I have been, and always shall be, your friend. ~Spock, The Wrath of Khan
Of my friend, I can only say this: Of all the souls I have encountered in my
I have been, and always shall be, your friend. ~Spock, The Wrath of Khan
Of my friend, I can only say this: Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most...human. ~Capt. Kirk, The Wrath of Khan
I'm betting the vast majority of readers/listeners finding their way to this book will have been lifelong Trekkies, having come of age watching Star Trek in syndication, waiting with keen anticipation as each motion picture installment was released in the franchise, discovering new things to love about the Trek verse as it expanded/exploded to include The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager.
This isn't me. I'm coming to Trek shockingly late -- 50 years after the 1966 premiere of the original series starring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. For me the paint isn't even dry. It started only last summer with the release of Star Trek: Beyond. I decided I would go see it, but I didn't want to do that until I had watched the first two movies in JJ Abrams reboot (keeping in mind I had never seen an episode of Star Trek -- ANY Star Trek -- in my life, nor any of the movies). As someone who had been raised and steeped in the horror tradition, A LOT of sci-fi nerdy stuff passed me by altogether (yes, including Star Wars). I wasn't interested, and for a long time, I really didn't think any of it was being made for me anyway. None of it felt like my "tribe" so to speak, or anything I was able or willing to relate to.
Fast forward to August 2016. I watch the Abrams movies and LOVE them -- especially Beyond which is my favourite of the three. I loved these movies so much, and fell in love with Pine's and Quinto's portrayals of Kirk and Spock so completely, it triggered an almost immediate overwhelming desire to go back and watch the entire run of the original Star Trek -- yes, even season 3, all of it -- which as any Trekkie reading this knows is an exercise in endurance, patience and frustration at the sharp decline in quality the series would take in its final year.
But it was worth it -- after seeing a new generation of young actors tackle these iconic characters so successfully, I had to go back to the beginning and experience the Shatner/Nimoy dynamic that launched a franchise so big and so far reaching it was still finding people and captivating them five decades later. I needed to see with my own eyes, feel with my own heart, what was so special about this low-budget sci-fi television show from the 60s that would make millions of people from all over the world into lifelong Trekkies.
I came to this project with a lot of skepticism, certain after all these many decades there was no way the show would have the ability to resonate with me now or hold my interest. Too much time had passed. It would seem too old-fashioned, cheap and silly. And for sure, watching those first few episodes I giggled at some of the ridiculous cheesy "special effects", the poorly choreographed fight sequences where no attempt was made to hide the stunt double, and Shatner's chewing up the scenery every chance he got.
But these elements became part of the show's vintage charm for me, and more than that, superficial characteristics of a show that would go on to convince me of its imaginative and thought-provoking storytelling wrapped up in a contagious adventure of the week style. I was hooked. More than that, like millions before me, I was falling in love with Mr. Spock -- the forever logical, keenly observant and emotionally controlled First Officer of Starfleet's USS Enterprise -- a role I can't believe anyone else could have brought to life so vividly or memorably as Leonard Nimoy.
As I made my way through the original TV series (with the help and guidance from a bona fide Trek nerd who shall remain unnamed), I would also begin watching the films. The deeper into the Trek verse I went, the more deeply attached I became to the characters, and began to fully appreciate the unique on-screen chemistry shared between Shatner and Nimoy. The best actors act -- they are paid to feel things they are not really feeling -- but that nebulous, indefinable chemistry cannot be bought and sold, faked or forced. What Shatner and Nimoy share on the screen as Kirk and Spock is something special and precious to behold. It would shape and inform a unique, sometimes difficult and contentious, friendship that would last half a century.
Listening to Shatner read aloud his remembrances of his friendship with such a charismatic, multi-talented, deeply loved man, I came to the conclusion that Shatner is being sincere here. You can hear the respect and unchecked admiration for the man Nimoy was, and the blinding love Shatner held for him (even when his narcissistic tendencies would bring up feelings of competition and jealousy and even resentment). It's sweet, and at times terribly sad. You can detect a note of loneliness in Shatner's words as he confesses to his lack of any lasting friendships with anyone, save for Nimoy who Fate had fused the two men together on this remarkable journey of a lifetime. But even Nimoy -- after decades of sharing his world with Shatner -- would suddenly (and inexplicably from Shatner's viewpoint) end their relationship and cut off all direct contact.
Shatner doesn't go into too much detail regarding the men's epic falling out. He's playing dumb and seems honestly baffled and hurt why Nimoy would cut him out of his life around the time Shatner was making the documentary The Captains in 2011. Obviously, whether Shatner wants to confront his role in the falling out or not, the saddest part of all of this is that these two men brought together, and held together, by extraordinary circumstances, would not have each other as one faced a terminal illness and death. When Nimoy finally did pass away in February 2015, Shatner chose to appear at a charity fundraiser for the Red Cross and would not make it to Nimoy's funeral, a fact I'm sure some Trekkies will never forgive him for.
I choose to be a little more forgiving and understanding. I feel Shatner's grief and sense of loss are genuine and keenly, sharply experienced. While there is a lot of information presented here that is re-hashing material previously published elsewhere, there is also a new-found humility as Shatner tries to work through some of his feelings of inadequacy, and never quite measuring up to the depth and breadth of talent and integrity that was Leonard Nimoy. It really is a love letter in a lot of important ways, as Shatner attempts to make sense of the wonder of it all and his and Nimoy's place in it as he faces his own inevitable mortality.
I can only hope when it's Shatner's turn to shuffle off this mortal coil, there is some kind of afterlife waiting for all of us, and that he and Nimoy find each other there and find a way back to forgiveness and the special friendship they once shared.
I'm going to end this review by recommending the recent documentary For the Love of Spock. This isn't just mandatory viewing for Trek fans, but is also a poignant and comprehensive look at the life of a remarkable man and the resonating influence of an iconic figure who has come to mean so much to so many. LLAP friends.
“If anyone reads this when I have passed to the big bad beyond I shall be posthumously embarrassed. I shall spend my entire afterlife blushing.”
“If anyone reads this when I have passed to the big bad beyond I shall be posthumously embarrassed. I shall spend my entire afterlife blushing.”
Didn't we all feel this way about our diaries as hyper-dramatic, brooding adolescents, at the mercy of our raging hormones and our short-circuiting ever expanding neural pathways and vivid imaginations? Sure we did, those of us who bothered to "write it all out and down" (which I think tends to be more of a female act of expression, than male -- but I could be wrong there). From the time we are little girls, women are "encouraged" to keep a diary, a locked and private totem where we can pour all of our heartfelt dreams, desires, bitter disappointments, enraged indictments of others, etc, etc. At its best, diary keeping can be a cathartic positive form of meditation and contemplation, giving its writer opportunity for reflection and insight.
Mostly though? It is a place to go to rage and seethe, pine and moan. It's a place to write bad poetry, a place to confess the most intimate details of our most crushing of crushes. It's a baring of the soul in the most embarrassing of ways. There is a popular podcast capitalizing on this embarrassment factor by persuading adults to read passages from their early diaries in front of a live audience. Mortified can make for sweet and honest listening, funny, endearing, and sometimes cringe-inducing as we relate a little too closely to what's being read aloud and recalling something from our past that we'd just as soon forget. At one point or another, we've all been there.
In 1976, Carrie Fisher was 19 years old and had begun filming what would arguably become the most famous science fiction movie of all time, launching a franchise and characters that in the intervening years have resonated with millions around the world (and continues to do so as new installments hit theaters). No one at the time could have possibly predicted the film's gargantuan success, least of all its young co-stars, and perhaps especially, a fresh-faced, doe-eyed, insecure and terrified Ms. Fisher.
So what is this short memoir really? A little less than half is some of the passages from the diary Carrie kept in 1976 while filming Star Wars. But for you die-hard fans out there, this isn't an exclusive behind-the-scenes tell-all on the making of George Lucas's epic, enduring space opera. There is very little to none of that kind of detail here. Instead what we have is the (sometimes) mortifying, but achingly honest, musings of a young woman in the throes of infatuation with an older married man.
In 1976, Harrison Ford was 35 with a wife and two children, but this didn't stop him from starting a brief, nearly wordless affair with the young Carrie Fisher. She fell into a confused, anxious, questioning kind of love, Harrison remained detached, composed and in control. Not surprisingly, an affair between one so young and inexperienced, and one so matured and advanced in his life choices was terribly lop-sided in its balance of power. It didn't help that at the time Harrison was the very epitome of the "strong, silent type". Whatever he was feeling or thinking, Carrie was only left to guess, and pour her musings and insecurities out onto the page.
For context though, and the all elusive sub-text, the sharing of these innocent diary musings are an interesting addition to the Star Wars canonical universe. For decades, fans and celebrity gossip mongers have speculated that an affair did indeed take place, but both Carrie and Harrison never confirmed or denied, they just stayed mum. Some things are private, even for someone like Ms. Fisher who is famous for over-sharing. So why come clean now? Carrie explains her reasons, and I respect them. I don't think she did this to be salacious or provocative, this is just an extension of the honesty she's brought to all parts of her life, and after forty years she felt enough time had passed that no one was going to care enough to be hurt or feel betrayed.
Carrie presents her affair with Harrison in a rueful, breezy manner but it's clear just how torturous and unhealthy a thing that it was (how it starts is even more disturbing, but likely not unique to young film actresses everywhere). This isn't a fairy tale. Largely, the account left me sad, and a little depressed.
The other half of the short memoir (which I liked much better) reads like a smart, sassy essay, as Carrie tries to put her life as Princess Leia into some kind of larger context, what it's like to be super famous for one role, and how the line so quickly and easily blurs -- "am I Princess Leia, or is she me?" Carrie has some amusing anecdotes to share about fandom and the often odd behaviors and requests she's been subjected to for over forty years, but she also expresses her deep love and gratitude for the millions of fans who will only ever see her as Princess Leia.
It was bittersweet listening to this as an audiobook -- Carrie's voice is confident, with her signature snark and wry amusement. It is a voice filled with a zest and perpetual curiosity for life, a life that was just recently cut tragically short at age 60....more
A note about the audiobook -- I started listening to this one and it wasn't quite grabbing me. The text was falling flat for some reason and my mind wA note about the audiobook -- I started listening to this one and it wasn't quite grabbing me. The text was falling flat for some reason and my mind wandered a little too much. Debra Winger has a lovely delivery as the reader, but the audiobook just didn't work for me this time. So I abandoned it for the hardcover -- and finished it in one sitting I became that engrossed and enthralled, moved and inspired.
In June of 2015 I was lucky enough to attend the American Library Association conference held in San Francisco that year. Not only was it a thrill to be surrounded by 20,000 librarians from all corners of the library world, but the City by the Bay had been on my bucket list for years. It was a week of great food and much adventuring (including a day trip to Alcatraz), with thankfully no earthquakes. But the absolute highlight of the entire shebang was getting to see Gloria Steinem speak in person. Let me just say that at 81 years old, this woman has lost none of her charisma, style, and magnetic presence. She is as strikingly beautiful as she has ever been, and her generosity of spirit and kindness beam from her person like the warmth of a thousand suns.
Her latest book is a compilation of memories and reflection of a life lived on the road and what it means to be an "organizer" -- of social justice movements, of rallies, of connecting others. When most people think of Steinem they think "feminist" and "speaker" and "leader" but what she's spent most of her life doing is listening and that is what has made her so good at being all of those other things. To be a great organizer, you need to first listen, and from the listening will come empathy, understanding, knowledge, and new ideas. Now into her eighth decade, Steinem continues to listen, never one to believe she has learned all there is to know, or is now someone who carries all the answers to truth and justice and gender equality.
I was surprised to learn that Steinem is a nervous public speaker, and though she has spent a life doing it, still gets butterflies before getting up in front of a group of people. I can't imagine a life on the road as she has lived it, so very untethered. I am too much of a homebody to have ever been called to such a nomadic life, but there is a part of me that wonders what I've missed in the way of human connection and adventure. When she turned 50, Steinem finally purchased a home and began to nest, and though her nomadic adventures would persist at least now she had a place to return and rest and refuel. Maybe when I turn 50 I'll do the opposite and take to the road!
It's the surprise, the unexpected, the out of control. It turns out that laughter is the only free emotion--the only one that can't be compelled. We can be made to fear. We can even be made to believe that we're in love because, if we're kept dependent and isolated for long enough, we bond in order to survive. But laughter explodes like aha! It comes when the punch line changes everything that has gone before, when two opposites collide and make a third, when we suddenly see a new reality. Einstein said he had to be very careful while shaving, because when he had an idea he laughed -- and he cut himself. Laughter is an orgasm of the mind. ~Gloria Steinem, My Life on the Road
This is not a perfect book. In her passion for the subject and her glowing respect for LA Homicide Detective John Skaggs, Leovy's effusive praise can This is not a perfect book. In her passion for the subject and her glowing respect for LA Homicide Detective John Skaggs, Leovy's effusive praise can feel overstated, venturing into fangirl territory -- as if she were writing up an application essay to have Skaggs knighted or appointed to sainthood. But I'm going to cut her some slack since this book is extremely well researched, and powerfully presented. Leovy has been embedded for years in the crime area she is writing about -- the infamous South Central Los Angeles. This isn't an outsider elbowing her way into the quagmire of violence, but rather an LA citizen that deeply cares about the "plague of murders" devastating LA County's young black men and the tragic toll it has taken on those who loved them.
While the narrative arc for the book is to cover in-depth one particular homicide -- that of 18 year old African American Bryant Tennelle (son of Wallace Tennelle, a highly respected detective with the Los Angeles police), Leovy does a great job balancing the intimate details of this case with a larger encompassing analysis of race relations in America and the rise of Los Angeles gangs and black on black homicidal violence. The statistics she presents are both shocking and depressing; for example, African-American males make up “just 6 percent of the country’s population but nearly 40 percent of those murdered.” Furthermore, in the wake of improving national crime statistics (even for LA County), homicide remains the No. 1 cause of death for African-American males ages 15 to 34.
So Leovy wants to try and put some of this numbing tragedy into a meaningful context -- how have the lives of young black men become so cheap? Why has this bloody pattern of black on black violence become so commonplace? And what needs to be done to end this plague once and for all? Leovy doesn't have the answers, but I appreciate her attempts to tackle the at times, controversial and painful issues, and shed light on a problem that's difficult to know, understand and talk about.
Again I will reiterate: this is not a perfect book. There are a lot of names and shifting points of view that, as a reader, it's easy to get lost or frustrated. But at its best, this book will make you think, consider, and question. It will make you want to understand. It will bring you to a place of empathy away from preconceived notions and prejudices, and that's a powerful thing.
If you think you might read this book, I highly recommend checking out the documentary Crips and Bloods: Made In America, which provides an excellent overview of what's been called the longest running civil war in the history of America. Like Leovy wants to do with her book, this unflinching documentary humanizes what's been a very dehumanizing reality for the black citizens of South Los Angeles.
I am a sucker for survival stories, especially those set at sea. Have no idea why. Perhaps it's for the visceral, vicarious thrill of experiencing the I am a sucker for survival stories, especially those set at sea. Have no idea why. Perhaps it's for the visceral, vicarious thrill of experiencing these terrifying events unfold from the safety and comfort of my reading chair. Which probably makes me an asshole, but let's be clear -- it's not the SUFFERING I get off on, but the grittiness and ingenuity required of the survivors to live through the ordeal so that we can all learn from it in some profound way (there is a part of me that uses these stories as self-help manuals -- what to do when stranded on an island, in the desert, in the Andes, in the Pacific ocean, on Mars!)
(waves to Mark Watney -- yes I know he's a fictional character but you get my point).
To call Salvador Alvarenga's true survival story of 438 days (!!!) adrift at sea "extraordinary" just might be the understatement of the century. His tale is the very epitome of extraordinary and then some. Can we just invent a new word please? So okay, extraordinary, but also terrifying and amazing and shocking and unbelievable. How can it be humanly possible for a person to survive so long adrift at sea with few supplies? What will this person eat? Where will they get their drinking water to stave off death from dehydration? Supposing food and water challenges are addressed, how does a person go about developing a mental toughness, a spiritual and emotional resiliency to go on in the face of insurmountable odds, immeasurable aching loneliness, crippling boredom and sensory deprivation?
Jonathan Franklin does a great job here fleshing out Alvarenga's story with as much specific detail as possible pertaining to the 438 days, but also balances this side of the story with accounts from other people who have survived long periods at sea highlighting similarities and differences. He also quotes from scientists and psychologists who have studied survival and the mental, emotional and physical changes humans undergo in extreme survival situations. This helps put Alvarenga's experience into a larger, more meaningful context.
If you do the audiobook thing, the reader for this one is excellent. His voice kept me immersed in the details and drama with very little opportunity for my mind to lose focus and wander. This is a gripping tale of extreme human survival that left me exhausted, humbled, and inspired.
A before and after of Alvarenga and his first haircut and shave:
This book has everything I love -- a Southern setting, secrets, family tragedy, religious zealotry run amok, and strong narrative voices. If I had reaThis book has everything I love -- a Southern setting, secrets, family tragedy, religious zealotry run amok, and strong narrative voices. If I had read it, it would have been an easy four stars. But because I listened to it, and the audio version is one of the best I've ever heard, it's getting five stars.
This is a debut novel -- is it flawless? No. But you know what? I didn't care. I don't think you will either. I got so swept up and carried away by the story I was being told I was living it. I was right there in that small town watching it all go down with a flutter of anxiety in my stomach, and a lump of sadness in my throat.
What really made me love this story as an audiobook is that we have three narrators read by three different readers-- 1) Jess Hall, a precocious nine year old who has a penchant for spying and will eventually see something he wishes he hadn't that will change his life and the life of his town forever 2) Adelaide Lyle, a feisty old woman who has born witness to much of the town's history and dark secrets and 3) Clem Barefield, seasoned Sheriff with a painful past who must confront the evil that has taken hold of his town like a cancer.
Getting the story from these three very distinct voices and points of view is fantastic. It makes what is essentially a simple and straight forward story feel richer, more layered and emotional. I loved the reader for the Sheriff. What a fantastic performance. That voice married to the author's prose is a match made in heaven. In the best ways it reminded me of Tommy Lee Jones's performance in No Country for Old Men.
A Land More Kind Than Home is set deep in the heart of snake-handling country where you better hope that when the preacher arrives in town, he ain't the devil in disguise.
Read this book -- and if you do the audio thing -- listen. You won't be able to stop, I promise.
And since I have a thing for book trailers, this one does a great job of capturing the edgy, southern Gothic mood of this novel that's so portent with revelation, betrayals, and tragedy.
Can you remember the first time you ever had the wind knocked out of you? I was about ten. I was playing with my cousins out in their front yard. Ther Can you remember the first time you ever had the wind knocked out of you? I was about ten. I was playing with my cousins out in their front yard. There was this fence that ran about 2 feet off the ground that we liked to walk along, imagining tight ropes and balance beams. It was during one of these wobbly walks when my ten year old body lost its balance and I came crashing down hard upon that low fence. It caught me right across my stomach where my diaphragm lives.
In a swift "whoosh" all the air was pushed out of my lungs. Every bit of it, or it seemed so at the time. I fell over onto the ground curled protectively around myself. In a blinding moment of sheer panic that exploded into terror, I found I couldn't actually catch my breath. As hard as I tried, I could not breathe in and in those few seconds of sickening realization, I was sure I was going to die. It's one of the clearest childhood memories I have.
Reading Megan Abbott's version of a coming-of-age tale shot through with dark secrets and unbidden impulses is like getting the wind knocked out of you for the first time. It's sudden, inexplicable, frightening and leaves you breathless. When it's all over and done with, you feel a little nauseous, a lot bruised and newly wary of the world surrounding you. It's as if your senses have been heightened, and a forbidden knowledge passed onto you that you don't ever remember asking for, or wanting.
The End of Everything is a story about that tender, delicate, powerful place girls find themselves in before they become women, when they cling to each other like life support systems, sharing breaths, secrets, curiosity and hormones. Hug your daughters close, because I did not need Megan Abbott to grip me by the throat and show me that when our girls are laughing the hardest, and tumbling cartwheels in the sunshine, that is when they are at their most vulnerable. How they yearn for what they cannot name and do not understand, moving towards it like moths to flames, ignorant to the perils, to how much something can burn and leave scars.
Thirteen-year-old Lizzie is our narrator, which makes for a brilliant choice. We see events from her innocent eyes and as she is thinking one thing, we are thinking something else. (view spoiler)[I'm still not entirely certain exactly what was going on between Mr. Verver and his daughters (especially Dusty). I don't think there was actual physical molestation, but there was something about his behavior that unsettled me and made me extremely uncomfortable. His actions, the way he spoke to the girls, teasing them, flirting with them...I don't know. He also curried favor and created tension between all of the young women, even pitting one sister against the other as if they were rivals for his devotion.
That Dusty should have felt so proprietary over her father's affection and to react so violently to Evie's accusations proves to me there was something going on that should not have been. Then we get to his treatment of Lizzie herself. What should have been innocent and real and shot through with trust, felt predatory and rotten. The fact that Mr. Verver gives Lizzie the same speech he once gave Dusty about how he's the first man to see how lovable she is and how many hearts she's going to break made me feel icky. (hide spoiler)]
This is a sad story, and it is a difficult read. There are many times where you will feel deeply uncomfortable. There are truths here that we do not want to know, do not want to ponder, and for some readers, truths they will not want to remember. But it is also a beautifully constructed piece of prose and if I wasn't a fan of Megan Abbott before now, this novel has clinched it.
P.S. A quick note on the audiobook: I did not enjoy the reader at all. I found the voice too childish, hyper and nails-on-a-chalkboard squeaky. The way she spoke for Mr. Verver really rubbed me the wrong way too. If I could have, I would have finished this in print. Don't listen to this one. Read it....more
Jack Torrence thought: officious little prick ~The Shining (1977)
**Note: I chose not to put this review behind a spoiler tag. Below I discuss both the
Jack Torrence thought: officious little prick ~The Shining (1977)
**Note: I chose not to put this review behind a spoiler tag. Below I discuss both the book and the movie assuming if you're reading this, you're familiar with both.
Even though Stephen King's primary reputation has been 'America's boogeyman', I can count on one hand the number of pure horror novels I feel he's published (and they all come early in his career) -- 'Salem's Lot, Pet Sematary, It, Misery and of course, The Shining. King is most famous as master of the macabre, but fans know he is also a keen observer of human behavior and emotions. He knows what makes us tick, and he's just as likely to make us laugh and cry as he is to scream. These five books? These he wrote to make us scream – and shiver, and look over our shoulder, peek under our bed, bar the closet door, and leave the lights on. He wrote them – to put it bluntly – to scare the shit out of us.
His tale of the doomed Torrence family and the sinister Overlook Hotel is in many ways a classic ghost story with its roots firmly planted in Gothic literature, Anne Radcliffe, Henry James and Edgar Allen Poe. More than these however, King is clearly writing under the influence of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and Richard Matheson's Hell House. The notion of a malevolent house, seething from within with awareness and intent, was far from virgin territory by the time King came to it in the 1970's. Yet, King brought his own distinct brand of terror to the table and the result has left an indelible mark on not just the genre, but on contemporary literature.
Is The Shining scary? You're goddamn right it is. And I think I never really thought about how scary until I listened to the audiobook. Actor Campbell Scott does an outstanding job, and like all the best ghost stories going all the way back to caveman times, this one is meant to be told, you kennit? Not merely read – but listened to -- surrounded by darkness, hunched around a dwindling fire. There are tropes and themes embedded in The Shining that penetrate to the very lizard part of our brain where fear and anxiety make their home.
In regards to the movie, Stephen King has not been shy over the years voicing his discontent with Kubrick's cinematic interpretation of his novel. I love the movie for many reasons (even though it's been around for so long and parodied so often it's hard to take it seriously anymore). But it pays to remember that Kubrick chose to tell an entirely different story from King.
The beating heart of King's novel is the sundering of the family unit, the destructive forces of alcoholism, the legacy of domestic violence and the incipient guilt and self-loathing it can bestow. If I have one complaint about the movie is that it fails to show any tragedy. King's version is not only terrifying, but heartbreaking. It is the story of a flawed but decent man in the process of clawing his way back into the light when all that he loves is ripped away from him. Whereas Kubrick's film focuses purely on a man losing his shit (in other words, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy).
In the film version, we see Jack Torrence go stark raving mad and viciously turn on his family with homicidal intent. But King's Jack Torrence doesn't go crazy, or suffer from the proverbial “cabin fever” alluded to in references to Grady, the Overlook's infamous previous caretaker. In the novel, it's the Overlook itself acting with malignant and malicious forethought that uses and abuses hapless Jack Torrence. It manipulates him, it twists his thoughts and controls his behavior. You can look at it as an alien invasion, or an outright demonic possession, but by the end of the novel, Jack Torrence is no longer a who but a what referred to as an it.
It hurried across the basement and into the feeble yellow glow of the furnace room's only light. It was slobbering with fear. It had been so close, so close to having the boy....It could not lose now.
Jack is lost inside of the monstrosity the Hotel has made him, as it uses his body to hunt down his little boy to murder him. A large part of the story's inherent tragedy for me, is watching Danny Torrence -- who loves his father very much -- lose him in such a frightening and grisly manner.
”Doc,” Jack Torrance said. “Run away. Quick. And remember how much I love you.” “No,” Danny said. “Oh Danny, for God's sake--” “No,” Danny said. He took one of his father's bloody hands and kissed it. “It's almost over.”
Now this fall, after a wait of almost four decades, readers will finally discover what kind of a man this little boy with his unique ability to shine has become. That's a story I didn't even know I wanted until it became a reality. Now I want it more than I can even put into words. In all of this overlong review where there are still many, many things I could have rambled on about, I failed to find a moment to speak briefly of Dick Halloran. I love this character -- his humour, his kindness, his fierceness and strength. I can only hope that catching up with Danny Torrence will mean crossing paths with Mr. Halloran again too. ...more
1. Setting: Post-Katrina New Orleans. Swampy, sensual, tragic, dangerous. A complete immersion into the si How do I love a book? Let me count the ways.
1. Setting: Post-Katrina New Orleans. Swampy, sensual, tragic, dangerous. A complete immersion into the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of a damaged and depressed city, betrayed and forgotten, seeking its redemption.
2. Heroine: Kick-ass, ruthless, complicated, haunted. Claire DeWitt is much like the city of New Orleans itself: damaged and dangerous, tragic and seeking redemption. Neither needs nor desires your pity or understanding.
3. Language: Hard-boiled dialogue that snaps and shows its teeth, married with gorgeous turns of phrase and a robust philosophy about the very nature of solving mysteries.
The client already knows the solution to his mystery. But he doesn't want to know. He doesn't hire a detective to solve his mystery. He hires a detective to prove that his mystery can't be solved.
4. Mystery: I don't read a lot of "mysteries" where there is a genuine, bona fide puzzle to be solved. I'm not a clue junkie hoarding each item the author throws down in an effort to beat him or her to the big reveal. Here, I really felt compelled to sit up straight and pay attention. It didn't take very long before I became incredibly invested in Claire's investigation and its outcome, no mere detached observer but something akin to an actual participant.
Despite the fact that Claire's methods are anything but conventional -- bordering on mystical and clairvoyant -- the investigation remains firmly grounded in reality and logic. I adore how everything comes together in a satisfying "click" "snap" "lock" way that isn't pretty and predictable, but all the more beautiful for that very reason.
Finally, I can't do this book justice on my own so I'm going to call in the big guns. Without these two reviews I don't think I ever would have found my way to Claire. Take it away Carol and Anthony. ...more
Just before picking this book up - my first Lehane (it won't be my last) - I came across a quote by him illuminating the working-class, blue-collar na Just before picking this book up - my first Lehane (it won't be my last) - I came across a quote by him illuminating the working-class, blue-collar nature of noir:
In Greek tragedy, they fall from great heights. In noir, they fall from the curb.
I love this quote. It slices right to the heart of who we are reading about, and even why we are reading about them.
In Mystic River, Lehane is shooting from both barrels; he intuitively knows who he is writing about and where -- the gritty, depressed, working-class neighborhoods of South Boston and the largely white, blue-collar families who live there. These are residents bound to one another when not by blood, then by loyalties forged from childhood friendships and the kinship that comes from growing up in the same neighborhood. A shared history, a sense of community, no matter how co-dependent, damaging or predatory.
Lehane's characters are so vivid and three-dimensional they sigh and bleed across the pages. But you won't love them. They are beyond flawed, and you could even argue beyond redemption. Lehane is not writing about beauty and love or hope and healing. Lehane is painting a portrait of despair and guilt. His characters are damaged goods in many ways, with painful histories that have consumed them with a slow-burning rage.
The love Jimmy Marcus has for his eldest daughter Katie is primal, almost animalistic in its fierceness. When a savage beating and shooting violently rips her away from him, Jimmy vows to see her killer brought to justice, one way or another. Who could have killed Katie Marcus? Nineteen years old, sweet and non-threatening, a good friend, a loving sister, working part-time in her father's neighborhood corner store. When Jimmy's childhood friend Sean is brought in to lead the investigation, there are more questions than answers to be found. It doesn't take long however, before Sean and his senior partner Whitey begin looking hard at Dave Boyle - another childhood friend from the neighborhood with dark secrets of his own.
The handling of the mystery here, the construction, the pacing, the clues and final reveal, it's all flawlessly done. My only regret reading this novel is that I had seen the film first. While already knowing who killed Katie did not diminish my enjoyment, I can only imagine the sheer thrill this book delivers at the moment of climax if you didn't know.
I found the women in this story to be at least as interesting as the men, if not more so. (view spoiler)[While I could sympathize with Celeste's confusion and doubt about Dave, I questioned her motives for going to Jimmy with her suspicions. Why go to the father? Why not the police? What did she think was going to happen? She knew the rules of the neighborhood. Did she really imagine Jimmy would not act, unequivocally and ruthlessly? She signed Dave's death warrant the moment she decided to tell Jimmy what she thought she knew. She got her husband killed and unraveled her own life, perhaps even her own sanity, in one careless impulse.
Jimmy's wife Annabeth is ruthless in her own way, thinking only of her own family and status in the neighborhood. Her acceptance of Jimmy's violence, her pride in it, is practically sociopathic. Her husband won't find the cure for cancer, but dammit, he looks after his own. He does what needs to be done, like a King that rules over his realm. Her support is icky but oh so very real. Her disdain of Celeste's weakness, and her betrayal of her husband, more revealing of character than any other act or a thousand words. (hide spoiler)]
This is a story that starts with tragedy and ends tragically. It is immensely engrossing and immeasurably rewarding. I did not just love it, I lived it.
A word on the audiobook: There is an abridged version available out there with a very poor reader. Avoid that one. I listened to the unabridged version and it is fantastic. The reader's voice is strong and he carries the Boston accent nicely without it overpowering the story.
"I was half asleep but I smiled. In spite of all his irritating qualities, I couldn't help liking a man who despised a fictional character with such
"I was half asleep but I smiled. In spite of all his irritating qualities, I couldn't help liking a man who despised a fictional character with such passion."
"There isn't any good news. Just because there's bad news doesn't mean there's good news, too."
I loved this book. So much. In fact, I'm in real danger of descending into embarrassing fangirl babble and I really don't want to put you through that. This book deserves so much more than my barely coherent praise I want to heap on top of its modest, unassuming frame. So before I proceed any further I want to draw your attention to two excellent reviews that made me want to pick up City of Thieves and read it in the first place -- Maciek and Steve. Thank you gentlemen.
During my university days, I majored in 20th century military history. To say I was vastly outnumbered by my male classmates would be an understatement. I was -- for a time anyway -- a curious anomaly, one who was more often humored and patronized, than taken seriously. While my interests would eventually bring me to a focus on Ireland and the IRA, I did spend a fair amount of time up to my eyeballs in everything World War II. But with a subject so vast and sprawling you have to pick your concentration or you'll walk away from it having learned nothing of value. So I chose the Western Front because that's mainly where my countrymen fought and bled and died.
But it was so easy to become distracted by this WHOLE OTHER FRONT -- the Eastern Front -- where soldiers and civilians were dying by the millions. While I did my due diligence to keep my attention fixated on the Battles of Britain and the Atlantic, Dieppe and Normandy, I couldn't shake the desire to read more about the 900 day siege of Leningrad -- the starvation, the desperation, the cannibalism. Conditions on every front were a nightmare tableau of death and destruction, but the Eastern Front had the added torture of the bitter, savage cold. Bullets, bombs, starvation were one thing -- that frigid biting air able to cut a man in half and take his fingers and toes on a whim was something else.
In City of Thieves, Benioff transports us to the Eastern Front, into the frozen streets of Leningrad in the midst of the German's siege. Here we meet two boys -- Lev, 17 and Kolya, 19. Strangers to one another when the story begins, Lev and Kolya will have just one week filled with peril, misadventure, terror, laughter and tears to forge a bond that normally would take decades. The boys do not have decades however. They have just one week. And what a week it will be.
Lev is the quiet, shy virgin Jew, often serious but with a desire to uncover in himself some level of courage and charisma, to perhaps get a pretty girl to notice him. Kolya, the older of the two, is brash and boisterous, filled with a lust for life and for any pretty girl he can get his hands on. Upon meeting Lev he feels it is his duty to help the hapless virgin find his way into the arms of an accommodating lover. It won't be easy.
The two boys have also been tasked by a high-ranking military officer to head behind enemy lines in search of a dozen eggs. Where does one even begin to look for luscious eggs in the land of the freezing and starving, where sane people are eating book glue for protein and the insane have started to eat each other?
This book is about the horrors of war, and yes, sad and horrific things do happen. But this is mostly a joyful novel filled with heart and humor. I laughed many, many times at Kolya's never-ending antics and stream of profanities, his perpetual teasing of Lev and his insatiable lusty appetites even in the face of war and death.
Big spoiler under tag: (view spoiler)[WHY DO AUTHORS LOVE TO MAKE YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH CHARACTERS JUST SO THEY CAN KILL THEM?! Argghhhh! So angry and heartbroken. I should have seen Kolya's death coming a mile away. He was just too full of life and love to survive to the end of the book. I guess Benioff could not resist breaking our reader hearts. Damn you Benioff!!! ::sob:: (hide spoiler)]
Adding to the utter enjoyment of this book was having it read aloud by actor Ron Perlman. Ron! Where have you been my whole life? If it were only possible, I would make you read all of my books for me from now on. You bring depth and nuance to this story with every breath, every lilt of Russian. You are the man.
Read this book. Or even better, listen to it. It's wonderful.
Finally finished listening to this as an audio. Meh. I have my problems with it. I may or may not review it, we'll see.
Alright, I've given it someFinally finished listening to this as an audio. Meh. I have my problems with it. I may or may not review it, we'll see.
Alright, I've given it some thought and feel that I should try to capture some of what this book made me feel (and didn't feel as it were). This memoir is essentially two stories that sometimes intersect with each other but more often than not run parallel. One story is Cheryl's 90+ day 1100 mile solo hike of the Pacific Crest Trail when she was 26 years old. The other story is of the tragic death of Cheryl's mother from lung cancer four years previously. That story is one of all-consuming grief, anger, and a downward spiral into dangerous and self-destructive behaviors.
Even though it was the death of her mother which precipitated Cheryl's decision to solo hike the PCT, I felt like the two stories are so very different from each other that it just doesn't work to have both accounts in the same book. I found it jarring each time Cheryl flashbacks to a moment in her pre-PCT life.
Don't get me wrong, both stories interested me. I was eager to read about a crazy girl taking on this extreme physical challenge. I adore man vs. nature tales. And although I found it difficult and somewhat emotionally draining, I also wanted to read about the particulars of Cheryl's grief and the details surrounding her mother's death. I lost my own mother to cancer in July 2010 and I find myself inexplicably hungering for the accounts of other people's experience of such profound tragedy.
The problem I have with the book overall I guess, is that the two stories do not complement each other very well. Some sections in which Cheryl describes the horror of helping her mother die and the depth of the grief which followed are beautifully and honestly written. The scene involving her mother's horse is seared upon my memory.
These sections are at odds however, with Cheryl's account of her selfish, self-destructive behavior after her mother's death. We all grieve differently, and there is no right way. Cheryl's chronic infidelities, drug abuse, and finally her decision to hike the PCT totally inexperienced and extremely ill-equipped I did not find interesting. In fact, it pushed me away rather than drew me in. I felt turned off. It's one thing to do something wholeheartedly rash and stupid and dangerous when you are 26 years old, but to try and wax poetic about it in hindsight in your 40s is not cool. I felt like Cheryl romanticized her hike waaaaaay too much, a reminiscence with rose-colored glasses. Sure she talks about the blisters and the patches of dry skin, the weight loss, the hunger, the thirst, the heat. But she downplays the imminent very real dangers for a happy story that all worked out in the end.
Her PCT hike could have -- should have -- ended quite disastrously. She went about it very naively, with little or no real knowledge or hiking experience. Her mistakes were massive and at times ridiculous. You can choose to laugh about them in retrospect, but the message really should be: kids, don't try this at home. I felt like grown-up Cheryl should have been apologizing for her reckless stunt rather than almost ... bragging about it. Yes, there is a definite tone of bragging and conceit (that can't all be attributed to the audiobook's reader). Maybe that's what turned me off the most, and that is certainly a very subjective, personal response I know.
If you like reading about dysfunctional people as their lives spiral out of control this book may appeal to you. If you like to read about people doing crazy ass stunts then by all means, take on the story of this young woman as she haphazardly and with zealous abandon hikes into the woods with a mammoth pack on her back and boots that are one size too small.
Cheryl's story may inspire you. It did not have that effect on me. ...more