Book Notes: The Hike by Drew Magary

Notes on: The Hike by Drew Magary


The story of a short journey that turns into a long journey, by turns funny, strange, sweet, and exciting.

Ben is on a business trip to the Poconos. He's away from his wife and kids, and his hotel is boring, so he decides to go for a quick hike in the forest behind it. He ends up going someplace far stranger and unimaginable, and for far longer than he thought he would be hiking.

Like all journey-stories, this book is about fate and how our relationships with others and our world form the choices we make. Ben meets all manner of strange creatures (including giants, demons, ghosts, dog-faced killers, huge insects) and bizarre people (a 16th century conquistador, stranded out of time, and an irascible talking crab, among others) and these collisions change the choices that he makes while on the Path. And along the way, his memories of his wife and children are the distant light that keep him moving.

Lest I leave the impression that this is some dour, weighty book--Drew Magary is a really funny writer. If you know him, you know his hilarious contributions to Deadspin, and especially his LOL column "Why your team sucks." And while the book isn't exactly humorous, it is very funny in places, whether it's the repartee between Ben and the cannibal giant who captures him, or his maddeningly funny/frustrating experiences early in the novel trying to get his iphone to work. Even when the book is more serious, Magary's prose is fast and rich and his world-building and imaginative set-pieces are really striking.


Quentin's Weeknotes 4/6/19-4/12/19

This week:



Quentin's Weeknotes 3/30/19-4/5/19

This week:

  • I read this great interview with Chris Cerf and Norm Stiles, who crafted some iconic songs on Sesame Street in the 1970s and 80s. These guys are clearly close friends and had a great time making kids music for adults and adult music for kids.  "Put down the duckie" is perhaps their most famous for its celebrity-filled video, but I'm fond, as they are, of "Dance Ourselves to Sleep", which, as you'll see below, is really funny and strange.
  • I've been listening to the music of Billy Eilish, who is making dark, surreal, genre-defying pop. Her videos are as bizarre and stylized as her music, and "Bury a Friend" is the creepy, monster-under-the-bed love story I didn't know I needed in my life.

Quentin's Weeknotes 3/23/19-3/29/19

This Week:


Book Notes: The Obama Inheritance

Notes on The Obama Inheritance: Fifteen Stories of Conspiracy Noir, edited by Gary Phillips

Date finished: 3/25/19

A wild ride with a really clever premise, and featuring some amazing tales.

It's kind of all there in the title--this is a book in which writers of mystery, suspense, science fiction, and thrillers take, as a given, all of the conspiracies that were drummed up about President Obama, and turn them into a narrative. Given how feverish and bizarre many of these ideas were, it's a rich mine to plumb. The pulp tradition looms large here, with spy thrillers, space-monsters, and action heroes making regular appearances.

As with all anthologies, the results are variable. Some of these stories were thrill-rides, others reveled in the horrific implications of their inspiration, and others used the opportunity to contemplate America as an idea and a lived experience, particularly around issues of race (perhaps not surprisingly, as most of the contributors are people of color). The stories that I liked the best took the feverish, almost psychedelic weirdness of the far-right's swamp of Obama-hate and ran with it. Eric Beetner's "True Skin" and L. Scott Jose's "Give me Your Free, Your Brave, Your Proud Masses Yearning to Conquer" take on the idea of Obama as a lizard-person, with equal parts funny and disgusting results. Nisi Shawl's "Evens" plays with the idea of clones and their implications for succession and term limits.  Other stories draw on other mythologies and fold them into our current political situation--Star Trek for Adam Lance Garcia's "The continuing Mission" and The Scarlet Pimpernel in Gary Phillips "Thus Strikes the Black Pimpernel". Still others are action-filled thrillers like "Michelle in Hot Water" by Kate Flora and "Forked Tongue" by Lise McLendon.

My favorite story is perhaps the strangest--"The Psalm of Bo" by Christopher Chambers, framed as a gospel according to the Obama's beloved water Spaniel, and recounting the story of how dogs inherit the Earth. It's almost quiet and meditative, even as the story it depicts is absolutely bonkers and delightful.

It's hard to escape the world we're in, dangerous and spiteful as it is. But this anthology does the great work of confronting that world head-on. Maybe that's the best approach--certainly it made for an entertaining read.