Archive for April, 2010

National Poetry Month 30/30: THE BLUES BROTHERS in 5-7-5

April 30, 2010

It’s your last chance to celebrate National Poetry Month with us!  Contribute your own haiku on The Blues Brothers in the comments!  I’m out of town at the moment, but when I get back late next week, I’ll be putting together a list of my favorite reader contributions to the series.  Watch for that post next Thursday or Friday and see if you made the grade!

THE BLUES BROTHERS

Four whole fried chickens
And a Coke.  And some toast, dry.
Sing it, Aretha!

National Poetry Month 29/30: THE MALTESE FALCON in 5-7-5

April 29, 2010

Celebrate National Poetry Month at the Boyfriend News & Reviews blog!  Just write your own haiku about Bogie’s The Maltese Falcon and post it in the comments — easy!

THE MALTESE FALCON

Spade’s a real smart ass
Which drives Joel Cairo bonkers.
Stuff dreams are made of. . .

National Poetry Month 28/30: THE BREAKFAST CLUB in 5-7-5

April 28, 2010

Celebrate National Poetry Month — add your own haiku about The Breakfast Club in the comments below!

THE BREAKFAST CLUB

When I was a kid,
Judd’s “Criminal” made me swoon.
Now I’m all for “Brains.”

National Poetry Month 27/30: JEOPARDY in 5-7-5

April 27, 2010

Celebrate National Poetry Month!  Add your own haiku about the TV game show Jeopardy in the comments!

My folks love this show —
For all the Daily Doubles,
Dad yells, “BET IT ALL!”

National Poetry Month 26/30: POLTERGEIST in 5-7-5

April 26, 2010

Help us celebrate National Poetry Month!  Add your own haiku about Poltergeist in the comments below!

POLTERGEIST

Creepy little girl
Gets sucked into the TV,
Saved by dwarf lady.

BOOK: The Writing Class by Jincy Willett (2008)

April 26, 2010

I picked this one up on a whim a week ago and after recently reading Stephen Markley’s non-fiction Publish This Book, a book about how Markley got a book about publishing a book published (read the review if you want to make sense of that), I was intrigued by the concept of The Writing Class:  a murder mystery set in a writers’ workshop.    And man, was it ever fun.  Up until the very end, which I found slightly unsatisfying (though I’m currently taking comfort in the theory it may have been making fun of itself), I was completely sucked in.  It’s hilarious, sharp, and extremely entertaining.  Score!

The story focuses on a writing workshop teacher, the overweight, undersuccessful Amy Gallup.  Gallup had once been a talent — publishing her first novel at age 22 to high praise and huge success.  But her follow-up novels mostly bombed and after a few years of failure, plus the death of her husband (her gay best friend), she quit writing and began to teach instead.  Her workshops, which take place at a local college, are night classes usually taken by three types of students:  1) the rare one who can actually write; 2) the all-to-frequent ones who think they can write and can’t; and 3) the also all-too-frequent ones who are there primarily to pick up hot dudes/chicks.

Her latest class looks like it’s going to be about the same, but she presses into it anyway and soon finds that some of her students are more interesting than she’d originally given them credit for.  One of the students, a wealthy, naive young woman named Carla, is taking the workshop for the umpteenth time and kind of giving Amy the willies because of how much she knows about her at this point.  But the rest of the group seems fairly normal:  an elderly retired schoolteacher who quickly reveals herself to be the best writer in the class, a doctor writing a terrible medical thriller, a bunch of guys writing predictable horror and mystery stories, and a few other assorted students taking the class a lot more seriously than most.

The class quickly becomes tight after a few sessions spent arguing over their manuscripts, and Amy is impressed and excited about the quarter.  Until strange things start to happen:  a couple of students come to her with offensive, upsetting notes found tucked into their critiques;  another nearly dies in a car accident when someone plays a vicious Halloween prank on her.  Before long, the trickster escalates, and one of Amy’s students ends up dead.  Shortly after that, Amy begins receiving terrifying phone calls in the middle of the night and tries to cancel the class.  But the students,  inspired by Amy’s teaching, beg her to continue on despite the threats.  It’s clear some of them find the work of The Sniper, as they begin to call him/her, extremely exciting.  Maybe TOO exciting. . .

The ending, the big reveal, was a bit of a letdown for me.  It just didn’t have the originality or oomph I was expecting, though, as I hinted at earlier, I suspect  this was done on purpose — the entire book is clearly meant to serve as a satire of genre fiction, and the fact it is genre fiction itself can be no accident.   At least, that’s what I’m hoping is the case.  This small gripe aside, though, I completely devoured this novel, reading it in two days and loving every minute spent with it.

So, if you’re looking for something light and fun to read, you need go no further, believe me.  I’m only sorry I read it last week instead of this coming one, as I’m about to get on a plane for six hours and it would’ve been just the thing!  Oh well — I’m sure I’ve got something else in my pile(s) that will do.  Will report back, of course, once I’ve read whatever it is I read next.

Recommended!

[MYSTERY]

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National Poetry Month 25/30: WITHNAIL & I in 5-7-5

April 25, 2010

Celebrate National Poetry Month with us!  Write your own haiku about the infinitely-quotable British comedy Withnail & I in the comments below!

WITHNAIL & I

His thumbs went all weird
So he drove to the country.
It didn’t go well.

National Poetry Month 24/30: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK in 5-7-5

April 24, 2010

Celebrate National Poetry Month!  Write a haiku about Yoda in the comments below!

STAR WARS V:  THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

Judge him by his size?
I wouldn’t recommend it.
Yoda’s a bad ass.

National Poetry Month 23/30: SAY ANYTHING in 5-7-5

April 23, 2010

Celebrate National Poetry Month!  Add your own haiku about Say Anything in the comments!

SAY ANYTHING

Diane: Brain with legs.
Lloyd:  A man, not just a guy.
I hope they made it.

BOOK: Edisto by Padgett Powell (1984)

April 23, 2010

Simons (“You say it ‘Simmons.’ I’m a rare one-m Simons”) Everson Manigault is a 12 year-old boy who lives in Edisto, South Carolina, a sleepy little seaside town, some time in the late-60’s, I would guess.  He’s a boy with a vocabulary far beyond his years, having grown up with a mother (whom he calls “the Doctor”) who pushed books on him before he could stand.  But though he talks big, Simons is every bit as little a boy as all little boys are: as confused about the world, the people around him, girls in particular, sex in specific, and himself most especially.

One summer, a young African American man comes to the Manigault house to serve a subpoena, promptly scaring away the family maid, an elderly African American woman named Theenie who believes the man is her long-lost grandson, come to punish her for her daughter’s transgressions.  The Doctor sees something interesting in the man (in more ways than one, we suspect) and offers to let him stay in Theenie’s cabin on the beach as long as he’ll help out with Simons and teach him a few things.  Simons and the man, nicknamed “Taurus,” quickly become close friends.  Taurus is laid-back and thoughtful, Simons a bit more on the manic side, and the two spend the summer philosophizing, hanging out at a local juke joint called “Marvins R.O. Sweet Shop & Baby Grand,” and swapping lessons in the best ways to embrace life to the fullest.

This lazy, easy rowboat ride gets the tip when the Doctor’s ex-husband, Simons’s father (“the Progenitor”), comes back into the picture.  Though the two parents fight incessantly, usually over the laissez-faire mothering techniques employed by the Doctor, it gradually becomes clear to both Simons and Taurus that a reconciliation is in the works.  Calmly recognizing this, the two friends head out for one last day together, a day that features Simons’s first kiss and first crush (not on the same girl — and oh, don’t we all know how that goes), and then Taurus hits the road again, leaving Simons behind to forge his own way in a new life with a new-again family.

The story is pretty straight-forward, but the thing that makes this novel truly great and utterly addictive, for me anyway, was the language.  Powell not only has a masterful grasp of the nuances of childhood thinking, something that shines through even while disguised by Simons’s precocious speech, but the language of the locals — the dialect of the Doctor, Theenie, and the other characters we meet in the story — is brilliantly, sharply captured.  This is a simple coming-of-age story, but one with an intensely emotional sense of place and time.  It’s inventive, smart, hilariously funny at times, and absolutely on fire with the author’s obvious love for both his characters and his craft.

This is the first novel by Powell I’ve ever read, and I can’t wait to get my hands on more.  Tell me I won’t be disappointed?  Someone?  Please?

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