Sunday, September 19, 2004

an american in geneva

Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik
A whimsical tour-de-force, a hilarious romp through Paris, a rumination and mediation on Frenchness. I read most of this on the plane on my way to Geneva. My favorite part: Gopnik's trip to a supposedly American-style gym, where the staff thought exercising one a week is a lot. But five or six days a week? They said that sounds wearing. And when he goes to a typical French gym, everyone's hanging out on the poolside eating sandwiches.

Sarah: a novel by JT LeRoy
A jolt of foreignness, though it's a bit too smart for its premise: a prepubescent transvestite who wants to become the most revered truckstop prostitute around. But its a fascinating, fast-paced story. The book reminds me of Terry Southern's stuff--the guy who, with Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, wrote the screenplay for "Easy Rider." But the couple of Southern's books I read seemed to be caught up in trying to shock the reader; LeRoy seems a bit caught up in this, but not so much as Southern. Leroy's got promise to develop into a really great writer, and he's still young: he wrote this a few years ago at age 20.

Barrel Fever by David Sedaris
While hilarious, this book has a different feel from most of Sedaris's later stuff. No stories about his family, only a few true stories about himself. Most it's over-the-top fiction. As long as I ran with the scenarios he was throwing up--a long-unemployed man who suddenly becomes a star actor and director by making a film about his previously lazy life--then it cracked me up. One of my friends who's a big Sedaris fan didn't like his latest book, and worried that if he ran out of stories about his family, he'd be washed up. I think that if that ever happens, he's still got a knack for fiction.


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