My Month of 816 Pages

Justin December 10, 2012 0

Chapter 3 of our new monthly feature about the books I read and how I feel about reading them opens with some commenter feedback.

In September, I read and then wrote about Michael Chabon’s newest novel, “Telegraph Avenue:”

The book takes place in 2004 and, at one point, a then-Senate candidate Barack Obama makes an appearance. In a profile of Chabon I read in New York Magazine, this was presented as an act of fearless story telling. In my actual experience, it seemed like a stupid two second cameo that didn’t need to exist. Maybe I would have felt differently if the  appearance came as a surprise, but that article ruined it for me before I got there. Thanks a lot, New York Magazine.

To which commenter Gillian responded:

Ok, I came across your site because I’m about to buy Telegraph Avenue and I’m on a Google-mission, trying to decide whether the book will be better on my Kindle or as an iBook app. (This is because I found out after I bought Steven King’s last one from Amazon for my Kindle that the iBook edition had a photoorsomething with it.). Anyway, that’s all I wanted to know, but now I know about the Barack Obama cameo, which takes all the surprise enjoyment out of it for anyone who happens to read your silly blog too! Thanks a LOT, Justin Magazine! >:(

Nice use of a snarky callback, Gillian. Much like Ron Burgundy when Baxter eats the cheese, I’m not even mad.  I’m impressed. But, your comment brings up a couple of interesting points. First of all, am I responsible for a second hand spoiler? New York Magazine ruined the surprise about the Obama cameo. And, obviously, there are a lot more people reading the magazine than this silly blog. So, it’s already out there in the world. I’m not sure you can paint me as the villain here. Plus, as you’ll see if and when you read the book, it’s not actually that big a deal anyway.

The other point I’d like to make could serve as a spoiler alert going forward. These posts are not traditional book reviews. I’m writing about the experiences I have while reading these books, not purely about the books themselves. They’re more an expression of my frame of mind than they are an impression of what the authors are trying to accomplish.  In the case of Telegraph Avenue, having read that New York Magazine article colored my reading experience, much the way reading SportsCracklePop colored yours.

Last month’s selections were heavy and serious. This month, we go in a very different direction.

Bruce by Peter A Carlin- 512 pages

Over the summer, I read Marc Dolan’s Springsteen biography and had mixed feelings about it. So, why am I diving into yet another biography about the same person just a few months later? Well, because it’s Bruce. He’s too important a figure in my life not to swallow up everything written about him. And I’m glad I did it, because Carlin’s book, which Springsteen cooperated with, is a much more interesting read than Dolan’s. And one that sucked me in much more effectively. The two books are about the same length, but I felt like I read this one much more quickly than the other one.

At this point, I know most of the stories. I know when the albums came out, I know about the management fights and know about the break up and reunion of the E Street Band. But what Carlin did better than Dolan was paint a picture of Springsteen before he was famous. And he shed some new light on the relationships between Bruce and his employees, whether the employee is Clarence Clemons or a personal assistant. I also found myself going back and re-listening to songs I’ve heard a thousand times after reading stories about how or why they were written. The book actually shed new light on 30 year old songs. That’s pretty high praise.


Shaq Uncut-Shaquille O’Neal with Jackie MacMullan-304 pages

At some point over the past year or two, Jackie MacMullan appeared on the Bill Simmons podcast. During the course of the conversation, which included a million great stories about her life and career, MacMullan said she was really excited about her latest project, a memoir by Shaquille O’Neal that would include some really interesting and revealing stuff. I’ve always enjoyed MacMullan on television and in the newspaper, and at that point, Shaq was still a larger than life public figure with a magnetic and lovable personality.  And so, I made a mental note to look for the book when it came out.

That was before Shaq began his career as a TV analyst, a career that has all but destroyed the image of him that I had previously held. Instead of being a funny and honest commentator, O’Neal jumps back and forth between milquetoast ass kisser and blatant shit tosser. He’s either heaping praise on the biggest stars in the NBA or levying ridiculous criticism in a naked attempt to gain himself attention. Everyone is his best friend, but Dwight Howard isn’t as good a player as Brook Lopez. Instead of serving as a partner in crime for Charles Barkley on the TNT set, Shaq’s terribleness just makes Barkley’s brilliance as an analyst and an honest personality more apparent. ;

And so… this book. FUCKING TERRIBLE. It wish it was called “Shaq: Unread” Did you know that in his entire career, Shaquille O’Neal never did anything wrong? It was Penny Hardaway’s fault that he left Orlando. It was Kobe Bryant’s fault that he left LA. It was Pat Riley and Dwayne Wade’s fault that he left Miami. It was Robert Sarver’s fault that he left Phoenix. I don’t remember who’s fault it was that he left Cleveland, but it was the trainers back in Miami, three teams earlier, that made it impossible for him to be successful in Boston.

Also, did you know that Shaquille O’Neal has a lot of money? On the same page where he says he doesn’t like to talk about his charitable work, he says he’s donated millions of dollars to charity. And he writes more about how he sold his $800,000 dollar Lamborghini to Amare Stoudemire for $110,000 than he does about the year and half he spent as STAT’s teammate.

It’s probably my fault for expecting more. Not only did this book make me really dislike Shaquille O’Neal, but it kind of made me dislike Jackie MacMullan too. How does she put her name on something like this?

Next month, we’ll dive back into some weightier fare.


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