I heard this when watching The Kids Are All Right last weekend with the wife. It only appeared in the film for a minute or so, but I loved the sound, found out who it was, and it immediately went into high rotation around the household. This is a great live version.
McCoy's murder tale of a young couple and the dance marathon they entered doesn't really justify even the short length of the novel. This story could easily have been told in far fewer pages. The dance marathon routines become tedious, and I found it hard to believe the male protagonist found it necessary to "put her down."
Robert Kirkman-Invincible Vol. 3 & 4 The tone of this superhero series continues to become grimmer and grimmer after a somewhat light-hearted beginning. I like it.
Philip K. Dick-Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I tried to read this when I was 13 after sneaking in to see Blade Runner, but couldn't do it. It only took me 29 years to finally get back around to it. Dick's novel is quite different from the film, as to be expected, but no less successful. The thing I appreciated most about this book is that it helped me understand the movie better. This is actually one of Dick's better novels, but it is pretty straight-forward and doesn't contain the mind-fuckery he likes to play with in his greatest works.
Wilkie Collins-The Woman in White The Woman in White was a far better read than The Moonstone, which I read last month. The characters were more interesting and far less annoying and the suspense was sustained to a far greater degree. I have more of Collins novels and will be checking them out sooner or later.
Ted McKeever Library Book 3-Metropol Image comics has collected some of McKeever early creator-owned series and republished them in handsome hardcovers. I read all of these series in the 90's, but it's cool to have them all bound in a single volume and the stories are well worth a second read. This apocalyptic tale of battling angels and demons is pure McKeever; distinctive art, good storyline, and engaging characters. Indie comics don't get better.
Stephen King-Full Dark, No Stars It has been awhile since King has really hooked me, but these four stories all succeed. These stories are lean and mean and show that King, when working within a limited palate, can still bring it.
Brian K. Vaughn-Y The Last Man Deluxe Hardcover 4
Volume 4 of 5 starts to bring many of the storylines together. Still engaging, fun stuff.
Wolf People are an amazing band. Check out my previous post of their video for 'Tiny Circle'. They have just released their first studio album entitled Steeple and it absolutely rocks. Check out this delicious live version of Dorney Reach from the album
This month started off with an early novel of the Strugatsky's. Written before the brothers began to write more social science fiction, Space Apprentice applauds Soviet ideals of work and how work fulfills the individual and helps center the individual into his or her place in society. Yet is there a tongue to be found within a cheek here? Hard to say. This novel is far more straight-forward than later works, yet still contains the warmth and humanity also found in later, and far more satirical and subversive works. A success? Definitely.
Wilkie Collins-The Moonstone The Moonstone, claimed by many to be the first mystery novel, is as much a novel of manners, as evidenced by its foremost narrator, as it is a mystery novel. Collins book is told from around five or six different perspectives, but the one that dominates the narrative, that of the old servant Betteridge, whose whole life philosophy can be found between the pages of Robinson Crusoe, is so strictly observant of place and propriety that the story sometimes suffers. I'm a huge fan of fiction from the 19th Century, but Collins pedantic tone is sometimes quite irritating, particularly through Betteridge's mouth. The detection is also very much founded on assumption instead of facts. For all that, I did quite enjoy this book, my first by Collins, and am looking forward to The Woman in White in November.
Robert Kirkman-The Walking Dead Volume 12 Life Among Them The survivors find themselves being incorporated into a seemingly perfect community on the outskirts of D.C. This volume keeps you waiting for what is wrong in this community, but it never comes, in fact, at the end it seems as if our heroes might be on the verge of spoiling something good themselves. I am really looking forward to 13.
As a side note, the premiere of the TV series last night was a fun and faithful adaption of the series first couple issues.
Robert Kirkman-The Astounding Wolf-Man Volume 1 Well I've been walking with the dead for a couple years now, and I started Invincible a couple months ago, so when I found this at a used book store I jumped all over it. Kirkman seems to be on a roll these days and who am I to say stop already. The Wolf-Man seems another success, and I am seeking out Vol. 2.
Eric Powell-The Goon Volume 6 Chinatown and the Mystery of Mr. Wicker I love Powell's The Goon, but had left off reading it for reasons I can't exactly explain, so when I found this, in a nice used hardcover edition I grabbed it. Powell gives some backstory to The Goon character in this volume along with the usual monsters, dames, grifters, and gangsters that usually fill these pages. Why did I ever stop?
William Gibson- Spook Country What I really liked about Gibson's Spook Country was the quick-hit, snap shift from one character's perspective to the next. Gibson never lingers long with one character and this plays well, specifically when tension mounts, as when a few of his, at first, disparate threads begin to converge on the streets of New York. Gibson spins a simple, yet seemingly complex yarn of espionage and cultural exploration that tantalizes with the questions it asks, but has difficulty in ultimately achieving the heights it aspires to. But for me its always been about the trip, not the destination.
Most of the month of September had me absorbed in Malory's crowning achievement. These two mammoth volumes, at times difficult to get through, exemplify the Arthurian legends and the chivalric romance. Throughout history many authors have contributed to the myth and legend of Arthur, but none so comprehensively as Malory.
Dan Simmons-Darwin's Blade Another Dan Simmons novel and another book overly bloated with unneeded research and detail. I'm starting to think that Dan Simmons actually likes research better than plot and character development. Dan Simmons could take a lesson from James M. Cain on how to construct a concise narrative. No filler here, just love, lust, and murder. This novel has been filmed twice. Originally with John Garfield and Lana Turner, and more notoriously, with Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange.
Jeff Smith-Bone Volume 1 Out From Boneville I actually bought this for my son, but one afternoon, being bogged down in Malory's antiquated prose, I picked it up and gave it a read. Not bad. My son loved it and has been bugging me for volume 2.
Garth Ennis-Preacher Vol.8 All Hell's A-Coming/Vol. 9 Alamo Well, I finally finished the Preacher series. This series had a difficult time keeping up the pace and the degradation established early on. It didn't end poorly, it's just that the series started so strongly and was filled with so much violence and blasphemy that it must have been hard to keep thinking up more and more extreme debauchery. Fun stuff nonetheless.
Robert Kirkman-Invincible Vol. 2: Eight is Enough Finally found a cheap copy of this. Kirkman keeps the good times rolling for our teenaged superhero. Not as engaging as The Walking Dead, but a good superhero comic. I'm hooked.
Well all this thinking about Harry Nilsson got me thinking about how great Midnight Cowboy is, which got me thinking about how great John Barry's music for said film is, which got me thinking about the track Fun City in particular and how fucking amazing it is.
I'm no know-it-all, but I would say that most casual observers love Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly for three reasons:
1) Clint Eastwood's iconic performance as The man with No Name,
2) Ennio Morricone's thrilling main theme, and
3) the riveting show-down at the end.
Yeah, three of the same reasons I love it too...for the first few viewings, but I have spent a lot of years with this film and came to realization that, for me anyways, the three greatest things about this film are:
1) Eli Wallach's amazing performance as Tuco,
2) Ennio Morricone's unmatched theme The Ecstacy of Gold, and
3) The scene in the graveyard where #'s 1 and 2 come together.
This scene delights me, thrills me, and brings those goosebumps to my flesh every time I watch it. So this is the first entry in what I hope becomes an ongoing piece in this blog: Gideon's Essential Scene. Check it out.
Well, August means a return to the classroom for me, and therefore much less time at my disposal to fuel my reading obsession for the next 10 months. So be it. I am still able to find some, though seemingly always diminishing, time to myself. The month of August 2010 will go down as one of the poorest in recent memory, as none of the books I read this month were that great. Though I must say that as I refocus my energies into my job it is hard at times to completely engage with my reading material, but be that as it may here's what I read.
William Gibson and Bruce Sterling-The Difference Engine
Co-authors Gibson, of whose books I never miss, and Sterling, of whose books I've read one other, imagine a world in which Charles Babbage actually created his Difference Engine, a sort of steam-driven, monstrous computer. This advance has placed England on even a larger pedestal then the one they actually occupied, their machinations are felt the world over, particularly in the United States where there is not one united nation but four: the northern states, the southern states, and the republics of California and Texas, and scientists occupy the highest strata in society.
Gibson and Sterling cleverly constructed a world featuring real people in, obviously altered roles from the one they played in our timeline. Charles Babbage, Sam Houston, Benjamin Disraeli, Lord Byron, and even Percy Bysshe Shelley as a staunch Luddite, are all featured.
The plot is fairly convoluted and would require more typing that I want to do, but I did enjoy this book. In fact now that I am writing about it I realize I actually like it better than I thought at first. This book had the misfortune of sitting on my shelf for years and then being the first book I read upon the resumption of the school year.
Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon-Preacher Vol. 7 Salvation
This installment of the 9 volume series is actually quite tame compared to its predecessors. I get the feeling it sort of serves as an interlude before the series begins to be wrapped up in the final two volumes. A good read as far as comics go, but seriously lacking the punch that made the earlier installments so much fun.
Dashiell Hammett-The Glass Key I have now read all of Hammett's novels and I'm disappointed that it seems, in my opinion, I saved the worst for last. All of Hammett's other novels I have supremely enjoyed in one degree or another, but there was something in this tale of big-city corruption, gangland warfare, and murder mystery that did not work for me. I found the protagonist largely unsympathetic and many of his actions and interactions with the other characters contrived and illogical.
Apparently this was Hammett's favorite, so what the hell do I know.
Joe Pernice-The Smiths Meat is Murder 33 1/3 series
If you consider yourself a music fan and you are not all over this series of books from Continuum publishers I seriously question your devotion. Obviously I will never read all of these because, frankly, I don't give a damn for some of the albums covered in the series.
Joe Pernice of the Pernice Brothers here tackles the greatest album by one of the greatest bands of the 80's. Unfortunately Pernice's approach here is not usually what I look for in rock journalism. In fact this is not journalism at all, but a short story about a teenaged boy, Pernice perhaps?, dealing with all the shit we all go through as a teenager. He just happens to love The Smiths.
Even though I didn't love this, it exemplifies what is so cool about this series. You never know what you're going to get. Whether it is a song by song analysis of an album, a social commentary on the influences and impact of a given work, or like here, and in John Darnielle's entry for the series on Black Sabbath's Master of Reality, simply fiction, you're getting a fresh and more often than not engaging take on music you love.
Ward Moore-Greener than you Think
In the 80's Crown Books re-issued 10 forgotten sci-fi books from years gone by. I have now read them all and this book was excruciating. It was an absolute slog to get through. It actually starts out pretty good, although the premise is way out there. A scientist has developed a chemical to help plants grow, and hires a salesman to sell it to farmers. The salesman says screw the farmers, look at all the dead lawns here in the city, sprays it on some Bermuda grass, and look out! the world gets overrun by Grass! I can't go on....sorry
Johnny Pate is a jazz musician, composer, producer, and arranger. In the early 1960's he came to reknown for his collaboration as producer and arranger for Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions and other Chicago soul acts.
In the 70's he composed some of the most killer blaxploitation soundtracks. He was responsible for Shaft in Africa which, in my humble opinion, is better than the original. He also did the soundtracks for Brother on the Run, Bucktown, Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde, and others.
In 1970, prior to the soundtracks, he released an amazing, funky, orchestral, sweeping, cinematic opus entitled Outrageous. At the time, the album was a departure for Pate, but it was the forerunner of all the smokin', funky shit he recorded for film in the years to come.
Dusty Groove has thankfully reissued this album and it is marvelous. Check out these tunes:
I've got Calibro 35 on the mind again because I just got their new album 'Ritornano Quelli Di...'. If you're not familiar with this band you are really doing yourself a disservice. On their first album they brought us an amazing batch of classic Italian soundtrack covers with a couple original tunes that are so lovingly composed in the vein of the great poliziotteschis that, if you were none the wiser, you would have thought were composed by Cipriani or Micalizzi. I'm pleased to say they've given us the reciprocal here. Just a few great covers, but a whole bunch of originals. Again they wear their influences on their sleeves, but what influences! These guys are a must for any fan of 60's and 70's Italian cinema and the music of Morricone, Umiliani, Ferrio, Ortolani, and of course Micalizzi and Cipriani.
Gaiman's Anansi Boys is similar in a lot of ways to his novel American Gods. Although I think most people would probably disagree with me, I actually liked this better than American Gods. I really enjoyed the main character Fat Charlie. I think the main reason I liked this better is because a friend of mine had been hyping American Gods to me for years before I finally read it, and it didn't really live up to the hype. Gaiman is a natural storyteller though, and I've enjoyed all his books so far.
Dashiell Hammett-The Dain Curse Clever novel by Hammett following the Continental Op as he works a series of cases over a few years all centered around the same family. You can't go wrong here.
Dan Simmons-Muse of Fire Simmons novelette takes place in the far future when humans have become subjected by a hierarchy of greater and more powerful beings, and a space-faring Shakespearean troupe holds the fate of mankind on their stage. Quite entertaining.
Beach Reading-I read these 5 novels at the beach this month The Hard Case books, The Cutie and The Murderer Vine, were trite yet engaging forays into two very different American underbellies. In Blue City MacDonald has written a novel similar in theme to Hammett's Red Harvest, which many have claimed to be the basis for Yojimbo, Fistful of Dollars, and Walter Hill's Last Man Standing. Corwainer Smith writes strange sci-fi which didn't do much for me, and as for A Voyage to Arcturus, I picked it up because I had heard it was a lost classic, with some luminaries going so far as to call it the best novel of the 20th Century. I was hoping for something along the lines of The King in Yellow, or House on the Borderlands, or even The Worm Ouroboros, but alas it was not so. A rambling, metaphysical, albeit imaginative, and meandering novel that didn't really do anything for me.
Arkady and Boris Strugatsky-Noon: 22nd Century I have lavished praise on the Strugatskys in these pages before, and I'll do it again. I think there's nothing I would rather read these days than one of their novels. This is actually a collection of short stories written between 1960 and 1966 which feature many recurring characters collected loosely together as a novel. Striking, far-sighted, insightful, and always human. I love these guys.
Translated by W.S. Merwin-Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Written around the 13th or 14th Century, but probably based on older legend, this extremely readable verse translation is highly entertaining. Honor, chivalry, love, lust, timeless themes in a timeless poem.
Garth Ennis/Steve Dillon-Preacher
Someone recommended I check out Preacher. I found the first six volumes of the series at a second hand book store, snatched em up and plowed through them voraciously. This is not the best comic series I have read, but with its loads of profanity, graphic violence, blasphemous rants, and tits, it's one of the funnest. Now I've gotta find the last 3 volumes.