Sunday, April 22, 2007

YUMMY SUSHI REDUX

Perhaps you've seen this "interview other bloggers" meme floating around from blog to blog. If not, the basic gist of it is that another blogger writes five questions for you and you answer them. I tagged myself over at Yummy Sushi Pajamas.

1. How did you get into the top ten business?
I stole it wholesale from David Letterman. One of Letterman's early writers, Merrill Markoe, stole the idea wholesale from The Book of Lists. A little known fact about my site: the main title of every list is a blind link to something on the internet that I think is amusing. Letterman can't do that.

2. Describe your ideal woman, without referencing famous people.
Do you count as famous? Cause you're pretty ideal. I mean, besides the fact that you're already married, live on the East Coast, and want to move to Italy...

3. What's your favorite book and why?
This is a deceptively difficult question for me. There are SO MANY books I enjoy. When I am struggling with a challenge, one of my coping mechanisms is to write a list. So...herewith are Jason's Top Ten Fave Books of All Time

10. The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost

This book came to me as a birthday present from fellow blogger Jenn over at Let the Wild Rumpus Start. Jenn is a married mother of one from Kansas who I have never met. Somehow she picked out the very book that would make me laugh the hardest.

A young man just starting his career abruptly quits his job to follow his girlfriend to an isolated South Pacific Island where they encounter malnutrition, pestilence, disease, sharks and near death in a open raft on the sea. It's absolutely hilarious. I kid you not. The title is misleading. There is no sex and not one cannibal. The funniest passage in the travelogue is when the author is trying to bring his cat to the island veterinarian to get fixed:

"If you have never driven a manual-shifting car alone with an uncaged cat, I recommend that you go to great lengths to avoid the experience. I deluded myself into thinking that the cat would sit quietly in the passenger seat, but in fact moments after I started the car he found his way to the top of my head, which he used as a perch to launch himself toward the window, which sadly for him, was closed, causing him to experience a not inconsiderable amount of panic, which he manifested by ripping me to shreds, pausing only to relieve himself."

9. Rogue Warrior by Richard Marcinko

This is a combat memoir by a disgraced alcoholic Navy SEAL. He's writing from federal prison where they incarcerated him for "misappropriating funds." This book is heavy on the testosterone. It's supposedly non-fiction but half the shit is lies and the other half is made up. Women tend to put it down and never pick it up again. Men burn through the pages. It's good shit.

8. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

You know how some disaster will happen, like a perfect storm, and then a journalist or investigative reporter will interview the survivors and research the event and write a killer book? Now, imagine that reporter is also a participant in the disaster... Jon Krakauer was one of the hikers on the fatal 1996 Everest attempt. He describes in detail what it's like to be lost, frozen, and out of oxygen, then leave your teammates to die while you struggle back to base camp.

7. Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson

The 100% absolute true story of a group of recreational divers who, in 1991, discover an undisturbed Nazi submarine sunken off the coast of New Jersey. Then they solve the mystery of the suicide mission that placed it there.

6. Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose

An honest, page-turning, history of the 101st Airborne in Europe in World War II. This book captures what it feels like to fight and die far, far away from home. When they reach Hitler's mountain hideout and discover what is there at the end of the book, it's one of the most satisfying non-fiction endings ever.

5. Papillon by Henri Charrière

The supposedly non-fiction account of a French prisoner sent to a penal colony in South America. This is another book that is so incredible that it can only be half true. However, it's probably the most outrageous half of the story that is the true part.

4. Green Beach by James Leasor

Sometimes books find you. One day I'm rummaging through boxes of old John Jakes paperbacks at an outdoor Rotary Club book sale. I come across an ancient library book from 1975 called "Green Beach." The little borrower pocket is still glued on the inside of the front cover. The spine is broken and some pages are trying to escape. I love a crusty war story as much as the next History Channel junkie so I pay the 99¢ and take my book home. It turns out to be this incredible non-fiction gem about a Canadian Regiment from Saskatchewan in WWII who invade Nazi-held mainland Europe a year before the Normandy landing to covertly test out a top secret development called RADAR. Most of them die. Horribly. Who knew Canadians were such military bad asses? I mailed my copy to my cousin from Saskatchewan and it's one of his most prized possessions. The writing is a little stilted and the author can be repetitive, but the story itself is worth it.

3. Love My Rifle More than You by Kayla Williams

This is a modern combat memoir from an Arab-speaking female U.S. Army soldier in Iraq. She has to deal with all of the feminine issues (sex, workplace harassment, diet, birth control, etc...) but in a combat zone which heightens all the tension. At one point she is holding off a desperately amorous and aggressive fellow soldier with her M-16. You'll have to read the book to find out if she pulls the trigger or not. This one is a must-read for the ladies. And yes, she participates in humiliating detainees during interrogations and describes in detail what that feels like.

2. Leaving the Saints by Martha Beck

A Harvard-trained sociologist exposes the sexual attitudes of the male-dominated Mormon Church towards women and children. She goes through soul-crushing therapy over possible abuse from her own father. This is one of those books where every page is the most incredible, disgusting thing you have ever read, until you get to the NEXT page. Almost every paragraph is a controversial bombshell. This book has it's own response from the Mormon Church written by members of the author's own family!

And Jason's number one fave book of all time...

1. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

This is the first fiction to make the list and it comes in at number one. An American family of missionaries goes to the Congo in the 1950's. The story reveals the history of Africa, religion, politics, gender, and family relations. It reads so much like non-fiction that by the time "Blood Diamond" came out, I already knew all of the issues raised from reading this book. The author lives in my hometown of Tucson, AZ, but that's not why you should read this book. You should read this book because it's one of the few novels that you wish would keep going when it ends. I have read one other book of hers Prodigal Summer. It's a fluffy, earthy romp with some steamy sex scenes between a hunter and a female park ranger. Obviously The Poisonwood Bible is meant to be Kingsolver's magnum opus. If you only read one book...

And the alternates...

The Onion Field by Joseph Wambaugh

The events in this book take place in the 1950's and the book was written in the early 1970's but it still reads like it could have happened yesterday. Two small-time thieves take two LAPD detectives hostage and fatally shoot one of them. The events that follow are unbelievable and apparently 100% true. The author tells the story chronologically so it takes about 150 pages to get to the good part. Stick with it, the ending is your reward.

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick

This one is worth the read just for the detailed description of 19th Century whaling ships and how they worked. Sounds boring, right? You can't put it down. He sketches the transformation of Nantucket's Quaker churchmen into foul-mouthed sailors drenched in whale blood. Then one of the ships gets rammed by an enraged sperm whale and sinks. The survivors have to eat each other, and how they decide who gets to live and who becomes dinner will blow you away. Also: it's 100% non-fiction.

Under and Alone by William Queen

William Queen is a real-life ATF Special Agent who infiltrates the Mongols Motorcycle Gang in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles. Of course, he is the one telling the story, but even accounting for that, this dude is one bad motorfinger. Not only does he give you a blow-by-blow of all the blows, he tells you how he feels the whole time. I wept. The author has since had to go into hiding in the Witness Protection Program as there is a standing hit out on him in the worldwide Outlaw Motorcycle Gang community. To this day, they are still prosecuting bad guys nationwide from this guy's work! Apparently it is being made into a movie with Mel Gibson attached to play William Queen. Too bad, I would have rather seen Willie Nelson play him...

The Falcon and the Snowman by Robert Lindsey

A true story about a drug dealer and top secret satellite technician who sell American secrets to the Soviets during the cold war. The main characters grew up down the street from where I live now and there are scenes in the book that take place on the sidewalk outside my current address. Also? They spend time in Tucson where I grew up and attend a local church there I am totally familiar with. Scary.

Over the Edge: The True Story of Four American Climbers' Kidnap and Escape in the Mountains of Central Asia by Greg Child

Four young American mountaineers are taken hostage by militant Islamic extremists in the Pamir Alai region of Kyrgyzstan. They escape their punishing captivity by pushing one of their armed captors over a cliff. The author's writing style is wooden at times, but the entire read is worth it for the one scene where the only female survivor is filling out a preliminary questionnaire at a therapist's office and in the space labeled "reason for visit" she puts "taken hostage by militant Islamic extremists in Kyrgyzstan. Had to escape by pushing a guy over a cliff."

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by David Eggers

This guy loses both of his parents to cancer back to back. Then he has to raise his younger brother. The weird part? You laugh while you cry. He breaks all the rules of writing: he's self-reflexive, mixes fiction and non-fiction, goes off on long dead-end tangents, doesn't have a beginning, middle, or end. Yet this book works. And I'm not just saying that because Dave Eggers published one of my lists in his popular online literary magazine McSweeney's.

Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War by Mark Bowden

I love to say the title of this book as one word: Blackhawkdown. This is the story of unwanted American military intervention that didn't work. So we GOT OUT. That's right: we left. Clinton cut and run. And you know what? America isn't threatened by Somali warlords anymore. Mark Bowden describes what it feels like to be holed up in a third-world alley while an entire hostile city tries to kill you all night long and you are trying to close your buddy's femoral artery while he dies. Then you miss the last Humvee out of Dodge and you have to run for your life to a Pakistani stronghold while hot lead dances in the air. You know you are in a hellhole when the only safety is provided by Pakistanis. One of the soldiers in the book remarks that in the movies, you hear endless gunfire in the battle scenes, but that in real life one yahoo at the end of a street with an AK-47 can hold up an entire column of American infantry until he is dealt with. Mark Bowden has also written another non-fiction page-turner called Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw about the capture and death of major drug dude Pablo Escobar. Good times. Good times.

Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team by George Jonas

If you've bothered to read this far you have figured out that I like non-fiction books that describe how it feels to deal with extraordinary events. This book details how it feels to be an assassin. And it is dark. I was actually depressed for a week after reading this book and it is about the good guys. There is one freak-ay scene involving a prostitute/assassin who kills her johns. Then she is killed later in a silenced shootout on a houseboat. It sounds like something out of Ian Fleming, but it is just disturbing and wrong. This whole book is disturbing and wrong.

I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

The only other work of fiction on my list. This novel made Oprah's Book Club but I like it anyway. Wally Lamb is a white male American author working today who writes about 19th Century Palermo, Italy lesbians like he is one. This guy nails characters so perfectly I could swear he knows my father and half the women I've dated (no, I haven't dated any Italian lesbians. But not for lack of trying). This one is a must-read for anybody touched by alcoholism, cancer, or has an immigrant ancestor. So that's just about everybody.

Working: My Life as a Prostitute by Dolores French

The author actually likes being a prostitute and gives the reader insight into what it feels like to work in a high-volume Caribbean brothel. Ever wonder what it's like to deliver a large load of drugs to an Arab businessman in Manhattan and then blow him? Ever want to consecutively entertain three dozen sailors on leave? Ever want to get paid to spank the shit out of a naked man? She'll tell you how.

-Heather, now are you sorry you asked what my favorite book was?


4. Name two things you cannot do without.
Sarcasm and e-mail

5. Boxers or briefs?
Loincloths for work, pantyhose on the weekend...

Top five rules, if you'd like to participate in this as well:

5. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me!"
4. I will respond by e-mailing you five questions. I get to pick them, and you have to answer them all.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
2. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.

And the number one rule, if you'd like to participate in this as well...

1. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

-Jason Rohrblogger
(04/19/07)

3 comments:

heather said...

You are too cute, and points for the Poisonwood Bible.. I'm with you on that one being pretty amazing.

Thanks, by the way! Now there are two men in the world who find me ideal... just makes a girl's day, you know?

Jenn said...

Oh yay!! I am catching up on your blog and found this awesome post! I love love love the book list and am so glad you liked Troost!

Have you read Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven? It is really good too, about mormonism (which may be an obsession we share?)

OK you can interview me. (Will I regret this?)

Jason Rohrblogger said...

Jenn,

I have read Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven and loved it. I almost put it on my list but I already had a Mormon book and a Krakauer book! Did you notice how after "Under the Banner of Heaven" came out, Warren Jeffs was put on the FBI's Most Wanted List and arrested? He's being tried right now. I thinks it's because of that book! Krakauer is totally taking out the trash!