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Decadent American Reader

Books for a star-spangled summer

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In our school days, we establish a rhythm: Learn stuff for nine months, and spend the summer forgetting as much as we can. Three months of heat and important knowledge evaporates (like, say, the significance of the Battle of Bunker Hill). All that's left behind are knowledge nuggets like historical figures whose names sound dirty when said out loud. Like Queen Nefertiti.

But for the past few years, world events interrupted this rhythm. We've been forced to, ugh, pay attention to things like war, religion, democracy and countries where they don't speak English. Keeping up with current events proves to be hard work. We need a break.

So we hereby declare summer 2005 the "Summer of the Decadent American Reader." Let's overturn our wading pools, balance a beer on those guts and submit to our inner decadence. Just for the summer, embrace the characteristics that make America, uh, what it is.

LAZY

OK, so he's a Brit, but author Tom Hodgkinson clearly has gotten in touch with his lazy American in How to Be Idle, a guide to sleeping in, napping, smoking, fishing, having idle sex, rioting (wait, rioting?) and otherwise defying the dictates of drudgery with a mighty yawn.

FAT

Paula Deen, the Savannah-based Food Network queen, never met a recipe that couldn't be improved by adding extra sticks of butter or a few cups of sugar. Her latest book, Paula Deen & Friends: Living It Up, Southern Style, includes stories of good Southern living and recipes for down-home delicacies like "Beer-in-the-Rear Chicken." (Exactly what it sounds like: a chicken cooked with a beer can up its watuzi.)

CHEAP

Lie your way into shows, mooch off your parents, and trick your friends into supplying all your liquor with the help of Camper English's Party Like a Rock Star (Even When You're Poor As Dirt), due out in June.

LITIGIOUS

Attorney-turned-author Michael Kun does some wild things with endnotes (seriously) in You Poor Monster, the story of a war hero, football star and pro boxer bluffing his way through an ugly divorce.

SEXED-UP

Creative Loafing's very own bleachy-haired honky bitch Hollis Gillespie releases her second book, Confessions of a Recovering Slut & Other Love Stories, based on her witty, sassy CL columns, June 28. (Turn to Gillespie's Moodswing on p. 21 for a taste.)

VIOLENT

In Jane: A Murder, poet Maggie Nelson bends and blends genres to tell the true story of her aunt, Jane Mixer, who was likely the victim of a serial rapist-murderer.

Or try Lauren Sanders' With or Without You, a novel about an adolescent girl who kills the soap opera star she's been lusting after. Then, she spends the rest of the book trying to figure out why she killed him.

FOR THE HEAVY LIFTERS

And for those who abhor the idea of a Decadent American Reader, here's some serious tomes to keep you up to speed on the sorry state of the world. Those still obsessed with the 2004 presidential election can check out What Went Wrong in Ohio: The Conyers Report on the 2004 Presidential Election, with an intro by Gore Vidal, which hit the streets this month.

For the latest analysis of the Iraq War, check out The WMD Mirage: Iraq's Decade of Deception and America's False Premise of War, edited by New York Times journalist Craig R. Whitney, which debuted April 4.

Stock up on duct tape before you read 7th Circuit Court Judge Richard A. Posner's disheartening Preventing Surprise Attacks: Intelligence Reform in the Wake of 9/11, due out in July. Then plan your vacation wardrobe around the color of the threat alert.

Just the FactsWhat Went Wrong in Ohio: The Conyers Report on the 2004 Presidential Election edited by Anita Miller. $10.95. Academy Chicago Publishers. 160 pages.

The WMD Mirage: Iraq's Decade of Deception and America's False Premise of War edited by Craig R. Whitney. $16.95. PublicAffairs. 671 pages.

Preventing Surprise Attacks: Intelligence Reform in the Wake of 9/11 by Richard A. Posner. $18.95. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 160 pages.

How to Be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson. $18.95. HarperCollins. 304 pages.

Paula Deen & Friends: Living It Up, Southern Style by Paula Deen. $25. Simon & Schuster. 224 pages.

Party Like a Rock Star (Even When You're Poor As Dirt) by Camper English. $12.95. Alyson Publications. 224 pages.

You Poor Monster by Michael Kun. $23. MacAdam/Cage Publishing. 240 pages.

Confessions of a Recovering Slut & Other Love Stories by Hollis Gillespie. $24.95. Regan Books. 272 pages.

Jane: A Murder by Maggie Nelson. $13.95. Soft Skull Press. 200 pages.

With or Without You by Lauren Sanders. $14.95. Akashic Books. 280 pages.

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