Drive / James Sallis

   I thought I had two books to review, but it turns out: I DON'T. I've just got one, and part of me doesn't feel like posting about it because there are few movie-versions-of-books that are quite so polarizing as Drive. People either hate Drive or they love Drive and I must admit: I'm in the latter camp. I watched Drive by myself in a movie theater in Auckland and when it ended I said "WOW". However, I went into it expecting very long shots and little dialogue so maybe I was prepared. I also watch many old movies, and have a deep and abiding love for film noir, so maybe all these contributing factors are the reason I love Drive and others don't. It's a mystery. I didn't actually know that Drive was based on a book, until I was at Chapters with a pal of mine and she said, "hey, look at this" and it was Drive by James Sallis and even though she isn't exactly fond of Drive-the-movie, she still found Drive-the-book for me. Thanks, man.

   This book opens with the scene in the hotel after the job goes wrong (you know which one?) which is a bit odd, since this event occurs at the middle of the story. When I moved along to the second chapter I said "what the what" before realizing that J Sallis used a device we in the biz like to call non-sequential storytelling. I am casting about for other books that use this device, and the only one I can think of at the moment is Slaughterhouse-5. The story doesn't follow a chronological sequence of events, but jumps around, and no: Drive does not include time-travel or alien abductions. It includes a lot of driving and a bunch of murderin'.

   I enjoyed this very short book (very short AND very large print, wowza. It barely takes up 180 pages) but I have some reservations in laying out an internet-wide recommendation. There are three dead bodies and a spreading pool of blood in chapter one, and it escalates from there. Plus a great deal of crime and etc. To be honest, I usually have reservations about giving a sweeping recommendation to anything. Qualms about everything, all the time. The communities I am a part of are very varied, and people's tastes/tolerances are as well, and I don't know what effect any given book will have on the people around me. If you had read everything I've ever read, in the same order and at the same point in your life, then I could be confident in foisting certain books on you. As it is, I can only say "I found value in this book for a variety of reasons and feel that others would appreciate it as well in favorable circumstances."


The Talented Mr Ripley / Patricia Highsmith

   ALRIGHT, so we all know that Matt Damon does a murder on Jude Law in the movie, right? We all know that one of Mr Ripley's talents is straight up braining people? I'm not spoiling anything for you? ALRIGHT GOOD.

   I went into this book knowing two things. 1: At some point, Tom Ripley kills Dickie Greenleaf. 2: Tom becomes Dickie. What I'm saying is, I basically knew The Whole Plot, but it didn't even matter. The story is tense as. AND there I was, sitting and reading, when I realized: I am sympathizing with a murderer. I am feeling his stress and apprehension. I am hoping the police don't catch on. Oh my goodness, I hope he doesn't get caught, am I a terrible person, I hate Tom but I want the best for Tom and at one point I shook the book and said "TOM! Go back to being Tom! They are going to get hip to your game any minute now!" I was giving futile advice to a fictional murderer. 

   Well, Patrica Highsmith, you've done your job well. Some might say TOO well. 


"It's just something from a film that I like"

   THE MOVIES from this post arrrrrrrrre:
  1. Veronica Mars (14)
  2. Somewhere (10)
  3. Prometheus (12)
  4. Psycho (60)
  5. Rebel Without a Cause (55)
   All of which I recommend, with the slight exception of Veronica Mars if you haven't seen the series because you probably wouldn't enjoy it. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it, because I did, but it is almost entirely inside jokes and call-backs to the show. Well-written/shot/acted inside jokes and call-backs, but inside jokes and call-backs nonetheless. And while there ain't nuthin' wrong with that, it might not be a recipe for amazing entertainment for those who never watched the TV show. The clear solution is to watch the three seasons of the show and then watch the movie, but that doesn't guarantee your enjoyment of it either: turns out people have different tastes and preferences when it comes to media! I know, what kind of nonsense is coming out of my mouth/keyboard.

   All that aside: I really like Veronica Mars and I even paid ten dollars for it on iTunes. The characters made some decisions that made no sense but it was still satisfying on the whole. That's life, isn't it? Moving on.

   Somewhere is one of the slowest movies I have ever seen, and that's saying something. That isn't a negative thing, mind. I love slow movies. Basically: an actor has to take care of his daughter and it helps redeem him from an empty life. That may sound sappy but fear not: a manipulative tearjerker this is not. I will add a caveat to my recommendation though: the movie is largely about how a decadent/indulgent lifestyle isn't all it's cracked up to be, and therefore shows "decadence" and "indulgence" of a variety of natures. It does this in a non-salacious manner; it doesn't want to arouse you, it wants to make you uncomfortable and wants to make a point. It's rated R, use your discernment.

    One of the few scary movies I've seen in theaters is Prometheus and I made some of my pals watch it and I still love it, even though it has gross parts. This is another movie I would label "Not For Everyone". There are aliens! There's a robot! There are references to Lawrence of Arabia! Yes, yes, and yes. Apparently there are many who find this film extremely confusing, to which I say "watch it again with your thinking cap on and you'll be fine." One of the writers for Lost was also a writer for Prometheus, let the madness that is Lost be your guide. As an added bonus: I barely need to suspend my disbelief to buy Iceland as an alien planet (or as the prehistory earth of Noah, for that matter). This movie is technically an Alien prequel, but it basically just says "look, a Xenomorph" at one point, so not really. Also: today I learned the word "endoparasitoid". 

   Psycho hardly needs explaining. Hitchcock was a genius, watch this film. Anthony Perkins is simply splendid. There are two scenes from Psycho that have become iconic, one was a bit of a let-down and one gave us all major chills and I will leave it to you to figure out which was which. 

   And finally: Rebel Without a Cause. I have a feeling that this is one of those movies that has become a part of our cultural canon but not many people have actually seen. Well: let me say that you ought to see it. I'd never actually seen James Dean in anything before this, or Natalie Wood in anything besides West Side Story (which you also ought to consider watching). This and Psycho fall into the "classic for a reason" category, and while I won't say that films like this never get made anymore, I will say that films like this are fewer and further between these days. Some have argued that Footloose is essentially a remake/hash of RWAC, and while I have nothing against the Kevin Bacon Footloose I will say that it is far less intelligent than this one. So! watch old movies. You just might like them. They didn't have splashy special effects to make up for shoddy dialogue! Awesome. (I'm not saying that all old movies have amazing dialogue and all new ones have bad dialogue, that would be stupid.)


The Old Man and the Sea / Ernest Hemingway

   DID YOU KNOW that Ernest Hemingway only published seven novels in his lifetime? And that there have been three published posthumously, but one was pretty heavily edited so it barely counts? So that makes ten novels (he also wrote short stories and non-fiction) of which I have now read three and CAN I JUST SAY that it is entirely feasible for me to not only read all of his novels but also the rest of his writing? And it is entirely doable for me to get through all of his novels this year? Oh boy. Oh boy.

   When I read A Farewell to Arms several years ago, I was blown away. Same thing when I read The Sun Also Rises, and I have come to expect no less than truly stunning work from Hemingway. Oh boy: The Old Man and the Sea did not disappoint. It's tense! It's sad! It's beautiful! It's quiet! It made me feel tired! It's everything I wanted it to be! It is also very short, which I wasn't expecting.

    Here is a short list of things that I want to do because of Ernest Hemingway:
  • Go to Pamplona and see the bullfights
  • Go deep-sea fishing
  • Drive aimlessly around Italy (but I already wanted to do that)
   Bullfights? Deep sea fishing? Why are these things attractive to me now?! I won't even go into the extremely problematic nature of bullfighting here. Driving around Italy: duh. I was already determined to go there after seeing I Am David (or after, I don't know, LIVING (I mean come on: we all want to go to Italy, don't we?)) and A Farewell to Arms made me want to go more. And now: deep sea fishing. Hemingway doesn't even glorify these things. He tells it pretty much like it is (I imagine, having never been/done) but I still consider the part in The Sun Also Rises where he talks about the man who is gored during the bull run to be one of the more perfect bits of literature that I have ever consumed. And he's talking about a man who gets gored! WITH HORNS.

   Anyways: my love for Hemingway's work only gets stronger. I intend to read it all. Also: he wrote To Have and Have Not and Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart are in the movie version and that means that three of my favorite things will be together in one film and it will be awesome when I finally read/watch it.

   Is this one of the books that often gets assigned in high school? I was homeschooled and know not of the world of normal schools. My one Google search hasn't revealed the information I want, but I did learn that Of Mice and Men is a high school English book and to that I say, "What? Would high schoolers...get it?" I have my doubts. I mean, when I was 17/18 I was convinced that I was sooooo grown up but clearly I wasn't. I'm glad I didn't read it then. (In a few years am I going to look back on my present self and say "wow, I thought I was so grown up, how much more wrong can a person be?' ONLY TIME WILL TELL.)


   I am almost half way through my allotted movies for the year and I am more than halfway through the year; I'm counting this as a success so far. Anyways! Guess 'em!



   If you've known me long, you have probably heard me rant and rave about the library, specifically, the Calgary Public Library. Calgary is fortunate enough to have an excellent library system (even though the central library is DOWNRIGHT AWFUL, but soon that will be remedied by a building that isn't LITERALLY ON THE BRINK OF COLLAPSE and you should know that I am using "literally" in it's TRUE AND REAL SENSE and that if a building isn't built to hold books then guess what IT WILL BE PRONE TO FALLING DOWN) but lately they have been hitting it out of the dang-diddly park and I am here to tell you why. Five words, everybody: "the way of the future".

   CPL has implemented a number of fantastic digital programs lately, and if you live in Calgary you will probably want to take advantage of them and you might not have heard of them because you might not follow the library on twitter, which is silly of you. Do you hate literacy?

   Here's what you need to do: go to this page, and you will gain access to programs liiiiiike...
  • Freegal, which allows you to stream and download music for free, and the downloads don't expire (which means: they are yours. FOREVER.)
  • Hoopla, which is like Netflix, but FREE (and with less selection, unfortunately). It has movies, TV shows, music, AND audiobooks. 
  • Overdrive, which is the site/app I use to listen to audiobooks ON MY PHONE FOR ZERO DOLLARS. Also I use it to download ebooks to my Kobo, ALSO FOR FREE. OMGosh I love the library. (There are a few options there for audio/e books, but I've only used this one. IT'S GREAT.)
  • Zinio, which has magazines. Do you want to read the latest issue of whatever but don't want to pay five dollars for it? The library HAS YOU COVERED. There is also a platform for newspapers OH MAN AMAZING.
  • TumbleBookLibrary, okay I didn't know about this one until just now but get this: "animated, talking picture books which teach kids the joy of reading" UH, OKAY, THAT SOUNDS AWESOME.

   Some things you can do with these resources: scope out a new album before deciding to buy it! Listen to books about polar exploration (or about CONCEIVABLY ANYTHING ELSE)! Read Maclean's and be more informed about Canada (OUR HOME AND NATIVE LAND, THE TRUTH NORTH STRONG AND FREE)! You can even sign up for a five-minutes-a-day book club with readings emailed to you EVERY DAY, OH MAN.

   The future is now!


Redefining Girly / Melissa Atkins Wardy

   This book wasn't quite what I wanted it to be, but that it not to say that it wasn't insightful and valuable. It is less cultural research and examination and more practical parenting advice to implement, so if you read it and you don't have children, you might get somewhat less out of it than the author intended. However: recognizing the severe sexualization of young girls is the first step towards remedying it, and this book will definitely raise your awareness.

   Basically, this book is a big reminder that girls become women, and carry the things they learn in childhood about their potential, their value, their abilities, and their purpose into adulthood and pass them on to the people around them (including their children, if they have any). If girls in elementary school are told that they need to be sexy to be acceptable, then we have a problem. Girls don't have to wear pink. Girls don't have to play with dolls that have waists smaller than their heads. Girls can be interested in dinosaurs/cars/science. (on the flip side: boys don't have to wear blue. Boys don't have to play with toys that glorify violence. Boys can be interested in dolls/baking/dance.) Why not encourage a young girl to explore and adventure and allow her to pursue things that interest her, instead of indulging in exploitative and restrictive cultural values? Seems like a beneficial trade to me.

   Also, there are a myriad of things you can praise a young girl for besides her appearance. Yes, little girls are adorable and you can tell them so. You can also tell them that they are clever, or a hard worker, or a fast runner, or helpful, or courageous, or interesting, or kind, or creative, or strong, or so many other things. Conventional attractiveness is a dangerous thing to overemphasize, as I am sure we all know. Maybe, just maybe, telling girls that their value is inherent instead of earned through being pretty/sexy/hot will result in women who respect their bodies, who pursue their goals, and who have a less complicated time being vital contributors to society.

   To sum up the book: treat young people as if they are complex human beings with a variety of tastes and passions, and don't allow young children to be sexualized. Pretty simple. Everybody benefits.



   When I was but a young teen, I read Tarzan of the Apes / Edgar Rice Burroughs. It is slotted among my list of "life-changing books", but please, don't ask me to explain it. I don't know why it had such an effect on me, and I reckon if you read it in an effort to understand how it impacted me you would come away with a resounding "huh". So, when the game-changing novels meme goes around and people post their books and all of them make perfect sense and people say "Yes! Oh my gosh! Me too!" I list Tarzan right along with perspective altering books like Slaughterhouse-Five and A Farewell to Arms and Siddhartha. I don't talk about Tarzan very much, partially because Edgar Burroughs was a rather problematic person (ERB: super into eugenics, apparently), but mostly because its influence is confusing to me. Why was it so important? It's a mystery.

   The impact of some books is obvious (I mean, come on, the river is everywhere) and for some it isn't and I guess that's just the way things are. I think it is unreliable to judge the impact of a book directly after you read it. Right now I would put Never Let Me Go on a list of especially influential books, but that might just be because I recently finished it. And what if I go into a book expecting it to be a certain thing? For example: I haven't read East of Eden (a crime, I know, I get it) and I am anticipating my reading of it to be something like a revelation, so will that affect the way I read it? Will I pull something out of it merely because I expect to? Incidentally, I thought that Of Mice and Men was about greasy politicians (where did this idea come from????) and when it wasn't I was confused ("What's with all this ranch stuff?" "Maybe this isn't about politics." "Huh. Okay."). Even so, I found it left a lasting mark. Expectations: just as mysterious as influence.

   Even if I did sort out what exactly was so influential about Tarzan, would I be able to pinpoint exactly what "influence" or "impact" or "importance" mean? Clearly the things that are important about Tarzan aren't the same as the things that are important about, say, We Need to Talk About Kevin. I don't think about them in the same way or with equal frequency. (Do you want to be haunted by a book? Then read We Need to Talk About Kevin.) Or how can I compare Tarzan to Til We have Faces? A Farewell to Arms?

   When I worked at the Jubilee I had a similar problem. People would ask me what my favorite thing I had seen there was, and I wouldn't really be able to answer. How do I judge Tosca against Great Big Sea? Stomp against Stuart McLean? I would usually say "well it sure ain't graduation ceremonies".

   It's a mystery. 

   Anyways, here's some novels my mom thinks everyone should read (she says that if you don't feel like you could re-read a novel, it hasn't achieved greatness):
  • Pilgrim's Progress / John Bunyan
  • Carry on Mr Bowditch / Jean Lee Latham
  • Sign of the Beaver / Elizabeth George Speare
  • Pride and Prejudice / Jane Austen 
  • Jane Eyre / Charlotte Bronte
  • That Printer Udell's / Harold Bell Wright
  • Ishmael / E. D. E. N Southworth
   My dad says you should read The Lord of the Rings, and my mom says "I haven't read that."


Diary of Edward the Hamster, 1990-1990 / Miriam Elia and Ezra Elia

   If you ever find yourself in the mood for some existential musings from a rodent, look no further than this wee number. It is short, it is hilarious, it has pictures of a smoking hamster. Really, what could be better? A smoking hamster! A hamster that smokes! I'm not sure why I find this so funny.

   Edward's life is predictably short (it's right there in the title: 1990-1990), but it was full. At one point he goes on a hunger strike. He finds (and loses) love. He wonders about the purpose of life. Read it, love it, it will take you half an hour if you go slow.