November 20, 2013 by Reader's Connection
One holiday gift I have planned: I’m going to give one of my sons, or both of them together (they’ll share it, anyway) a copy of Legends, Icons & Rebels : Music That Changed the World.
It is written in part by Robbie Robertson, guitarist & principal songwriter for my all-time favorite rock group, The Band. The grandiloquent title had me worried that Robbie had written a grandiloquent book, but perhaps his co-authors (his son and two others) helped him avoid that. The three reviews that I’ve read are raves. Here’s Booklist:
Wow. Just wow! This book is big in every way. Robertson, best known as a member of the Band, and his cowriters introduce the heavyweights of popular music to a new generation. Incredible thought has been put into this oversize offering, from selection of the artists to the eye-popping design and even to the quality of the paper. CDs of the artists’ music are included, something books about musicians often miss. The book’s art is hard to resist. Big, bold graphic portraits begin every section. A variety of illustrators have provided the pictures, and each one is so memorable you want to rip it out and frame it. (Don’t do that.) Chuck Berry duckwalks on a checkerboard. Aretha sings her heart out at the piano. In a graphite image, more like a photo than a drawing, a young, beautiful Elvis, guitar in hand, eyes the reader. In a book so visually appealing, it’s a treat that the words grab as much as the pictures. Though each artist gets just a two-page spread, there’s such well-chosen personal and professional information, young people will come away with an understanding of each person’s evolution. All of the material feels fresh, and with back matter aplenty, there are lots of ways that this could be used in schools–or kids could just kick back, read, and listen.
And at the end of its review, Publishers Weekly calls the book “An ideal gift for children whose parents have just discovered that they don’t know who Otis Redding is. ”
A list of gift suggestions for children will be appearing on the Kids’ Blog, but here’s a start.
November 16, 2013 by Reader's Connection
Maxine, a fraud investigator in New York City, is on almost every page of Thomas Pynchon’s new novel Bleeding Edge, so I manage to keep track of her. But most of the other characters are more elusive. A name will pop up–Cornelia, for example–and I’ll wonder if I’m supposed to know this person. Then I’ll realize that Cornelia is married to Rocky, and I’ll think “Oh, yeah, I pretty much remember Rocky.”
Why do I keep reading this thing? Because it keeps me laughing. Reg Despard, who is introduced in the second chapter, and whom I’ve remembered, is a “documentary guy” who helps Maxine with some of her fraud work, but began as a movie pirate, smuggling his camcorder into theaters.
Professional quality tended to suffer around the edges, noisy filmgoers bringing their lunch in loud paper bags or getting up in the middle of the movie to block the view, often for minutes of running time. Reg’s grip on the camcorder not always being that steady, the screen would wander around in the frame, sometimes slow and dreamy though other times with stunning abruptness. When Reg discovered the zoom feature on his camcorder, there was a lot of zooming in and out for what you’d have to call its own sake, details of human anatomy, extras in crowd scenes, hip-looking cars in the background traffic, so forth. One fateful day in Washington Square, Reg happened to sell one of his cassettes to a professor at NYU who taught film, who next day came running down the street after Reg to ask, out of breath, if Reg knew how far ahead of the leading edge of this post-postmodern art form he was working, “with your neo-Brechtian subversion of the diegesis.”
Because this somehow sounded like a pitch for a Christian weight-loss program, Reg’s attention began to drift, but . . . soon Reg was showing his tapes to doctoral seminars . . .
Hearing this unraveling prose on the audiobook CD while driving must be fun, though a bit unsafe.
Maxine’s current investigation involves embezzlement, strange occurrences on the Deep Web, and at least one murder out here in meatspace–what you and I call the real world. I’m not doing much better with the story line than I am with the characters. Our tale is set in 2001, and I’m not giving anything away when I say that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 come to pass. Maxine is bombarded with paranoid theories about who’s responsible, but I was surprised by the thoughtfulness Pynchon displays when Maxine walks past a firehouse where men have been lost, and surprised by how moving her Thanksgiving meal is, that year. (I’ve only read one and a half Pynchon novels, prior to this one.)
After page 300 or so, I began to do better with the characters. Horst, who hails from the Midwest, is Maxine’s sometime husband. Otis and Ziggy are her sons. She’s a Jewish mother, as well as a fraud investigator, and these identities complement one another. Let’s finish with an upbeat passage:
The spread on the Jets-Indianapolis game Sunday is 2 points. Horst, regionally loyal as always, bets Ziggy and Otis a pizza that the Colts will win, which in fact they do in a 21-point walkover. Peyton Manning can do no wrong, Vinny Testaverde is a little less consistent, managing in the last five minutes for example to fumble on the Colts’ 2-yard line to a defensive end who then proceeds to run the ball 98 yards to a touchdown, as Testaverde alone chases him up the field while the rest of the Jets look on, and Ziggy and Otis lapse into intemperate language their father doesn’t see how he can call them out for.
Almost forgot: Bleeding Edge is nominated for the National Book Award–the winners will be announced next Wednesday, November 20th–and the book would make a great gift for any Pynchon fan on your list who hasn’t already read it.
November 12, 2013 by Reader's Connection
1. What is the only gift suggestion that I’m repeating from last year’s gift suggestion list?
|2. What gift has already been given, but is given again when you give it?Was that unclear? Let me do it over.|
3. If you want the person receiving your gift to know that what she or he has in hand is a gift that is already helping the people of Indianapolis, what should you give?
A gift card to Indy Reads Books, of course! The image here has been colorized and transmogrified for dramatic effect, but the money spent on the gift card is indeed, as it says, “already working to support our adult literacy programs in Indianapolis.”
What a deal!
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November 7, 2013 by Reader's Connection
The winners of the 2013 Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Awards were interviewed after receiving their awards on Saturday, October 26th. Click the pictures to hear the interviews.
November 4, 2013 by Reader's Connection
Every gift suggestion list should include at least one coffee table book, and mine for this year comes from David Thomson. The prolific film scholar has released yet another batch of speculations and broodings, shot through, as usual, with surprising new ways of looking at movies. Readers get some extra help with looking, this time, because Thomson’s descriptions of Moments that Made the Movies are illustrated with stills.
If I name the movies, you can guess some of the moments. Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm from When Harry Met Sally is included, even though Thomson isn’t crazy about that film. “The big moments don’t always come in outstanding pictures. Still, when I outlined the book, acquaintances knew I had to do When Harry Met Sally. They would have felt wronged if I left it out.”
Other selections might surprise you. From Psycho, Thomson doesn’t fix on the horrid shower scene, but on the conversation that the character Marion has with the gentleman who runs the motel where she has just checked in. He is “the first gentle, sympathetic or insightful person in the film. Now I will concede that there are some worrying things about Norman Bates . . . But Norman is as shy, polite and engaging as Anthony Perkins. Despite his solitude, he seems to understand people. This is not just the most absorbing personal conversation in the film, it is one of the most searching talks in all of Hitchcock.”
I don’t like the cymbal-clashes with which Thomson concludes some of his pieces–e.g., The Shop Around the Corner–and I think the last sentence that he writes about Zodiac has a typo. Perhaps the book’s pieces were assembled in a hurry. But there’s insight and heart in all his accounts of key moments, and the pictures are wonderful. The picture of Margaret Sullavan from The Shop Around the Corner really is magnificent, and the shot of John Carroll Lynch, playing the man who may have been the Zodiac killer, reminds me that Thomson and I agree about this chilling, memorable moment.
And this blog post probably contains at least one typo.