Friday, May 28, 2010

(Book #19) Henry James - The Turn of the Screw

I hadn't intended on reading Henry James's 'The Turn of the Screw', but as I wandered around the library a couple weeks ago, I came upon it, and recalled a past episode of LOST where it was mentioned. It’s a short book, so I assumed it would be a fast and appropriate read to blast though before the final episode of LOST last Sunday. In the end it didn't turn out to be all that much related to the show or that fast of a read.

As I started reading the book, I couldn't help but realize how overly verbose literally every sentence was, taking a paragraph of extravagant words to illustrate what could have been related in a few words. This also resulted in much confusion and longer reading time. The book, having been written over a century ago, reflects the style and language of its time and tells of a governess charmed into overseeing two young children out in the country. Life on this estate is not as it seems, and the presence of mysterious spirits adds a "horror" element to the story. As the story plods along, the governess is slowly driven mad by her own paranoia. As her psychological state takes hold in her mind (hence the metaphorical screw-turning), I was expecting some sort of twist or great reveal after all the suspense and build up, but it never comes and I was left dissatisfied. My initial reaction was that I had missed the ending, that somewhere in the dialectical rambling was the key phrase and I just missed the reveal, but alas, the ending was completely left open to interpretation.

I suppose some might say that this ending might relate to LOST after all for the very reasons I just described, but to those hypothetical naysayers, I would strongly disagree! The finale was beautiful and a great culminations of 6 years of drama, action and character and in contrast I could not be sufficiently moved by Turn of the Screw's 150 pages of haughty melodrama.

Moving on…

Sunday, May 16, 2010

(Book #18) Mike Nelson - Movie Megacheese

For my next book, I read Mike Nelson's 'Movie Megacheese' . Nelson being most notable as the guy from Mystery Science Theater 3000 that talks over B-movies with two robots. I will admit that I have not seen much of this show at all, but do appreciate the occasional crappy flick once in a while. In this book, Mike Wilson has no shame in hammering away at every subpar action movie, or romantic comedy that came out between 1980 and 2000, when this book was released. Classic movies such as Face/Off, Anaconda and anything starring Jean-Claude Van Damme are appropriately skewered. The likes of Patrick Swayze, Paulie Shore and all of the Baldwins are also the subjects of much cinematic ire, and rightly so! Swayze's Road House is actually held as the very pinnacle of bad movies and is the benchmark against which every other movie is compared!

My wife was actually who suggest I read this book because she is a fan of MST3K(as it is termed) , and that "it is a funny, quick read and will be good research." I will admit that it was indeed those things, an entertaining read that provided a little insight into amusing movie reviews that roast the mediocre. This is something that I have been interested in doing, but for a very specific breed of movie or television, those involving architects as characters. It fascinates me that a particular profession can be so poorly represented in film and television. Likewise, Nelson cannot seem to resist going after poor depictions of pretty much anything! His method is commendable and he fully commits to experiencing these movies completely, not only making it through the movie but forcing himself to watch it again with DVD commentaries and going through all the bonus features. The reviews didn't get too in depth, and he often side-tracked with personal anecdotes, but you could tell that as silly and cranky as his essays were, Nelson was writing about a subject that he thoroughly enjoyed and spent more time with than should be humanly capable.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

(Book #17) Malcolm Jay - 50 Years At The Craps Table

I picked up this book called 50 Years At The Craps Tables from the library as a quick and informative read in preparation for my forthcoming trip to Las Vegas. It was mostly filled with anecdotes related to craps and gambling, but was not as informative as I had hoped. I didn't say all the books I read were going to be masterpieces, so at least I got another one done.

Moving on…

Sunday, May 2, 2010

(Book #16) Hunter S. Thompson - Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas

Perhaps it is apropos that I finished reading Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas a mere week before actually going to Vegas myself. The book opens suitably on the open road, Highway 15, between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, as so many trips to Sin City often start. This is where we meet our drug-addled pair of characters, a version of Thompson himself and his nameless Samoan attorney, driving wildly in a red convertible towards their destination. The duo are on some sort of wild journey of which the impetus is established, but the driving force behind their story is indistinguishable through all the mad ravings and cringe worthy actions. When it is eventually revealed it's still unclear if they can be taken seriously at all, if they are really searching for meaning of the American Dream, or if that is just where they happened to land when the dust finally settled.

Thompson writes in a style all of his own , something he calls "Gonzo Journalism". It resides somewhere between journalism and fiction, which according to him should be, and in most cases are, indistinguishable. Regardless, the writing style of Thompson is all his own and unabashed in its bizarre sincerity. Fear and Loathing at its root is about the drug culture of the early 70's, but also illustrates the socio-political landscape of the Post-Vietnam, anti-drug Nixon Era. Some chapters in the book clearly reflect Thompson's opinions of these subjects, while others leave the reader struggling to find context or reason within the alienating, albeit very funny at times, madness. It is also worth noting the fantastic Ralph Steadman illustrations speckled throughout the book, giving some graphic representations of some of the more vivid and disturbing imagery.

In responding to the reading as a whole, I would say that it was a different but certainly entertaining read. Not having a whole lot of knowledge about the author, his work or his character, this book has left me a little intrigued about him as a person or his other writings, but I suspect Hunter S. Thompson is someone best handled in small doses.