into the back of his top and bottom teeth. He sculpted the guard, made it his own. It was now unique. After a minute, which he counted more or less accurately in his head, he extracted the mouthguard and rinsed it in cold water from the juice dispenser. He put the mouthguard back into his mouth, and looked around. If the fit was not good, he could boil the mouthguard again. The fit was good, but he decided to boil the mouthguard again.

Friday, November 11, 2016

the last book I ever read (Chris Bachelder's The Throwback Special, excerpt three)

from The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder:

“Our branch is closed on Tuesdays! Serious cuts!”

“Sorry to hear that,” Andy said into his cleats. The rain slid down the windshield and windows. Andy’s anxious breathing began to fog up the inside of the glass. George became a wet and indistinct blur, but Andy could still hear him speaking slowly through the window. He was disappointed about a tax referendum in his county, but he still had faith in the democratic process. The information was out there. The people could find it, make informed choices. Then something about either wetlands or weapons. Andy remained silent, hidden in his fortress of condensation. He was not, at this point of the weekend, having a good time, though he knew that good times were probably just for teenagers dancing around a big bonfire in a clearing in the woods with loud music playing from an open hatchback. After a few minutes, the talking stopped and the foggy blur disappeared from Andy’s passenger window. Andy had been inconsiderate, he knew. He thought of his wife, what she would say to him. She would say that he had been cruel to George. She would say that George wasn’t so bad. She would say he’s lonely. But Andy’s wife was the person who invariably, at any social gathering, ended up cornered by a gesticulating freak. The eccentrics preyed on her, sensing her weakness, her gentle open face, her listening skills. They had things they wanted to share—their health problems, their pets’ health problems, their unpublished fantasy novels, the fires that nearly destroyed their childhood homes, their long estrangements from their felonious sons. Andy’s wife would stand for hours with her back to the artwork, so careful not to touch it, clutching an empty glass of wine, making eye contact, nodding at the lunatic. And then on the drive home she would brim with misanthropic rage. Why, she would want to know, had Andy not saved her? Could he not see that she was trapped by that woman with her fringed vest tucked into the elastic waist of her skirt? With those huge feather earrings? That woman talking for over an hour about chestnut blight? Andy recalled how strange it had been, in the first giddy months of marriage, to introduce her, to consider her, as his wife. And now it would be just as strange to think of her as his ex-wife.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

the last book I ever read (Chris Bachelder's The Throwback Special, excerpt two)

from The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder:

The celebrated fountain in the center of the lobby was dry and quiet, cordoned off by yellow tape. A placard that partially obscured a notice from the department of health implored visitors to pardon the commitment to excellence. Scattered in the fountain’s arid basin was a constellation of coins, whitish and crusted. Robert gripped the yellow tape, stared at the desiccated wishes. There was nothing, he considered, more dry than an inoperative fountain.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

the last book I ever read (Chris Bachelder's The Throwback Special, excerpt one)

from The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder:

The wicker sewing kit reminded Charles of his grandparents’ cabin on Lake Michigan. There had been a box there—though much larger, and not wicker—full of games and toys. While the adults talked and drank, he would sit on the floor, playing Barrel of Monkeys or Lincoln Logs. There had been another toy, a sketch of a bald man’s head encased in transparent plastic. With a magnetic stylus you dragged dirty iron filings to the man’s head, giving him hair, a mustache, a beard. The filings clung to the stylus like filthy moss. The man’s mood was entirely dependent, Charles had discovered, on the angle of the eyebrows.

Monday, November 7, 2016

the last book I ever read (Phil Jackson's Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success, excerpt twelve)

from Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty:

No question, I have a big job ahead of me. Now that we’ve hired Derek Fisher as the new head coach, we need to bring in some new players to complement Carmelo (who has decided to stay with the Knicks), change the team chemistry, and give the team more of the grit and character New York is famous for. Derek was an exceptional leader when he played for me on the Lakers and I’m certain he’ll inspire the players to meld together and play the game the right way.

Soon the honeymoon will be over. I can already sense the sharks circling in the water. But that doesn’t bother me. What matters now is waking up every morning and getting a chance to do something I’ve always dreams of: reawakening the team that Red Holzman built, the team that changed my life forever.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

the last book I ever read (Phil Jackson's Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success, excerpt eleven)

from Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty:

Ron grew up in New York’s rough Queenbridge projects, and sports tattoos of a Q on his right left and a B on his left to remind him of his roots. He remembers hearing gun shots while playing at the Twelfth Street courts. And he once witnessed a young man getting killed during a game at a local recreation center when a brawl broke out and one of the players tore off a leg of the scorer’s table and stabbed him with it. “I’m still ghetto,” Ron once told the Houston Chronicle. “That’s not going to change. I’m never going to change my culture.”

Saturday, November 5, 2016

the last book I ever read (Phil Jackson's Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success, excerpt ten)

from Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty:

The mistake that championship teams often make is to try to repeat their winning formula. But that rarely works because by the time the next season starts, your opponents have studied all the videos and figured out how to counter every move you made. The key to sustained success is to keep growing as a team. Winning is about moving into the unknown and creating something new. Remember that scene in the first Indiana Jones movie when someone asks Indy what he’s going to do next, and he replies, “I don’t know, I’m making it up as we go along.” That’s how I view leadership. It’s an act of controlled improvisation, a Thelonious Monk finger exercise, from one moment to the next.

Friday, November 4, 2016

the last book I ever read (Phil Jackson's Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success, excerpt nine)

from Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty:

After the All-Star break we went on a long road trip that I hoped would help bring the team closer together. As part of my annual give-each-player-a-book program, I presented Shaq with a copy of Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse’s fictional account of the like of the Buddha. I thought the book might inspire Shaq to reexamine his attachment to material possessions. In the story the young prince Siddhartha renounces his luxurious life to seek enlightenment. The point I wanted Shaq to understand was that everyone has to find his or her own spiritual path—and accumulating more toys was not the way to get there. It was my way of nudging him to explore the road to inner peace—by quieting his mind, focusing on something other than his own desires, and becoming more compassionate toward his teammates, especially Kobe, who was dealing with some attachment issues of his own.

I was amused by the book report Shaq turned in a few weeks later. The gist was: This book is about a young man who has power, wealth, and women (much like me), and gives them all up to pursue a holy life (not so much like me). I would have been surprised if Shaq all of a suddent went on a search for englightenment after reading the book, but I think the message about compassion hit home with him. He has a generous soul.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

the last book I ever read (Phil Jackson's Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success, excerpt eight)

from Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty:

Kobe had big dreams. Soon after I started with the Lakers, Jerry called me into his office to report that Kobe had asked him how he had averaged 30-plus points a game when his teammate, Elgin Baylor, was also scoring 30-plus points per game. Kobe was hell-bent on surpassing Jordan as the greatest player in the game. His obsession with Michael was striking. Not only had he mastered many of Jordan’s moves, but he affected many of M.J.’s mannerisms as well. When we played in Chicago that season, I orchestrated a meeting between the two stars, thinking that Michael might help shift Kobe’s attitude toward selfless teamwork. After they shook hands, the first words out of Kobe’s mouth were “You know I can kick your ass one on one.”

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

the last book I ever read (Phil Jackson's Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success, excerpt seven)

from Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty:

My favorite psychological tool was one June called a “social bull’s-eye,” which creates a picture of how people see themselves in relation to the group. On one of our long road trips, I’d give each of the players a sheet of paper with a three-ring bull’s-eye, representing the team’s social structure, in the center. Then I’d ask them to position themselves somewhere on the bull’s-eye based on how connected they felt to the team. Not surprisingly, the starters usually placed themselves somewhere near the eye, and the backups scattered themselves in the second and third rings. One year backup forward Stacey King, a fast-talking, stylishly dress player who made everyone laugh, drew himself hovering far outside the third ring. When I asked him why, he said, “I don’t get any playing time, Coach.” Which wasn’t true, but it was how he felt. On the surface, Stacey seemed confident and gregarious, but inside he felt like an outside struggling for recognition. I don’t think I ever figured out how to heal that wound.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

the last book I ever read (Phil Jackson's Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success, excerpt six)

from Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty:

The triangle gets its name from one of its key features—a sideline triangle formed by three players on the “strong” side of the floor. But I prefer to think of the triangle as “five-man tai chi” because it involves all the players moving together in response to the way the defense positions itself. The idea is not to go head to head against the defense but to read what the defense is doing and respond accordingly. For instance, if the defense swarms Michael Jordan on one side of the floor, that opens up a series of options for the other four players. But they all need to be acutely aware of what’s happening and be coordinated enough to move together in unison so they can take advantage of the openings the defense offers. That’s where the music comes in.