The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer’s story of building a career and community around her music is quite something. Made me uncomfortable, actually. Although the book does share some of her concerns about things, she appears to be fearless and relentlessly optimistic. It seems so beautiful to experience these amazing connections with people around the world. It seems to take courage, patience, and energy. She seems to be a genius at bridging the power of the internet with the vitality of live experiences. Rather than asking, I suppose she is giving people the chance to give and feel good about supporting an artistic enterprise.

Solo

When you know a story is a prequel, you know the good guy is going to survive. But I suppose that is usually true of American action films, although maybe not in The Avengers Infinity War. Still, I enjoyed the swashbuckling entertainment of this story and the origins of his name and friendship with Chewbacca. Perhaps if I rewatch the original Star Wars I might get some of the references I missed. I don’t remember the dice being so significant in the original, but it was there in Last Jedi and in this. Movies often make gamblers seem so heroic.

Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang

This audiobook of short stories was harrowing and hilarious. The stories all deal with modern immigrant Chinese families, generally told from the point of view of the young daughter. The Dads are mostly educated, unfaithful, yet struggling to support the family in America, working multiple jobs. The mothers seemed hysterical, in the sense of being crazy rather than funny. Sometimes grandparents are as well. Some of the stories include characters with the same names and use similar anecdotes. The sacrifices, the struggles, the anxieties, the family love. Maybe it was like picking a scab, but I found it so compelling.

American Pastoral by Philip Roth

This is heart breaking and mind blowing. I think Malcolm Gladwell once mentioned how much sadder it is when the favourite loses. This deals with devastation of one who seemed externally who had it made. I am probably naive, but the story kept surprising me with the revelations about characters. It was a roller coaster of emotions. I was amazed at how he shifts perspectives and whole vistas of a character open up. The political unrest of the 60s seems relevant today. I felt particularly moved by the disillusioned father whose best intentions and efforts are utterly wasted.

Momotaro:Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters by Margaret Dilloway

I started reading this book because I saw its relation to the Japanese Momotaro story, which I have used myself. I enjoyed this middle grade fantasy adventure about Xander grade six student in California who discovers he has special powers his Japanese father had not told him about before being captured by demons. It incorporates many different Japanese mythological elements, including _tsukumogami_, objects that turn into monsters, which I only heard about this summer in a talk by Japanese folklore guy Zack Davisson at the Powell Street Festival. I still find it surprising to see stories that involve Nikkei characters.

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

My brother had a picture of Steve Martin in his trademark white three-piece suit with a fish sticking out of his vest. This memoir shares fascinating insights into comedy as an art form. Apparently, he wore the suit to be more visible on huge stages. The former wild and crazy guy reflects on how he melded his interests in banjo playing, magic, and comedy to consciously push the originality of his act. He intentionally made himself look absurd to be less offensive. His overwhelming success led to his disillusionment and abrupt departure. I'll try to keep that in mind.