Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Xmas Loot

Just a quick rundown of the Christmas loot I acquired, mostly a pretty spectacular array of books.

- The first thing I received was a book from my girlfriend's father, an artist himself who had listened to all my blabberings about Dali and the paranoaic-critical method which led to him getting for me an amazing book of trompe l'oeil and anamorphosis art including the works of Dali and M.C. Escher (another favorite of mine). The book is called Masters of Deception: Escher, Dali & the Artists of Optical Illusion and it's probably the coolest art book I've ever seen.

- Next thing, also from my girlfriend's pops, was a book I had been looking at in bookstores for a while and was hoping somebody would eventually get for me. It's a full exploration of the life and works of the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt. I've been fascinated by Klimt's style since first seeing his work a few months ago. With many of his paintings I look at them and hear music, which is the exact opposite synesthetic sensation induced by my favorite music which often conjures pictures, images, shades of different colors. I fuckin love art. Here's Klimt's Death and Life.

- Totally switching gears... The last five or six years, ever since I've gotten into reading books as a serious hobby, each Christmas there seems to be a theme. It's whatever I'm heavily interested in at the time or throughout that year. Years back it was Carl Sagan's work, then Joseph Campbell, last year it was James Joyce. This year it was basketball. As I've mentioned a few times, my interest in the NBA has been rejuvenated this season and I've been devouring basketball literature ever since. So my lady hooked me up with a nice trio of b-ball books this year:
  • FreeDarko presents The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History. I was absolutely blown away by their first book (reviewed here) and was eager to check this one out. So far I've only had a chance to flip through it a couple times but the artwork is beautiful and once again they're inventing cool ways to graphically display vast amounts of data and stats. The chart of NBA fights is nuts. In my history as a sports fan, there's been no doubt that baseball inspires the greatest collection of literature. But basketball seemed to have been catching up lately and the FreeDarko books have blasted forward lightyears ahead of anything I've come across in sports books of any kind.
  • The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons (new paperback edition). When this first came out a last year I was so immersed in Joyce books that I didn't care to check it out. I also figured it would make sense to hold out and wait for the paperback since all the errors would then be corrected and there would certainly be new material added. I'm glad I held out. Simmons' NBA columns have always been entertaining for me but after reading the reviews for his book, all of which seem to complain that there's almost as many porn and reality show references as basketball talk, I wasn't all that eager to start reading it nor did I have high expectations. But, of all the books I got for Xmas, this is the one I haven't been able to put down. His writing is annoyingly great, no big words and the candor is that of a diehard fan, yet it's a smooth and entertaining read if you're into basketball. It's also vast, the 700 pages cover the top 96 players of all time, the best teams ever, the worst MVP winners ever and much, more more.
  • Rockin' Steady: A Guide to Basketball & Cool by Walt Frazier. One of the few things I truly miss about living in New York is getting to hear Frazier as the color commentator on Knicks' games. His voice purls like a fountain while delivering a vast vocabulary, often with rhymes. The book was written during his playing days with the Knicks, though, and features lots of clear color photos of 1970s basketball, cool drawings, and Clyde's basketball wisdom plus, of course, how to be cool. I dig it.
- Last but not least is a book that I'd been reading on Google Books for a while but didn't want to pick up because it's an expensive, obscure scholarly text. The title, James Joyce and the Politics of Egoism, makes it sound extremely boring and dense but it's been a great read. With plenty of material on Jacques Lacan's studies of Joyce, I needed this book to finish up preparing for an essay I'm about to write on that subject. The book goes into much more than that, though, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in Joyce as it delves into a wide range of stuff that I've never heard of before.

Among the other blessings bestowed upon me by my immediate family were a Space Pen, an iPad, and a pair of tube socks. Thank you to all, and to all a good night.

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