I read Presumed Innocent because of Michael Bourne's essay in the Los Angeles Review of Books in which he claims it to be a forgotten seminal novel of...moreI read Presumed Innocent because of Michael Bourne's essay in the Los Angeles Review of Books in which he claims it to be a forgotten seminal novel of the Eighties. Scott Turow, Bourne argues, not only spawned the modern legal thriller but also created something entirely new by combining the tropes of a murder mystery with those of literary fiction.
Bourne's right. The first two-thirds of the book is a slowly enveloping character study of Rusty Sabich, as he explains how the path of his life, from the moment of birth, led him to be a suspected murderer. Once the story enters the courtroom, the novel rockets out of the fog with the thrills of the trial. (Why is it that something as truly dull as legal work can even be thrilling?)
I've always enjoyed the movie adaptation of Presumed Innocent as a smart mystery, but I figure the source material for that type of movie to be like a naked mannequin, exposed for its blahness without the wardrobe of Hollywood. I never expected the novel to be so complex, not in terms of plot, but in terms of its -- and I like this book enough to use Bourne's dirty word as a compliment -- literariness. (less)
To enthusiasts of crackpot literature there is little worse than a Me Too. Me Toos come into existence when a crackpot book crosses over into the main...moreTo enthusiasts of crackpot literature there is little worse than a Me Too. Me Toos come into existence when a crackpot book crosses over into the mainstream, causing an even more cracked pot (or worse, even less) to roll out a similar theory. In this case the former is Erich Von Däniken's 1968 bestseller positing that aliens visited ancient humans, Chariots of the Gods?, which Colony Earth me-toos so enthusiastically that it name checks Von D on the cover.
If you write a Me Too you're already one strike down, so you need to be sure not to break any other cardinal rules of crackpot literature. Definitely don't, within the first 75 pages, let on to your readers that you're way more ignorant than any of them, including any hamsters that might happen to scoot across opened copies. That means not claiming that prehistoric humans possessed total recall because of the striking realism of their cave paintings nor noting that a comet colliding with earth wouldn't do any real damage because a comet is just a "ball of snow." But if you slip up on that first rule, just keep cool and be extra sure not to reveal that you're a racist nitwit who claims there to be three species of humans -- Caucasoid, Mongoloid, and Negroid -- who "safely interbreed."
I'm almost embarrassed to give a 2013 comic book collection the same star rating I'd give a classic work of literature, but I really, really enjoy Mat...moreI'm almost embarrassed to give a 2013 comic book collection the same star rating I'd give a classic work of literature, but I really, really enjoy Matt Fraction's Hawkeye, the first superhero comic in a long time to feel completely new. Like Mark Waid with Daredevil, Fraction's out to make superheroes fun again. He opts to do it by following a member of the Avengers on his days off, so that by removing the fate of the world from the table, Hawkeye's adventures take on the qualities of a really good episode of Starsky and Hutch. On top of that, or maybe because of it, Fraction realizes that being a superhero without superpowers means that maybe Hawkeye, AKA Clint Barton, isn't a super guy, but just a guy. A guy who does one thing well but is otherwise generally uninteresting and possibly a little dumb. Fraction has found a way to make an alter-ego effortlessly ordinary when most comic writers try so hard to find ordinary that one suspects all they know of ordinary people they learned from watching Buffy. My favorite superhero comic panel of the last decade shows Clint walking through Brooklyn, eating a slice of pizza and stopping to ask a guy, "Can I pet your dog one time?" Which in its greatness also illustrates the beautiful phenomenon of a perfect pairing of story to artist, a treasure so rare that you don't realize how precious it is until you see David Aja's minimal black lines build out character just as simply and elegantly as Fraction's script (exceptionally frosted with Matt Hollingsworth's subdued color palette). I get the vibe from Hawkeye of Hellblazer if John Constantine were, instead of a haunted prick who's mastered black magic, a kind of nice dude who's really good at using a bow and arrow. That's a cryptic analogy, but if you understand it, you know how big of a compliment I intend it to be.(less)
The fact that I bought this collection of the first six issues of Mark Waid's reimagined Daredevil says enough about how much I'd enjoyed reading the...moreThe fact that I bought this collection of the first six issues of Mark Waid's reimagined Daredevil says enough about how much I'd enjoyed reading the later issues. I admire Waid using Daredevil to make superheroes fun again by letting Matt Murdoch enjoy himself and by insisting the reader do the same or risk missing the point. But the stories in this trade paperback are kind of a mess, starting with a Scooby-Doo and Friends style cameo from Captain America and progressing through some kind of hive-mind villain made out of "solid sound waves" (?) fighting to keep their basement, as far as I can tell. It doesn't help Waid at all that I immediately followed up his TPB with Matt Fraction very similar and very superior Hawkeye, as explained here.(less)
The first thing that any reader who arrives at Hell's Angel's via Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas will notice about the book is Dr. Thompson's comparat...moreThe first thing that any reader who arrives at Hell's Angel's via Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas will notice about the book is Dr. Thompson's comparative rationality. Aside from a couple instances of meaningless firearm use and pill eating, he comes off as a likable intellectual everyman who's able to hide that intellectualism as needed to win the friendship of a pod of filth-soaked motorcycle thugs. Which brings up the second thing the reader will notice: that the Hell's Angels themselves -- despite being repugnant enough to garner the disdain of Thompson, which is fair to say means repugnant++ -- seem strangely tame. Is that 50 years of mist obscuring our view? And if so did that vapor seep out as our society's collective conscious evaporated, or is it just the exhaust from an entertainment industry overheated from half a century of running in overdrive to churn out casual violence? Hunter S. Thompson shot himself in his personal doomsday fortress, so he's no help.(less)
The very first strip in this collection reminded me of Berkeley Breathed's most brilliant idea in Bloom County: that Opus, Milo, Steve, and all the ot...moreThe very first strip in this collection reminded me of Berkeley Breathed's most brilliant idea in Bloom County: that Opus, Milo, Steve, and all the others are actors performing in a scripted production, like a sitcom that that we view through the windows of the panels, but that those actors are playing themselves living their real lives in the world of Bloom County, which only exists for our benefit.
Alas, this also made me realize that I subconsciously stole that idea whole cloth for a pilot I wrote in 2010. It's flattery, Berke.(less)