Ring of Fire…’round my head…

I’m sitting in the coffee shop again, wasting my youth working more on the thesis. Currently playing on “Sirius Coffee Shop“: Some really cheesy lounge singer version of Jonny Cash’s Ring of Fire. Oh, yeah, that gets me shaking my groove thang’ for sure…eerie.

So the nice thing about having an outside committee member that is truly one of the most respected (if not controversial) scientists in my field is that he is a quick reader. I got my thesis back with revisions and comments from him today.

So the bad part about having said scientist working on my thesis: he’s good, and points out every flaw in my thinking like so many cracks in the sidewalk. Oh well, this is good for me I guess. Though I now have a lot more work to do. I have to wrap my head around his comments to even understand the full force of criticism they deliver. Not that I’m complaining. I need this sort of stress. I have to be ready to work at and face this level of expertise if I am to have any chance at the University of Illinois and beyond. But, my naivety still stings…

On other fronts, I have just finished reading, and thus reviewing two books by Sarah Vowell: Take the Cannoli & Assassination Vacation. Generally an enjoyable set of books, though I was definitely ready to be done with Vowell by the end of the last (and latest) manuscript. Vowell is an interesting person, mixing in her own personal life into a moderately well thought out history text. A self proclaimed “morbid death freak”, Vowel’s outlook on life generally involves gravestones. In TTCannoli, vignettes about everyday life (well at least hers) take the reader through a truly interesting history of America. Vowell details the Trail of Tears, life as a ‘band geek’ and her phobia of driving by writing in a colloquial style that frankly reminds me of Nyet’s blog writing. It is not all rosy though. Repeatedly, Vowell WAY overuses parenthesis as a way to set off texts…though she discusses this fault in the book.

( Though for Vowell, parenthesis are the solution for breaking the ‘fourth wall’ in any situation. Never have I had to reread the paragraph before to regain my derailed train of thought…I mean, where else have you seen a writer reserve an entire unrelated paragraph for parenthesis? To me it says, “I don’t really mean what I just wrote, so between you and me, (here) is what I really mean.”)

In Vowell’s defense, the book was intelligently funny, and a joy to read. In Assassination Vacation, Vowell continues her ‘Wednesday’ self-image by retracing the steps of the Assassins of Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. It is a different take on history, and therefore I would recommend it to anybody, but the book was rushed. I found several typos that should have never made it to print (and then there way the continued over use of parenthesis again…she should learn to use ellipses).

I love reading colloquial faux ‘stream of consciousness’ writing styles that incorporate current events, and other relatively obscure memes (is that an oxymoron?), and for that I will forgive Vowell. Both books were good. Take the Cannoli was much better, but I guess you will have to be the judge of that.

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3 responses to “Ring of Fire…’round my head…

  1. Thanks for the shoutout, Frank.

    (But should I really be thankful for having my writing style compared to one which became inevitably irritating (and overused parentheses)?)

  2. Yes you should…notice I used the reference to you as a ‘standard to live up to’, then went on to bash Vowell for the many ways she fell short…

    And you’re welcome.

  3. I adore Sarah Vowell. Listening to her read “Assassination Vacation” and “Partly Cloudy Patriot” is part of the fun and perhaps the reason for her writing style, because my guess is that she writes the way she talks.

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