crime novels

What We're Loving: The Sports-Comedy Connection, Funeral Planning, Old Virgins, Hard Boils

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison returns with his famous SNL preview, Jonda Robinson knows why there are only one set of footprints, Brittany Smith has some recommendations for your trip back to 2006, and Ryan Callahan is easily upsold. saturdaynightlive-logoSaturday Night Live is back this week, which means it’s time for my semi annual (annual as in yearly, semi as in never before) take on the upcoming season. I really do view each year of SNL like the handful of sporting teams I follow. All offseason long I watch as they release and acquire talent, hoping for the big move that puts them over the top and back to relevance. Also, like a sports fan, go into each year with the blind optimism that this year will be better, before watching my expectations crash back to Earth by Thanksgiving.

Here’s why I’m excited (Bullet pointed lists lead to maximum excitement!):

  • Cast reduction.
    • Fewer players means more stage time for those that remain, which means that we’ll actually get to see their talents this year.
  • Michael Che to Weekend Update.
    • Fantastic writer and proved on The Daily Show that he’ll be fantastic behind the desk
    • His move also removed Cecily Strong from Update. I didn’t mind her, but I like what I’ve seen out of Che better and think that she was better in her first season when simply concentrated on sketches.
  • Streeter Seidel added to the writing staff
  • Fortieth Anniversary
    • It has to be good if it’s an anniversary season, right?

- David Allison

secondcity_grandmasrecordsI have to admit that I don’t use Twitter as effectively as I could. I often forget to look at it, then I become overwhelmed at all the tweets I have missed, then I scroll to the most current ones, causing myself to pass over a lot of 140-character gems. Fortunately this week, even though I probably missed out on a lot of important world news, I didn’t miss out on Aidy Bryant (@aidybryant) sharing one of her favorite scenes from the Second City archives.

The sketch is called “Grandma’s Records,” and while I had read it before, I’d never seen it performed. The set-up is that Mother Superior, beloved nun and music lover, has passed away. Her friends are preparing for her funeral and hope to find a suitable record from her collection to play at the service. As with most things in sketch comedy and life in general, there are some hiccups along the path to completing this task. Seeing it performed brought new life to it for me, and there are some specific things to watch out for:

  1. Rachel Dratch’s retelling of the “Footprints” story is fantastic, and it’s the only way I ever want to hear that story again. Also, it reminded me that my own grandma had this story hanging up in her house for most of my life.
  2. Scott Adsit’s physicality in the scene is great, and watching him react to the songs on the records makes them that much funnier.
  3. The songs themselves will make you laugh, and one will even change your perspective on Herbert Hoover’s “chicken in every pot” promise.

In case you’re still on the fence about whether you should watch it or not, I’ll tell you that Tina Fey plays guitar in it. If you can say no to laughter and Tina Fey, you’re a stronger person than I am. - Jonda Robinson

ElizabethOn a weird whim Saturday night I found myself watching the HBO Miniseries from 2006, Elizabeth I. The drama puts Helen Mirren at the height of her Helen Mirren-est, playing the Virgin Queen, being sassy, and hooking up with dudes 30 years her junior. Basically fulfilling all of my fantasies for post-menopausal life.

The show follows the queen in the later years of her life still trying to find an advantageous suitor in order to keep England as a European superpower. What makes this difficult though, is the love she has for her long-time staffer, the Earl of Leicester. Since she cannot marry him as he is but a commoner, she does what so many of us have foolishly done and asks that they remain friends. Now, I don’t care who you are, beloved sovereign of the most powerful country in the world or not, you can’t be just friends with the person you wanna bone. Then, the Earl dies and his adorably shaggy haired son, (Hugh Dancy), takes his place as the queen’s confidante. Eventually he too falls for the queen, but once again, because he is not royal, the queen will not marry him. He then proceeds to knock up one of her hand maidens and the queen pulls the pimp move of blessing their marriage, only on the condition that Hugh Dancy is still allowed to hook up with the queen. Baller. Status.

If none of this is enticing enough, you also see a young Eddie Redmayne sporting Jersey Shore-level terrible extensions and the queen constantly referring to herself as “we”. So run, don’t walk, to your stolen HBOGo account to watch an 8 year old show about a woman who died 400 years ago. - Brittany Smith

StrandBooks800My sojourn in New York continues. Last week, I covered two of my favorite things to do in the city: Walk and Eat. This week, I'm still loving both activities (in fact, I had a pizza called a "Fraggle Rock" from Roberta's the other night at Madison Square Eats. Mozzarella, ricotta, squash, cranberries. Have you ever wanted to marry a pizza? Because I wanted to marry this pizza), and I have added a third favorite New York activity: Book Shopping.

My nights have been largely free over this past week, leaving me much time to walk around the city and enjoy the many book stores. Over the past few nights I have been able to visit two of my favorite book stores: Strand Bookstore and Mast Books. Strand reminds me of the Half Price Books super store off Northwest Highway, except that the stickers they place on the books come off easily and the staff has no interest in helping you at all. Seriously, every time I have asked someone for help in that bookstore, they respond with a combination of anger and panic, like I'm interrupting them right as they were about to hide a corpse. But The Stand is worth it for the treasures. They have more books about presidents than you can even imagine. And I'm sure you can imagine a lot of books about presidents. (The previous sentence was directed to Ryan Goldsberry.) I could spend several hours in the basement looking through the racks of essays, letters, and biographies. That's not an exaggeration. That's what I did on Tuesday.

From the outside, Mast Books looks like a little museum. On the inside, they have a lot of art books and photography books and used books that cater to the East Village crowd (Bukowski, Fante, Vonnegut). They also have the coolest little collection of crime novels. The other night I found some Black Lizard paperbacks from the 80's that were re-issues of books from the 50's, forgotten hard-boiled works with titles like Bury My Grave Deep and Kill The Boss Good-By. At the register, the cashier pointed out a stack of similar books she had yet to shelve. The stack contained several books by Charles Willeford.  I bought those books. She must have seen me coming a mile away. - Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: Long Descriptions, Short Descriptions, Pre-Teen Interests, Teen Interests, Our Lying Brains

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison shares his inspirations, Jonda Robinson rules middle school, Sarah Wyatt is mesmerized, Amanda Hahn reignites her passion, and Ryan Callahan plows ahead.  P1-AT967_RADIO_F_20100224175520Terry Catlett and myself have been hard at work for a while trying to figure out what sort of written show we wanted to bring to the DCH stage. This week, we’ll finally be putting up the fruit of that labor with the show David and Terry: Portrait of a Crime. It’s a radio play, complete with live sound effects provided by Colten Winburn and Daniel Matthews. In honor of that upcoming show, I wanted to share a couple of clips that inspired the production.

The first idea for the show came about when I randomly heard WC Fields’ “The Day I Drank a Glass of Water” and played it for Terry. It’s super dumb and terrible, but you can check out the ten minute piece here. Favorite part would be the long, drawn out description when he finally goes to take a drink. The sheer absurdity of how they over explain it really spoke to us. After listening to this, and similar radio plays, we realized the sort of show that we wanted to do.

Our primary inspiration for the style of humor would be everything The Smothers Brothers did. If you’re not familiar with them, The Smothers Brothers were a comic singing duo that hosted a variety show in the 1960s. They created these happy, upbeat, clean, folk songs that still hold up today (Especially if you liked my piece on A Mighty Wind.). I love the dynamic between the straight and absurd players, something that is especially evident in “Boil That Cabbage Down.” Check it out here.

So if either of those billion year old clips, or my normal shows with Terry, are to your liking, we’d love to have you join us on 8/31 at 8:30 as we debut the radio play! - David Allison

Middle SchoolIt’s been a big week for students, parents, and teachers around these parts, as school started back this past Monday. Because of this, the thing I’m loving this week is hanging out with middle school kids. No, it’s not a creepy thing--I’m a “highly qualified” teacher by Texas standards, so it’s not only something I enjoy, but it’s something I get paid to do.

The first week is filled with lots of emotion. Crying, complaining, wondering if you’ll make any friends--and it’s pretty rough on the students, too. I teach both 6th grade and 8th grade, so I get to see both sides of the spectrum, all the way from the eleven-year-old on the verge of tears because she can’t get her locker open to the smooth 8th grader who has gotten as good at this middle school game as he did at [insert title of popular video game all the kids are playing these days]  over the summer. I’m only three days in, and I’ve already had had one sixth grader ask me if she could read Milton’s Paradise Lost, another tell me that when he grows up he wants to be “a problem, so people throw money at me,” and a group of 8th graders who have declared an “anti-spork” movement in our classroom, proclaiming the superiority of the spoon and hoping to get #antispork2014 trending.

If you get ever get the chance to hang out, work with, or mentor some middle school students, go for it. It will open up the door for some memorable conversations, you’ll get to make a (hopefully) positive impact, and you’ll also be reminded that even on your worst day, you can be thankful for the fact that you never have to be that awkward thirteen-year-old version of yourself again. - Jonda Robinson

nicki-anaconda-previewOh. If I could sum up Nicki Minaj’s music video for her latest single, “Anaconda”, in one word, it would be “Oh”. It’s a non-stop barrage of ass, sex, glistening skin, and Sir Mix-a-lot doing more work than Miss Minaj. And I kind of love it.

I thought I’d check it out while I was writing, foolishly thinking that it would just be background chatter. I was mesmerized from the first image. Oh. “What is this?? No! Why can’t I turn away??” It’s so much writhing, so much skin, so much Nicki. I mean, there’s no way everyone on set didn’t see her sorganz (my new slang for sex organs, try it out) well enough for a police sketch artist to use in court.

There’s such a build up in this video to her actually dancing but she never really does. Her back up dancers kill some moves while she pats their asses and twerks a little on a chair. Oh. There’s a section of the video that consists of cuts between her suggestively eating a banana and spraying herself with whipped cream and lots and lots of butt.

I’m not feeling it. But I could hear the sound of thousands of young boys closing their bedroom doors while I was watching it. And if that wasn’t enough, the bridge (???) is a scene of Nicki giving Drake a lap dance so good it seems to be a religious experience. I think we sometimes forget that he started as an actor because that lap dance looked weak as hell to me. This whole thing probably sounds like I hated the video. I did. I love that I hate it. I hate that I love it. I love it. Oh. - Sarah Wyatt

pomerantzThe new school year started up again this week. That doesn’t make much of a difference for grad students since our schooling is year round, but this marks the beginning of my third year in grad school, with about two or three more to go. This summer, for the first time since I started doing research almost 5 years ago, I started getting bored with what I do. I cared a little less about my ongoing studies and results. I spent less time playing with my data (usually a favorite hobby of mine). I stopped reading the RSS feeds of science journals I follow. I just wanted to lay in the sunshine all day and do comedy all night. I needed a kick in the pants. You guys. I got it. I got my kick in the form of this video by Dr. James Pomerantz.

Even if you’re not interested in neuroscience, I highly recommend watching it. Dr. Pomerantz was the PI of the lab I volunteered in after college, and he always demonstrated an amazing ability to explain such a vast array of different topics so simply, clearly, and interestingly. In this 8 minute long video taken at colloquia at Rice University, he does just that. He describes how we perceive, and essentially recreate, the world around us. As Dr. Pomerantz puts it, “when our neurons and the external world disagree with one another, the neurons win every time as for as our experience is concerned. We are all prisoners of our neural architecture.”

That applies to everything we experience. If you have vertigo and your neurons are firing in a way that says the world is spinning, then to you, the world is spinning. If you’re depressed, it doesn’t matter how many people tell you cheer up and that they love you. You’re going to be depressed until your body corrects itself or you seek help. Knowing why our brains don’t always mirror reality can help inform solutions. It can change lives. In the meantime, it’s just really, really cool to learn about. To all of you who are going back to school too: let’s learn the crap out of this weird little world we live in, shall we? Bring it on, year three. - Amanda Hahn

urlOver the past few weeks I have been working my way through the novels, stories, and other writings of Raymond Chandler. Okay, I haven’t read any of the stories yet, or the other writings, but I have finished the first two novels, The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely.

Both of these novels, in fact all of Chandler’s novels, star world-weary, hard-boiled, heavy-drinking, quip-ready private detective Phillip Marlowe. Chandler writes in the first person, allowing the reader to see the people and places of pre-war Los Angeles through Marlowe’s point of view, alternately sardonic and empathetic.

It is this point of view that makes the books great. The plots are nothing special; they’re often needlessly complicated. The mysteries are either incredibly obvious or impossible to sort out. It is the words, the tone, those descriptions – "She was thinking. I could see, even on that short acquaintance, that thinking was always going to be a bother to her.” “Neither of the two people in the room paid any attention to the way I came in, although only one of them was dead.” – which will keep you turning the pages.

I enjoyed Farewell, My Lovely more than The Big Sleep, likely due with my familiarity with the plot of the latter thanks to the Humphrey Bogart film version. Farewell, My Lovely also benefits from a virtuoso chapter in which Marlowe wakes up in a locked room, having been drugged, and struggles to regain his senses. It’s a terrifying flirtation with madness, made all the more effective by how grounded the character is the rest of the time.

My adventure through the Chandler bibliography shall continue. There are only dozens of stories and four more novels to go. After that, I can rest easy. Until I move on to the complete works of Ross MacDonald. - Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: .Gif Stories, Street Music, Heart-Breaking Car Rides, French Crime Novels

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison travels the information superhighway, Amanda Hahn pines for Europe, Jonda Robinson dances in her car, and Ryan Callahan revisits a description of violence.  imagesYou guys and gals should check out the popular world wide website named http://www.reddit.com.  If you’re unfamiliar with it, please start here.

Reddit is comprised of many popular subreddits (Communities) that normal, well adjusted people would enjoy.  There are also less popular subreddits that cater to internet weirdos that believe sitting on balloons to be sex.  One of the pages that falls somewhere in the middle is r/behindthegifs. And this week that page is, let’s all say it at the same time, WHAT I’M LOVIN’ [Insert raucous cheering].

.Gifs are tiny moving pictures that look grainy and normally involve a dog (This is the world champion).  Part of the appeal of a good .gif is that there is no context.  A funny video is chopped down to like four seconds, sound is eliminated, and it never stops.  r/behindthegifs takes the best abrupt clips and adds an absurd backstory.

You should check out the entire subreddit, but here are some of my favorites that I’ve discovered so far.

There are a trillion great ones, so please check out the subreddit and comment with your favorites.  Let’s create a community of people appreciating this internet community! - David Allison

800_370I love street musicians. I love walking through a park and hearing an acoustic guitar in the distance. On the rare occasion I take public transportation, I love waiting at the stop with a sultry singer banging out a rendition of Summertime. It’s something I rarely hear in Dallas. I hadn’t noticed the lack of street music here until I recently traveled to a popular world continent named Europe. If you’re unfamiliar with it, start here.

Almost every time I stepped out of anywhere to go from point A to point B, I would bump into one or more people performing. Performances ranged from one man and a guitar to a band of young drummers. They’re not always the most talented people, but it’s heartwarming to watch someone do something that they love to do. The only times I can think of that I have thought to myself, “I wish I loved anything as much as that person loves doing what they’re doing” have been when watching someone sing or play an instrument. Street musicians allow me to get up-close and really watch them love what they’re doing. I put some of the musicians I enjoyed watching the most in a playlist that I watch whenever I miss eating gelato and people watching on the steps of an old cathedral.

But this doesn’t have to be something that I miss! Or that any of us miss! So this week, I am putting out a call to action. Musicians of Dallas: Take to the streets! Find a park, find a bench, find a tunnel, an alleyway, a corner, a roof – wherever! Play for us. Please. Play a little soundtrack for our lives. Let us watch you do what you love. We’ll love you even more for it. - Amanda Hahn

17JasonIsbell37This summer has found me spending a good amount of time in my car, traveling here and there. My favorite thing to do while driving is put on some good music, sing along at the top of my lungs, and, when the song calls for it, do just enough car dancing to make other drivers wish they were having as much fun. Lately I’ve had a variety of artists riding shotgun, from Loretta Lynn telling me that I’m not woman enough to take her man (she’s right; I’m not) to Vampire Weekend asking who really cares about an Oxford comma (I do, guys! Use it!). One artist who I keep returning to, though, is Jason Isbell and his album Southeastern. With today’s music, it’s usually hard for me to find an album that I enjoy from beginning to end, but Isbell’s stands out because it’s consistently good. It’s got an Americana/Country sound to it, and it showcases his ability as a songwriter. My hands-down favorite song on the album is “Elephant.” I highly recommend you give it a listen, but I’m also giving you a warning: It’s heavy, it’s haunting, and it’s a heart-breakingly beautiful ride. “Traveling Alone,” “Cover Me Up,” and “Different Days” are some of my favorites as well, and “Super 8” is a fun, upbeat track. Overall, Isbell’s weighty lyrics and stories have been just the break I needed from the sugary summer anthems that radio stations have on heavy rotation.

Next time you’re roadtripping or just stuck in traffic, I highly recommend you crank up whatever your current jam is, sing it like you mean it, and car dance like no one is watching. But trust me, other drivers will be watching--and they’ll be wishing they were half as cool as you. - Jonda Robinson

productimage-picture-the-mad-and-the-bad-376As I've mentioned once or twice, I'm a big fan of crime novels.  This week I dove into the works of French crime novelist Jean-Patrick Manchette.  I was introduced to Manchette thanks to the New York Review Books Classic series. His first solo crime novel, The Mad and the Bad was the July selection for the NYRB Classics subscription series. The novel tells the tale of a immoral industrialist, the mentally unstable woman he hires to babysit his nephew, and the professional hit man  he hires to murder them both. I devoured the novel in two sittings. Not the most impressive feat; the book runs about 150 pages.

After reading The Mad and the Bad, I tore through two other Manchette books: Fatale, the story of a cold-blooded  blackmailer and murderess who grows tired of her lifestyle, and The Prone Gunman, about a CIA hit man and his disastrous attempt to return Gatsby-like to his hometown and reclaim his long lost love. Like The Mad and the Bad, both novels are short and well worth your time.

I consider Manchette a kindred spirit with American crime master Jim Thompson (The Killer Inside Me, The Grifters). Both write with  a lean, straightforward style that perfectly captures the pitch black comedy of their borderline absurd situations. Manchette's characters are broken people doing bad things, unable and unwilling to stop themselves. Like all great noir, his characters are on a one way journey to the abyss, and they have a sense of humor about their fate.

Manchette's terse, propulsive style creates some of the finest action sequences I have ever read. There is one particularly impressive sequence in The Mad and the Bad. A confrontation in a department store leads to some impromptu arson leads to a bloody shootout in the street. I found myself rereading the passage over and over again.

Reading those Manchette books had me so jazzed, so in love with the possibilities of the crime novel. It is my favorite genre, by far. After finishing those books, I found myself stuck on what to read next. Ultimately I settled on tackling an author I have long neglected, Raymond Chandler. You can expect to read more about him next week. - Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: Factoid Scavenging, Angels With Dirty Mouths, Vague Wedding Memories, Old Books Made New

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison learns, Jonda Robinson professes, Amanda Hahn sways, and Ryan Callahan loves.  imgresThis week, I'm loving another Podcast.  I know that I probably recommend more of these than anyone, but that's because I really feel like the medium has grown so much over the last few years and is genuinely a legitimate source of entertainment now.  No longer are Podcasts just something that your friend does and no one listens to (Though that still happens sometimes).  Today,there are many examples of smaller podcasts that are really creating some amazing things.

My favorite of the week is called No Such Thing as a Fish and it's created by the QI Elves.  I've long been a fan of the BBC program QI (Which stands for Quite Interesting), a hilarious show that has been providing fascinating factoids for eleven seasons now.  And while No Such Thing as a Fish isn't hosted by the incomparable Stephen Fry, it's still a great listen.  Each episode tackles a different genre of knowledge and you learn a ton of random things, like Ghanaian coffins or how the Battle of Hastings was in Battle, not Hastings.  If you enjoy the tv program QI or you just enjoy broadening your horizons, I'd definitely give the Podcast a shot.  Bonus!  They just completed a run of episodes centered around the World Cup.  Each installment would pit two countries against each other, the hosts would scavenge for the most fascinating tidbits they could find, and at the end, a winning country was chosen. Double bonus, none of the facts were about soccer.  Or futbol.  - David Allison

imagesThis week, I’m professing my love for Amy Schumer. My mom refers to her as “that girl with the angelic face who says really dirty things,” and if you’re familiar with her stand-up or Comedy Central show Inside Amy Schumer, then you know that description is pretty accurate. I first stumbled upon her in 2007 when she was a contestant on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, and I felt a connection with her girl-next-door looks. While on the surface her humor can sometimes appear to be crass, at its core it’s always smart, and it demonstrates that Schumer has a good grasp on the big picture of what it’s like to navigate the world, especially as a woman.

From the beginning, I was in “like” with Amy. I appreciated her wit, admired her boldness, and wanted to be friends with her (I imagined us getting pedicures while sipping champagne and discussing the complexities of dating, with her saying something like “It’s 2014, you know! You’d think we’d have come up with a better system by now!”). Falling in love with her was something that happened for me during the second season of Inside Amy Schumer, as she, along with her brilliant writers, avoided the sophomore slump by taking things up a notch and leaving viewers asking “Whoa--did she really just go there?” One of my favorite examples of this is her sketch “A Very Realistic Military Game,” which does an excellent job of presenting a hot button issue in a lighthearted way, forcing you to think about the bigger idea.

I’m super excited that Amy is bringing her comedic stylings to Dallas this November, just in time for my birthday. Fingers crossed I can come up with a plan to make my champagne-and-pedicure dreams come true while she’s in town. - Jonda Robinson

Last weekend, I went to the Dominican Republic for my cousin’s wedding. Dominican weddings aren’t very different from Catholic, American ones. The wedding occurs in a church, then there’s a mass, followed by a reception. Typical. But receptions at Latin American weddings are not like the typical Catholic, American ones. Dancing starts immediately and continues all night. The bride and groom stick around for the whole reception. Colored lights are everywhere. Sometimes rappers show up. Sometimes the DJ hops onto the dance floor. Sometimes there’s a giant cake surrounded by spotlights. Sometimes Go Pros on helicopters fly past your head. And every single time, it’s a blast. The most energy filled part of the night is La Hora Loca, or The Crazy Hour. Music picks up, and people pass out hats, masks, glasses, disco ball necklaces, and shots. Lots of shots. I wish I could say more about La Hora Loca, but I can’t. Because I don’t remember much of that or the rest of the night. Because I made great use of the Brugal rum at the open bar and excellent use of the shots being passed out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5n-O6qtt9c0&feature=youtu.be

I have a vague memory of dancing while someone rapped and suddenly realizing that I had never seen a live rapper at a wedding, and this was a something new I should be paying attention to. I found out later that the Dominican rapper, Mozart La Para was the performer. Just right there. Rapping away. I also found out later that we left the reception at around 4:30 or 5 am, and my 80-something year old grandma with a recently broken knee had partied all night along with everyone else. I’m so proud of her. I’m so proud to be Dominican. I’m not proud of this video of the wedding/me doing whatever the heck I’m doing, but feel free to watch and enter the wedding along with me. Bienvenidos a la Republica Dominicana. And farewell to my sound state of mind. - Amanda Hahn

NYRB CLASSICSBy now it should be no secret that I love books. Old books, new books, used books, fresh books - I love them all. I love the way they feel in my hands. I love the way they look on my shelves. I love they way they rest on my chest when I take a nap. But my favorite books of all come from the New York Review Books Classic series. NYRB Classics offers an eclectic selection of books from around the world, most of which have been long out of print. The books are re-released with new art, and some kind of cover stock  that seems to have been lowered from Asgard. I cannot describe the way the books feel in my hands other than to say perfectly.

I was first made aware of NYRB Classics in an essay by Roger Ebert. In praise of the works of Georges Simenon, the French master of the roman dur, Ebert mentioned reading a recent NYRB Classics reissue. Now that I was aware of Simenon's existence, I had to go out and buy his books. That is how my brain works. After reading Red Lights, a nasty little tale of a road trip gone wrong, I discovered, in the back of the book, a list of all the available NYRB Classics. Now I had to get all of them. At the time I lived in New York. My local used book store, Mast Books on Avenue A, carried an impressive selection of NYRB Classics. I picked up everyone I could.

This wonderful series has introduced me to so many new books that I never would have discovered ob my own: Max Beerbohm's Seven Men, a wistful and witty series of fictional biographies, Kingsley Amis' bitter and funny Lucky Jim, which became one of my favorites novels the moment I finished, Felix Feneon's Novels in Three Lines, true stories of crime and corruption told in three lines with prose carved out of stone, Dwight Macdonald's Masscult and Midcult, a collection of essays from the 50's and 60's so prescient and incisive they could have been written last week, Robert Sheckley's Store of the Worlds, sharp little science fiction tales so smart and weird and human.

These days, I have my NYRB Classics delivered. Each Christmas my aunt enrolls me in the NYRB Classics book club. Each month, a new book arrives in the mail. This week's selection is The Mad and the Bad by Jean-Patrick Manchette, another master of French crime. Last week it was a collection of Montaigne's essays. Next month the selection is a World War I memoir. If you are a book lover, or you know a book lover, I cannot recommend NYRB Classics enough. Your favorite book is out there waiting for you, and you don't even know it yet. - Ryan Callahan