"It's fruitcake weather Buddy!" I read this only this past month after reading a review for it which said that it was a classic that always made them"It's fruitcake weather Buddy!" I read this only this past month after reading a review for it which said that it was a classic that always made them "realisitically nostalgic." I was looking for good books to add to my list that is already too long when that phrase stuck out. I had already read Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood," and knew him to be a writer I liked so I decided to put it on my list. Normally, I read my books in the order I get them, but since the book I bought was so thin, I decided to read it right away. It opens with the above mention line and the book describes itself as being a different kind of children's story though it was never intended to be by Capote. Yet, this particular book was illustrated like a children's book and the title fits the genre, but what is inside hardly fits the sugar-saturated, politically correct gum drops that is the usual children's Christmas savoir faire. The main protagonists are Truman and his mentally unstable aunt who calls him Buddy sometimes after a childhood friend who died of the same name and sometimes because she cannot tell it is not her old friend Buddy. Such begins one of many unusual tidbits that usually would be edited out in a hurry of any children's book today. There's talk of the Indian (Not Native American as PC would demand, but Indian) who runs a speakeasy and sells a bottle of whiskey to the feeble-minded old woman and a small boy (Such a thing would be called racist now, but this is supposed to be from the view of a small boy back in the 30s or 40s or sometime in that period so back off). There's the fact Buddy and his friend are poor, normally a usual theme for certain Christmas tomes but usually it is a fluffy/happy kind of lower class that is presented - in this story the family is impoverished. Poverty would have never been allowed to describe whatever "poor" family was being portrayed in the usual children's book, but right upfront, Buddy & his friend save pennies, nickels, dimes, etc. ALL year just to make fruitcakes for Christmas. There are extended family living together with no mention of Buddy's parents, but only unfeeling/uncaring adults that happen to be his relatives. Normally in the beloved children's tale the family maybe has an elderly grandma who lovingly tells stories to the young ones bringing them joy despite being "poor." Not so here - actual poverty is displayed but with the same disregard for it by the protagonists as others. It's a real-life version of a Christmas story, but seems surreal in comparison because despite the poverty they share they find happiness in each other's friendship despite it all just like in all those syrupy sweet stories you read as a kid. There's part where Buddy & his friend celebrate by finishing off the tiny amount of whiskey left in the bottle once they are done and are scolded by the unfeeling relatives in the house making Buddy's friend cry when they scold her for giving whiskey to a small child (Buddy) - where is underage drinking in the usual children's book, I ask you, where? Or the fact that in a normal children's book, the fruitcakes would be treasured presents to all their many, many friends you share in their joy of Christmas despite their poverty level, but here the fruitcakes go to interesting people they have met or, in the case of President Roosevelt, never met. They are mailed to a California couple who asked them directions once or one with extra raisins to the Indian who gave them the bottle of whiskey when he saw the old woman counting out pennies in order to pay for it. How's that for a children's book? Selling liquor to mentally unstable adults and small children, but out of charity of heart from an ethnic minority - he gives it them in exchange for the promise of fruitcake. Portraying an ethnic minority in the 50s as charitable and Christian when he runs a speakeasy and bar? What? Yet despite all the things that are actively expunged from the children's stories today are what make the story real (how truthful the story is will only be know to Capote), but real life is never PC or as squeaky clean as the Disney Channel. The realness speaks to the reader - however old or young - on a deeper level than any PC version could because it is real. This "Christmas" book is less about Christmas than it is about friendship and how it can affect you. Buddy and his friend long to get each other the gifts they knew would make their YEAR not just their day, but resort to only being able to afford making each other a kite out of the pennies they have left over & yet those kites are a special gift from a loving friend that they each adore because of the friendship that they represent. No Santa, no Jesus, no Christmas really except that it happens to be that time of year and the raison d'etre of the story, but the book centers around the friendship of the two so sweetly without overdoing it that it is hard to finish the book without loving it for all its un-PC-"ness" and heavy dose of reality. There's even a special delight in mischievously waking the grumpy relatives in the house on Christmas morning in childlike anticipation when they know full well that socks await them. But they do it anyways as if a brand new bike or a puppy or a dollhouse sits under the sparse tree they dragged for miles and refused to sell to anyone for any price just for Christmas. I think the short story is an honest view through a child's eyes especially the themes of being ignored by older relatives in the house and being left to make your own trouble. I know Capote grew up amongst older relatives rather than with his parents most of his life and I think a lot of kids and adults alike will recognize that kind of abandoned/freewheeling theme that hangs in the background unobtrusively. In a time when a lot more kids are brought up by grandparents or only one parent or in some other non-traditional nuclear family, I think a lot of people will identify with Buddy and his friend. I especially liked the ending - not because it's happy or sweet, but because it's real. Buddy gets shipped off to military school where people yell and fight while his friend's faithful dog dies and then his friend left alone begins to slip more and more until the childlike vigor leaves her and she truly becomes elderly. When she dies, Buddy looks to the sky and imagines two homemade kites sailing through the air. It's maybe not the sugary, syrupy sweet most are used to, but it was a particularly sweet final note to me. And it was a happy ending to me because the Christmas Memory (See what I did there) was treasured as there last real Christmas together. The over-saturated children stories of today would simply end happily ever after or end as if the people in them live forever and will never ever be separated, but here a heavy dose of reality highlights better than any PC children's book I've ever read WHY friendship is so important. Because things do change, people do move away or get separated or even die, but while they are there or somewhere or just a memory of them is still there, it can still make you richer than anyone around you. So, enough of the syrupy moral and on with the final declaration: It's fruitcake weather Buddy!...more
This book has a novel premise (no pun intended) that is a unique and very creative reimagination of a beloved classic that wears thin about thirty pagThis book has a novel premise (no pun intended) that is a unique and very creative reimagination of a beloved classic that wears thin about thirty pages in. By, oh...say...about..., thirty and a half pages in, it is so thin and annoying that I put the book down for a year and did not finish the other two hundred and ninety odd pages until I decided I wanted to get the book out of my apartment. For those you know me best, I cannot ever just stop reading a book part way through - I have to finish it once reading it. Only one book amongst all the ones I have read have I ever been okay with not finishing and even that book I am planning on finally finishing due to the loss of a bet (Tess of the D'Ubervilles). Yet, this book came pretty close to taking that book's place of most supremely awful thing I have ever read. I genuinely do give props to the premise. It is - the first of now many reincarnations of blaphemy against beloved classics - and very creative. There were alleged sequels to the Pride & Prejudice masterpiece but no reinvention of the story has ever been so unique. But, as I said the premise wears pretty goddamn thin about thirty pages in and now that I think about - it was a struggle to get thirty pages into the book to begin with so less than thirty pages to be honest. The premise is obvious and I won't waste time going into details because it is freaking obvious. The author injects passages of the Bennett sisters training in combat against "The Unmentionables" (yet they are mentioned every other paragraph) which they received in China under their master - that's right a poor attempt to inject aspects of the classic kung fu movie into Jane Austen. I say "poor" because that is pretty much where it ends. There is some small part embodied the busybody Lady Catherine de Bourgh as the one who insults Elizabeth's "master" and so she must fight ninjas (not a typo) to uphold his honor and her own. However, before anyone claims that ninjas, kung fu, action sequences, and katanas are awesome, allow me to explain what passes for action. At one point Lady Catherine has pinned Elizabeth to the floor with a dagger through the hand. There is a needless illustration for readers of the scene that has a FREAKING SPOILER! The illustration shows several ninjas laying crumpled on the ground yet as you are reading this particular gem of a chapter you know that the ninjas have only just entered the dojo (not kidding - that's where the "epic" fight is taking place after Elizabeth refuses to promise to never get engaged to Mr. Darcy because watering down the part in the classic where Eliza first admits to herself that she is in love with Mr. Darcy is a perfectly legit literary technique known as "screwing up a good book") and Lady Catherine has ordered them to not attack while she finishes Eliza herself. But, what do you know, despite the fact that an old lady was able to land - and these are the author's words of describing the blow - a blow that would normally shatter someone's spine before Elizabeth can even dodge out of the way - the author has her somehow unpin her hand to the floor and take out all the ninjas without a sound before Lady Catherine discovers that the sword she had to Elizabeth's throat is now against nothing but air. That is the description of a action sequence - a deus ex machina using borrowed kung fu movie mythology badly. Also ball jokes. Every now and then there is a reference to pants showing off the most "English parts" that is admired by the ladies, the "proper-acting" Aunt has sex with a Polish ex-boyfriend named Sylak, or random references to the innuendo attached to holding or having someone's [musket] balls. Because that is sooo funny. I have never ever heard that kind of double entendre so completely obvious and uninspired before. But, to add gravy to the whole suck fest - the author also adds certain characters vomiting - for no other reason than to describe vomiting. Wonderful. There is a hint at the end of the book, in the mock Reading Group Questions, that they were intended as humor, but it does not translate well into print. It was like the author just saw the Family Guy episode where Peter, Brian, Chris, and Stweie ingest Ipecac and vomit profusely and thought to himself, "Hmm, I can totally add that to the beloved Jane Austen classic Pride & Prejudice!" Except it is a visual gag. These little "funny" excerpts are all descriptions of a sight gag. Not so much funny as gross. I keep referring to Pride & Prejudice - unsullied - as a "beloved classic," so some may just be assuming that I am upset that any part of Pride & Prejudice was messed with and that is the reason I did not enjoy the book. I am a fan of Jane Austen, I am a fan of Pride & Prejudice, and, admittedly, the parts were the pseudo-kung fu movie/zombie franchise is inserted did feel like violations of a sacred relic, but I BOUGHT the damn book (your welcome Author Seth Grahame-Smith - you got money out of me for this bad book, may you use it to invest in making your next better) because I was interested to see how such a unique reinvention would pan out. I began reading the book with a genuinely open mind and it was closed as I came to the realization that the book was bad. Not terrible mind you, but I think the parts that make the book just bad as opposed to terrible are all Austen's unsullied work. It might have been that every reference to kung fu terminology or samurai terminology felt like it had been wikipedia'd, it might have been the fact that the zombies in the book were fooled by crops of cauliflower into traps because the zombies thought the cauliflower were brains (I know zombies are not know for their savvy, but in the name of George A. Romero, that was a cheap shot against a classic genre of zombies and their ever-lasting quests for the cerebral cortex), or it may have been the cheap shots of having Mr. Collins (spoiler alert) commit suicide after Charlotte (spoiler again) turns into a zombie and he has to decapitate her. I get that everyone who reads the book wants something to happen to Mr. Collins because he's the reason the Bennetts are in trouble, but he's the goddamn raison d'etre of the story! The reason Mrs. Bennett - silly as she is - is in a hurry to marry her daughters off is because with no signs the estate is entailed to Mr. Collins and the daughters will inherit nothing from their father. Once he's dead, who knows who the estate will go to - part of the whole point of being in hurry to marry off the girls was because Mr. Collins was so annoyingly patronizing and it got under everyone's - including the reader's - skin that he was going to get to kick the Bennett women out of their own house someday. I suppose having them commit suicide/become a zombie is giving the reader what they want, but at that point in the story the reader is (supposed to be) wrapped up in Elizabeth & Mr. Darcy and has quite forgotten Charlotte & Mr. Collins & the little snippets of what happens to them stick out like sore thumbs. And quite frankly the person every reader of the original wants dead - Lady Catherine - lives despite suffering a dagger wound in her side (from Elizabeth in another uninspired moment of "action" during their "epic" battle). I choose to highlight what fate awaits Wickham the dastardly though for some it may belong only as a footnote to how this story was violated in almost every possible way. In the classic & this, Wickham is found out by Mr. Darcy, forced to marry Lydia, and enters the church in a stroke of "getting what he asked for" closure that I always liked in the original. In this bad made-for-oxygen network movie, that's right oxygen network bad, Mr. Darcy uses his considerable martial arts skills (you did not read that wrong, I know, it pains me too) to break EVERY bone in Wickham's body so that he will remain strapped to a bed soiling himself for the rest of his life and Lydia gets hers by being forced to take care of her invalid husband. I'll emphasize that for good measure - the highly overused exaggeration of "breaking every bone in the body" is meant to be made a reality by Mr. Darcy karate-chopping Wickham in to a paraplegic poster child. Seriously? But perhaps it's the fact that the author attempts to either pretend or pass off the altercation which is referred to as a tragic carriage accident as PART of the deal to marry Lydia in exchange for money, being enrolled in a seminary, and having his debts settled. Like Wickham - who left behind bastards and debts in astonishing numbers - would actually bargain for that to be part of the deal. Rather than just admitting that Mr. Darcy beat him because he was a dick, but because it was part of the bargain. The book officially became too ridiculous to finish at this point, but because I was only ten or so pages away from never having to pick this book up again - I finished it anyways mostly so I can possibly and in some way prevent others from having to suffer the same as me. Your welcome.
P.S. Double entendres, kung fu mythology, zombie franchise mythology, "action" books, and pretty much everything the author tried to incorporate into Pride & Prejudice - I am very much a fan. The thing is despite some people viewing them as tasteless or crass or overdone, they are great when done RIGHT. Mae West was the epitome of double entendre, Kill Bill Vol. 1 is tied for my most favorite movie of all time and the thing is dripping with Kiddo defending her former master from the dishonor of female cyclops, anything Romero and I heart Shaun of the Dead is golden especially the black & white classic that started it all, and if you want to read an "action" book or think there is no such thing, read "The Relic" by Lincoln Child & Douglas Preston - it was the first book that felt like I could not turn the page fast enough to find out what was happening. My point is that all the elements that may make someone (someone dumb) want to read this are not used correctly or are outright insulting to the reader like never before. There is a way to use them right and a way that says hack. The way they were used in this book leaves the reader feeling offended not because there was a ball joke or vomit description or Elizabeth just pulled someone's heart out of their chest but because it was as if the author slapped a bunch of references together without any regard for the reader and it comes across as sloppy and careless and disrespectful - not towards Austen, but you, the reader. The reader is treated and viewed as a simpleton who sees a doctored picture of what would normally grace the cover of an Austen book made to look zombie-ish and will buy it because it looks cool or interesting. And I suppose, in a way, the author is correct. I bought the book therefore he is right on some level, but if an author wants his work to actually be read or read again, the reader cannot be treated like a slobbering zombie who confuses cauliflower for brains. But then considering different authors were used to do the same to other classics after this one - maybe it is not just the author, but whatever editor or publishing house is having this done to classics as well. The thing is, most people are intelligent. I am like everyone else in lamenting against stupid people, but people are actually getting collectively smarter (just not fast enough for my tastes) and while some may not recognize the disrespect coming from the author, publishing house, and/or editors of these books, they will know enough to not like the book. Most people don't HAVE to finish books like I do and I guarantee that most people won't want to. I don't know, I am still open to reinventions - I loved the movie Scott Pilgrim and whether you liked the movie or not, you have to admit that it was a reinvention of how to do a movie - and if anyone finds one of these books any good, let me know and I might give them another chance, but writing this review may be the only time I have left that I am willing to devote to the books. In summary, if the elements described above that I found cheap and insulting to my intelligence as a reader would normally make it seem more appetizing to you, I can almost guarantee that they are used the right way and aren't anywhere near as entertaining as you think they are. ...more
Absolutely awful. I read the book solely because it's sat on my shelf for almost ten years. It's suppose dto be historical fiction about the Jack RippAbsolutely awful. I read the book solely because it's sat on my shelf for almost ten years. It's suppose dto be historical fiction about the Jack Ripper killings, but it's only a rip-off (no pun intended) of other's work. What's worse is when you realize that not just one writer plagarized this book, but two, a husband and wife team who sorry to say has written a slew of them. DO NOT READ! It is a waste of time and they barely touch on what could be a great story, but no! They beat what little to no story they have into the grave. Absolutely awful!...more