Fritz's Literal Page


Of books and other booklike things, especially those with words in them, written by authors or people pretending to be authors.

This page is dedicated to those of you clever and avid enough to notice bad writing and poor grammar, and to understand the humorous possibilities therein.

Somehow in the past few years, reading began to make sense to me.  At first my interest was casual, but as time went by, my reading life quietly developed from fun experimentation, to a compelling habit, to a full-scale addiction.  I'm hooked so bad, it would never occur to me to quit, or even to cut down.

But there's nothing worse than reading bad material.  Well, maybe there is something worse, but that's not meant to be taken literally.  Anyway, we readers have to stick together and help each other find the good stuff.  Hence, this page, in which I expect to rock the literary world by exposing my invaluable opinions of everything I read.

The Books
Vonnegut, Kurt
Slaughterhouse Five
Fiction, Philosophical
It may appear that I'm now on a serious Vonnegut jag, but don't jump to conclusions.  The volume I have contains three books, and I enjoyed the one enough to read the next.  The third, I haven't yet finished.

Vonnegut is definitely world-class literature.  The writing, stories, and characters are excellent, with plenty of philosophy thrown in.  This one is also about war, which definitely qualifies it for my reading list.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Vonnegut, Kurt
God Bless You, Mr Rosewater
Fiction, Philosophical
Long ago, I had a bad experience with Vonnegut, and was only recently persuaded by someone with most excellent taste to give him another crack.  Crack, I say, must have been what I was on when I didn't enjoy him before.

A great story about a kid born with a huge trust fund, managed by its own corporation.  Of course he doesn't just live richly and happily... he goes kind of crazy, in a very benevolent, rather alcoholic way.  Meanwhile, some lawyers wish to prove that he's crazy, to get a hold of his fortune, and you have to read the rest.

Sudo, Philip Toshio
Zen Guitar
Philosophy, Zen, Music
Is this book about Zen or Guitar?  Well, it's mostly about Zen, but using guitar as an example.  There is nothing here about technique, only how to relate to a guitar and guitar playing from a Zen perspective.

As a student of both Zen and Guitar, I found it a good read, but not particularly new or compelling.  The ideas are from classic Zen thoughts and writings, applied to Guitar.  I think a beginner in either field, or both fields, would find the book a lot more enlightening than I did.  But I always enjoy reading books like this - even if the ideas are not new, they are always worth repeating.

Cohen, Steven Martin
Becker's Ring
Fiction, Pulp, Crime
Trash fiction.  The story was somewhat interesting, but the writing was below par for my enjoyment.  I finished the book, but it was against my better judgement.

The story is about a macabre vigilante who surgically modifies the bodies of lifetime criminals who have not been treated harshly enough by the system, in such a way that they can no longer commit their crimes.  A compelling idea, but not particularly well played out in this story.  Twisted, but not bizarre enough for my taste, and full of cheap pulp ingredients and mediocre writing.

Adams, Douglas
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
Science Fiction, Humorous
If you're in the mood for some completely unpredictable and off-the-wall humor, pick up any of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy, of which this book is the fourth.  These have truly become classic in geeky science fiction circles, but can easily be enjoyed by the rest of us as well.  Very funny, and completely insane. 

Having said that, I was a little disappointed in this one.  The first three were better.

Remarque, Erich Maria
All Quiet on the Western Front
Fiction, War
Vividly written, but not particularly remarkable.  It is from the perspective of a German soldier in World War Two.  Good for a cheap paperback novel.  Very international (note the variety of cultures evident in the name of the author).
Dostoevsky, Fyodor
Crime and Punishment
Fiction, Philosophical
translated from Russian by Constance Garnett
One of my favorite books of all time.  It is a story of a poor Russian student who commits a murder for a good reason.  Or, maybe not so good a reason, and that is the point.  The writing is beautiful, even though it was written in Russian and translated, which says a lot for the translator.  The characters are deep and intriguing.  A lot of the story is what goes on the protagonist's head.

One complication with this book is the use of names, which can be very confusing.  Everyone is called by several different names, which seem to bear no relationship one another.  So, I've created a Crime and Punishment Cheat Sheet - if you read this book, print it off and use it as a bookmark so you can keep track of who everybody is.  I would encourage you wholeheartedly to do both.

Walsch, Neale Donald
Conversations with God
Religion, Philosophy
This book is about God, and God's relationship to people.  Walsch's idea of God is one that I find quite compelling, being absent some of the contradictory and inconsistent qualities that I find in the Hebrew and Christian traditions, and much more like the God I always expected God to be.  Walsch's method of presentation is exceptionally readable, not like wading through a deep theology text.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone, and buy it for people often.  Some don't like it, some are better for reading it anyway, and some find what they've been looking for.  If you don't care who God is, or are so convinced that you know who God is that you find other ideas offensive, this is not the book for you.

Duncan, David James
The River Why
Fiction, Philosophical
After reading The Brothers K, I had to pick this one up.  It was good as well, although not as good.  More philosophy, less actual life.

This book primarily involves fishing, as the protagonist is a more-than-avid fisherman.  His obsession with fishing leads him to a solitary life in the woods, where his spiritual and philosophical journey begins.  The appeal to me was philosophical, but if you like fishing you might enjoy it as well.

Duncan, David James
The Brothers K
Fiction, Philosophical
I absolutely loved this book, and I'd definitely read it again if I hadn't already read it.  The story is a lifelong study of a family of boys and their minor-league baseball-playing father.  There is a fair amount of baseball in it, but I wouldn't call it a sports story - it's incidental, and could be anything.  It's just a big part of the father's life.  But if baseball bothers you, maybe avoid this one. 

The main appeal of this book is the simple beauty of the writing.  I enjoyed every page for itself, independent of anything else.  It's a big book, and took me several months to read, but I missed it when I was finished.

Toole, John Kennedy
A Confederacy of Dunces
Fiction, Humor
Another of my all-time favorites.  Very funny, very bizarre, and very well written.  A very enjoyable read, from any perspective.

The story is about a bizarre underpriviledged and antisocial oddball making his way in the world, with philosophy, pirate hats, hot dogs, and legal troubles all in abundance.  There's no way I could explain it.  It's just weird, and excellent, if a bit dark.