Thursday, January 24, 2008

An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England by Brock Clarke

An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England by Brock Clarke was my choice for the "place" selection in the What's In A Name? Challenge

I read a review who noted thsi book was “interesting and frustrating”, which sums this book up perfectly. This is a classic case of "don't judge a book by its cover"- from the title, description and even cover I thought this would be a darkly funny novel, which in fact in contains very, very little humor at all. We basically spend our entire time in the head of a character who doesn't learn most of the time, and the few times he does he doesn't apply the knowledge to anything. Paraphrasing many of his thoughts/actions through the books basically comes up with "Somewhere inside me I knew I should do this or anyone else in my shoes would do this, but I just couldn't." He's not only passive to an unbelievable degree- the way he constantly and knowingly puts himself in the wrong place at the wrong time is almost fetish-like.

There's a scene in the book where our "hero" stands up and recounts his story to a roomful of writers as a fictional story idea. When he's done, the writer on the platform tells him it doesn't work, that the character's dumb decisions that propel his narrative is simply "easy" and therefore not valid for good literature. I'm sure the author thought this was clever and ironic, but to me it just made the the author as much of a glutton for bad choices as much as the creation on the page. I will say it is an original idea and wanting to know how it would all turn out kept me turning the pages, but for me this is not a keeper.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Converting Loved Ones Into "The Dark Side"

I'm lucky to have a really, really great boyfriend. We really are best friends, just ones that happen to make out with each other a whole lot. He's an extremely talented musician/songwriter (he's in a progressive metal band that's starting to become popular here in Las Vegas, and also writes and performs songs on acoustic guitar that are sort of in the John Prine vein.) He's incredibly smart, though not very academic. He never finished high school and didn't come from a big "reading family." Since we've been together, one of my favorite things to do is to recommend him books that I think he would enjoy. When we hit a right one- it's heaven. Seeing his face light up when we talk about a book he enjoyed and found interesting is a great joy in my life. Here's a list of (most) of the books I kinda forced him to read :)

The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger- This is my personal favorite book, and it resonated with me so strongly I really wanted him to read it. He absolutely loved it as well, and he even bought one of his closest friends a copy for Christmas. Now we have many conversations about whether the film version will be worthy and have heated discussion about the casting. To sum it up: Rachel McAdams: good, Ang Lee's The Hulk: bad. We both basically saw Henry as a young Johnny Depp type, or a beefier James Franco.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson- I think I hyped this story up to him too much, because he moderately enjoyed it while I loved it. We're both big zombie/survival movie fans and of the comic book series "The Walking Dead", so I thought he would enjoy it a lot. The drawback is he cannot STAND an open-ended ending, so I think that took a lot of points off. We both really enjoyed the film, however. While it changed pretty much everything, there's no way the story as is would work as a perfect translation. It was modernized well and just a fun ride. I have old issues of "Fangoria", and in an article about the movie "The Cell" the man who ended up writing the screenplay (for both The Cell & I Am Legend) has actually been working on it for many years, it was a real passion in his life.

The Talisman & Black House by Stephen King & Peter Straub- One day I was telling him about how much I loved "The Talisman", and he mentioned that it sounded vaguely familiar. I brought him the book and it turned out he read it around the age of 13, and he was eager to re-read it. He still loved it and afterwards I gave him my copy of the sequel, Black House. Like most, he didn't enjoy that nearly as much but still found it an enjoyable read. I gave him the first Gunslinger book, which he hasn't been able to get into too much (though that's mainly because he's so busy.) I think I'll give him King's "Eyes of a Dragon", which is one of my favorites and I think he'll enjoy this dark adventure.

The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde- I ADORE the hell out of this book, and it's sequel "The Fourth Bear". My favorite comic book series is "Fables", which is about characters from classic fairy tales living in modern times. My honey is a big fan of it as well, so I really wanted him to read it. He started it and put it back down since he's in the middle of moving, but when I asked him about what he thought about it so far he stated that it "kick ass." I don't think I'll give him the Thursday Next series, though, since he's not familiar with literature as a whole and has never even heard of Kurt Vonnegut :/

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill- I very much enjoyed this horror story about a faded rock star who "buys" a ghost, and he dug it too. He wants his brother to read it now (he's a big horror fan) and thinks it would make a great movie. Those blacked out scribbled eyes... *shudder*

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks- Well, him being a musician this was kind of a no-brainer (ha!) Besides music, he's also deeply interested in how the brain works and psychology. After reading reviews and hearing Sacks on NPR and other interviews I had to get it. I'm stocked that he loves the book, and can't stop discussing it :) Also, we both like the movie Awakenings and once we found out Robin Williams character was based on Sacks that just added a whole new level of awesome. :)

Next Book I Think I'll Thrust Upon Him: Life of Pi by Yann Martel (he loves animals and survival tales)

If anyone reads this- have you ever made it a mission, for lack of a better word, to get a loved one into reading? What did you find to be the most effective methods for doing so?