Archive for the ‘ fictionista ’ Category

anansi boys. [fictionista]

If there had been any lingering doubt or uncertainty about Neil Gaiman being my favorite living author before, this book put all that to rest. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Neil Gaiman writes the stories that I wish all stories could be. I don’t mean that I wish all stories were the same genre, or tone, or style, or whatever. I mean that I wish all stories could find the perfect balance of Gaiman’s stories, which are rich, beautiful, and full to the brim with subtext, with flashes and glimmers of something beyond the the wildly entertaining stories he tells.

Among other things, Gaiman’s works are about story, storytelling, humanity, the mystery of the divine, and our need for more than the mundane and the mediocre to be truly alive. Yet, he never uses simple one to one relationships that tip his hand. You can’t read Gaiman and say: Well, I’d have to say that Gaiman is definitely…  an athiest, or a Christian, or a new ager, or whatever. Instead, he uses myths and stories that humans have told for centuries as subtext, which leads toward a greater depth and beauty in his already superb writing.

No book does this more than Anansi Boys. A quasi-sequel to American Gods, this story follows in the wake of the death of Mr. Nancy, a character you’ll know if you’ve read American Gods. His estranged son, Fat Charlie Nancy, has no idea that his father is a god, until his father’s death leads him into the discovery that he has a brother he never knew about. In contacting his brother, Spider, Charlie’s world is turned upside down, and there are no guarantees that everyone is going to make it through the adventure alive.

Rooted in the oldest stories known to man, stories growing from Africa into tales that even exist in various forms in Americana, Anansi Boys is about the ways that we are shaped by the stories we tell and the stories we believe, by the songs we sing and the words we dream up, and by the risks we take the and things we love.

Also, it’s entirely possible that after reading this book, you’ll think twice the next time you’re about to kill a spider.

Really though, go read some Neil Gaiman as soon as you can.

 (artwork via@Jessbie)

five things. 8.10.11

There are so very many things I should be doing right now. None of those things is blogging on RtM. Yet, I miss it so very much. Thus, here I am anyway. I’ve been falling behind in every conceivable way, because my body just wasn’t made for the sort of schedules I’ve been working lately. This week is a really light schedule, but starting next Wednesday I work ten days straight, and twice in that ten days I work until between 9 and 11 at night and then wake up at 4 the next morning to open. For a depressed insomniac, that’s a recipe for disaster. And so, things like reading, RtM, and Trigger Fiction have fallen by the wayside. I hate it, and I hope to use the next few days to get back in action. So, there you have it, a bunch of information about my life, in case anyone cares.

Now, on with five things I’ve been enjoying during these woeful pauses; again, just in case anyone cares. On with the show!

1. Wye Oak, live at the world famous Crocodile Cafe!

Let me tell you, folks: See this band live when they come near you. They. Rock. So. Hard.

Just two people. Her, with several guitars and an effects board. Him, with a drum kit, a keyboard (which he plays simultaneously with the drum kit), and an effects board. Per person, they create more sound each than anyone I’ve ever seen live. They play so well together, they showcase each other really well, and I want each of them to be my friend.

So epic.

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2. A Dance with Dragons

A lesson I learned reading this book: Don’t start reading a 1,000 page hardcover book and a new job at the same time. It took me nearly a month to get through this book. It’s hard to tell, because there are more words on a page in a first edition than in paperbacks, but it could be the longest book in the series so far. It’s definitely longer than A Feast for Crows. 

Now, I love the world that Martin has created in these books. I love the characters, I love the way he develops story. Yet, that just makes it hurt all the more when he unceremoniously kills off main characters. There will be NO spoilers here, aside from the reality that Martin is willing to kill off main characters. Many of you have seen the HBO series now, so you are well aware of his willingness to kill off characters who would be untouchable in any other serial storytelling.

There are times when he has spent so much time and so many pages developing a character and events, and then kills them and erases it all. It’s difficult to take after you’ve spent soooo much time investing in that character.

In the world of George R.R. Martin, no one is safe. That’s good, but also irritating. Sometimes it seems like he is killing characters just because he can. Is there actually contempt for the reader at work here? I sure hope not, and I could just be angry since the wound is still fresh.

Though I may bitch, I’ll still be pre-ordering the next installment however many years from now it is released. I’m addicted to Westeros.

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3. Attack the Block [Invasion/Visitation Movies #6]

OMFGLASERS!!! Ahem.

This movie was amazing. I didn’t laugh as much as I expected to, although it was definitely hilarious. I also bet I’ll laugh more on my second viewing, since I won’t be on the edge of my seat quite as much.

Instead, the movie was a huge amalgam of elements that all added together to create one kick-ass package. Believe me, people, this movie kicked all kinds of ass. Laugh out loud jokes, characters that were lovable without being flimsy and 2-dimensional, awesomely over the top aliens, genuine social commentary, and brilliant performances by all involved (especially the young actors).

I was going to say that, sadly, a few of my favorite characters died, but on second thought I think all of the main characters were favorites. The deaths were also really important to the plot: for the journey of our protagonist, as part of the poignant social commentary I mentioned, and to create tension.

I want to go see it again today. I won’t, but I want to.

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4. Watch the Throne

I never, ever use iTunes to buy music anymore. Thus, I had no idea that Watch the Throne came out earlier on iTunes than it did on Amazon’s mp3 store. Then Brian told me, and I bought it right away. I am still on my first listen, not all the way through yet, but so far so wonderful!

“Otis” has already been playing several times a day, and I know I’ll be listening to this album a lot over the next few days/weeks.

Oh yeah, and Jay-Z is back.

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5. Cowboys & Aliens [Invasion/Visitation Movies #7]

With a 44% on Rotten Tomatoes, most people don’t like this movie. I respectfully disagree. Sure, the movie had plenty of weaknesses, but it had everything I hope for in a fun summer film.

Daniel Craig was a fucking badass as a cowboy.

Olivia Wilde was scaldingly hot.

The aliens are refreshingly original, and although they are somewhat evolutionarily suspect, they are still pretty awesome biologically. Also, instead of the silly flying saucers they could have easily gone with in a genre/cliche mashup like this, they instead had really great UFOs that flew in legit formations and combat maneuvers.

Keith Carradine as a cowboy. Always wonderful.

Sam Rockwell. Period.

In the saddest fall from grace in history, I was genuinely disappointed that Harrison Ford was in this movie while watching the trailers. All for nothing. While his character has some glaring development flaws, this is still his most enjoyable character on screen in at least a decade.

neverwhere, by neil gaiman. [fictionista]

Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere is wonderful! Somehow, without even being all the way through, it became my favorite Neil Gaiman book. For those who read this blog regularly, you’ll know that’s no small feat.

It was the first novel he wrote on his own, and he sure did kick things off in style. Neverwhere is Gaiman’s imagination at its absolute best. Gaiman writes the stories that I wish all stories could be, filled with darkness and beauty and redemption and mystery. And, if Gaiman does in fact write the stories that I wish all stories could be, Neverwhere is the epitome of that.

The story is about a painfully ordinary guy who finds a girl bleeding in the street one night and decides to help her, and is pulled into an Alice in Wonderland style story of a world that exists under the surface of the world we know, in this case, in a place called London Below.

The prose, the descriptions, the characters, and the story are all spilling over with magic. Neverwhere is like the story my heart longs to read.

God, I love Neil Gaiman. Speaking of which… less than one week until his Doctor Who. OOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHH YEEEEAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!

[five things.]

I know, I know… it seems like all I write these days are ‘five things.’ I just like doing it, and since I post less frequently now it gets more of what I’m currently loving onto the blog.

This week it’s all sorts of random.

1. Dead Space 2

More scary, gruesome necromorph action. Great story, perhaps even better than the first. Entertaining and engaging from start to finish.

It also had two of the best action scenes I’ve ever seen in a video game, or anywhere.

Bonus, here’s an awesome minimalist poster for the original Dead Space, via@Frank Russo

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2. Never Let Me Go

I really did love this film, but in part it was bittersweet because I love Ishiguro’s book so dearly. There were so many tender moments that didn’t make it to the film that I missed. The nuance and complexity of the book can’t possibly translate onto the screen completely, so even while I was enjoying the film I also found myself pining for the novel.

However, the movie should most definitely be praised. It was well filmed and well written. Most of all, any mention of this film needs to celebrate the acting. The performances of the leads were achingly powerful. It’s no surprise by now, but these are three young actors who should be turning in dazzling performances for decades to come.

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3. TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light

I guess I’ll need to use the word bittersweet one more time if I’m going to write about the new TV on the Radio album. The album is brilliant, but just a week after its release the band’s bassist, Gerard Smith, died of lung cancer at the young age of 36. It’s so sad, and can’t but influence the way I listen to the album.

While nothing works as a silver lining in a death like this, one couldn’t ask for a better swan song, however involved his illness may have allowed him to be in the album’s recording.

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4. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

Seattle’s own indie favorites are back, and the album is faaannnnnnntastic. Such a joy to listen to. The band grew into a deeper sound without losing what makes them great.

Now, hopefully touring won’t eliminate any chance that J. Tillman releases some more solo stuff in the next year or two.

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5. Thor

I loved it. A really fun introduction to a character not many folks know, at least in the comic incarnation. It was funny, action packed, had enough human drama to be engaging without taking itself too seriously. It would have been disastrous if the film hadn’t acknowledged how silly the whole premise is, but it was able to be badass and have heart without forgetting that at the end of the day it’s a comic book movie based in Norse mythology.

Often, when movies ‘don’t take themselves seriously,’ that’s code for taking a dump on film and calling it a comic book movie. Examples of this include Ghost Rider and both Fantastic Four films. Blech! Not so with Thor, well crafted and charmingly acted, I was sad to see it end.

It looks like Thor is going to have a modest, but healthy opening weekend. Yet, since it is doing far better critically and amongst audiences than other films which have had similar weekends, like Fantastic Four and Clash of the Titans, I’m hoping it will perform better over the long term than those films and be more successful overall.

idiot box, shmidiot shmox. [five things.]

There’s certainly a whole lot of stupid shit on tv. So, calling it the idiot box isn’t exactly unfair. Still, there is certainly plenty of television programming that I enjoy with no hint of guilty pleasure.

Here are five shows I’m enjoying the fuck out of lately.

1. The Killing [AMC]

Based on a Danish series, and set right here in my very own Seattle, The Killing is the the story of a single murder investigation. Promising, beautiful young high school student Rosie Larsen goes missing, and when her body is found it’s clear she’s been brutally murdered. The Killing shows the events that follow as the police hunt for the killer, from the perspective of a detective on her last case, her new partner on his first investigation after moving over from vice, a political candidate connected to the murder, and the family of the victim.

The show is smart, engaging, and beautifully filmed. Plus, it’s set in SEATTLE. Oh yeah, I already said that. Still, SEATTLE! In glorious HD on screens across the country.

There’s no way around it, AMC produces brilliant television entertainment.

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2. Community [NBC]

My love for this show is no secret, so this is nothing new.

What is new? The fact that the last two episodes of the season are a paint ball spaghetti western, featuring Sawyer… In other words: !!!!!!!

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3. Doctor Who [BBC]

Another show for which my love is well established here on the blog. Still, the sixth season is finally underway and it’s aaaammmmaaaazzziiiinnnnnggg.

The two-part season opener was so much fun to watch, and it set up all sorts of craziness that will play out over the course of the season. Stephen Moffat, you are a wonderful, wonderful man.

Episode three is coming up this week, but next week is episode four, ‘The Doctor’s Wife’, which was written by Neil. Fucking. Gaiman.

Doctor Who, FTW.

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4. Being Human [BBC]

I’ve had this show on my Netflix queue for a while, not realizing that it was scheduled for an American version. I’d heard good things about the original, and then more good things about the Americanized version, so it got moved closer to the top of my queue.

The show is about a werewolf, a vampire, and a ghost who share a flat in England and try to live life as normally as possible.

Emily and I watched the whole first disc, about three hours worth, on Saturday.

The show is really great. Entertaining, and equal parts dramatic, sexy, scary, and funny. The acting has really impressed me so far.

We’re still early in our experience of the show, but the vampire character is my favorite vampire depiction ever. There are all sorts of things pertaining to vampires where I thought, why hasn’t anyone ever pursued this idea about vampire stories before? Well, early signs indicate they are pursuing a great many of these threads on Being Human.Plus, the guy who plays the vampire is hot, so that’s a bonus, too.

Color me excited!

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5. Game of Thrones [HBO]

I need to write a whole post about the casting on this show, delighting in the perfect casting of some characters while also doing the tiniest bit of whining about the misfires, as least in my opinion.

The season is well underway now, and I’ve been really sad at the end of each episode. I just want it to keep going! It will get to a moment I loved from the books, and I’ll be enjoying it, and then, BAM, credits. Grr!

I don’t know what might happen to my brain when season one ends, perhaps I’ll just start breaking things, or I may just go catatonic for a while.

fiction five, remix. [five things.]

1. Iron Council – China Miéville

This book was fantastic. How to describe it though… how about: a western that read lots of weird fiction and then did mushrooms.

One character, Judah, is one of my favorite ever. Seriously.

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2. The Foundation Trilogy – Isaac Asimov

These books were recommended to me in high school by my friend Dave, and they’ve been on my to-read list ever since. Finally, I have read them.

I’m only through the original trilogy, but I’ll read the other four soon enough.

It’s tight, simple prose telling a science fiction story focused more on sociology than space ships, although there are certainly plenty of space ships, too. I’m excited to delve further into the fiction of Isaac Asimov.

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3. Rendezvous with Rama – Arthur C. Clarke

The hard sci-fi to beget all future hard sci-fi, Clarke unveils the most original and stunning sci-fi civilization as if it’s no big deal. The attention to scientific detail is so engaging. There’s a reason the major British sci-fi award is named after this guy.

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4. The Complete Stories – Flannery O’Connor

I finally got around to reading O’Connor. It’s really amazing reading a life’s work of short stories because you get to experience their growth as a writer before your eyes, in just 500 pages or so. O’Connor writes of the soul of the arrogant, white, protestant southerner with an honesty, hilarity, compassion, and contempt that are each startling in their turns. She was really great at pulling the rug out from under a reader, or even just punching you in the diaphragm.

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5. Falconer – John Cheever

Cheever’s most famous work, a prison drama set in New York. Cheever writes unflinchingly of depravity without ceasing to care for his characters. He wrote of the darkness and perversity within the white, wealthy, Connecticut/Westchester County, country club set of the 50’s and 60’s in the same way O’Connor wrote about the south.

game of thrones.

Game of Thrones is finally here! HBO appears to have done it again.

If the first episode is any indication, this show is going to be wonderful. Watching last night made me wish that all my favorite books were going to get their own HBO series, which makes me even more excited that American Gods is potentially on its way to my Home Box Office.

Good lord, I just wish I could have watched the whole series last night.

I look forward to checking in with people who haven’t read the books. I’m pretty sure the show was awesome either way, but I’m aware that for me so much of my joyous nerdgasm came from how brilliantly they were bringing Martin’s world to life. With a few fair exceptions, the casting is absolutely inspired. They made some small changes already to the story, which perhaps will lead to more. Still, the episode was perfect. Perfect, I tell you!

I’m hoping to watch it again tonight with Emily.