Category Archives: book review

End The Fed by Ron Paul

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Ron Paul makes a bold statement, End The Fed.

With our economy falling into chaos the foundation of our lives had turned from rock to sand. The housing bubble was the latest in a string of many that suddenly went bust. The events of 911 shocked the nation and lead to the ongoing War on Terror. Slowly a picture began to be formed which revealed Wall St. crocked business practices as a key element in the housing collapse. Two massive bail outs, at the tax payer’s expense, did not deliver the results promised. People got angry, they organized into the Occupy Movement and we’re met with clubs and pepper spray by our police. Yet the economic disaster continues to grow.

At the crest of this tidal wave Ron Paul shouts his message—End The Fed.

In his book, End The Fed, Ron Paul challenges the reader to rethink the nature of money. It is such a central part of our lives, but the nature of how it functions is almost a complete mystery. What exactly is the dollar? What controls its value? And why is it failing? These are all questions many of us never bothered with before, but the economic catastrophes have created a demand for answers. The American people know they’re being squeezed by some type of scam while CEOs are pulling in record breaking figures, yet the question of “who” and “how” remains purposefully unclear. Ron Paul provides a clear and strong argument that the Federal Reserve Bank’s ability to print unlimited amounts of money, with no discretion of the people it affects, is unconstitutional and the exact reason for the mess we’re in.

I know most people are cringing at the thought about reading a book on economics. Economics isn’t sexy compared to the subjects of war or civil rights, I admit that. And you’ll probably have to reference Wikipedia and youtube videos for all the Econ stuff you’ve forgotten since graduation. But once you begin to see the big picture of how the Federal Reserve fudges with the supply of money to fund an ultra, massive government that’s reaching fascist proportions before an inevitable self-destruction, complacency will no longer be option. I found this book to be one of the most fascinating reads on social critique since discovering the works of Noam Chomsky. In time it will become clear that next Occupy Movement will no longer be at Wall St., which is only the middle man, but at the headquarters of true masterminds, the Federal Reserve. The longer we let them work, the longer we’ll be trading real liberty for counterfeit bills. When the masses final wise up to whose pulling the strings, they’ll surround the hideouts of these government crooks, and their yell will be, “End The Fed!”

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Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima

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Confessions of a Mask is Yukio Mishima’s second novel which is thought to be heavily biographical and gained him recognition as brilliant young writer. The story centers on Kochan, a boy growing up in Imperial Japan during WWII. From a young age he realizes he is a homosexual yet forces himself to pass as a heterosexual in the Right-wing militaristic society. Kochan has a perverse fascination with death. From a young age he fantasizes about how he will die. As he becomes a young adult these fantasies take on a darkly erotic tone that interweaves death and sexuality. The struggle of fighting his true nature results in a deeply agitated state of mind which Mishima conveys masterfully. The majority of the story plays out in the backdrop of Japan’s final years before the atomic bombs lead to the unconditional surrender.

This is a heavily psychological book that is concerned with death, eroticism, polite society, emotional secretiveness, and inner conflict. The story is told as a thoroughly written confession in the form of a long letter. The strong emphasis on isolation and use of interior monologue reminded me of J.D Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. Mishima’s exploration of human sexuality and isolation is tuned at a fever pitch that many writers have never reached in their works. There are a few memorable statements about the absurdity of war, yet I would not say there is an anti-war theme. The anxiety of war is presented clearly in lives of all the characters involved.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in books that push the limits of literature and societal norms. This book is definitely not an easy going read. It is a disturbing novel that will agitate even seasoned readers. Mishima’s use of language is impressive. Each word is carefully selected to create a written style that is direct, profound, and confronts the reader unwaveringly. This is the fifth book I’ve read from Mishima and I have yet to read anything that hasn’t left a lasting imprint in my mind. I would go as far to say that a person could choose any of Mishima’s works, blind folded, with perfect confidence of selecting a literary treasure. I am planning on reviewing Mishima’s entire collection.

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War is a force that gives us meaning by Chris Hedges

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Chis Hedges was a war correspondent for the New York Times in many of the defining warzones of our times: the Balkans, Central America, and the Middle East. He has reported on wars from the inside, surviving ambushes, diving for cover alongside his military escorts, and witnessing the aftermath of every atrocity imaginable. The psychological scars from knowing the face of mass produced death are still with him. In his travels around the world he’s found a recurring dynamic at work, the addiction of soldiers and citizens to the ecstasy of war. Hedges covers this topic exclusively in his book, War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning.

This book is journalistic, philosophical, and part social critique. It is effectiveness rests in analyzing the myth of war. He explains how it’s created, who perpetuates it, how it’s disseminated in society, what function it serves, its psychological effects, how it’s maintained, and what happens when it’s finally punctured by the undeniable reality of war. He cites his own experiences and the accounts of soldiers and citizens in war to illustrate where and how these recurring themes unfold in real life. These accounts include graphic accounts of murder, rape, torture, suicide, genocide that deflate the glorious lie which herds generations of men into battle. Yet amongst all this carnage there is a lust for combat and its incomparable rush that fills the emptiness felt by entire nations. No longer is anyone insignificant in the theater of war, we are elevated to the calling of destiny, and to push back against it feels almost impossible. To avoid its intoxicating effects is outright hopeless.

I have often wondered how people I’ve greatly respected for their intelligence and wisdom, people I have personally known, would become incapable of discussing war in any rational way. Their responses on every aspect of the War on Terror would be variations of the empty, clichéd reasons parroted from mainstream media; “they hate us for our freedom”, “Muslims are evil”, and “torture is permissible when we do it.” I wouldn’t accept such absurd reasons for going to war, and so I turned away from the news and began reading writers like Noam Chomsky who gave a grimmer picture of what’s going on. When I approached people with this newfound evidence they’d dismiss it all and hold tighter to robotic ways of thinking. I increasingly became an outsider, an intellectual minority. The whole time I’ve been wondering what this hypnotic like way of thinking is. Could it simply be effective propaganda? The answer is that war is a force that gives us meaning. It is a longing for death that is inside us all. We decorate and justify it with patriotic and glorious gestures, but that death drive is always there. This is a work that lays bare our naked desire for death and recognition. Nobody in our generation can afford to miss out on this highly enlightening work.

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the brotherhood of the grape by John Fante

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John Fante is an American writer who doesn’t get his due respect. The man writes with passion, anger, and a craving for life. The Brotherhood Of The Grape is the third book I’ve read from Fante. So far the man is three for three with all aces. This book is about Henry Molise, a professional writer who was living a comfortable life in Redondo Beach until his brother calls to tell him their elderly parents are getting a divorce.  Henry’s father, Nick, is an alcoholic stone mason who never gave up his crown as King Asshole. His mother is a devout catholic who is desperately juggling her husband and sons to salvage anything resembling a normal Italian American family. Mamma mia!

First off, the book is hilarious. The quarreling between the family members is authentic. It’s sure to take everyone back to their childhood days of fighting with their siblings and cousins. The characters have their scars from growing up in a tightknit family which is funny in a dark comedy sort of way. There’s an ample amount of wine flowing to inspire some outrageous scenes. The family dynamic is done superbly. Fante adds the elements of anger, death, resentment, forgiveness, and alcoholism to produce a story that reads bitter sweet. The central theme is that between a proud father and reluctant son who’s grown up. They both know the father’s time is running out, but how do they bridge the gap that has always been there?

I can’t emphasize how much I recommend this book. The funny parts had me laughing out loud, the absurd antics of the father literally made my jaw drop, and the sad parts we’re enough to give me a heavy heart. Fante is a man who writes with a directness that is simple and powerful. The Brotherhood of the Grape is a leisurely with a lot of depth and comedy. I’ll be reviewing the rest of Fante’s collection as I obtain the copies.

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Black Friday by David Goodis

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I’m hooked on that noir. My last review was Jim Thompson’s After Dark, My Sweet, and while I try to vary my reviews by genre I couldn’t resist following up with more another work of vintage crime. Black Friday is the first book I’ve read from David Goodis. Now I must admit after reading the deeply psychological work of Jim Thompson, Goodis felt dry and somewhat stiff. For a moment I had wondered if Black Lizard press finally dropped that dreaded bomb of disappointment. By the halfway point I glad to have discovered another master of the craft. Black Friday is a story about Hart, a desperate man running from the law for an unforgivable crime. He finds a man in the street dying of a gunshot wound. From there is taken in by the gang who murdered the man. The cops are looking for everyone involved and so they’re trapped in the hideout together. Hart must keep his nerves sharp if he wants to keep alive in a crowded little house with violent men and vicious women.

This is one of the more explicitly violent old school noirs I’ve read. Goodis has a detached style that zooms in on the brutality with a shocking swiftness. If I had to describe this book in one word I’d use, “economical.” Goodis pulls the maximum worth out of the fewest amounts of scenes, dialogue, and characters. The majority of the book takes place in single setting, and yet the book never becomes dull. The confrontation between the characters keeps the tension strong with a threat violence looming over them at all times. There is also enough sex to throw in a scandalous edge. Black Friday is like a game of chicken where the loser gets fried and whoever goes too far only guts himself.

Black Friday is another short novel which read more like a long short story. Goodis’ detached style does take a little while to get used to, but it feels almost as if he’s baiting the reader to lower his guard before throwing a sack over his head. This is a claustrophobic tale that can be appreciated by crime fans of either the classic works or the modern style. Who can resist the combination of classic noir story telling with the level of violence used today? I already have my next Goodis title lined up.

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After dark, my sweet by Jim Thompson

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Jim Thompson is quickly becoming my favorite noir writer with books like my latest read, After Dark, My Sweet. It’s a story about Williams Collins, an escapee from a mental institution who tries to blend into a small town as a normal person. He’s a very kind man who is too easily persuaded and is subject to violent episodes. Quickly he becomes entangled with a wickedly alcoholic woman named Fay Anderson who pulls him into a sinister plot with her partner in crime, a crocked ex-cop named Uncle Bud. Collins easily sees that he’s being setup to be the fall man in their plot, but his desperate loneliness compels him to stay in tragic company. Fay and Uncle Bud figure him for a prime sucker until they find themselves trapped in their own web and it becomes a deadly game of cut-throat.

Thompson creates a deeply intimate connection between the reader and Collins. We get to feel the inner working of his paranoia, desires, and morality. The characters are deeply flawed people who are surviving by any means necessary. Fear and sex are used for bargaining chips in a game of poker with no cards. It’s interesting to begin psychoanalyzing the characters in an attempt to predict their next move and play their motives. Thompson creates a bond between the reader and Collins in which his existence becomes shared. You don’t want him to get killed because it would mean your death too.

 This book is short read of only a 133 pages. It’s amazing how much Thompson can accomplish in such a short time and still make it feel complete. The violence in his work is balanced by the gentle and charming nature of Collins who in the end is both a victim and aggressor.  The suspense is worked supremely like a symphony raising and falling with dramatic affect. Murderous sexual tension is never in short supply. O’ how the fragility of people makes for such rewarding entertainment! Jim Thompson is considered a master from the school of hardcore American noir. This is the second book I’ve read by him and I’ll be reviewing another of his books soon.

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To a God Unknown by John Steinbeck

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To a God Unknown is a powerful novel by John Steinbeck. The story centers on Joseph, a man who tries to build his life in Nuestra Señora, California. He is convinced that his father’s spirit has inhabited a tree and that he must protect the land from nature itself. The story raises an interesting theme of God vs. Nature. It is usually taught that god is present in all living things, but where is the tipping point between one’s spiritual connection to the earth and land worship? It is a beautiful portrayal of archaic spirituality spontaneously resurfacing in a person’s mind and his need to follow it.

Steinbeck’s description of the countryside is masterful. He has the ability to transform nature in all its extremes with a literary force that is almost biblical. The tone starts off bright like a clear morning and progressively become darker until it is submerged in a mysterious night. Nature takes on a primal quality in this book. It is something to be feared, respected, and will forever remain a mystery. With Global Warming and the environment being such major issue, this book gains extra relevance.

I was hesitant about reviewing this book because it is a classic. What hasn’t already been said about Nobel Prize winner, John Steinbeck? The reason I decided to do so is because films and books in the style of No Country for Old Men and Dejango Unchained are enjoying such major success. People are craving that dark brand of western entertainment. If To a God Unknown was written now, it would be a box office smash, but since it’s a classic most people dismiss it as old fashioned. For being written in the 1930’s, it’s still a savage read that will make even Quentin Tarantino fans shiver. To a God Unknown is a psychedelic western loaded with primal energy and biblical wrath. It’s a title that truly deserves to be called a classic.

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Creating True Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh

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Creating True Peace is more than a book about spiritual enlightenment and peace. It’s a map that helps guide you through the wilderness in ourselves and the hectic world we live in. The destination is inner peace for all living things. Creating True Peace is written by world renowned Zen Buddhist, Thich Nhat Hanh, who has lived through two major wars in his homeland of Vietnam while practicing the philosophy of none-violence and peace. In Creating True Peace, Hanh expresses his solutions for actively engaging the epidemic of violence invading every level of our lives, from person conflict to war, in concrete ways. This book avoids vague metaphysics that often feel irrelevant when put in the context of modern life. Nhat presents Buddhist philosophy infused with a clear understanding of the global situation today.

 ‎”Alcohol production requires large amounts of grain that could be used to feed the starving people of the world. Alcohol is directly related to the suffering of children. For instance, to make one glass of rice wine takes a whole basket of rice. Every day 40,000 children die in the world for lack of food. We who overeat in the West, who are feeding grains to animals to make meat, are eating the flesh of these children.”

This book embraces all religions and levels of spirituality. It reveals an option; it doesn’t try to strong-arm a way of existing. His stories of living through the horrors of the Vietnam War are saddening and courageous. It exemplifies how even in total madness, peace is powerful enough to sustain us. Nhat introduces the idea of “engaged Buddhism,” which is similar to Martin Luther King’s idea of direct none-violence and civil disobedience with the aim of transforming the hatred and violence in our society into harmonious brotherhood. I highly recommend this book for anyone seeking inner peace in themselves, within their social circle, society, or the world. If you’re interested in learning what Buddhism is about, this is a great way to start. Peace and love to you all.

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Pimp by Iceberg Slim

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Pimp by Iceberg Slim is a savagely honest autobiographical story by a man who was fully immersed in the cut-throat world of pimping. Iceberg lays bare the disgusting world of prostitution in all its ugliness and allure in his own words. He begins the story of his life in the 1920’s when America was radically different from now. It was a time when the race divisions cut deep into the social flesh of this country. Iceberg grows up fast to the realities of racism, destitution, drug abuse, and crime. By his late teens, Iceberg is out on the streets turning out young girls into prostitutes.

This book is dripping with the sleaziness of the streets. It’s a deeply psychological and graphic account of how the pimping game works behind the scenes. You can feel his mind at work, scheming on how to get the most money, how to break the most hoes, and keep it all together in his head. His words cut the reader’s brain like a switchblade that had been used to chop a line of cocaine. Iceberg doesn’t tell his story asking for forgiveness. It’s not a plea for help. He tells it because he lived it, and it’s a story that should not fall into obscurity. Pimp isn’t just his story; it’s a part of American history that will always be shamefully brushed under the rug.

Pimp is the book on American pimping. This book is perfect for anyone who enjoys biographies, crime literature, noir, minority literature, and radical American history. While this book gets plenty of readerships in select circles, Iceberg slim is a bit of an underground writer. He is an amazing writer who creates fire out of printed words. Still, because of his back ground, style, and subject matter, the literary world has denied him access into its pristine halls. It’s alright, this book, like its writer, is rough enough to survive outside in the cold streets.

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Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

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In 1936 George Orwell, author of 1984 and Animal Farm, was sent to Spain to report on the Spanish Civil War. Upon arriving there he did the only thing sensible to him at the time, he took up arms with the anarchist militia against the fascist army of Francisco Franco. Orwell took the role of a soldier-reporter in which he wrote a book about his experiences, Homage to Catalonia.

For anyone interested in the dynamics of revolutionary history or Anarchism, this is one book that cannot be missed. Orwell recounts the entire ordeal beginning with joining the militia to narrowly escaping Spain during the political meltdown in a way that would make James Bond cream his tuxedo. Orwell’s recount is told with his signature charm, irony, and wit. It’s not often that we get to read a war book written by literary master who was actually there in the trenches. His first-hand accounts of combat put you right next to him crawling on your belly through mud and barb wire. You feel the panic of the communication lines breaking down in the midst of enemy fire, and the savagely cold nights with hardly a wick light to keep warm. Orwell portrayal of the petty infighting between anti-fascist forces will make the reader cross their head at the absurdity of war.

This isn’t a book that celebrates the glory of the battle field. It is harsh retelling of what it was like to be there in the madness. We get to see the transformation of Orwell starting off as wide-eyed man romanticized by the armed struggle, only to finish off disillusioned by the destruction, propaganda, and deadly ego battles. The relevancy of this book is at a fevered pitch in these modern times, but it’s a scream that is drowned out in the awesome flood of waving flags and avalanching politics.

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If you want a picture of the future,

imagine a boot stamping on a human

face- forever.”

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