Thursday, March 26, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I've had a love hate relationship with Tom Clancy for quite sometime; on one hand he describes WAY too much and isn't the greatest writer...on the other hand he may just be one of the best storytellers of the Cold War age.
I have read his Jack Ryan books off and on ever since I picked up "The Hunt for Red October" one summer while looking for an easy read to spend a few days with. Those of you not familiar with Clancy, Jack Ryan is the main character in most of the books, and he's done it all and seen it all. In "Executive Orders" he became President--one of the best ones the country ever saw, of course (it's fiction, after all)
When Amazon released Tom Clancy on Kindle last month, I was in the mood for an easy read, and download "Debt of Honor" (SPOILER ALERT: the reason this book is known as the 9/11 one is the ending has a plane crashing into the Capital Building in DC, and wiping out a huge chuck of the government (including all nine Supreme Court Justices and the President), which is how Ryan becomes President, and the stage is set for "Executive Orders")
The book is about a war between the U.S. and Japan; the book would be interesting if it was just a plain old fashion war, but what makes it absolutely fascinating is one of the ways Japan attacks the country--economically; Japan engineers the collapse of the U.S. stock market--done so in a way that made me think instantly of our current economic crisis; in the midst of this, the Vice President is involved in a sex scandal, and Ryan is later asked to become Vice President just until the elections over.
Most of his books are about 800 pages; a good editor would have no problem cutting this down to 350 or 400. Writing narratives isn't what makes Clancy so great; it's his stories. He writes about scenarios that I'm not sure the government has fully worked out, and he does so in a way that makes you just a little afraid, because you know that everything he's writing could quite easily come true.
The dialogue is a bit corny at times, but if you ever wanted to know the workings of government he's worth the read.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I think part of the problem is it's not a superhero movie--it's an anti-superhero movie. As we stood in line to buy tickets, two teens went away disappointed when they learned it was R; the teen said, "What kind of super hero movie is this?!" I couldn't help but laugh. The movie used gore where other super hero movies left it up to the imagination, had dialogue that was silly at best, and had a story that just went on way too long--you could have easily cut out 40 minutes and it still would have made sense.
I suspect the director wanted to stay loyal to the book, and perhaps this is another one of its follies. Print doesn't transcribe well onto film; you have to change things around. It felt like the director wanted to pay homage to the book, and give something to true fans--but he forgot that for a movie to do well you have to make a movie that sells well to the mass, and not just the fans.
As I walked out of the movie, I could help but wonder if this was nothing more than an R-Rated version of the Incredibles (then again the Incredibles was nothing more than a PG version of Watchmen)...the storyline is the same in many respects--super heroes must become normal people, but they never quite fit this mold and always secretly wanted to get back into action; the villain turns out to be someone the good guys know in both movies to--a villain, in both cases, that became corrupt in part because of fantasies about what a super hero is. The only difference is the Incredibles was funny--even charming; Watchmen is just long.
The Dark Knight is the perfect example of a dark superhero movie done right; people's bones are broke, but unlike Watchman, the audience doesn't see the bones sticking out of their body--and there's no slow motion clip of people's faces getting smashed in--and there's certainly no sex scenes with a slutty girl who can't keep it in her pants on (please tell me I'm not the only one just a little creep out when the girl was hitting on her father? Totally unnecessary and weird!)--Diana said it was also weird that she left the blue guy who could basically please her in ways not human for a guy who couldn't even get it up at first was also a bit weird...I agree.
The soundtrack was great (especially the title sequence); and parts of the movie was entertaining--but the just of the movie was a sloppy, unedited mess, that needed more test screenings and definitely more cutting. If movies carried a letter grade, then this one would get a B-...a good effort, a potentially good movie, but too many flaws to get into A turf.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
Friday, March 6, 2009
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Several months (yes, months), ago I received a note and book from Ian Sansom (author of "The Book Stops Here"), which I have just now got around to answering; those who know me know that it often takes me seconds to answer an email, but way too long to answer an actual letter--a bizarre phenomenon, I know. My wife is the one you should direct any corresponds to if you desire a prompt reply.
Added to the fact that that this letter was physical and not digital was the matter of the book. I felt obliged to read it, as I feel obliged to read anything sent to me in the regular mail, and I found it would be rude to reply before reading it. But I feared reading it, because that would mean I immediately was put in danger of not liking it, and having to fluff my letter in reply with unfit praise.
Alas, however, I have finished the book, finished the letter, and wrote a blog to tell about it.
Some of you know that I teach online writing for the Gotham Writers’ Workshop in NYC; the thing I tell my students most often is write characters well. It doesn’t matter how weak the plot is—if you create characters that are interesting, then your book will be great.
I’m not trying to say the plot of Sansom’s book was bad (it’s not)—I’m trying to say it has fantastic characters. They were absurd, dry, bitter, and absolutely hysterical to watch. The plot of the book centers around the disappearance of an old, beat-up, bookmobile. It’s a strange plot for a book, but Sansom makes it work.
I’m not a fan of mystery books (it’s probably about the only genre, aside from erotica) that I do not read. Because of this, I had a stand-offish attitude towards the book, and that’s a shame because it was such a fun read.
In recent years, I have been drawn away from contemporary fiction; I think part of this is the stories I’ve read in recent years takes themselves too seriously and don’t offer the same kind of escape as classics. They are often full of thought provoking themes, but not enough actual storytelling—there are exceptions to this of course, but sometime it seems like these days there’s less and less exceptions. The Book Stops Here is an exception; it’s a lighthearted story that never takes itself too seriously.
I recommend you buy, borrow it, check it out, or do whatever it is you do when you are looking for something good to read.