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What I'm Reading: July 28th, 2014

After drifting-about for a few weeks without a good book, I suddenly find myself in the middle of three (3) super-entertaining reads:

1.) Kentucky Straight, by Chris Offutt: A direct result of my New Yorker & Playboy fiction reviewing. Learned about this author from a Playboy short he wrote a few months ago. This is Offutt's first published book of short stories. His subject matter: the life and legends of the people of his native land of rural Appalachian Kentucky. His prose is simple and hard, and occasionally difficult to decipher, but he paints a vivid and enthralling picture of life beyond the reaches of the municipal water system, beyond the phone lines, where people still hunt, fish, and farm to feed their families and resist the call to change and modernity at every turn. If I wasn't from West Virginia, myself (albeit, a developed part of the state), I wouldn't believe places like this still existed. Granted, the book was published in 1992 and therefore Offutt is writing about a lifestyle and a people from 30 years ago, things couldn't have changed that much.

2.) Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, by Chuck Klosterman: Been meaning to read this for about 10 years now. One of those books that just slipped through the very porous walls of my day-to-day life when it came out back in 2004 and I have only now gotten around to remedying that. Klosterman's thing is a sort of heavy, academic-level analysis of pop-culture. Extremely fascinating to me, mostly because my attention to pop-culture fluctuates from "not interested" to "vaguely interested" on about a six month to one year cycle, and Klosterman's writing helps give life and context to things like MTV's The Real World which showed up as little more than a blip on my radar screen, even back in the 1990s when I was MTV's target audience.

3.) Fever Pitch, by Nick Hornby: A direct result of my recent World Cup mania. From mid-June through mid-July I watched two hours of soccer per day and, after the Final, have been left tweaking in the corner like a man in the throes of life-threatening withdrawal. Therefore, I've been searching for ways to stay involved and learn about the game. Fever Pitch is Hornby's memoir about his own soccer mania that began when he was 10 years old and lasted through his 30s. Part memoir and part local history of the Arsenal football club and it's supporters, the book offers a certain gap-filling color that would be impossible to glean from reading glossy history books or more academic tomes on the sport. While my own attention to the world of sports has waxed and waned over the years (much like my attention to pop-culture (do we notice a theme here? Come to think of it, what have I been doing with my time over the past 34 years?)), I can relate to his all-consuming childhood obsession with sport (mine was baseball) and of the sport as his early window into the broader adult world.


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