Friday, February 27, 2009
The Bat Segundo show has an interview with Charlie Huston, which can be listened here. If you'll recall I wrote about Huston's new novel, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death, here.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Jesse Ball's second novel is really his first, written before Samedi the Deafness, but published a year later. I enjoyed Samedi and that's why I was willing to go where Ball takes readers in The Way Through Doors, because, as the New Yorker put it, "reality is generally given the heave-ho."
Why does The Way work in the end? It does because no matter how confusing it gets, there is a story that hooks you and by the end, Ball is successful in completing that story. Seems simple: a book with an ending. But it's not as easy a task when the stories told between this book's covers melt continuously into each other. That Ball manages to satisfy in the end is one other reason to read The Way Through Doors.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
From the Guardian:
You might think that a writer whose own characters have included telepaths and angels would not worry too much about a story's believability, but Salman Rushdie has taken serious issue with the credibility of this years Oscars sensation Slumdog Millionaire. As Oscar upon Oscar was piled upon the film on Sunday, Rushdie was pointedly not joining in the applause for author Vikas Swarup and director Danny Boyle. "The movie piles impossibility on impossibility," he said in a lecture at Emory University in Atlanta, raising questions over how the characters end up at the Taj Mahal, 1,000 miles from where they were in the previous scene, and how they manage to get their hands on a gun in India.I thought Slumdog was a good movie but I'm not quite sure if it deserved an Oscar. But if not it, who? I hope in a decade people still remember the movie but I have my doubts.
Monday, February 23, 2009
First thing that comes to mind: would I have read this if it were not for the movie Revolutionary Road? Perhaps, but I should give credit to the film adaptation of Richard Yates's fantastic novel: the movie put this book, which also collects The Easter Parade and Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, in my hands. I should add, however, that I haven't seen the movie and it's not on my immediate to-watch list.
It's always my preference to read the book before seeing the movie, and that's why I read Revolutionary Road. All three of the books collected in this Everyman's Edition are written in the style that makes you think 'They don't make them like these anymore.' The prose is direct, clean and precise. It's smooth to get down and enjoy. And while Yates's hasn't pushed me towards the theatre to see the only adaptation of his work, the familiar beats Mad Men makes fulfills my need to see Yates's world envisioned on the screen.
Can I be more clear? Richard Yates: recommended.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Something that was evident while reading Charlie Huston's newest novel was how it initially resembled his first, Caught Stealing. There's Huston's use of dialogue, short descriptions, humour, crime and engaging first-person narrator. The main difference, after writing seven novels between his first and latest, is that Huston has refined his style. It's much stronger, as would be expected, and reads more original. The clunkiness of expository dialogue is gone along with the muddiness of action scenes.
The title of this novel includes the word "mystic" but every aspect is believable. You want to believe Web Goodhue is a real person in Los Angeles, and Huston never gives a reason not to. There's also an aspect to this noir story that pushes it beyond the mere surface of character relationships. And Huston pulls that off without appearing artificial too.
Is it really that great a compliment to say an author's ninth novel is better than his first? No, but it's Huston's ninth novel that makes me want to read the ones before it and his tenth.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
From Marvel's May 2009 solicitations:
Spider-Man: The Short Halloween
Written by BILL HADER & SETH MEYERS
Pencils & Cover by KEVIN MAGUIRE
Two stars of Saturday Night Live make their Marvel debut with an all-new story set right on the bustling, hot dog juice covered streets of New York City. Halloween is coming early this year as Spidey is knocked out during the Greenwich Village costume parade and an intoxicated reveler in a Spidey costume takes his place. Really, we don't want to say more than that. Trust us, with comic book legend Kevin Maguire (JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL) along for the ride, this'll be more exciting than putting a president on a comic book cover!
48 PGS./One-Shot/Rated T+ ...$3.99
It'll probably get some decent coverage. Meaning; not just this blog.
New York magazine has gone to Nate Silver, the brilliant 2008 Presidential Election predictor, to, what else, predict this year's Oscar winners. The winners:
- Heath Ledger for Supporting Actor
- Taraji P. Henson for Supporting Actress
- Mickey Rourke for Best Actor
- Kate Winslet for Best Actress
- Danny Boyle for Best Director
- Slumdog Millionaire for Best Picture
If you enjoy black humour, then you should like Nighty Night and the Peep Show. That's something I heard about these two British dark comedies that premiered in 2004. After watching the first seasons of both shows, I did enjoy one, which was was the poorly named Peep Show; it's poorly named not because it doesn't fit the comedy, but that it's hard to discuss a show called the Peep Show without raising eyebrows.
So why does one work and the other does not? The Peep Show is not as dark as Nighty Night, so that may be one reason, but the more accurate reason is that the show's writers don't ask for the viewer to laugh at sociopathic behaviour. Nighty Night is not about humour so much as it's about framing despicable acts as humour. The marketers of Nighty Night compare it to Curb Your Enthusiasm,which is unfair to Larry David's show as it features no character I would consider sadistic.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
Reprise will release 21st Century Breakdown, complete with fake-edgy Sixten-inspired cover art, in May. According to MTV, the band recorded the LP with Nevermind producer Butch Vig. And according to Rolling Stone, the album's 16 tracks will come divided into three "acts": Heroes and Cons, Charlatans and Saints, and Horseshoes and Handgrenades.
Entertainment Weekly reports that the song titles include "21st Century Breakdown", "Know Your Enemy", "Before the Lobotomy", "March of the Dogs", "Restless Heart Syndrome", and "21 Guns". Rolling Stone, MTV, and Entertainment Weekly have all heard a few songs. All of them seem to like it, and two of them mention the Who.
Obviously without hearing a note I can't say anything about the album. I hope it's good.
Last post I mentioned I was reading Josh Bazell's debut, Beat the Reaper, and that I'd try to write something about the novel when I finished it. By writing that sentence, you should infer that I'm finished.
Beat the Reaper is a quick 300-page read, which Bazell deserves credit for. He keeps the story moving with short scenes and strong dialogue, and does a solid job of recreating the atmosphere one would expect to find in a hospital. Before I started reading the novel, I read an Amazon review that compared Beat the Reaper to a mix between House and The Sopranos. I haven't watched enough episodes of House (though I should watch more) to know if that's a fair comparison, but I will say Beat the Reaper is much like a hospital drama with a fair amount of crime and action. It's nothing like The Sopranos, as that show had a greater depth and attempted to say something more about crime. I didn't find Bazell's novel to share that same pursuit. It's mostly entertainment, well-written and enjoyable.
Should someone pick up a copy of Beat the Reaper? It depends if they enjoy black humour, crime and a knowing, sometimes unlikeable, narrator. Some of the sex scenes seem implausible, and at times the action scenes are hard to follow. Overall, Bazell's debut is still worth reading if only to set up what I expect will be a much stronger sequel.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
I'm about a third-of-the-way into Josh Bazell's first novel, Beat the Reaper, and it's been fun so far. This week New York magazine has an interview with Bazell here:
Where did you get the idea for the book?
I wanted to explore the extent to which somebody can change himself. And I felt I might have something to say about the Mafia that hadn’t been said before.
I’ve read lots of Mafia memoirs, this sort of repulsive subgenre where people who’ve gone into witness protection write tell-alls in which they claim to be ashamed of their former lives yet can’t stop bragging about them. In books and on TV, the mob tends to be either a sort of omnipotent conspiracy or a bunch of lovable doofuses who do petty crime. I love The Godfather, but the idea that somebody like Don Corleone sits around granting favors is clearly inaccurate. The favor is that if you pay them 60 percent, they don’t break your legs.
I'll try to follow-up with a proper review when I'm finished. And by proper, I mean short and to the point.
NPR book critic Maureen Corrigan reviewed Yu Hua's just-translated novel Brothers and compared it to Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities:
Critics are already lauding Brothers by comparing it to Bonfire, but one is authentic Dickensian down and the other is serviceable fiberfill — and, in this instance, it's not the Chinese product that's the knockoff. Wolfe admirably aimed to be like Dickens, to write a huge social novel about New York City in the go-go 1980s and to make his points — as Dickens did — through comic hyperbole, repetition and cataloguing. All that was missing was the heart. (Did anyone really care about Wolfe's protagonist, Sherman McCoy?)I haven't read Wolfe's novel, I plan to, but I know I'll read Hua's novel first.
Monday, February 09, 2009
This is weird: a baseball player who admits his steroid use. Not sure if I should praise Alex Rodriguez for admitting he used steroids when he played for Texas. He says he hasn't used since but who knows.
At least he didn't lie in the face of all-but-confirmed allegations.
From today's Pub Weekly's reviews, a, um, review of David Mazzucchelli's long-awaited (I didn't know it was coming) graphic novel:
Asterios Polyp David Mazzucchelli. Pantheon, $29.95 (344p) ISBN 978-0-3073-7732-6
For decades, Mazzucchelli has been a master without a masterpiece. Now he has one. His long-awaited graphic novel is a huge, knotty marvel, the comics equivalent of a Pynchon or Gaddis novel, and radically different from anything he's done before. Asterios Polyp, its arrogant, prickly protagonist, is an award-winning architect who's never built an actual building, and a pedant in the midst of a spiritual crisis. After the structure of his own life falls apart, he runs away to try to rebuild it into something new. There are fascinating digressions on aesthetic philosophy, as well as some very broad satire, but the core of the book is Mazzucchelli's odyssey of style—every major character in the book is associated with a specific drawing style and visual motifs, and the design, color scheme and formal techniques of every page change to reinforce whatever's happening in the story. Although Mazzucchelli stacks the deck—few characters besides Polyp and his inamorata, the impossibly good-hearted sculptor Hana, are more than caricatures—the book's bravado and mastery make it riveting even when it's frustrating, and provide a powerful example of how comics use visual information to illustrate complex, interconnected topics. Easily one of the best books of 2009 already. (June)
It got the star, by the way.
Thursday, February 05, 2009
Jesse Ball's first published novel, Samedi the Deafness, was fantastic. In a few days, his second will be published, The Way Through Doors. Bookslut has a review of the new book and an interview with him, which I will excerpt below:
I have also read that you have a whole trove of books you've written over the years that are as yet unpublished, each kind of waiting their turn. How much would you say you write when you are in the mode of writing? How much time each year, on average? Obviously, these are relative numbers, but I am interested in the process of output and perhaps how many projects you immerse yourself in at a time, how they bleed a bit into one another, etc?--Czobit
There are a number of volumes awaiting their turn. As the years have passed, I have become better at compressing the writing process into smaller and smaller portions of time. Plainface, a novel that will eventually come out, is composed of novellas that tell the continuing adventures of a boy named Plainface, and each of those novellas was written rapidly, some even in a single day. It all goes back to what I was saying about a pianistic performance. One attempts to maintain a thread through an atmosphere that one constructs around the thread even as one weaves the thread through it. The Early Deaths of Lubeck, Brennan, Harp & Carr, I wrote in one sitting. The same is true of Pieter Emily, another novella. I wrote a book of poems in December of 2007 called The Skin Feat. That's a part of an omnibus called The Village on Horseback which Milkweed will publish in 2011. That book of poems was written over the course of a couple weeks. In terms of all these works, quantity, though, is not my aim. I simply want to realize the thought as well as I can, and be surprised in the process. To be engaged in a life of making -- that's the pursuit.
Monday, February 02, 2009
I don't care about the NFL and I didn't watch a full game during this past season, but I did watch the dying minutes of last night's Super Bowl. Despite my expectations that the game between the Steelers and the Cardinals would be forgettable, the game became the second good Super Bowl in a row (I haven't forgotten about the NY Giants-New England Patriots match last season).
Here are the highlights. Enjoy.