Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Bright Lights, Big City Redux

April 26, 2009

brightlightsbigcitytadpicConfession time… My all-time favorite book is Bright Lights, Big City written by Jay McInerney. I think I first read it during my first year of college, maybe two years after it was originally published. It’s one of the few books that I’ve read more than once, and I’ve bought multiple copies after loaning it to friends to read. Alright, here’s another confession… I even liked the movie Bright Lights, Big City that starred Michael J. Fox and Kiefer Sutherland. Sure, the movie was flawed — most of the cast and crew involved with the production have admitted as much. The production was troubled, to say the least, and it showed on the big screen. In the end, the film was pretty much considered a bust — but I liked it. My fondness for the film is probably related to my deep love and admiration for the source material, I’ll admit it.

If you’re not familiar with the novel Bright Lights, Big City it was published in 1984 and written in the second person. The main character, who is not given a name in the book — thus essentially making the reader the main character, is a disillusioned writer that spends his days as a fact checker for a New York magazine. At night, he uses alcohol, drugs, and the ’80s party scene to shake off the thoughts of his failed marriage, life back home, and the inability to be the writer he dreamed of becoming.

According to Variety, it now appears that MGM is going to give Bright Lights, Big City another shot at the big screen. This time around, the co-creator of Chuck, Gossip Girl, and creator of The O.C., Josh Schwartz has been tapped to write and make his feature directorial debut with a “fresh take” on McInerney’s novel. My concern is that Schwartz isn’t sure if he’ll set the movie in the original time period of the 1980s or a more contemporary setting.  I’m hoping for the former — the time period is a character all in its self in Bright Lights, Big City. But having created such shows as The O.C. and Gossip Girl, it looks like this next cinematic take on my all-time favorite novel is in capable hands with Josh Schwartz.

Wild Reason That I Wish I Had A Kid Thing

April 11, 2009

wherethewildthingsare200x200My all-time three favorite books from my childhood are Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen, and Where the Wild Things Are — also by Maurice Sendak.

In October a live-action motion picture adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are is being released. The film is directed by Spike Jonze (who early in his career directed the brilliant Beastie Boys music video for “Sabotage”). From what I’ve seen in the trailer, I am already sold. The Wild Things look fantastically real — with an emphasis on the “fantastic.” Whenever one of your beloved aspects of your childhood emerges into your adult life as a “remake” or “adaptation” or “re-imaging” you can’t help but have at least a slight sense of dread that it’s just not going to turn out as well as you remember it. I strongly believe that this will not be the case with the Jonze directed Where the Wild Things Are.

The Where the Wild Things film has a vibe to it that has me feeling that if I had a kid, this would be the movie that we would share the experience of seeing together. Sure, I’ll be certain to introduce my kid to the other classic films — such as the Original Star Wars, Trilogy (IV, V, VI), King Kong (1933), To Kill A Mockingbird, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (with Gene Wilder, not Johnny Depp), The Iron Giant, and the movies by Pixar (except maybe Cars). But, dammit, if Where the Wild Things Are doesn’t look like the perfect movie for a parent and kid to hit the cineplex for.

Of course, my kid would already have a familiar knowledge of the works of Maurice Sendak, having owned dogeared copies of much read and much loved Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen books.

This is one time that I’m truly jealous of my friends that are parents who have kids that they can take to go see this film. I’m sure I can talk at least one set of parents to loan or rent me their kid to take to go see Where the Wild Things Are — but it won’t be the same.

And, my kid will definitely wear Max’s footie/hoodie wolf type pajamas. If not, dad will — so damn cool.

The Road

June 26, 2008

While visiting my folks last weekend, I was flipping through the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly — it’s how my mom stays on top of the pop — and they had a number of lists of the “Best 100 of the Last 25 Years” in regards to movies, television, music, books, etc… “The New Classics” they called them. Listed as number one (and topping Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), according to Entertainment Weekly, was the following…

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
A father and son trudge across an ashen American landscape in the wake of some unnamed apocalypse, fighting off sexually predatory bandits, scavenging for food, uncovering charnel-house horrors, then moving on, constantly moving on, toward some mirage of a better future. We don’t need writers of Cormac McCarthy’s caliber to inform us of looming planetary catastrophes; we can read the newspaper for that. We need McCarthy to imagine the fate of the human soul if the worst really does come to pass; what he depicts in The Road is strange, awful, tender, and, in the end, surprising.

For some reason, this two-year old book hadn’t made a blip on my radar — not that my literary radar is all that extensive. But upon reading the article, I happened to look over my shoulder and lying on the end-table next to the couch that I was sitting on was a hardcover copy of The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I decided that fate had thus decreed that I was to read this book. That, and I could use something to occupy my time on the hour and fifteen minute flight home. Well, I finished it yesterday. I haven’t read an entire book in three days in forever. What is The Road about?

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food-—and each other.

Now, is The Road really a classic? It’s gripping and engaging — even if it does paint a very bleak future for mankind. We never know the name of the father or son. The landscape in which they travel across is gray and dim. Some of the more detailed passages within the story are mundane accounts of their struggle to survive on the most minimal of offerings that this burnt world provides. There is no epic confrontation, no reoccurring antagonist, no guaranteed happy ending. Yet, for all that The Road does not offer the reader, the novel does offer a true story of devotion between a father and his son.

McCarthy’s style of writing in regards to The Road does take some getting used to. There is a lack of apostrophes with word contractions, as well as no quotation marks used with dialog. This is a little tough on a reader who is currently editing a comic book going to press later this week. But once I was engaged with the story and the plight of the two main characters, McCarthy’s minimalistic style flowed quite well and seemed quite fitting for the post apocalyptic tale.

It was only upon completing the novel did I learn that a film adaptation of The Road is set to be released in November, starring Viggo Mortensen. Also, that it had been an Oprah’s Book Club selection.

While the grim father and son tale might not be for everyone, I do recommend that if you haven’t read The Road yet, it is a journey worth taking.

Arthur C. Clarke 1917 – 2008

March 18, 2008

arthurcclarke.jpgArthur C. Clarke, legendary science-fiction author and a personal inspiration to yours truly, has passed away. Probably best known as the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey and collaborating with director Stanley Kubrick on the film of the same name. Mr. Clarke was regarding as much more than a science-fiction author. He was a futurist in the truest sense of the term, as well as an inventor. Besides being known as a prolific author, Mr. Clarke was also known as “the grandfather of the telecommunications satellite.”

I was a freshman in high school when I first read 2001: A Space Odyssey. While I had seen the film previously, it wasn’t until I was assigned the book to read by my Physical Science teacher, Mrs. Stadum, that I truly understood the brilliance of the story Mr. Clarke had written.

According to an aide, Clarke, who had been battling debilitating post-polio syndrome, died early Wednesday morning after suffering breathing problems in his home in Sri Lanka. He was 90.

“The truth, as always, will be far stranger.” — Arthur C. Clarke.

Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life

February 18, 2008

bornstandingup.jpgI grew up with comedian Steve Martin. Well, to be more precise, I grew up listening and watching Steve Martin — though we were both raised in Orange County, California, he is 22-years older than me.

I remember listening to his first comedy album, Let’s Get Small, with my best friend when we were nine (it was actually his parents’ album), along with a Dr. Demento album. The next year my Aunt Dottie gave me for Christmas Steve Martin’s Wild and Crazy Guy album. Now back in the days before CDs, frequently played albums received a lot of abuse. If it was possible to wear a record out, I was going to find out with Wild and Crazy Guy. In sixth grade (I think it was sixth grade) I did a book report on his first published book, The Cruel Shoes — much to the chagrin of my teacher when she had to read a report on such stories as The Diarrhea Gardens of El Camino Real and Dogs In My Nose. This was the same year that I made my mother take me to see the movie The Jerk — she had to, it was rated R. (I had already seen him in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Muppet Movie a few times each.)

Last night I finished reading another Steve Martin book, his memoirs — Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life. Once I started to read this work there was little doubt that I’d find it boring, considering my fondness for the entertainer’s early work. This autobiography covers his childhood to his heyday as a stand-up comedian in front of arena-sized crowds. A few events are glossed over (or not even mentioned, such as his role in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band — which is completely understandable), while other discoveries and inner-thoughts are explored in great detail. By no means is it any sort of “tell-all” book. There are no “dirty details” about life on the road as the nation’s number one comedy act. Much of the book is spent relaying Mr. Martin’s teenage years as an employee of Disneyland, to trying to figure out college and philosophy, his early years as a television comedy writer for The Smothers Brothers’ Show. Some moments of insight even provided quiet chuckles that would sneak up on me.

I would highly recommend Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life to anybody who is a fan of the very talented Steve Martin or has even the slightest interest in the world of stand up comedy.

And, for those of you keeping score — that’s two books now that I’ve read in the last six months. The previous title being Warren Ellis’ Crooked Little Vein. You couldn’t find two more different titles.

Del Toro To Go There And Back Again?

January 28, 2008

hobbitbookcover.jpgThere’s no denying that Peter Jackson did an epic job with the cinematic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But there has been some question as to who would be at the helm of the film version of the trilogy’s predecessor, The Hobbit. Well, it looks as if a director may be attached.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, and reported by Ain’t It Cool News, Guillermo del Toro is in talks to direct back-to-back installments of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, which is being co-financed by New Line and MGM. This is good news — I believe for long-time fans of the Middle Earth mythology as well as new fans that discvered the world with Jackson’s cinematic adaptation.

Of all of the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit is by far my favorite — and as awe-inspiring and wonderful The Lord of The Rings trilogy was, I am much more excited about the possible films based on the the trilogy’s “prequel.” And if Peter Jackson isn’t going to be the director, I think there’s no better choice than del Toro for the job — having directed such fantasy-fair as Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy.

Though it looks as if we still have to wait awhile before we see the adventures of Bilbo Baggins with principle photography not slatted to start until sometime next year and the two films scheduled to be released in 2010 and 2011.

Of course, I have found memories of the 1977 animated made-for-television endeavor by Rankin/Bass featuring the voice of Orson Bean as Bilbo and the late great John Huston as Gandalf…

Yay! Danny Read A Book…

August 25, 2007

…An effed up book, but a book nonetheless. Now you may be asking yourself, “What’s the big deal? So you read a book. You’re a writer, right? Writers are supposed to read.” Well, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m horrible when it comes to reading as much as I should. Compound my generallackadisical attitude toward reading with the limited amount of time that I actually have to “curl up with a good book” and it turns out that finishing a book in the past couple of years has turned out to be nothing short of a minor feat.

21c5pdh59bl__aa_sl160_.jpgThe object of my accomplishment was Crooked Little Vein, a novel by Warren Ellis. It was a quick read that could probably be finished in a day or two — but because of my reading habits it of course it took me a couple of weeks. I read it mostly while flying on business or in my doctor’s waiting room. I’ve recently had to go in for a number of tests and I tell you, the Phlebotomy Techs got a kick out of the title of the book. Anyway, it’s not a book that I’d recommend to my Mom — like I stated, it’s an effed up book. To be honest, it wasn’t the fact that the book was written by a well-known comic book writer that initially had me picking it up (at a comic book shop nonetheless) . It was the fact that it looked like a quick read — small in size with 277 pages broken up into 57 chapters — a book for a reader with a short attention span.

It may appear that Ellis is out to simply shock the reader with various exploits of America’s perverse sexual underbelly with scenarios “so far out there” piled on top of each other without letting up for a chance to catch one’s breath. There’s not a lot of weighty subtext with a book like this. It was something similar to what I might compare to the literary equivalent of one of those bizarre fun house rides operated by carnies missing a chromosome or two on the county fair midway. But when I read the last page, closed the book, and tossed it on the floor next to my bed, I felt satisfied. That, and I’m a sucker for down on their luck detective stories.