For The News-Sentinel
Are you making your list yet for holiday shopping? Do you have books on that list? Of course you do. May I help?
By any chance, have those who’ll receive books from you missed out on the Stieg Larsson frenzy? If that’s the case, please start with the first one, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” I think the books should be read in order. Next is “The Girl Who Played with Fire,” and the third in the trilogy is “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.”
People are intrigued by the female protagonist, and that’s fine, particularly as she is played in the Swedish film version. Personally, I’d like to meet the journalist. He certainly does appeal to a wide variety of female characters — including me.
“A Reliable Wife” was in a stack of books sent to me via Rachel. It’s by Robert Goolrick and was a New York Times bestseller. If you like bodice rippers, this is your cup of tea. He’s a wealthy, lonesome widower who has advertised for a wife (this is set in the early 1900s), and now he’s awaiting her arrival; she’s far from the simple, demure type he is expecting — in fact, she doesn’t even look like the woman he is expecting because she mailed him a picture of someone else, an unattractive, drab type. And they are off and running. The book has twists and turns, and even if you think you know how it will turn out, there is some deft, passionate writing taking you along the way.
By the way, I mentioned a cup of tea in that paragraph. I do suggest you put on your list of books to consider “Three Cups of Tea” and its successor, “Stones into Schools.” You surely have read about and know about Greg Mortenson. He is the man who told of his remarkable odyssey and his desire to repay those who nursed him back to good health in one of the world’s most remote regions, where he earned respect one cup of tea at a time. As Tom Brokaw wrote, he is proof that one plain ordinary person can really have an impact in improving the world.
Included in the books from Rachel was David Fuller’s “Sweetsmoke.” It’s a novel set during the Civil War and is told from a perspective completely new and original to me — the narrator is a slave on a Virginia tobacco plantation. He is quite a character — a truly honorable man who has learned to read and has only dreamed of what it’s like to be free. Fuller spent years doing the research for this book, and it shows. I learned a lot about battles, smugglers who profited during that awful war, and spies, along with new details about plantation life.
My son is a fan of Nick Hornby, and I now understand why. I had seen the film, “About a Boy,” based on his novel with the same title. Hugh Grant starred in the movie, which was delightful, heartbreaking and funny. So when he gave me Hornby’s “How To Be Good,” I was ready for something charming and fun. But it’s more than that. It makes us laugh at ourselves, and sometimes the truth in it hurts and is poignant — all wound in with humor and excellent writing and a very 2010 perspective.
Back to nonfiction. I saw a mention in The New York Times of “Young Romantics: The Tangled Lives of English Poetry’s Greatest Generation,” by Daisy Hay and found it at our wonderful library. For a lover of the Romantic period, someone who cherishes John Keats, Lord Byron, Mary Shelley and Leigh Hunt, this is a wonderful picture of the lives of these “free soul” believers. Lots and lots of footnotes don’t interfere. I ignored them. I now have a completely different picture of what those writers were really like behind the genius writing ability.
One more: John le Carre is back in top form again. His “Our Kind of Traitor” would make any lovers of spy novels on your list coo with pleasure. He is a master of the genre, and I am an appreciator. Need I say more?
I’m sorry, but are you still writing screenplays? Seriously? Have you been to the movies lately? Do you understand what the studios want? They don’t want you, that’s for sure. They want one of their famous names to write the new Spiderman. You know, the same story, only a reboot. Or the new Superman. Another reboot. You think I’m joking? Wait until they decide to start the Harry Potter series all over again. Recast it and give it another whirl. You think that your screenplay, that special brilliant piece of personal genius over which you sweat blood, is going to get their attention? Hey, and even if it does, do you really want to write the new reboot of Harry Potter? Is that why you’re in it? Okay, maybe you’re in it for the money. Or the fame. But wait. Do you actually respect the writer of the new rebooted Spiderman? Do you think that’s special work? Or is he getting the top models? Oh, ouch, have you met the new top model? She’s pretty, but do you really want to live with THAT? All the attitude? All those mirrors? All those other men trying to dive in after you? Or wait, maybe SHE is doing the reboot. Ladies, are the men charging you because you got that job, or do they resent you because they should have had it and could have done better. I mean, who can do a good job surrounded with all this shite? Of course, on the other hand, we do our best work when beset with trauma. But in the end, it’s work for hire, people, and worse than that, it’s work for studio executives, and those morons are not movie people. They’re suits, and they don’t give a shit about the movies. You think they do? Ask them about movie history. Have they seen a John Ford movie? How about Howard Hawks or Billy Wilder? How about, oh look out, Federico Fellini or Ingmar Bergman, or any one of the truly important filmmakers? What do you think? You think they’re about making lovely films for history’s sake, or do you think they are interested in keeping their jobs and bringing in the big bucks? There it is, right? You think they want their movies to be good, or to make money? It is possible to do both, but then you gotta have vision. And movie making in America isn’t about vision or fresh ideas. This is about rechewing the same old crap and spewing it out in 3D or some other format and making you believe it’s new. Do you REALLY want to write movies?
And hey, let’s look at the independent market… aw hell, it’s late and I’m still packing. Next time, eh?
I’m thinking that we may need to simplify Hemingway for today’s audience. Simplify. Hemingway. Okay, this is about the state of grammar in our daily conversation. It’s particularly bad on television, and I’m constantly astounded and apalled that the main character on CASTLE seems so treacherously lax with his grammar, but whatareyagonnado? Still, for those grammar-impaired, let’s make palatable a few of Mr. Hemingway’s titles. The one of which I am thinking is WHO THE BELL TOLLS FOR. Yes, there it is, catchy, pithy, and very ‘now’. And maybe that first Hemingway novel needs a makeover, how about: THE SUN’LL COME OUT TOMORROW AGAIN. Maybe it wasn’t Jake Barnes but Daddy Warbucks who had that accident in the war.
Anyone have any others? There’s the journalist’s version of Hem’s WWI ambulance driver novel: -30- FOR GUNS. No? Too soon?
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.
26 adoring years and counting.
Here’s what you do, and I know you know what I’m talking about. Put Charles (Peanut) Tillman on Randy Moss. Tillman hits hard hard hard, and Moss doesn’t like to be hit, not at all. That’s when he gets Tyrannosaurus arms, alligator arms, Thalidomide arms (ouch, politically incorrect). If anyone is reading this, feel free to express your discontent. Then I’ll know you’re there. Hit that young gentleman Moss hard early, say, in the first quarter, and you will have no problems with him the rest of the game. Brett Fav-ray will be frustrated and you will beat them Vikings.
Loved this article in the LA Times today.
Farewell to thee, oh lowly stockings of white. You have given away great talent, fine young pitchers, who are doing awfully awfully well, mostly on the west coast. If there’s any consolation, I can always watch them out here, wondering what the stockings of white might have been had they kept Gio, Clayton R, Daniel H, Ely… need I go on? Is it time for the OCD, ADD gentleman who can’t stop pulling the trigger to go and rain his desperate need to make deals on another team? Maybe he can go mess with the Twins.
My silly, careless White Sox are now in more danger of being caught from behind by the Tigers than they are of catching the Twins. How pathetic is that.
I figure the Bears get whomped on Sunday by the Cowboys. Looks like the defense is humming, though… Or is that just endless hope sneaking through?
I have been listening to the audio version of SWEETSMOKE. I love Ezra Knight’s voice. I imagine, because of time constraints, that he didn’t get much time to prepare and simply had to sit down and read the damned thing straight through. So, of course, there are moments where the interpretation suffers. But his voice brings out a nice Cassius. Because he reads with a slightly Southern lilt, some of the ‘writerly’ touches and word choices that I did in the novel surprise me. That doesn’t happen when reading it from the page. It is an interesting experiment for me. I will likely not listen to the whole thing through, but hearing the beginning, I was pleased with some of the character twists and surprises as the people are being set up. I had done more of that than I remembered. It was a good surprise.