Archive for December, 2008

19th December
2008
written by Tony
1989 (kind of)

1989 (kind of)

Let me first say that this book intrigued me for several reasons. One, I loved A Confederacy of Dunces. Two, I love the album of the same name by Arcade Fire, which has absolutely no relation to this book. Three, it's a name that appeals to me conceptually. I'm not the first to say this, but I'll say it nonetheless: if you liked To Kill a Mockingbird then you will also enjoy this book. The simplicity of the writing and the authenticity of the voice combine for an easily digested, yet powerful language that is compelling and engaging. The story is not a complex one, and it revolves around the actions of a simple-minded protagonist named David who is trapped by his poor roots and meager intelligence in a small town in Louisiana. The story is a retrospective told in the first person and generally serves to bring the reader up to speed on the events that open in the first chapter. Each proceeding chapter covers roughly a year in David's life and we are taken from when he is a small child to when he is a man of 19. The back-story on this book is almost as interesting as the book itself, and serves to shed a little light on the brief life of Toole. He wrote this book when he was 16 and it makes me sick. Toole at 16 was already a brilliant writer and it shows in this work. His ability to choose the right phrasing and the right vocabulary throughout the book continued to astonish me every time I recalled that, at 16, I was barely able to express how I felt about even the simplest things with any great aplomb. And here we have Toole who captures the essence of what it is to live in a small southern village and deal with the complex racial and social issues day to day. The book was published posthumously, as Toole felt it was too amateurish to publish while he was alive. (more…)
18th December
2008
written by Steph
fieldwork

This is a book I had heard snippets of good things about in the big old book blog world.  I was sufficiently intrigued by the good press it had received that when I saw a cheap copy at the local used book store, I decided to give it a whirl. That being said, I wasn’t entirely sure just what exactly Fieldwork was going to be about exactly.  I had garnered from the back cover that it was about a man who moves to Thailand with his girlfriend, and that it would involve the jungle, anthropologists, missionaries, murder, and was supposed to be Spooky.  Ultimately, I suppose all of these things are true, although I didn’t find anything all that creepy about the book, and I’m not sure that I would really call it a “thriller” either.  Like The Basic Eight, which I read earlier this year, this is another one of those so-called “mysteries” where you know within the first 30 pages who has done the crime (& the time!), and the aim of the rest of the novel is to piece together the back story.  It’s not so much a whodunit? as it is a whydunit?.  Stephen King wrote a piece in Entertainment Weekly about how he thought the book had been given a really boring cover that belied the book’s true awesomeness.  I didn’t have a problem with the cover, but I would be ok if someone thought the cover of Fieldwork was boring and consequently concluded that it was boring, because sometimes it really was! (more…)
18th December
2008
written by Tony
1990

1990

Okay. So, apparently everyone thinks Kurosawa is a genius. The best Japanese director ever. Don't get me wrong, it's not that he's necessarily bad at what he does, it's just that what he does tends to leave me high and dry, especially in the case of this particular film. I've seen Seven Samurai, even liked most of it (God, it is long), but as films go it wasn't transcendental or even really all that remarkable. Now wait, before you crucify me, let me explain. It is a good film, and it is deserving of the heaps of praise lauded upon it over the last 50 years. However, it's a good film for reasons that don't really play into my viewing enjoyment. It was the inspiration for The Magnificent Seven, and it is often cited as the first film to use the plot device of gathering heroes to fight a battle. It was an enormous success when it was released in Japan and is one of the few Japanese films to gain wide recognition in the west. On and on and on, the innovation and the power and the glory. (more…)
17th December
2008
written by Steph
It took us two tries to get through this movie, but don’t let that dissuade you from giving it a go.  It was really good!  It’s just that I was all flu-y when we started watching it and I was really very tired, but I felt awkward about potentially going to bed at like, 6 pm because normally when this happens, I wind up waking up at 10 pm or something and am all wired, and I generally find that whole experience pretty unpleasant.  So anyway, I was already drowsy, and then when we got all snuggled upon the couch, I was lying in such a way that one of my ears was kind of blocked so I couldn’t really hear what anyone was saying, and wound up snoozing through the first half of the movie. (more…)
12th December
2008
written by Steph
A recent post on The Guardian’s book blog discusses the merits of reading bad books, which has led writers and readers of The Morning News to reveal some of their guilty pleasure reads. Let’s tackle each of these in turn, shall we? (more…)
11th December
2008
written by Steph
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows

Is there anything better to read than a Harry Potter book when one is laid up in bed sick with the flu? Not according to my immune system. For the past few days, I’ve been struggling with itchy ears, congested chest, and overall body aching so intense that my symptoms would fall well in line with some of the more choice curses found throughout the Potter series. Now is not the time to struggle with dense and delicate prose. No, instead, I need a heaping helping of adventure and fast-paced excitement. Which makes my choice of the final book in the Harry series a pretty good one, and as far as home remedies go, an enjoyable panacea as well. Warning: Do not read on if you have not finished reading the HP series. I definitely discuss plot details after the jump! (more…)
10th December
2008
written by Steph
Oooh... gilded edges!

Oooh... gilt edges!

After my last reading disaster, I decided I needed to read something that would sooth me. All of the unread books on our shelves seemed vaguely sinister, as I suffered from the whole “once bitten, twice shy” affliction of having tried a new author and it blowing up horribly in my face. I lead a busy life and do a lot of non-pleasurable reading as a graduate student, so when it comes to books I read in my limited spare time? I want to enjoy them. Sometimes I make allowances for books that are not necessarily going to make it onto my list of desert island reading if they’ve attained “classics” status, as generally in these cases even if I wouldn’t necessarily deem the reading of said books pleasurable, I can often at least appreciate the merit in those books and have a better understanding of their place in the literary canon. But having been burned, I wasn’t looking for challenge. No, I was looking for a good read that would cleanse the palate and let me venture into the wide world of books anew. I had been considering rereading Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows for some time, as it is the only book in the series that I have only read once (that day being when it was released, as I attended a midnight release party in downtown Toronto with two very good friends, and then hightailed it home because my father was driving me back down to Nashville the next day… yes, I had purposely delayed my return so as to ensure I got the UK/Canadian edition of the book.). Lately a few snippets of the plot had been swirling around in my head, and I realized that I was a bit unclear on how certain storylines/issues were tied up, and as I don’t have a penseive, I’d just have to reread the last book. But then I saw HBP sitting next to DH on the shelf, and I realized that I’d only read it twice AND that movie is due out next year, so maybe I ought to warm up to DH so I’d be in the appropriate mindset to join Harry & co. on their final quest. (more…)
9th December
2008
written by Steph
I wish I had put money down on this season, since it turns out my prediction of the winners (Nick & Starr) was right. Then again, the returns on such a proclamation were probably not great given how obvious this outcome was. I realize that one of the things about the Race is that elements as intangible as luck can come into play and twist things around (I love when irony comes to play!), which is part of the fun, but at the end of the day, it’s always nice when you feel like the team that raced the best independently of chance and all that stuff actually wins. (more…)
8th December
2008
written by Tony
1966

1966

I will preface, for those of you who don't want to read a rant, that I liked this book (look to the last paragraph for more on Lot 49 itself). However. I still don’t like Thomas Pynchon, and as a result, most of this review will be about the bloated disgrace that some modern literature has become. You see, Lot 49 is unlike any of Pynchon’s other works in nearly every way (it’s only 150 pages, for one). So there isn’t a lot to say about it in context of itself. So instead, I’ll focus on the reasons behind why I was so surprised when I ended up liking it, reasons that deal with how much I hate Pynchon's other work. I wanted to read Pynchon before, so I picked up some of his stuff while at a bookstore. Apparently Gravity’s Rainbow is about a man whose erections signify V2 rocket attacks. That just sounds tiresome. So, in my quest to read some Pynchon, I instead tried Against The Day and, honestly, it just didn’t work out. I’ve heard all the talk about what a literary genius Pynchon is and how his works are pithy and wonderful and all of that. Everyone seems to think so, though I haven’t spoken to someone who has read one of his books to completion who feels this way. In fact, I haven’t ever spoken to someone who has finished one of his books at all. Interesting. (more…)
8th December
2008
written by Steph
Straight up, I had no interest in seeing this movie until a friend of mine mentioned in passing that I should see it because she had really enjoyed it. And this is a friend who knows what my tastes are and whose tastes in turn I also know, so I figured that if she liked it then the least I could do was give it a spot on the Netflix queue. The commercials I had remembered seeing made the humor seem like it was kind of “lowest common denominator” in its scope, but we like 30 Rock, so we gave it a shot. (more…)
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