BOOK: The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia

November 16, 2014

peoplepaperThis fascinating, strange debut novel tells the story of a man named Federico de la Fe, a Mexican gent who wages a war against the planet Saturn as a way to combat his crushing depression. Except, as it turns out, the planet Saturn isn’t actually the planet Saturn.  It’s actually. . . Wait, hold on a sec — I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to explain this.

Abandoned by his wife Merced due to his chronic bed-wetting (we can’t all be winners), Federico discovers by accident the cure for both his sadness and his inappropriate urination: what he calls “burn collecting,” a self-harm technique in which he burns parts of his own body to a sear.  Sometimes he does this while hanging out underneath a giant mechanical turtle that speaks only in binary code and seems to . . .  Wait, hold on a sec — I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to explain this.

Wanting a change, Federico packs up his young daughter, Little Merced, and moves to California, where he enlists the help of a local gang of flower pickers in a battle against the malevolent influences of Saturn.  Only, as we soon discover, “Saturn” is actually Salvador Plascencia, the author of this novel, and he’s only being this evil in the first place because his heart, just like Federico’s, has recently been viciously broken. (For bed-wetting? He doesn’t say. Let’s go with “yes” for fun.)

Meanwhile, as the war rages on — well, it’s sort of a war, and it’s sort of raging on — Little Merced is slowly being lost to a lime addiction. Limes, I said. The fruit. There’s also a Baby Nostradamus, but he doesn’t seem to be all that much help. Additionally, and somewhat more compellingly, there’s a third Merced that is neither Federico’s wife nor his daughter, but instead a lady made entirely out of paper who is plagued, among other tings, by the terrible fact that every time a man has oral sex with her, his mouth ends up bloodied and raw from the paper cuts.

Wait, hold on a sec — I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to explain this. . .

In case I have failed to make this clear, this is a very strange novel.  I’m not entirely sure it works, to be honest, but it’s so fascinatingly written it’s hard to put it down even while you’re scratching your head wondering what the hell the author is trying to accomplish.  Narrators come and go, sometimes getting whole chapters, sometimes only a few paragraphs in a column next to a series of paragraphs in columns by other characters.  Sometimes, those paragraphs are blacked out — if the narrator has successfully managed to hide their thoughts from Saturn, also known as the author, using sheets of lead. Baby Nostradamus seems especially keen on making that work, and then sort of doesn’t seem keen on anything much at all. Babies: what can I say?

At its heart, this is a novel about sadness and love, and the power of words (“paper”) to either mitigate or exacerbate the agony of both those things. I think that’s what it was about, anyway. Think, for example, about the metaphor of paper cutting up the tongue of a man who only wants to bring pleasure to a woman he loves.  The sharpness, the bloodying impact of words, or of love itself.  Saturn’s girlfriend, Liz, periodically interjects to beg him (the author) not to hurt her with his novel; another character, Smiley, begs Saturn/the author to explain to him his role in the story, only to be disappointed when it turns out the author barely knows he exists.

I don’t exactly know what it all means, and, to be honest, about 3/4ths of the way through, I was kind of over trying to figure it out.  And that right there’s the problem, really:  this is a fascinating novel full of fascinating things, but ultimately, nothing quite compelling enough to turn it into a real powerhouse in the world of magical realism or metafiction. Which is too bad, because it has some engaging ideas and characters , as well as some truly evocative writing. This kind of “tight concept, loose execution” problem isn’t uncommon in first novels, however, and so I have some hope that whatever Plascencia does next will be similar but better.

Overall, I’m glad I read this book and I recommend it to anyone else who enjoys writing that tries to do something a little different. You may end up scratching your head at the end, but I think the journey will make the ultimate tinge of dissatisfaction worth it.

[Buy from an Indie Bookstore | Buy from Amazon | Browse more book reviews | Search book reviews]

MOVIE: Veronica Mars (2014)

October 16, 2014

veronicamarsI’d been waiting to watch this movie until I could watch it with my mom, who was also a big fan of the series.  Neither one of us was sure what to expect from it, but we were both pretty happy about what we got, I’d say.  Not only was this a great movie for diehard fans of the show, but I think it works really well as a stand-alone mystery too.

As the story opens, Veronica is living in New York, having just gotten her law degree. She tell us she’s grown up, she’s changed, she has no interest in all that filthy snooping business she was into in her youth.  She is, in fact, about to land a high-powered job at a high-powered legal firm. . . when she gets a phone call from her old flame Logan.

Logan tells her he needs her help — he’s about to be put on trial for the murder of his girlfriend, a famous pop singer, and he didn’t do it.  Initially, Veronica, now living with the ever-charming but overly-“nice” Piz, plans to return home to Neptune just long enough to help Logan vet a few criminal attorneys.  But, of course, once she’s back in the world of private investigation, it turns out the lady had doth protested too much (that surely is not the proper way to conjugate that verb, but just roll with it); the lady’s no lawyer, she’s a class-A, snoop-lovin’ shamus.

The gang’s all here, from her dad (Enrico Colantoni, whom I was excited to see in The Mysteries of Laura until it became clear he wasn’t sticking around past the pilot, boo!) to her nerdy gal-pal Mac.  It’s great to see them all again, and the banter is as sharp as ever.  Additionally, the cameo from James Franco made me laugh out loud. TWICE. (Mom: “Who’s James Franco?” Me: “He’s like this super stoner dude who’s really, really smart. Except for the part where he tried to turn As I Lay Dying into a movie, which was really, really dumb.” Mom: “That does sound dumb.” Me: “I knew you’d understand.”)

Overall, they did a great job with this one, funded through a Kickstarter campaign.  And, they left it very clearly open to a sequel, which I’d definitely be on board for.  Recommended for fans of the show — big duh — but even if you never tuned in, you’ll find a lot to love here if you’re a fan of light, easy-going mysteries and solid writing.

[Netflix | Amazon]

Genre:  Drama, Comedy
Cast:  Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Chris Lowell, Tina Majorino, Percy Daggs III, Enrico Colantoni

Fall TV Week Five: Hang in There, It’s Almost Over!

October 13, 2014

tvset1Winding down now, with just a few stragglers plodding in here at the finish line.  Here’s what’s up this week, and next week should be my last installment for Fall 2014 (with final tricklings-in, plus a recap of what I kept and what I dumped).

WE MADE IT (assuming we make it!)!

Monday, 10/13

janeJane the Virgin – 9pm – CW – I’m not planning to watch this, but it’s gotten some of the best reviews of the fall, so if it sounds like your kinda thing, you should definitely tune in. Gina Rodriguez stars as a young woman named Jane, a virgin who discovers she has been accidentally artificially inseminated by her gynecologist.  I’m not sure how you manage to “accidentally” inseminate someone, but I don’t feel a huge pull to find out, to be honest.  Still, it’s been described as a witty, charming telenovela-style dramedy, and it’s the second in this fall’s new series to feature a predominantly Hispanic cast — that’s pretty great.  Oh crap.  I guess I’ll tune in after all.  What’s the worst that could happen?  I get knocked up accidentally? Go for it, Universe.

Tuesday, 10/14

marrymeMarry Me – 9pm – NBC – From Wikipedia, this description:  “Faced with proposals gone awry and a string of other unfortunate coincidences, Annie and Jake find themselves destined to be together whether they can get it together or not.”  Are you guys still awake?  Yeah, me neither.

About a Boy – 9:30pm – NBC –It’s about a boy.  I hear. (THIS JOKE NEVER GETS OLD!)

Fall TV Week Four: Let’s Get This Thing Over With Already

October 9, 2014

tvset1Hi, everyone!  Sorry for missing the first few days this week — I was out of town Monday and Tuesday for a work-related thing and then my brain was fried Wednesday night.  But you haven’t missed much, as I’m sure you’re already aware. I’m not gonna proofread this one, so I can get it the hell up already, so if it’s riddled with errors and uses the word “actually” 9,000 times blame Autocorrect.  (Because why not.)

Here’s what’s happened this week already, and what’s coming up at the end of it (hint: braaaaaaains!).

Monday, 10/6

The Originals – 8pm – CW — I have no idea what this is!  It’s something about some originals of some kind!

Tuesday, 10/7

theflashThe Flash — 8pm — CW.  I actually meant to record this one, but I blew it.  And that’s probably for the best, because I have a feeling I’m going to be all superheroed out just keeping up with Gotham (already behind on that one).  This is a spin-off of the CW’s series Arrow, about, you know: A REALLY FAST DUDE!  The part that intrigues me about this is that The Flash is apparently a forensic investigator, who uses his superhuman speed to. . . analyze DNA?  I don’t really know.   I might try to catch the pilot this weekend if it’s on Amazon or something.  Did anybody watch this?  Was it fun?

supernaturalSupeNatch – 9pm – CW — Good heavens, this show is still on?  I gave up when the whole angel thing really got hot and heavy — just found that incredibly boring for some reason. Angels schmangels; I want Ghost Facers! Is it still focused on all the heavenly stuff?  If not, I might give it a shot again.  I do miss those boys and their wacky antics.

Wednesday, 10/8

Arrow – 8pm – CW — Never seen it. I’m the worst TV reviewer on the planet.  Why are you still here?

kingdomKingdom – 9pm – DirecTV  – I am a DirecTV subscriber, so theoretically I could watch this show, which I think is their first original series. Which, by the way — must EVERYBODY make their own TV shows these days?  I mean, what’s next — Coming soon to ABC:  Safeway’s newest courtroom drama, “Clean Up in Aisle Five”? This show has gotten really strong reviews, though, so despite the fact it’s “set in the bruised and bloody world of mixed martial arts” (TV Guide), which is not exactly my world, I might see if I can figure out where I go to watch it.

freakAmerican Horror Story: Freak Show — 10pm — FX.  I didn’t bother with the last round of this series, Coven, because my interest in witches is nil, and because this show, even when it’s interesting, can get draw nigh to the Line of Insufferability fairly often for me.  But I just watched a documentary about freak shows/side shows (Bound by Flesh), and man, what a fascinating world that is/was/whatever.  I’ll definitely be giving this year’s story a shot, if only to get a chance to see what Kathy Bates looks like with a beard.

Friday, 10/10

cristelaCristela – 8:30pm – ABC – Another sit-com centered around a comedian — this seems to be the thing this year (Mulaney, e.g., which I haven’t seen yet).  The one interesting element to this is that it’s about a Mexican-American family; that’s kind of nice to see.  I have no intention of watching this show, but hey, way to be diverse, ABC.

Sunday, 10/12

walkingdeadThe Walking Dead – 9pm – AMC.  I’m still watching this!  I DO NOT KNOW WHY!  SOMEBODY PLEASE HELP ME! Clearly the zombies have eaten my braaaaaaains!

TO RECAP:  Questions:  Did you watch The Flash and was it fun?  Are the SuperNachos still hanging with flying dudes from above?  And WOULD you, in fact, watch a courtroom drama titled, Clean Up in Aisle Five?

Fall TV Week Three: Sunday – Elliott Gould Lives!

October 5, 2014

I’m about to head out of town for work for two days, so may or may not get this week’s TV stuff up tomorrow — if not tomorrow, then Tuesday, for sure! If not Tuesday, than certainly Wednesday!  But here’s what’s up tonight, anyway.

bobsburgersBob’s Burgers — 7:30pm — FOX.  I only discovered this show last year and I hardly ever watch it, yet I ADORE it.  I really ought to do something about that; that don’t make no sense.  This is a really clever cartoon series about a family that owns a burger shop.  It’s very, very smart and funny.  Previous seasons are all on Netflix Streaming, so check it out!  And maybe I’ll get Ebola soon and have enough time to get all the way caught up to a current season.  (Too soon with the Ebola humor?  Yeah, okay.  Fair enough, sorry.)

Homeland – 9pm — Showtime.  I watched seasons 1 and 2 of this and then never went on from there.  What season are they up to? I don’t even know.  I liked season 1 a lot, but not as much season 2, when the lady character went all bananas.  And then I heard the dude dies anyway, so, what is this show still up to?  Maybe I’ll find out some day.  BUT NOT TODAY.

mulaneyMulaney – 9:30pm — FOX.  I don’t know much about John Mulaney, but apparently he’s funny enough to warrant his own show.  I’ve read this show is a little too Seinfeld-y for some people’s tastes, but I liked Seinfeld well enough, and besides this show has Elliott Gould in it as a “wacky neighbor.”  I can think of few things Gould could do better than that.  Also: Martin Short, though he can be a bit hit or miss for me, depending on the intensity of his mania.  Going to check this one out just to see if it sticks.  You?

Fall TV Week Three: Thursday & Friday — Watch Broadchurch Instead!

October 2, 2014

tvset1Before I begin: a quick, exciting reminder (well, I’m excited about it anyway!): there’s a new Boyfriend of the Week up!  Check it out at http://megwood.com!

Meanwhile, back on the tube of boob, it’s only the middle of week three and I’m already behind on watching new stuff. After hearing from a few people here and on Facebook, by the way, I’m definitely planning to give Selfie a try, but will not be bothering with Manhattan Love Whatever The Heck That Was.

Also still digging Scorpion, incidentally.  It’s not brilliant, but it’s fun, and there’s a lot to be said for fun when you’re me.  Thought episode 2 of Forever was much better than episode 1, and am hoping to feel the same way about episode 3, which I’ll probably watch tonight.  It is also not brilliant, but man, I do love me some Ioan Gruffud, and I’m really enjoying Judd Hirsch in it as well.  Might be a keeper.  We’ll see how the next few weeks go.

Here’s what’s up tonight:

vampdiariesThe Vampire Diaries – 8pm — CW.  Never seen this; vampires are my least favorites of all the monsters, and 20-something vampires I tend to find utterly insufferable, especially but not limited to when they are “sparkly.”  I did enjoy The Strain this summer, while we’re on the subject of vamps, though I could definitely pick some bones with it.  Much better than the novel, anyway (my review of the novel is here if you’re interested). I never read the other two in the series, but will definitely stay tuned for more of the show. Corey Stoll is almost certainly going to show up as a Boyfriend of the Week at some point, too. I’ve been seeing a lot of him lately and I dig.

badjudgeBad Judge — 9pm — NBC.  This appears to be yet another tired, tired show about a successful professional woman who can’t keep her personal life in order. Because, as it’s been well-established by network television, women can only achieve one type of success in their lives — professional or personal — NOT BOTH. Pardon me while I barf up my breakfast. This one stars Kate Walsh, for better or for worse (depending on how you feel about Kate Walsh; I flip-flop) as a highly respected criminal court judge who “sleeps around” in her off-hours.  As network TV would like to remind us, women who sleep with a lot of men are BAD.  Men who sleep with a lot of women, on the other hand, are, you know: successful in both their private and personal lives. Pardon me while I barf up my mid-morning snack. Bad Judge: the most perfectly crafted sitcom title of all time (assuming the goal was endless ridicule).

gracepointGracepoint – 9pm — FOX.  This is the American remake of the incredibly good BBC series Broadchurch, which I think aired on BBC America last spring.  David Tennant starred in the original as a sad-sack detective investigating the murder of a little boy, and he’s playing the same role here as well.  This leads me to suspect this will mostly be a fairly straight-forward remake, without much in the way of additional content or perspective, which leads me to my next suggestion:  Don’t bother; go straight to the original without passing GO! Reviews of this one have been pretty humdrum, and I’m not planning on tuning in at all (not just because of the reviews, but also because the original was utterly heartbreaking and I don’t think I can go through it again). You can stream the original on Amazon for $1.99 an episode (there are 8 total) — and it’s well worth doing. Pay for it, please, don’t steal it; I believe in supporting good content with dollars.

Reign – 9pm — CW.  I have no idea what this is and cannot presently be bothered to go find out.  Enjoy!

atozA to Z — 9:30pm — NBC.  This sitcom is apparently a romantic comedy modeled a bit after the movie 500 Days of Summer.  Stars Ben Feldman (Mad Men) as Andrew (of the A in the title), dating a woman named Zelda (of the Z), and will chronicle their relationship from start to finish.  It actually seems like it could be kind of fun, but I’ll wait to try it until I see if it lasts or not. Reviews for this one have described it as a bit clumsy but overall fairly charming — I’ll be curious to hear what you guys think if any of you tune in!

That’s it for Thursday!  Friday only sees the return of Last Man Standing (8pm ABC), by the way, so no post tomorrow!

New Boyfriend of the Week/Month/Year is Up!

October 1, 2014

You’ll never believe this, you guys.  But there’s a new Boyfriend of the Week.

HOLY CRAP!  I KNOW!  My head just exploded too!

Go check him out at http://megwood.com, then come back here if’n you have comments.

It’s a love story, told in stock video footage.  Me + super dork = 4eva.

xo
Meg

NOTE!  Browser problems, naturally!  Videos work fine for me in Chrome, but not in Firefox. In Firefox, you can view by right-clicking and selecting “View video” (will open in Media Player). You can also use the “link” under each to open it in a new window or tab. I know it’s a huge pain — this is crap web design, for sure, makin’ you have to do stuff like that. But I’m crunched for time on solution-finding, and the videos are REALLY important. Because they are FRIGGIN’ HILARIOUS.  So, do your best. And if you can’t see them at all, post here to let me know and I’ll try to resolve the issue later in the week.

Fall TV Week Three: Tuesday & Wednesday – Sitcoms and Stalkers

September 30, 2014

Only three new shows over the next two days, so I’m combining to save everybody time. Anybody planning to tune into any of these?

Tuesday, September 30

selfieSelfie – 8pm — ABC.  I’m predisposed to loathe this show, simply because A) sit-com and B) named Selfie. At the same time, it looks like it’s going to be a bit of an exploration of the impact of social media on interpersonal skills and self-esteem, and that’s a new, and fairly overdue, story theme.  I recently attended a conference about just that kind of thing and it was fascinating. Plus: John Cho.  However: sit-com. Named Selfie. I don’t know what to do. I’m paralyzed with indecision and fear. I guess one episode can’t hurt, right?

manhattanManhattan Love Story – 8:30pm — ABC.  This one was described by TV Guide as “using the power of voiceover to broadcast the internal monologues of a New York City dude and a Midwestern transplant chick as they navigate an awkward first date and subsequent budding romance.”  I actually find the concept appealing, minus the word “chick,” but unfortunately, TV Guide then went on to say, “What you’ll learn early on from the voices in their heads is that guys like sex and women like purses. . .”  Annnnnnnd, cut.

Wednesday, October 1 (holy crap, it’s October!)

criminalmindsCriminal Minds — 9pm — CBS.  In a comment on yesterday’s post, reader Roger BW said he’s mostly still watching Castle out of “inertia,” which is exactly what I’ve been doing with Criminal Minds.  I don’t like this show, but I keep watching it because, well. . . because I always have. I think this is finally the year I quit, though.  After however-many-years of constant episodes about the torture of women, I started to feel like I couldn’t take much more of it last season, and I’m not feeling any pull to tune in at all this year. I recognize this isn’t really a fair criticism — so much violent crime IS directed at women, and it’s perfectly legit for crime shows, then, to have a lot of episodes focused on just that thing. But, man, I feel like suddenly the real world is excruciating enough; I can’t take quite so much of it in my escapism too.

stalkerStalker – 10pm — CBS.  This is the new Kevin Williamson series, which means it’s likely to be extremely violent and also probably more than a little cliché.  Even worse  is that it focuses on a division of the LAPD that deals with stalkers, voyeurs, and other assailants who hurt women — giving us back-to-back lady-torture shows from CBS tonight.  It co-stars Dylan McDermott, who is a former Boyfriend of the Week mostly because I was young and dumb back then.  He’s not much of an actor, and he’s also super into playing “righteously indignant” characters with righteous indignation so over-the-top it feels less “indignant” and more “indulgent.”  I’ll give it a try, but to be honest, I’m pretty squicked out by CBS’s “Wednesday Night is Hatin’-the-Ladies Night” line-up here.  Maybe this show will be better than that, though?  Maybe it’ll have something useful to contribute to the conversation?  I ain’t holdin’ my breath, but I’ll give it a chance.

Fall TV Week Three – Monday: Linda Hunt, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?

September 29, 2014

tvset1HELLO, AND WELCOME TO WEEK THREE.

Not much to report on this morning.  I missed Madam Secretary AGAIN, but will try to catch up this week and report in. I was too busy this past weekend for much TV watching of any variety, though I did see the How to Get Away with Murder pilot a second time, this time with Mom, and we both liked it, so I stick to my “thumbs up” on that on (also, Entertainment Weekly gave it an A, so there, Brian Toohey!) (I tease because I love, by the way.)

Here’s what’s coming up tonight, which is not very much:

Mom – 8:30pm — CBS.  I haven’t seen this one, though I do adore Allison Janney, and she just won an Emmy for her role in Mom a few months ago too.  If it comes to Netflix streaming at some point, I’ll definitely give it a shot.

castleCastle – 10pm — ABC.   I’m at least 2 seasons behind on Castle because it records in my bedroom and isn’t watchable anywhere else (I really need to upgrade DVRs).  Planning on skipping my flu shot this year, though, so I have a chance at catching up at last. This show is fun but I burned out on it in terms of regular, weekly viewing somewhere around season 3.  On the other hand, it is absolutely perfect “I gotta fever” TV.  I’ll start breathing deeply whenever someone’s coughing or sneezing on the bus and see what happens.

NCIS: LA – 1opm — CBS.  I’d do a lot for a little time with Linda Hunt. BUT I WILL NOT DO THIS.

Fall TV Week Two: Friday & Sunday — Nothin’ to See Here; Move Along.

September 26, 2014

tvset1Going to hit you with both tonight AND Sunday’s line-ups today, since there’s nothing new coming to either one, and I’m also going to skip lengthy annotations, because none of these are shows I have much of anything to say about — of the whole list, I only watch CSI and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and what is there to say about either of those that I haven’t said in previous posts?  Nuttin’.

On the other hand, did you guys watch How to Get Away with Murder last night?  I did and I really enjoyed it!  Definitely think this is going to be a sharp one.  I was certainly surprised by the reveal of the victim’s identity, and I really liked a couple of the students (mostly Wes). Looking forward to seeing how this one plays out and hope it keeps a steady footing.

So far, for week two, I’m planning to continue on with that one, Scorpion, and Gotham for sure, and then Mysteries of Laura and Forever tentatively.  What’s your scorecard for the week?

Friday, 9/26

The Amazing Race – 8pm – CBS — As I’ve said before, no can do this show; too stressful. Everybody running around and yelling at each other and eating things no human being should be eating! Wrong! No!

Shark Tank – 8pm – ABC — I have no idea what this is.

Hawaii Five-0 – 9pm – CBS — This is still on? Shoot, should I have been watching this?

Blue Bloods – 10pm – CBS — Not terrible, but not good enough for me to get hooked, either.

 

Sunday, 9/28

Once Upon a Time – 8pm – ABC — Everybody’s really excited about the chick from Frozen joining the cast. Is this one still fun?  I enjoyed the beginning of season 1 but lost interest by the end of the year.  If it’s good, I’d consider a return, just because the premise was so unique.  What say you?

The Simpsons – 8pm – FOX — HOLY CRAP, YOU GUYS. TWENTY-SIX YEARS!!   How old am I?  Old enough to remember this show getting its start in the late 80s on The Tracey Ullman Show, is how old.  Dang. That’s old.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – 8:30pm – FOX — I enjoyed this last year.  Hoping to do so again this year.

Family Guy – 9pm – FOX — Irritating.

Resurrection – 9pm – ABC — Patently astonished this survived.

CSI – 10pm – CBS — Ted Danson single-handedly saved this show from the grave.  Love you, Ted Danson.

Revenge – 10pm – ABC — Click on the link for this one if you want to see Madeline Stowe’s least flattering photograph of all time. Good heavens. Beautiful woman, terrible photograph!

 


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