Monthly Archives: May 2010

Rob’s Book Club: Summer Reading, Yes!

I love summer and everything that goes with it, like barbecues and baseball, but this summer I’m especially pumped because of all the reading I’m going to do.

No summer school means I have plenty of time to sit back and enjoy some books, and I’ve already finished two in the last week and a half.

My new favorite book.

The first one is kind of cheating as far as summer reading is concerned, as I’d been reading it throughout the last month of school, but it’s worth noting because it may have eclipsed Jack Kerouac’s On the Road as my favorite novel of all time.  Its name is The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, written by Michael Chabon, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his work on the novel.

As a big fan of comic books since the time I began reading, this book, which chronicles the lives of two fictional Jewish Golden Age comics creators before, during, and after World War II, really struck a chord in me.  Chabon makes Joe Kavalier, a part-time escape artist who uses his skills to get out of Prague as the Nazis were interning his family, and his New York-born cousin Sammy Clay incredibly well-rounded characters, and you can feel their relationship grow stronger as the book, and their bourgeoning comics empire, led by their star creation, The Escapist, continues.

Chabon weaves tales of The Escapist into the narrative and it’s bursting with the classic flavor of vintage comics.  When that storytelling is mixed with the main tale of Joe’s attempts to bring his family to New York while falling in love with a woman named Rosa, and Sammy coming to terms with who he really is, it is an amazing book I cannot recommend enough.

After finishing Chabon’s novel, I hopped right into a completely different kind of story: I began the search for Stephen King’s Dark Tower, starting with part one, The Gunslinger. I figured that, since Lost is ending, I would read the sprawling Western-sci-fi-fantasy epic that (partially) inspired the show I’ve loved so much.

Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger.

The novel kicks off quite nicely, with a gunslinger (sort of an alternate world Arthurian knight, but with guns!), whose name is later revealed to be Roland, chasing an unnamed man in black across a desert.  The gunslinger enters a town recently visited by the man in black, and weird things happened, including a resurrection.  There’s gunfights and gore and it’s pretty action-packed, which is always a good thing.

After leaving the town, Roland meets a young boy named Jake, who he finds out is from our version of New York, and this is when the seeds are planted for the rest of the series to live up to its mind-bending promise.  The last section of the book, in which Roland briefly catches up to the man in black, is fascinating and well-written, spawning a fantastic dialogue between the two.

I plan on reading the rest of the series over the summer, interspersing plenty of other books in between.  Currently I’m reading both Crime & Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and The Third Policeman, by Flann O’Brien.  Both are good at this early stage for completely different reasons, the former for its vast poetic language courtesy of a nineteenth century Russian wordsmith, and the latter for its trippy-yet-funny quasi-science fiction nature.

I have plenty of other books to read, but I’m wondering if anyone else has any suggestions to add to my stack for this summer and beyond.  Feel free to comment.


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Rob Ponders The End Of Lost

In five days, Lost ends.  The story’s almost over.  The twists are nearly complete.  The biggest reveal is upon us.

What does it all mean?  It depends on who you ask.  In this in-depth and very eloquent interview with the New York Times, series masterminds Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse say the show is meant to inspire a sense of community to debate what the show was actually about, and you know what?  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

During this final season, whenever I’ve read anything about this show–and, since I am a geeky fanboy, I read a lot–everything I’ve heard has been about answers, or the lack of answers provided by the show.  As a series that is so firmly entrenched in mystery, I can’t see it ending with any sense of all-knowing finality, and I never expected it to.  I don’t think I would want it to, either.

The characters and themes of the show are enough for me.  The main message of letting go of what you cannot change is a powerful one.  Jack’s stubbornness in trying to fix everything has slowly eroded into a calmness and acceptance.  Sawyer’s path from con man to island hero was phenomenal.  Desmond’s search for, and eventual reunion with his true love made him one of my all-time favorite characters in anything.  Locke’s father issues are…  probably going to serve as a cautionary tale for not letting go, but I digress.  They, along with the rest of the characters, were complex, fun, and a joy to watch, and they made all the crazy island hootenany of smoke monsters, cultish groups of Others, and time travel even cooler.  The show even humanized island demigods in a way stuffy retellings of Greek myths never could for me.

The thing I most respect from the producers is the way they are standing firm on their doling out of answers.  Cuse and Lindelof both say if the mysteries don’t matter to the characters themselves (Juliet’s not around to ask why pregnant women die on the island, etc.), they won’t be answered.  Plus, ABC stands to make bundles of cash from all the future Star Wars-esque novels which will eventually follow the show.  And those novels need some mysteries to answer, so it makes sense.

Many more talented writers than I have written about the end of the show, so I’ll delegate to them for why it is, and soon to be was, a great show.  I’ll be watching tonight’s penultimate episode and can’t wait to see how it all ends, and I’ll probably love every second.  Unless, of course, the island is a space ship.  That will just blow.

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Adjustment Bureau Trailer: Looking Snazzy

The trailer for the new Matt Damon-Emily Blunt movie, The Adjustment Bureau, was released today and I’ve got to say, it looks pretty cool.  I like everything I’ve seen Damon in before, and Blunt’s a pretty good actress herself, and this slick preview shot the film up near the top of my “must see” list.  Don’t believe me?  Check out the trailer for yourself.

First-time director George Nolfi (writer of Ocean’s Twelve and The Bourne Ultimatum) certainly seems like he knows what he’s doing, and he’s working from a short story by Philip K. Dick, the sci-fi novelist who’s already had one brain-frying story turned into a good film, Blade Runner.  The story seems quite cool, with Damon running for Senate and Blunt a ballerina, running into and falling for each other before crazy stuff starts happening and Damon learns the world is completely under the control of these dudes in fedoras.  There are some cool visuals, particularly the part where the fedora’d guy lifts up the floor to trip Damon.  I’m very intrigued and will definitely see this on opening night.

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Surprise, Surprise: Rob’s Excited for Super 8

J.J. Abrams (or does he do the CC Sabathia thing?  No punctuation?  We may never know…) is one of my heroes, so take any hero worship coming from me with a grain of salt, but c’mon, just look at this trailer for his next film, Super 8.

There’s ‘splosions!  And it’s about Area 51 going crazy.  And Steven Spielberg is producing it, which means there’s probably going to be some sort of precocious Asian boy helping this alien or whatever it is pounding on the door, but I digress.

Seriously though, this looks like it could be a huge adrenaline boost of fun next summer at the movies.  The story behind this trailer is what’s interesting.  Until a few days before it premiered ahead of Iron Man 2–which was fantastic, by the by–nobody knew Abrams was even working on a movie that didn’t include Trek in the title.

This fits Abrams’ M.O. of mystery.  Interesting things just sort of pour out of this guy and, love him or hate him, you have to admire his ability to keep his projects, from Alias to Lost to Cloverfield, wrapped in mystery and suspense, causing, at the very least, interest, and if you’re a fanboy like me, rabid “gotta have it now” panting.

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