Thursday, December 12, 2013
Monday, December 09, 2013
Friday, December 06, 2013
Limerick Friday LXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXV: A True Visionary Leaves Our World, Plus “Sons Of Anarchy” Happened
A legend on the planet, indeed
Saved a country by planting freedom’s seed
Imprisoned for much of his life
Then took on bigotry and strife
Nelson Mandela, godspeed
A season for the ages
Has brought out Pack fan rages
No talent left behind
Must recruit and grind
A bounceback must come in stages
The fantasy Final Four
Luck determines the score
Lineup picks a struggle
Flex spots to juggle
Always left yearning for more
A magical season for lowly Duke
Whether legitimate or a fluke
Doesn’t matter, I guess
And you know the rest
The ‘Noles will treat ‘em like puke
From hero to villain
He really needed killin’
For the demise of Clay Morrow
Had very little sorrow
But now some plotlines need fillin’
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Demonic, Drunk Or Dauntless Dan Torrance? King’s “Doctor Sleep” Emerges As Worthy Sequel To “The Shining”
“He had come to believe that life was a series of ironic ambushes.”
“He paused. ‘There are other worlds than these.’”
“Life was a wheel, its only job was to turn, and it always came back to where it had started.”
One of Stephen King’s most beloved novels is “The Shining,” so his decision to write, in effect, a sequel to it was met with confusion and doubt in many quarters. King’s latest, “Doctor Sleep” flashes forward some quarter-century to envision creepy-kid Danny Torrance as struggling-blackout-drunk Dan Torrance—and what happens when he’s given something to truly live for and pass on.
The latest vivid, compelling read from King is a fan-fiction dream come true, though the author admitted to having trepidations about writing such a sequel, but draws from “Firestarter” and “Green Mile” themes here to pull it off rather seamlessly.
We are presented with a rather startling introduction to adult Danny, who seems to have developed a rather understandable—if largely unmanageable—drinking problem as a result of an unsettling upbringing filled with REDRUM and imaginary twin girls. The mentor from his years at the Overlook Hotel, Dick Halloran (“The world has a way of keeping things in balance. I believe that. There’s a saying: When the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear. I was your teacher,” he tells Dan), plays a bit role as a sometimes-mentor, but even he can’t veer Dan away from a life spent drifting from fight to bar to liquor store.
“Ask your question, son. I can’t stay. This world is a dream of a dream to me now.”
“It seems to me you grew up fine, son, but you still owe a debt ... Pay it.”
“There came a time when you realized that moving on was pointless. That you took yourself with you wherever you went.”
Continuing his stories with connections to North Carolina, King documented Dan’s ugly misdeeds in Wilmington,
highlighted lowlighted by
a heartbreaking depiction of an abused toddler. Any fan of King’s is eminently
aware of how deeply personal the subject matter here is to the author, who
wrote an emotional prologue relating to “finding the bottom” in Alcoholics
“The man who wrote Doctor Sleep is very different from the well-meaning alcoholic who wrote The Shining, but both remain interested in the same thing: telling a kickass story.”
Through some combination of divine providence and fate, Dan finds himself helping elderly nursing-home patients ease into death while re-establishing his own identity in soberness. On a side note, I felt as if skipping Dan’s story ahead three or six years with little insight into his life or recovery was a bit problematic in terms of context for Dan’s turnaround.
“He thought: If I drink, the Overlook wins. Even though it burned to the ground when the boiler exploded, it wins. If I don’t drink, I go crazy.
“He thought: All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”
“But when the young guy looked up at him, Kingsley saw the eyes were clear of everything but desperation. ... mostly it was the way he held the bottle, hating it and loving it and needing it all at the same time.
“At last Dan brought out the words he had been running from all his life.
“‘I need help.’”
However, when “The True Knot” and psychic-ish young girl Abra enter the story, the pace ramps up quickly and the novel absorbs you. Led by the impossibly beautiful and cruel Rose the Hat, the True is rejuvenated and made immortal via “the steam,” which is the essence of pain, death and agony. These are “the RV people,” and King’s goes to great lengths—and even greater writing—to describe them and their role in the American landscape and fabric.
“America is a living body, the highways are its arteries, and the True Knot slips along them like a silent virus.”
“They eat screams and drink pain.”
The book includes a number of emotional scenes, including one where Abra is overcome with tears that are shed through Dan’s eyes. There are also some very jarring scenarios, drawing extensively on the terror of torture at times. And as usual, this story is yet another King work that lends itself quite easily to cinematic interpretation, including scenes such as seeing “REDRUM” in the mirror in quite creepy fashion.
There is a rather unexpected revelation late in the book (no spoilers here) that dramatically shifts the perspective of the events that take place near the story’s conclusion. Continuing with King’s late-career trend, “Doctor Sleep” ends on a positive note, minus the seemingly inevitable character loss that’s largely anticipated by old-school readers.
King dedicated the book to legendary musician Warren Zevon and threw Jax Teller’s (“Sons of Anarchy”) name in along the way as a cultural reference, and he does a nice job of connecting the world of the Overlook with modern-day New England. Suffice it to say that, boosted by a wink and nod to the ghost of his father Jack, Danny seems to find his role and worth in the universe, lending something beautiful to “Doctor Sleep.”
King certainly bit off plenty in electing to pursue an extension of such a landmark novel, and with a few hiccups here and there, he largely pulls it off. It’s an ambitious work that lacks some of the frantic intensity and horror of some of his earlier pieces, but he does a more-than-admirable job of tackling a monumental task in “Doctor Sleep.”
“Perhaps kids really did come into the world trailing clouds of glory, as Wordsworth had so confidently proclaimed, but they also shit in their pants until they learned better.”
“‘I won’t. I’m with you.’ So he was. It was his terrible privilege.”
Monday, December 02, 2013
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
As an Arcade Fire fan, I'm a bit on the fence about their fourth album, the dance-techno-heavy "Reflektor." But this video for "Afterlife" represents a welcome alteration to the traditional music video medium, electing for a short-movie approach that both complements and extends the song itself.
Monday, November 25, 2013
“There comes a time when you
realize that everything is a dream,
and only those things preserved in writing
have any possibility of being real.”
“All That Is” landed on my desk preceded by author James Salter’s reputation for smooth prose. And while that proved to be true, I found my reading of it compromised by the confusion and aloofness that riddled the story itself.
Overall, the book was a bit of a plod, making it a lengthy read. The prose featured long, rhythmic sentences, with Salter taking the time to share in-depth character sketching even on supposedly minor characters with bit roles. There were some harrowing and creepy plotlines, with some incestuous leanings thrown in for bad measure.
As well, there were some confusing pronoun use and context problems, not to mention some unexpected, matter-of-fact vulgarity that can catch the reader off-guard. Some of these passages dwelled so long on the act that they entered into awkward and uncomfortable territory. There were also shifts in perspective that were quite sudden and arresting, picking up various strains of personal stories that go off on seemingly unrelated tangents.
The most problematic difficulty I encountered, however, was the lack of access into Bowman’s mindset. As his life unfolds, there is a pervasive sense that life is just occurring all around him, while we’re given no insight into how he feels or what he desires. This approach is understandable in some ways, yet I feel the story would have felt more personal and genuine with a few of these look-ins.
Bowman seems content to glide through life as a jaded, bit player at a publishing house. He cheats and is cheated on; he lies and is lied to. The book began with some intense battle imagery, but Bowman quickly journeys from war hero to antihero, bottoming out when he gets back at one girlfriend who essentially stole his house from him by smoking hash with and date-raping her 30-years-younger daughter.
This episode points up a running theme from Salter within this book: that women are seen as things to be conquered. While this level of chauvinism may be reflective of the era in which the book is set, it can be problematic when combined by the gulf and distance between the reader and the main character.
“The great hunger of the past was for food, there was never enough food and the majority of people were undernourished or starving, but the new hunger was for sex, there was the same specter of famine without it.”
“He loved her for not only what she was but what she might be, the idea that she might be otherwise did not occur to him or did not matter. Why would it occur? When you love you see a future according to your dreams.”
“‘We’re in the middle of the woman thing. They want equality, in work, marriage, everywhere. They don’t want to be desired unless they feel like it ... The thing is, they want a life like ours. We both can’t have a life like ours.’”
“She was lively and wanted to talk, like a wind-up doll, a little doll that also did sex. Kitty was her name.”
Which brings up the question: Are we supposed to like him? He’s some weird combination of Don Draper and Biff Loman, but his likeability is mitigated by lack of explanation, a dearth of details surrounding the whys of his decisions.
You get the sense that the book is ostensibly supposed to be about finding meaning and love, but this theme is diminished by the detachment of Bowman’s feelings. By the time thoughts of mortality begin to enter the equation toward the end of the book, it is almost too late. By that point, the distance Bowman has created between himself and not just society, but by extension, the audience, is too difficult to overcome—as evidenced in the below quote.
“Suddenly, everything had fallen away. He had felt himself above other people, knowing more than they did, even pitying them. He was not related to other people—his life was another kind of life. He had invented it.”
Salter saves his best for last, with some beautiful prose at the book’s end, which does battle with a difficult-to-overcome lack of substantiality in Bowman and his chosen life. His transitory existence involves going from hotel to restaurant to party, with nothing of substance to ground him. This decision may be all part of character building, but it left at least one reader yearning to know more, to understand better.
Bowman is seduced by the allure, eroticism and promises of Manhattan (“It was like a dream, trying to imagine it all, the windows and entire floors that never went dark, the world you wanted to be in.”), yet his ephemeral existence doesn’t allow him the permanence to achieve—or really, pursue—any true goals. Or, for that matter, repercussions.
The story may have benefited more by peeling back the layers of emotions that cover Bowman. While Salter’s depictions of courtship and marriage are largely overhung with a sense of doom and impending failure, we are given occasional glimpses into Bowman’s true feelings about losing Vivian, of feeling betrayed—mostly of his own doing—by a steady line of women.
“He lay there unwillingly and sleepless, the city itself, dark and glittering, seemed empty. The same couple, the same bed, yet now not the same.”
“How did it happen, that something no longer mattered, that it had been judged inessential?”
“He saw them now for what they were and had been, the great days of love.”
Bowman seems to possess a quiet desperation that is more hinted at than revealed. It’s also possible that his lack of a father figure—not to mention his borderline-disturbing relationship with his mother—tainted his dealings with women.
“At a certain point also you began to feel that you knew everyone, there was no one new, and you were going to spend the rest of your life among familiar people, women especially.”
At the end of the day, I felt “All That Is” was somehow diminished by its lack of perspective and its disjointed nature. In addition to issues with how often it jumped around, it was hard to reconcile Bowman’s journey from war hero to douche due to the lack of insight we are offered into his thought process. Also, gender-expectation concerns aside, eroticism vs. creepiness can be a difficult balance to pull off decently, and I thought Salter struggled there.
It’s hard to ignore the brilliance in some of Salter’s writing, but for me, the seeming aimlessness and oddity of the story outweighed the prose in dragging down a promising novel.
“The power of the novel in the nation’s culture had weakened. It had happened gradually. It was something everyone recognized and ignored. All went on exactly as before, that was the beauty of it. The glory had faded but fresh faces kept appearing, wanting to be part of it, to be in publishing which had retained a suggestion of elegance like a pair of beautiful, bone-shined shoes owned by a bankrupt man.”