Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Full Dark, No Stars: Stephen King

The title says it all. Dark. Stephen King's newest effort is a group of four stories each set in different locations and in different times. The first of the four: 1922 is certainly the darkest. 1922 is the story of a man who fights his wife at all costs to keep her from selling an inheritance of neighboring land to a major slaughterhouse and moving the family to the "big city" of Omaha, Nebraska. In the end the wife is unfaltering in her beliefs and the husband must convince his son that the only option is to do the unthinkable. If I wanted to compare it to someone else's writing the only person who comes to mind is Edgar Allan Poe. Seriously. The kind of slow destruction and following mental breakdown into madness that only a certain few writers have ever attempted or wanted to attempt, and even fewer have succeeded in articulating so masterfully. I was admittedly slightly alarmed to continue at this point. The second novella Big Driver was a completely different tale, but at least had more of the Hollywood bright spots you might hope for when pure blackness is the overall theme and title of your literary quest. King tells of an author suddenly marooned on the trip home from a reading and signing event in a nearby town. A theme not to far  removed from King's Misery (1987), but here we have a female protagonist who falls victim to a red-neck tow truck driver's plot to capture unsuspecting woman taking the short cut through the back roads. Fair Extensions was the least impressive and shortest of the four, which was set in a town the author admits is quite similar to where he lives. Dave Streeter is dying of cancer and makes a shady deal with a roadside vender at twilight to have his life extended in exchange for a percentage of his salary during these gifted remaining years. Dave must also search his soul for one person whom he hates so that our vendor might even the scales of the world so to speak. The story is sad and twisted and even funny at times, but begins to read like a grocery list and leaves the reader with a knot in the gut that is not justified by any type of brilliant prose or masterful turn of plot. Finally, the last story, A Good Marriage, is the best and is based on a true event in the news that King felt he must write about. In this last novella, Darcy, a loving and devoted wife stumbles across a mysterious box in her husband's immaculate garage while looking for batteries for the television remote when her husband is out of town on business. Let's just say she takes a trip down the rabbit hole, but luckily this one also has some light at the end of the tunnel so that the reader is left perhaps a little screwed up, but still rewarded for their efforts. All in all, the novel is extremely well crafted and the positives in the three brilliant stories far outweigh the negatives of Fair Extensions. The worst of the four is not a total loss, either. There are some great turns of phrase and the character of the devil in the form of a strange roadside vendor is fantastic. I just felt that the ending left more to be desired. I would recommend this book to any fan of King's past work the genre of horror/psychological thrillers and mystery/crime novels. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Phil Lesh: Searching for The Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead

Phil Lesh's autobiography is certainly a book with extreme cult popularity much like the Grateful Dead themselves. I had heard good things from members of groups I perform with; most notably the bass player (duh) from Spidergawd, a Los Angeles based jam-band- named after the spacey Garcia improvisational track from his 1972 solo debut "Garcia"- that specializes in playing many Dead tunes along with other classic rock, country, funk, bluegrass, etc. , and original music in similar veins. I have seen multiple documentaries on the Dead including "From Anthem to Beauty," "The Grateful Dead Movie," "Grateful Dawg," and the BBC documentary "Can't take it with You," on the debacle and litigation involving Jerry Garcia's estate after he passed in 1995, but this was the first tell all I'd read. Phil Lesh is certainly one of the most important voices on the Grateful Dead that survive today. Sure, I'd be just as happy to hear Billy the K's take or Bobby's, and I'd be very interested in Robert Hunter's, but Phil is the member of the band who has fought the hardest to keep the music alive all of this time. A main organizer of The Other Ones, Phil Lesh and Friends, The Dead, and now Furthur, Lesh has championed the Weir song title turned mantra that "The Music Never Stopped." The background on Lesh's musical beginnings and the slow formation and reformation of the band which would eventually become The Grateful Dead is intriguing to say the least and by the time we get to Jerry's death and the infinite sadness, fighting, and struggle that would occur post I was ready to start over and get back to the happy times. Recommended to Dead Heads, bass players, sound engineers, and roots music lovers.

The Reversal: Michael Connelly

The new Connelly is about as good as they've been in the past eighteen years, I'd say. As mentioned on the many other reviews on this blog I have read a number of these somewhere in the teens. This new one has both of his recently prominent main characters and also a background cast of many of the players from the entire catalogue of the author. Terry McCaleb and some other crew members from Blood Work and The Poet are among the very few left out, I'll leave it at that. Some new developments have arisen after 9 Dragons, which was one of the very first novels spoken of on this blog and was read during December of last year along with four or five other books and helped me to decide upon this mission/new year's resolution to read more. I suppose I should say "Spoiler Alert!" if you do read Connelly and haven't digested that one yet. Mainly, Bosch is now a single dad raising his daughter here in Los Angeles after the loss of his wife in Tokyo during the madness of that last chapter, which saw Bosch fighting crime in a new country for the first time. The Reversal, refers to this theme of 180 degree change in Bosch's life as well as to the role of Mickey Haller, his long lost half brother from The Lincoln Lawyer, and other novels, who crosses the aisle to work with his ex-wife Maggie McPherson for the prosecution. The book changes perspectives back and forth each chapter from Bosch to Haller and burns on at a break-neck pace, which Connelly's readers have come to love and expect. So, if you've ever read any of these I urge you to welcome back your old pals Harry and Mick and have a nice couple of days in Los Angeles. These novels never take longer than that once you've got them started. Happy reading, The Midge.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Grand Design: Steven Hawking

I don't really know what to tell you about this one. It is the newest book published by the greatest astrophysicist, cosmologist, and overall scientist of our time. The more answers we find the more questions arise and we have made some astonishing leaps, but continue to search for more and probably always will. I found it to be certainly worth while and chock-full of information and of the type of terrible jokes you would expect to hear from such a brilliant mind. Read it or don't, I doubt anything I try to explain would sway you either way on this one. I will tell you that he delves into and explains the entire history and progression of modern science and the theories of important scientists and mathematicians dating back to Pythagoras, Galileo, and Einstein, and the theories of Alchemy, Relativity, Super String, and most newly and notably M-Theory. He also discusses experiments, models, theories, and possibilities of other universes, dimensions, and the ongoing search for the "Unified theory of everything," (as Jeff Tweedy sings) which has been carried out through the ages and continues still. Wrap your head around this one if you can. I tried and think maybe ten more readings would help...or would they.....

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Life: Keith Richards

I've heard some complaints, and other criticisms about this book, but I just don't agree. I don't think Keith sits back and bitches the whole time by any means. I think he jumps around and rambles a little and is completely honest in his judgments of characters around him, but he is also completely honest and tough on himself, much like the twenty times nastier and completely open Miles Davis in his autobiography co-authored by Quincy Thorpe (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FOR ANYONE WHO CARES ABOUT WESTERN MUSIC HISTORY AND MOST CERTAINLY JAZZ). I will also give this a 5-Star, highly recommended, A+, (or whatever you want to call it), rating. I know what you're thinking: "Midge, you recommend every book you read and only choose ones that you have a high probability of liking." Well there is some truth to that even though it disregards my review of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. Still, this book is a really engaging and fun read about a band that is as important as any other in the forming and shaping of Rock-and-Roll. Sure, they began by reproducing songs written and performed by African American artists, but much like with straight blues, jazz, and other African American forms of music, the mass public didn't fully pay attention on a grand scale until white performers began to play the music. Sad fact, but people like Elvis, Buddy Holly, and Jerry Lee Lewis, were some of the first to turn average white America on to the music of Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Muddy Waters. Eventually, rock and roll would become a major American staple of pop-culture, but it was slow and tough going for a while. Artists like all of the aforementioned and Ray Charles, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and many more both white and black would each play a very significant role in the transformation and opening of eyes, ears, hearts, and minds. The "Brittish Invasion," is as important to the forming of American popular music as any other chapter of it's growth over the last one hundred and twenty years and the Stones are easily in the top two bands of that era and obviously the only one still tearing down the house. Although, it should be noted that Paul McCartney continues the Beatles legacy, vibe, and spirit by still delighting audiences with moving and highly technical renditions of his entire catalogue. Keith is the main songwriter from the Stones. He wrote all the riffs and most of the songs. Jagger wrote some beauties, too, including "Brown Sugar," and "Miss You," and collaborated on the lyrics of almost every tune, but Keith often came up with not only the song structure and melodies, but often the original lyrical idea as well as sometimes writing the entirety of the lyrics. Sure, he bitches about Brian Jones and Jagger, but he compares he and Jagger's relationship to that of brothers who always fight, but contain a deeply rooted love for each other and would kill for one another. So, take it with a grain of salt and step back. Critical reflection is an important part of reading any book. You have to decide what is real, fantasy, fiction, and embellishment on the author's part. The stories of drug busts, car crashes, drugs, giant inflatable cocks, groupies, drugs, jamaica, New York, drugs, and all the other ramblings including rendezvous' with some of the greatest musicians of rock and roll history including eventually playing with all of his childhood heroes make for a "fantastic fucking read" (sloppy drunken English accent). Read on friends and I'll try to as well. Your pal, The Midget.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The World In Six Songs: Dr. Daniel J. Levitin

I think that Dr. Levitin out performed his first national bestselling effort with his 2008 publishing. I read and really enjoyed This is your Brain on Music (2006), which was reviewed on this blog in August of this year, but I felt that The World in Six Songs, was more refined, while somehow also being more universal. Both books deal with the extraordinary human brain and how it processes and organizes both musical and non-musical information, but Levitin's second non-fiction masterpiece deals with much more of the history and evolution of the primal and conscious sections of the brain. There is scientific, historical, and anthropological perspectives on early humans and the good doctor's expertise and research lead him into several provocative theories. His take on the roll of music in the evolution of early homo-erectus in regard to hunting, communicating, group numbers, mating rituals, and more, eventually help explain why we love music the way we do today from a strictly scientific standpoint. The facts behind brain chemistry and activity while listening to, performing, and dancing to music are explained in new contexts and brought to life in both hypothetical and literal scenarios from the past and present. Dr. Levitin also references interviews and musings posed by professional musicians interested in musical perception and human cognition including Sting and Joni Mitchell who are both quoted in the text along with scientists and even specific experiments. The book is extremely thorough and scholastically sound, but in a language made for the masses. It can easily be enjoyed by the average music listener or lover and any completely non-scientific person. "Six Songs," is more like a show on Discovery then a PhD Dissertation. If you're not interested after reading this, don't believe me, or want a second opinion, try the official website of the book for a much more precise introduction...http://www.sixsongs.net....thanks......

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Confederacy of Dunces: John Kennedy Toole

This read was recommended by my ivy-league educated cousin, Ryan, who currently works as a Cellar Master for Copain Custom Crush (I know, sounds terrible, right?) in Sebastopol, California where he and his lovely wife Adrine are raising a handsome little man, Aren. It is pretty much the first written suggestion that has been sent to the Midge so "I jump in it." The book is set in New Orleans in the 60's and according to my roommate from said town it is a must read for locals. Therefore, she hated it. I, on the other hand, loved it. I think my favorite character would have to be Jones, the dark glasses wearing, smoke ring blowing, black man trying to become gainfully employed so as not to be harassed for being a vagrant. Jones is hilarious and his role is important, but he is still only a minor character. The central figure in this masterpiece is Ignatius J. Reilly, a complex, educated, artistic, idiotic, fat bastard of a man who at the age of thirty still lives with his mother and gallivants around New Orleans in a green hunting cap getting into ridiculous situations with French Quarter folk as he also attempts to become employed. Meanwhile, all the characters he meets slowly develop and some appear and reappear mixing and matching into new scenarios, which work on poor Ignatius' over stimulated mind until conspiracy theories begin to flash and flutter all throughout his days of thinking, eating, watching movies, and complaining. I really don't know how much more can be said of this one. It's quite a journey to take and Mr. Toole received many accolades posthumously for his efforts. You see, the book wasn't even released until after the author's death when his mother shopped it around and eventually got writer Walker Percy- who penned a beautiful forward for the story- to help her obtain a publisher. Other than that it really can only be figured out by reading it friends.....enjoy.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Michael Connelly Reading and Signing for: The Reversal

I've probably read 12 of Michael Connelly's books including the ones reviewed on this blog; The Lincoln Lawyer, The Overlook, Blood Work, etc., and others like 9 Dragons, Echo Park, The Narrows...and Borders sends me emails every single night around midnight with coupons and updates about author signings in my area...but...These are usually people I've never heard of and occur in Santa Monica. Then suddenly I get one for a book signing at the Borders in Torrance right near my lovely girlfriend's condo for Mr. Connelly's new book The Reversal. So, we say "Hey, there's something we've never done before.....let's go meet an author and buy a copy of his book to sign." It turned out to be a very quick and easy and I left happy. Connelly was very laid back and cool and had some quick quips for strange questions from the die-hards in attendance. For an example one cat blamed Connelly for ruining his perception of Detective Harry Bosch by finally adding his own picture to the back of the fifth or sixth novel. I have a picture of Bosch in my mind and never really thought of Michael Connelly as being Bosch, but the author just joked that Bosch was much older than he and that since he received a SAG card for being on a celebrity poker show he would be glad to be cast as Bosch in the future. The author also hung back late and signed as many books as these people had (some brought duffle bags full of his novels!) As expected I was one of the youngest fans there and the ones in my range were an extremely small percentage (Like 2%). Still, the older folks were very nice and chatty and the questions were good and he even spoke about the upcoming movie done on The Lincoln Lawyer starring Matthew McConaughey due out in March. Connelly hung out on the set for some of the more important scenes and said he was thrilled with the production and is looking forward to the movie. Meanwhile, the new book has both Mickey Haller of The Lincoln Lawyer and Connelly's most famous character Harry Bosch. I am about fifteen pages in and pretty excited to see what happens with the half brothers and Mickey's ex-wife, Maggie McPherson, all working together to prosecute an expected child rapist and murderer. As Connelly wrote on the book he signed for my brother Tim, "Welcome to the Labyrinth." Happy Reading, The Midge......

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Overlook: Michael Connelly

Yeah, so I used three of these Connelly novels in a row to insure that I would get the 5 book quota for the first time in several months. Whatever, it worked. I read this one on Saturday after returning from my second trip to San Diego in as many days. I made a CPK thincrust, Siciliano pizza and poured two fingers of some single-malt that my roommate had out on the counter (Vard, if you read this, thanks for the single malt. I figured that you would be cool with me trying it...) and perched out on the front balcony in the shade wearing a beanie and a sweatshirt over shorts and flops for several hours. It was refreshing to be back in the world of Harry Bosch and not just his creator, Connelly. Bosch and I share a love of jazz music and abrasive honesty that was lacking in the other two characters from the novels read previously this month. They were great, but Bosch is the character that makes me a big fan of the author. No real surprises about this one. Connelly is true to form and the book is a fast paced thriller that has some twists and turns that build tension up until the inevitable resolve. Smaller than most of his novels this one wraps up after about 275.......happy reading.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Blood Work: Michael Connelly

Blood Work is one of the best Michael Connelly books I've read. This one is about FBI agent Terry McCaleb who has recently had heart surgery and ends up being approached by the sister of the murder victim whose heart was given to McCaleb. Graciela Rivers, the murder victim's sister, had read a report about McCaleb in the LA times and eventually realizes that he is carrying her dead sister's heart and she approaches him to pick up the murder case and finish what the LAPD have started and given up on. The story telling and twists in this one we're a bit of a surprise to me considering that the book was written relatively early in Connelly's career, but all in all it has to be one of his very best. According to wikipedia (take it or leave it and call my post un-scholarly if you feel the need) Connelly was inspired to write the book after a friend of his was the recipient of a heart transplant and suffered post-op. stress due to survivor's guilt. I'll keep it short and sweet, but if you like mystery novels, cop novels, suspense novels, and the like then I would strongly recommend this one. As always, I also recommend this book and the work of similar authors like John Grisham as "stretching." So you haven't been reading lately and you want to get back into it, but the 700 page book your cousin sent you on environmentalism in the new millennium seems a bit too daunting? Stretch out with a page burner or two and then get back into the tougher and more rewarding ones that you really want to absorb.........enjoy.

The Lincoln Lawyer: Michael Connelly

I often refer to these novels as smut or to the act of reading them as stretching. Authors like Dan Brown of Da Vinci code fame, John Grisham, Michael Connelly, people whose books are constantly being read by the suit on the plane. People who write great mystery novels that often make great movies. The Lincoln Lawyer was good and I have never read a Michael Connelly story that I felt otherwise about. Some are better than others as we will see in the post I write immediately following this one, but they are all quick reads and they are all generally entertaining. Connelly certainly has a system and a form that he follows more or less exactly in every novel, but its a great form and the attention to detail, research, and added factual information about the greater Los Angeles area and the workings of its news and police entities make for believable and dramatic tales. This was the first non Harry Bosch novel that I got entirely through, with the exception of The Brass Verdict, which was a split of Haller and Bosch where they eventually came together. Mickey Haller is the son of a famous defense lawyer of the same name who died when the young Haller was just a kid. With a great knowledge of who his dad acquired through books the son eventually follows the same career path and in this novel becomes entangled in a web of deceit while defending a rich Bel Air client on assault and attempted murder charges. Classic Connelly. If you've read any others and enjoyed them then this one should provide the same page turning suspense.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Daniel J. Levitin: This is Your Brain on Music

This is Your Brain On Music obviously has a catchy title to anyone old enough to remember those corny public service announcements from the late 80's and I suppose it would take a special kind of person to be younger than that and be interested, but it is indeed a literal title. Levitin's book is an attempt at breaking down some new findings in neuroscience in regard to cognition and brain function while listening to, and/or playing music. Said attempt is a two-fold operation in that Levitin aims to discuss both neuroscience and abstract music theory with the average educated person. I believe that he succeeds very well in doing so for the science, but not necessarily for the music. I had no problem reading through the areas where he slowly discussed the very simplest of musical ideas because I know that music as a language and in written form can be very daunting and scary to the layperson, but later on he rattles through more complex concepts as if he has described the first two years of college level music theory in his first several paragraphs on the subject. I believe this leaves the musical discussion in a bit of a strange gray area. The explanations lie in a difficult place for non musicians and musicologists, but in a bit of a redundant and over explained place for the musically educated. However, I wouldn't call this an overt problem by any stretch of the imagination. There were things here and there in the neuroscience portion that went over my head, but within context I was able to roughly grasp them and move on so I suppose it is possible that others were able to do the same with the musical examples. The explanations of scientist's and experiments including music being played for infants and real time MRI's scanning brains during music listening and playing; and top neuroscientist's- including co-discoverer of the DNA strand and Nobel Prize winning molecular biologist, Francis Crick- discussing music and cognition make for an extremely enlightening and surprisingly fast read. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the brain and it's untapped potential and most definitely am recommending it to all musician's and science lover's. 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Dan Brown: The Lost Symbol

I was reluctant to pick this novel up when it first came out. Sure, The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons were both great, but I didn't feel the immediate need to join our beloved Professor Langdon on another far fetched adventure including secret societies and easily solved impossible puzzles. Eventually, I did encounter a dear friend reading this book and it just so happened that I was up against a wall with this project, so......I decided I was ready to throw my opinions out the window and once again use Dan Brown to remind me that a big book can fly by in a few days and work like a nice stretch before a long run. Did I rush out and buy it at my local book warehouse? No. If there is one author that I am completely convinced of being so popular that his expensive hard-back novels are always located at the local Goodwill for a dollar; it's Mr. Brown. I was right. The Lost Symbol was a quick and fun read and the fact that it took place in the capitol of the old U.S. of A. as opposed to Paris or Rome made it extra intriguing. If Brown's books do nothing else they certainly promote tourism and art history and to have him remind us that there is in fact amazing culture and art right here in the U.S. was a nice little change of pace. The only thing that bothered me about this book was Langdon still being so doubtful and skeptical when he has obviously encountered some myths turning into reality in the past novels. Sure, the Illuminati uprising turned out to just be a kook, but his eyes were certainly opened a bit in France. All in all, if you enjoyed either of the other two books then you should definitely like this one as well. Standard Brown, standard Langdon, fast paced and intelligently written. Two more books are bagged and reviews will follow....thanks.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The California Surf Project: Eric Soderquist and Chris Burkard

Chris Burkard and Eric Soderquist have created a beautiful tale of two friends living out a life-long dream and combining their talents to share excellent photography, art, video, and print of the entire journey. The friends set out with a grant from the Follow the Light Foundation- which was founded in memory of legendary surf photographer Larry Moore who tragically passed in 2005 from brain cancer (R.I.P.)- to start at the Oregon border and make their way to the Mexican border surfing, bumming, and collecting parking tickets on Soderquist's 1978 VW Bus. The 50 day trek hits breaks at everyone's favorite spots in CA including Humboldt, San Onofre, and my own back yard on the sharkey Sonoma coast. One of the best aspects of the book other than the epic photography of Burkard and the art and funny descriptions  from Soderquist is the lack of what my hard-core surfing, San Diego native roommate would call "Brolosophy." Soderquist's descriptions are a fun read and sound intelligent despite his often laid back approach. He doesn't get into some 5th grade take on eastern philosophy or tell you how they were one with the waves. It's just two big kids in the candy store of life on the left coast where magic remains eternal. Thanks guys.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Anna Karenina: Leo Tolstoy

Hmmmmmm......Well. Have you read this? Will you ever read this? No. I'm going to go ahead and say probably not. Did I enjoy it? No. Did it remind me of the pain and torture that I felt as a kid being forced to read books for junior high and high school english when I tried to forge on despite being blind with bordom? Pretty much. Sure, Tolstoy writes with some lovely similes, metaphors, and analogies, which all in all adds up to some lovely style and prose, but this book could be about a thousand pages shorter. By the time she finally committed suicide I was just sitting there thinking, "Wow, there it was. The one thing that could have saved this book if it happened months ago." I would have killed her myself if I had to read her cry-baby garbage for another ten pages. I know Tolstoy was purposefully pointing the finger at hypocrites in Russian high society, but it reads like five seasons of "The Days of our Lives." The characters that I liked at the front end of this monster, Levin and Oblonsky, became so tiresome and annoying by the end that I could no longer bear them either. Can we revisit the same arguments again Mr. Tolstoy? I haven't heard them drag on about the state of the Russian class system or share-cropping quite enough. Maybe Anna can say the exact same thing for the 37th time? Part of this project is to try and read these masters, but this book makes me think that an attempt at War and Peace could be the end of me. I'm sure there are a million critics who would write me off as an idiot from now on if they somehow stumbled upon and read this, but I just have to be honest. This book drags like a dog's dirty butt across a freshly cleaned shag carpet and has less entertainment value then watching such an act. Keep reading.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cities of the Plain: Cormac McCarthy

Well, The Border Trilogy had to come to an end sometime. In this third novel everything comes together and as one may have started to suspect in the second installment, The Crossing, Billy Parham is instantly shown to have a love for John Grady Cole due to the latter resembling the former's younger brother Boyd who was also extremely gifted with horses. Billy seems to have learned to appreciate Cole's hard headed nature and at eight years older certainly plays the role of big brother and best friend. This book was shorter and a much quicker read then the first two and despite it giving a feeling as if it were the book McCarthy originally conceptualized and the first two were just brilliantly formulated background; I would still have to agree that All the Pretty Horses was the best of the three. I missed the character of Lacey Rawlings who was John Grady's cousin and travelling companion in the first novel. Despite the fact that Billy was a similar character of thoughtful action as opposed to the instinctive and impulsive nature of the gifted horsemen that were John Grady and Boyd Parham I couldn't help, but hope that he would reappear in this conclusion. McCarthy does create characters that a reader grows attached to and this is true of all five of the main cowboys of the trilogy and even some of the smaller roles, particularly the other ranch hands in this finale. I also will admit that I found myself saddened to leave my new friends at the ending as the Los Angeles Book Review writer (quoted in the opening pages) had told me I would be. The end was shocking and abrupt and then the epilogue jumped so far into the future that I longed to know of the missing years. Overall, I enjoyed these books despite the death and the often dark philosophy. McCarthy truly is a gifted storyteller and I still desire to read more from him, namely, No Country for Old Men. Thanks.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The March of the Midge

Here we are in April and the Midge trudges on at about 7 books off of the pace. Still trying to make-up for a rough February and March.........The Border Trilogy is almost at a close and so is the never ending Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I also have Doctor Zhivago freshly purchased and sitting by on the bedside table. So....here is a poem for the time being. I'd hate to leave all of my millions of fans suffering....

An Al Green Record

An Al Green Record
No. A Paul McCartney ballad
A bee sting. My allergic reaction.
Like the World isn't ending
or like its ok.
A Perfect Authentic Cadence........Resolution
A Nervous Breakdown
Manic Depression
No. Bob Marley
Bobby Kennedy, Barack Obama, Sunrise,
Tequila Sunrise, Twilight, The In Between
A B S O L U T E  M U S I C
Debussy, Ravel, Berlioz, Mahler, Sturm und Drang, Requiem, Fantasia
Chopin, Brahms Chamber Music

It's like "When she Believes," or "You're Gonna Make me Lonesome When you go."
Like "Jesus, etc." and "I'm the Man who Loves You."

No it's and Al Green Record
The Wood Brothers, Martin Sexton, Otis Redding

                          It's the Same

"Still the Same," "Here, there, Everywhere."
Too Much. Too Many to Understand. All at Once. Full too Far, Far too Big.
The ones I can't bear when you're not there.
Segar, The Kings, "Radio King," "Jesus," "You are my Face," "Eitherway."
Ups, Downs, Highs, Lows, Can't keep even keel.
So many more new highs
Much Much More Mucho More
Everything Better, More Vivid, Important, True, Real, Fun.
It's "Simply Beautiful," "The Happy Song." I wouldn't dare play Otis except "The Happy Song."

There's more. It could poor. I could revise, edit, rewrite.
I don't know if it'd be better.
It's Organ, Piano, Stripped down, Bare Bones, Three Chords, Catchy Tune, Sappy Song, Cheezy Lyrics, and a poor arrangement.

It's Love Dummy. It hurts and heals and smiles and kneals and waits and waits...
You make me feel like an Al Green Record.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Crossing: Cormac McCarthy

Well this one really froze me up for a bit. There are Books I-IV and they can really feel as such. Again, McCarthy has lulled me into his slowly developing tale, but along the way I became attached to Billy Parham much in the same way I had with John Grady Cole. I love McCarthy's descriptions of the land and his attention to details regarding the joys of simple work, the majesty of horses and other animals, and to the difference between age-old wisdom and book smarts among men. The only parts in The Crossing that can really wear on a reader and slow one's progress through this novel are the often long and extremely detailed stories told by random acquaintances met on the road. To be sure, this is where Mr. McCarthy reveals a deep understanding of philosophy and local history and some critics may find these tales of oral-aural history from the random gypsies, vaqueros, and priests of McCarthy's old Mexico to be the true splendor of his prose, but they pop up out of nowhere and sometimes drag on. I am also willing to admit that they give great insight to his character's patience and wisdom beyond their years as John Grady, or in this chapter Billy Parham sit listening only to reply with thoughtfully formed questions, but again, I found myself getting stuck on them and longing to get on with the plot. The Crossing, much like All The Pretty Horses, is a sad story and it makes me expect nothing different from Cities of the Plain, which I have thus far sped through about 50 pages or so excited about the prospect of these two great characters coming together. It seems that Billy will certainly take to John Grady, seeing the resemblance between he and poor Boyd. Often one must find a character to grow attached to for a novel to grab a hold of he or she and McCarthy will give you those, but I am finding that the author's style of purposefully keeping his reader in the dark and slowly revealing truths as he sees fit and his simple, understated way of writing dialogue are growing on me just the same way. Keep reading and I'll keep trying to catch up.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Slaughterhouse Five: Kurt Vonnegut

Another high-school beaute. I wasn't one hundred percent sure that I hadn't read Slaughterhouse Five when I picked it up and started reading chapter one in the aisle of an undisclosed corporate monstrosity of a book store. Vonnegut's time-travel timeline kept me uncertain long enough to become thoroughly sucked in before realizing I definitely hadn't been assigned this one. Mr. Vonnegut's decision to choose such a sad character as his hero may be an extreme factor in its timeless effect and popularity. Billy Pilgrim's adventures in space, time, and sanity have undoubtedly influenced artists and authors and the literary technique of a skipping plot line has remained popular and prominent in works ranging from Quantum Leap to the movies of Quentin Tarantino. Of course, Vonnegut didn't invent the idea of time travel or the schizophrenic plot jumps, but his innovative description of what was once called shell-shock and is now referred to as post traumatic stress disorder was unprecedented and arguably more true than a non-fiction report on World War II or the Dresden firebombing (just ask Tim O'Brien, author of The Things They Carried). Like many Americans I find myself always drawn to and interested in anything World War II. Part of this may revolve around the fact that my grandfather was shot down over the Mediterranean Sea and spent two years in a Nazi prison camp. The story surrounding his parachuting, being picked up by a German ship, being marched right through a Hitler rally, and surviving in POW camp while his friends were all shot trying to escape is too remarkable to not have a profound effect on me and make me stop to thank god that I exist every now and then. John Brown somehow survived and continued to raise his family and was an amazing grandfather and so it goes. As for Slaughterhouse Five, it is short and you should read it. If you don't believe me check the Wikipedia article, which in this case is well referenced and beautifully concise and informative. Grazie.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Oil!: Upton Sinclair

Oil! is the 1927 novel by Pulitzer-Prize winning author and socialist politician, Upton Sinclair. Sinclair doesn't hesitate to reveal his pink blood in this work of semi-fiction, which claims to be full of truths which have been shuffled like the cards of a poker game. I suppose at the time of it's publication the public was much more aware of his political aspirations and even his failed attempt to create a utopian society in New Jersey, but I had only thought he was a socialist journalist and sympathizer until doing further research mid-story. The plot is not like There Will be Blood at all. At All. Sure, there are some of the same characters and the beginning's match up a bit, but the main character of the book is the son, J. Arnold Ross Jr. (Bunny), and the tale revolves much more heavily around Bunny's socialist struggles including the creation of a four-page paper, the attending of meetings world wide, and the borrowing of dad's money to bail out political prisoners of the party. Oil! also features a loose fictional expose of the early years of the Union Oil Company of California (Unocal), mixed and "shuffled" with what Sinclair claims as facts (at least some of which can be verified through U.S Senate reports and Historical texts) about Sinclair Oil and Edward L. Doheny's roles in the Teapot Dome scandal of the Harding administration. Teapot Dome, for readers of my generation who don't remember from U.S. History, was the biggest government scandal before Watergate and involved oil tycoons bribing government officials to acquire private leases of U.S. Naval Oil Fields in Wyoming and in Elk Hills and Buena Vista of Southern California. In the novel, our hero's father and some of his powerful associates purchase the entire presidency and pay off cabinet officials through a company in Canada. One direct correlation to known fact in the novel is the $100,000 bribe made by "Dad" and Vernon Roscoe, which is the exact dollar amount paid by Harry Sinclair to Albert B. Fall, then Secretary of the Interior, who was eventually indicted on charges of conspiracy and accepting bribes and eventually served prison time.  All in all, this book was much longer and slower than The Jungle and in my opinion is much less of a must read. I did enjoy Oil!, as historical fiction, but honestly found myself becoming more and more attached to J. Arnold Ross Sr. despite his shady dealings. Sure, he was paying off government officials and making moves on some unsuspecting country bumpkins, but he was an extremely loving and understanding father. He built his own American dream by playing the game the way the people in power played and he always respected Bunny's ideals and even strove to be as fair and understanding of the worker's plight as he could until he was overpowered by the big boy's of the Oil Manufacturer's Legion. Bunny was a good kid and really wanted to do good in the world and figure things out for himself, but his lack of guts and street smarts just wore me out long before the slow and bitter descent to a sad ending spawned from Mr. Upton Sinclair and his party's failure to create change in our capitalist society and government. Boo Hoo. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Jungle: Upton Sinclair

Upton Sinclair's 1906 novel, The Jungle, was not what I expected going in. Upon reading some articles and doing a little research I discovered that my pre-reading expectations were not uncommon. They were in fact the result of the American reaction to the novel from all the way back to it's original publication. The Jungle is most commonly known-especially among those who have not read it- as an expose of the horrors of the Chicago meat-packing industry around the turn of the century and what types of despicable and disgusting things were being fed to the general public. Sinclair had hoped to strike a chord with the public and show the plight of the poor immigrants who were locked into horrible jobs and tricked at every turn into remaining poor, eating poor, and being worked into the ground as fast as possible so that other, newer, younger immigrants could come in and follow in the same path. He wanted to give detailed descriptions of how these scenarios forced families to send all of the women and young children to work to scrape just enough to get by between the entire family. He wanted to uncover the local government's corruption and the union's useless struggle to fight for the common workers. Well...the book does all of this and it really drags the reader into the gutter. These being hard times for the average American, currently, I found this book to be one of the ones that reminded me of how much worse it could be and was for many of my Irish ancestors. In the test of time, however, the plight of the immigrants is not the main enduring theme. Instead, the theme that made The Jungle an almost instant best-seller and has remained the novel's calling card for over a century now is the mistreatment of meat and meat products by the Chicago stock-yard conglomerates. The use of chemicals and food coloring to trick consumers into eating beef and pork infected with tuberculosis. The pay-offs and head turnings of so called health inspectors. The overlooking of workers falling to their death in the rendering tanks and being turned into "Durham's Pure Beef Lard." The truth about "head cheese." Oh, just typing this makes me sick. Why have these themes triumphed over Sinclair's portrayal of the follies of our capitalist society? Well, other than the fact that capitalism forged our rise to power and socialism is the work of the DEVIL, I mean Obama, I mean the DEVIL!!! (That message brought to you by Fox News)... the book helped bring about new legislation, which ultimately led to the Food and Drug Administration. Mr. Sinclair was still rightfully unpleased by even this development due to the fact that the inspections and cost lay on the hands of the government and therefore the American taxpayers and not the packers themselves. Large scale food industry mishaps also remain relevant today due to documentaries like "Super Size Me," and "Fast Food Nation," which show a lack of true development and progress in the by-product laced beef of the American diet. Still, the many students of my generation who didn't read this one are missing out on the harsh tale of the odds stacked against relatives and ancestors of ours who came to this great nation as recent as a hundred years ago. Our grandparents and their parents may have and most likely were subjected to some of the same circumstances as Jurgis Rudkis and his family. Along the way I pulled for Jurgis and felt all of his torment. The lies, the struggles, the deaths, the impossibilities. When he broke away on his own I thought he might finally make it. False hope welled up inside as he took to hobo-ing it. Alas, the roller coaster only continued to show him highs and lows and in the end Sinclair rode the brakes down a never ending hill until I damn near fell asleep reading a socialist speech spoken to a small crowd in a Chicago hotel. Still, The Jungle is a must read today just as it was back in '06 and I am very glad to have added it to this project. I was most surprised by the socialist manifesto at the end, which left me feeling a little baffled and the story open-ended, but it isn't the first time I've finished a novel and thought: "Oh, so I guess novels don't always have to have an ending. Sometimes they are just a cross section of random history and fiction that kind of reel out of the author until he or she decides to stop on a whim and call it a day."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hello, Midge? You there?

Hell you been?
Here, just busy.
You still readin'?
You going to post somethin' soon?
Yessir, just finishing two books right now.
Good. What's the hold up?
Just got a recession busting job and I been busy, thass all. Not going to let the whole thing slip just yet.
Good. You let me know.

The Midge has been floating in the fray and reading as much as possible, but a new gig that runs in the evenings coupled with a few trips out of town has made finishing Jazz and The Crossing quite a feat. I had to stop in and let my millions of fans know that I will be posting both novel reviews as soon as possible and I am not going to let the Midget die so soon. Happy V Day and Happy Black history month....be on the lookout for new posts, thanks.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

1984: George Orwell

Finally. Now I know what all the talk is about. Big Brother is so much more than let on by the cheap uses by politicians and news media swine. The power of this novel is truly undeniable. It is the most translated novel period according to John Rodden's The Politics of Literary Reputation, with translations in sixty-five languages. The uses of other terms from the book beyond Big Brother including: doublethink, thoughtcrime, and ultimately Orwellian, the term based on the totalitarianism written about by Orwell in both this novel and Animal Farm (which I did read in high-school) and is in the Oxford Dictionary, say it all on this topic. Period. Therefore, I will stick to the story and my personal review and feelings of it. From the jump, Orwell brilliantly takes the reader into the "future" and makes them feel the oppression of The Party. I found it extremely hard to endure the second half of this book because I dearly and enthusiastically wanted Winston to somehow overcome the impossible odds. The diary represents a certain freedom and even the space in Mr. Smith's apartment where the tele screen can't see him is special. His paranoia and desire to thwart the powers that be are so easy to immediately identify with and Orwell masterfully puts the reader inside Winston's troubled head. These atrocities which are so precisely executed by The Inner Party and so easily swallowed by the members of The Outer Party enrage the mind of the 20th and 21st century reader. Certainly, the American reader with his strong ideals and beliefs in the power of freedom and each individuals god given right to be free. By the time that things are starting to look up and Julia enters the picture one finds himself elated at the prospects of what will come in books two and three. When the two characters finally flee the eyes and ears of Big Brother and meet at Julia's hiding place in the forrest to make love it is a thing of beauty. Even Winston's declaration that the more she'd done it and the higher number of partners the more it turned him on due to the power of numbers against The Party and that the act was solely to go against The Party- the hatred of which bred all of his lust- could not ruin the heat in Orwell's love scene. Fiery and passionless lust the very description of which is an act of doublethink. Oh, but how far your feeble joys will fall, dear reader. Mr. Orwell will soon show you that Winston was right all along and knew his own fate. Even that of Mr. Syme. The only surprise would turn out to be that Parsons would find himself among the ranks of the thoughtcriminals as well. And to my dismay Mr. Orwell will illuminate that before we even met Winston his fate was already laid before his feet. That the very diary he'd purchased a few weeks before the first page  had already incriminated him if his own face had not betrayed him to the telescreen long before. Or perhaps some small whimper in the night through dream. Oh, but the rabbit hole goes much farther than that...This book is certainly a must read and it's place in history is solidified it's line on every literary list saved. The books of January are now closed and on to February the midget must trudge. Thanks.

You can read 1984 online for free.... George Orwell's 1984

John Krakauer: Into the Wild

January was the month of McCarthy and Krakauer for the Midget. Two works hailed as classics and claimed by many scholars and buffs to be "must reads" were also completed and enjoyed. They being Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, an unforgettable piece, and the next articles focus, 1984. Every book read in this first month of the project was one that was on my mind for a long time and felt extremely good to slowly start, become entangled in, and ultimately discover what all the fuss was about. I was not let down in any manner. This second Krakauer report was actually well known to me long before I'd ever heard of Into Thin Air. I vaguely remembered being struck by the news of the Everest disaster in 1996 when it was all over the media for a quick minute, but that's about it. Into the Wild, however, is one that I remember seeing in the homes of a lot of people of different ages over the years since it was first published. Friend's and their older brothers or parents, aunts and uncles, many people, seemed to hold the book in the highest esteem and sternly bade me to read it every time I inquired. Once. I even picked it up maybe 10 years ago and read the first chapter. I was convinced I would go purchase and read it based on how enraptured I was by the opening description of Chris McCandless' end. Didn't happen. When the movie was under production I was again reminded of this story from my uncle who had read the book when it first came out and felt a close connection to McCandless. As a former crazy Tahoe youth and daredevil downhill skier and mountain adventurer my uncle Patrick easily took the book to heart and probably relived many close calls from his early twenties. He became even more involved with the prospects of the movie when he found out that Sean Penn had contacted out dear family friend and best friend of Patrick's, Jerry Hannan, to write a song for the soundtrack. Jerry, who often plays Irish folk tunes and his own brand of gritty California folk and Americana at our family parties ended up working in the studio with Eddie Vedder to record his song "Society," which was featured in the movie and considered for an Academy award. (note: Jerry told me that Vedder was an extremely nice guy and actually was the one who fought hard and eventually put his foot down when the production company tried to fuck Jerry out of his copyrights and thus residual pay for "Society.") So, having the soundtrack and having seen the movie long ago I finally set out to read this book and fill in all of the blanks in the story. It was tough to read at some points. I will once again admit that I cried at least once while reading this second Krakauer book (what will happen if I decide to go get his newest book on Pat Tillman?) These tragedies are true and extremely well reported and descriptively told and therefore beyond difficult to swallow. Did I feel any personal connection? Well, I admittedly once tried to hit the road at 17 during my freshmen year in college after reading On The Road. I caught a Greyhound to Chico and I can remember more than anything the feeling of flying and freedom that welled up inside after I had purchased the ticket and was happily eating a bagel and flipping through vinyl in downtown Santa Cruz. I figured I would head up to Chico and work in a restaurant for a few weeks of months then take my cash and hit the road down to Arizona to stay with my brothers. I had this ridiculous idea that I could just bounce from college town to college town and stay with kids I knew from home or else find new friends and eventually make it out to the east coast for a while. Didn't happen. I didn't even make it a day. I didn't have the talent or skills of Chris McCandless and I certainly hadn't been out alone on the road before or to the east coast at all nor did I have a real plan. I broke into and slept in the house of some friends who were out partying and drunkenly saw me sleeping on their couch when they stumbled in a 3am and then I rose in the morning before anyone was awake to return to the bus station and ride down to Oakland where I called my mom and was picked up and taken home with my tail up my ass. Does this and other small and silly adventures make me feel a real connection with Chris? Only in a very small way. A wistful kind of connection to the human spirit and the spirit of a young man maybe, but I would never compare any crazy stunts I pulled to what McCandless was capable of and actually did. Sure, I like many young men felt at times that I was indestructible and risked my health and life for adrenaline and cheap thrills, but he was a brilliant young mind who ventured way farther out on the ledge and the seemingly small mistakes that were enough to end his life are extremely saddening. Sometimes the world just cant handle a young person like Chris. They are so full of life and touch so many people and experience so much that nature, or god just decides they've done enough. It's sad and it always seems to be the most special breed of person, but Chris McCandless remains immortal in the spirit of youth, adventure, and American excitement. Rest in Peace.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cormac McCarthy: All the Pretty Horses

Well here we are at the end of the day on January 31st and the Midget is hurting to finish his goal already. I finished the first installment of "The Border Trilogy," entitled All the Pretty Horses a few days back, but haven't written the article just yet and am now struggling to finish both Into the Wild and 1984 at the same time. Since I am over half way through both of these books I feel pretty good about the project so far and I intend to stay up until I finish Into the Wild tonight. Meanwhile, I really enjoyed All the Pretty Horses. (note: I realize that writing a bunch of positive reviews for books that have already earned critical acclaim is kind of pointless and redundant, but a big part of the project is to read up on standards of cultural literacy including books that "everyone" read in high-school, etc. So...it is bound to happen) At first, I was really enjoying the slow pace of this book, but then it kind of took off on me. I was lulled by McCarthy, but perfectly happy with the vivid descriptions of the terrain and horses and his use of language among the characters, which has all of the Texas courtesy and drawl one might expect, but also the humble, yet remarkable intelligence he bestows upon these seemingly simple folk. McCarthy seems to delight in reminding "city folk" that farmers and country dwellers are still capable of intellect that is equal if not superior to their own. I was happily feeling nostalgia for my youthful trips to visit my father in northern Montana and the many lessons on the majesty of horses taught by my step mother. Then, the next thing I knew, John Grady and was in an all-out western thrill-ride easily worthy of Clint Eastwood's direction. It is certainly closer to No Country for Old Men then it is to The Road, which I say after only having seen the movie in the case of No Country, but...I did read up on the movie before it came out including an interview with McCarthy and the Coen brothers (supposedly a very rare one at that since McCarthy is extremely apprehensive around the media and known to many as a full-blown recluse). Therefore, since they actually worked together with Mr. McCarthy and reportedly jumped through a few hoops to make him happy, I am going to make an ass out of you and me and stake this claim based solely on the picture. I plan to read the rest of the trilogy and maybe even waste a few hours on the Billy Bob Thornton adaption for the screen, but for now I have the intention of reading some African American authors for Black History Month. The pile has already accumulated Lush Life: The Biography of Billy Strayhorn and Jazz by Toni Morrison...stay tuned.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jon Krakauer: Into Thin Air

This is a dark and gripping tale. Krakauer joins my list of painfully honest, favorite authors. I picked up Into the Wild about half way through this book feeling that I must actually read it and that having seen the movie just wouldn't suffice (Especially not within the contexts of these proceedings). This is the first book that caused me to cry in the project. When everyone is radioing to guide Rob Hall, one of the most celebrated and accomplished mountaineers and guides in Mt. Everest climbing history, and he is confused about whether or not he is willing or able to try and descend from the south summit. They keep imploring him to descend and Hall keeps deciding to do it, only to change his mind. Several times they even think he has finally mustered the strength and begun, but he then returns to the airwaves ten or so minutes later once again convinced he doesn't have the legs. Then he eventually speaks to his wife, Jan Arnold, via satellite phone. Hall tells her that he loves her and to "Sleep well my darling. Please don't worry too much," the last words anyone ever heard him say. There is so much tragedy in this story and the most difficult parts to read and ultimately swallow are when the adventurers have to make critical decisions about whether or not other climbers are savable or lost causes. Krakauer is truly brutally honest in his retelling. He Admits mistakes that may have jeopordized or even cost the lives of teammates including the announcement of having seen guide Andy Harris near camp IV and the Lhotse face hours previous, and therefore falsely presuming him dead and halting further rescue attempts. Only later during a phone interview with Martin Adams did Krakauer realize that the whole incident he remembered involving Harris was actually between himself and Adams, who incidentally hadn't remebered it being Krakauer he'd spoken to, either. The celebrated and controversial author also includes some of the painful letters received by Outside after his initial article was published including an angry and heartfelt letter from the wife of the late Scott Fisher,  Jean Price. In this reaction to Krakauer's article Price attacks the journalist's judgements and criticisms of other members and guides involved in the excursion, which she validly argues are mere speculations and further claims that Krakauer's writings will not quiet his restless conscious or bring him any peace. Tough stuff to hear and certainly immensly saddening for each to read the other's words. Reading this tragic tale amidst the biggest storm to hit Southern California in years complete with tornados????What?????? 80 mile per hour winds and 20 foot waves has definitely been an eerie experience I will not soon forget. 

Monday, January 18, 2010

Henry Miller: Tropic of Cancer

Such a fun read. The parallels to Kerouac and the realization of why Miller was such a big hero of Jack's was so immediately obvious. What a light-bulb. The zest for life, the splurge of ideas, ramblings, the seemingly effortless insightful observations, the ability to use the trashiest and most vulgar language and then turn around and use the highest levels of prose and poetry and Francais. To flow in and out of these different forms of language fluently and keep the reader on his/her toes and in my case ripping through Webster's and clicking through google to look up the French phrases. Augh. So good. A pilgrimage up the coast to Big Sur to Miller's library is inevitable. I feel that it is a must for this project, which has already brought so much joy in just 18 days. This novel and the reactions and the history...the banning in multiple countries for obvious reasons...I mean, 1934...damn...the balls on this kid....the sale of the original manuscript for $165,000 in February of 1986...the praise from not only critics and fans, but the most elite of his contemporaries...the legions of younger followers and aspiring American authors. It is liberating as a young aspiring author of even something as trite as these blogs and my leather bound diary full of poems, songs, reflections, ideas- to read people from farther and farther back in history and to put their works in their own contemporary contexts and to relate to their boiling American blood and open language and brutal, painful honesty. They are so easy to relate to and then bango! They floor you with something brilliant like Miller's sudden description of Whitman in the middle of the end:

"...He was the Poet of the Body and the Soul, Whitman. The first and the last poet. He is almost undecipherable today, a monument covered with rude hieroglyphs for which there is no key. It seems strange almost to mention his name over here. There is no equivalent in the languages of Europe for the spirit which he immortalized. Europe is saturated with art and her soil is full of dead treasures, but what Europe has never had is a free, healthy spirit, what you might call a MAN. Goethe was the nearest approach, but Goethe was a stuffed shirt, by comparison..."
 This is the kind of gold that lurks between the covers of Tropic and rewards the reader like a slap in the face to calm hysteria. I was quick to realize that it is insanely daunting to write about these masters, but it is these same masters who urge me on from within my own head. Rest in peace dear pioneers of the page, and thank you.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Road (Film)

Ok...so this goes against the description of my blog. "What a hypocrite." Whatever. Save it. At least you know I'm a human and not some cyborg toolkit reading these books with my eyes closed and my mind off. "Wait, Isn't that the whole idea? To read rather than turning one's mind off and staring?" Get over it non-existent reader who I am quoting, shit. Yeah, so in this case I went to the pictures and I sat and stared at the screen to see what Viggo Mortensen and John Hilcot did to this book. It seemed reasonable. I and many others have thoroughly enjoyed...or at least suffered through this story and ended up humbled and truly grateful to the author. I have to say that it was actually a pretty damn good movie. There were some issues here and there and I think I may have directed Viggo differently, but in the end, his even keel and quiet reflection made for a solid portrayal of "The man." The things that bothered me for a minute faded away because of his consistency and I was soon able to accept his mild manner and soft tone as a reasonable interpretation of McCarthy's character. "The man," was obviously tormented by some unimaginable demons and was slowly being worn down to the bone. If you didn't read the book then this movie is definitely worth seeing (it will be a rental before long because its' already out of most theaters) and if you did then give it a shot. If you usually try to separate the movie from the book as I do then you might just find that it isn't so hard to do in this case and that despite some minor details, sequencing, and very minor omissions, they are quite close. ONE thing did bother me at the end. Something so small as a location completely glazes over the resolve and sheer balls displayed by the child in the novel. However, I don't wish to spoil anything if someone actually stumbles upon this drop of water in the ocean of blogs so please comment if you care to discuss this matter...ye lost and wandering soul with time to kill.....

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Beatnik Historical Landmark in LA?

Check this link about the former Venice West Cafe, once a favored hang of Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek, being under review as a possible cultural landmark here in LA. The best part of this article is probably the quotes at the bottom on how the possibility of a Beat scene in LA scared the shit out of squares and local police. I agree that having a replica of the cafe re-made would be cool, but its still just a corny attempt made by the same squares who feared and shot-down the original movement. If you dig the beat scene head north my friends......
Seeking Establishment recognition of Beat hangout's importance

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cormac McCarthy's The Road

I was recommended to read this book around the time I moved to Los Angeles from San Diego at the beginning of last summer. My roommates, a wholly sophisticated and educated couple, had said to push through the first 50 to 100 pages and then I would be hooked. Well, I started to read it, but didn't make it quite that far and as I began to move I was asked to make sure I left their copy behind. Months later when the movie was about to come out and I had only continued to hear great things about the novel I decided I needed to pick it up soon. Oh, but that dragged out as well until finally I asked for the book for Christmas and I got it. It is the first book of this project and the first book of 2010 for me and I have resisted the urge to see the movie so that I could take it in. The previews for the movie did give me a little extra understanding and made it easier for me to get ensnared in McCarthy's story from the jump. Instantly, the prose makes me step back unconsciously crack my pencil in my left hand, and say to myself, "Holy shit, this guy is smart. Perhaps I should give up wanting to write in any format and leave it to the more skilled and studied literati".....ah, fuck it. I will just continue to read more of the masters of past and present and continue to learn. McCarthy is vividly descriptive in this post-apocalyptic tale of a father and son trudging through wasted America in hopes of continuing to live. The goals are uncertain and this is one of those books that grows like a giant black cloud and the reader finds his or herself slowly facing up to the fact that a happy ending just isn't in the cards. I have read critics that say McCarthy must be a tormented soul, but I say that if he is then we are insanely lucky that he decides to share his inner pain so eloquently. The Road is a relatively quick-read and the journey is undoubtedly one of hope against all odds. Whether you saw the movie or not I would recommend spending a few days with this novel; Oprah fan or not. Happy Sorrows....

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


So this project pretty much started in December. I was (as I often do) feeling guilty about not reading enough and turning off my brain too often to stare at the blank window of the world. I had been trying to finish my biography of Elvis Costello; Complicated Shadows (written by Graeme Thompson and highly recommended) for just a little too long and I decided to try and read four books that month. I was able to pull it off. I read two Kerouac beauties: Big Sur and The Dharma Bums-both of which I enjoyed though I admittedly found The Dharma Bums to be ten times more entertaining and enjoyable for seemingly obvious reasons. The documentary on Kerouac's Big Sur had prompted me to revisit this favorite author of mine whose On The Road and Lonesome Traveler have always been close to my heart....Things were working out. I then was able to read the new Michael Connely novel, 9 Dragons, a new Harry Bosch detective book in a series that I love and have read probably six and listened to two more in the car on the ride home to northern California. That put me at four for the month. It felt good and I decided to make a new year's resolution to read five or more books a month for the new year and write short reviews in this here ol' blog about it........here we go