Just kidding. That's a sign for a bar named "Bali" above the restaurant where I had a kick-off dinner tonight with Chris, aka The Stumbler.
It's likely I won't be posting while I'm gone, so here are a few thoughts for other things to read until my return:
- The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon - Set in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War and World War II, this is a dark and complex psychological Gothic mystery, and a very good read. Although I more or less figured out the mystery inside a hundred pages, I still wanted to figure out why so I gladly kept reading. Young bookseller's son Daniel comes across a little-known novel, The Shadow of the Wind by one Adrian Carax, and when he tries to find other books, he learns that someone is systematically buying up and burning every book of Carax's ever printed. His search to find out why goes to the heart of the Barcelona power structure, laced with insanity, incest and murder.
- It's Superman! by Tom De Haven - De Haven's inspired reinvention of Superman keeps many of the standard elements of the lore: grows up as Clark Kent in Smallville (where he gradually discovers his "talents"), ends up working at the Daily Planet with Lois Lane, battles lex Luthor. But things are quite interesting along the way: he travels west as a railroad hobo with a wrongly-convicted photographer named Willi Berg, he works as a Hollywood stuntman for a time, he shacks up with a B-movie costume seamstress (which is how he gets the Superman garb--it was originally intended for Saucer-Man from Saturn). Clark/Superman is plagued by doubts and uncertainty, but fueled by righteous anger. I'm not a comic book fan, but this isn't a comic book, just a good read.
- Idiot America by Charles P. Pierce - Seems at first glance to be a left-wing diatribe, but is actually a closely reasoned expose of what has gone wrong with America since the Reagan Administration. Idiot America is a nation where intelligence, experience and expertise are not only not required, they are anathema. Pierce has done his homework--bad on him! in Idiot America's view--and cites example after example of how modern America risks its sacred liberty by buying into the notion that truth is anything enough people believe, if they believe it fervently enough, from creationist Reverend Ray Mummert who pointed out in the Dover school board ID case that "We have been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of our culture" to ... hell, I'm gonna stop there because it's just too depressing to continue. Just so you know, the last Bush Administration comes off looking pretty bad, and his detailing of the facts in the Terry Schiavo case will make you want to waterboard Bill Frist--not because you would acquire relevant information. Which you wouldn't. It only works that way in Idiot America, where a Supreme Court Justice (Scalia) cites a TV show character named Jack Bauer to justify torture.
- Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay - The jacket blurb from no less than Stephen King proclaims: "The best thriller I've read in five years," and I almost believe it. Each new twist makes you think you've finally gotten a handle on the plot, but it's soon followed by another change that sends you puzzling. And the best part is that none of it feels contrived, except when it's supposed to. Reporter David Harwood, his wife and child are expecting a fun excursion to the newly opened amusement park in their area when everything goes suddenly and terrifyingly wrong. Harwood finds himself embroiled in a nightmarish situation involving his missing wife, false identities, mysterious informants and a robbery gone bad. Superior plotting, believable characters and perfect pacing make this a riveting read.