Sunday, February 15, 2009

Book/Media review

The last few weeks have given me an enormous amount of free time. I've been sick with a staph infection and unable to train. My time has passed slowly and has mainly been spent consuming media, largely books but a fair number of movies as well. Below are quick reviews of the various books/movies I've bit into. Oh yeah there are probably spoilers in the synopsis if you care about that shit, and if you do you're a dumb ass.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

I know a lot of women that have read this book. It seems like everyone with a vagina has read this book, but why? The cast is almost exclusively male. Perhaps it has something to do with the kites? The book is effectively chopped into two sections. The first section is about a young bougeroisie boy growing up in afghanistan in the early 80s/late 70s. He flies kites with his best friend, Hassan, the lower caste boy that leaves next door. Hassan is raped while trying to retrieve a kite. He is sodomized by one of the local bullies who plays a role later in the book. The narrator is plagued with guilt over his cowardice and inability to stop Hassan from being raped. The narrator unable to deal with his emotions distances himself from Hassan. Fast Forward twenty years and the narrator is living in the bay area! Whoop! He spends his free time with his old man at a flea market and marries a nice afghani girl in the stall next door. He returns to Afghanistan which is torn apart by the militant Taliban. He finds out that Hassan was actually his half brother and takes Hassan's son back home with him (Hassan gets it from the Taliban). The book talks a lot about naan, rice, and kebobs which made me want indian food. The writing is decent, but the novel itself is overally sentimental. You might like it if you have a vagina.

Clandestine by James Ellroy

Before I left for Thailand I was really into reading noir novels. I read a ton of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. I also looked into some more modern pulp/noir authors and ended up watching "The Black Dahlila" which has Scarlett Johansen in it along with this other famous dude. The movie is long and meandering.

Clandestine is much the same. Initially it starts off well with a rookie cop on a regular beat with his alcoholic, poetry spewing, partner. The two get a dog, play golf, fuck girls and talk about the wonder. The wonder is basically their fascination with the everyday life of the city. The protagonist, the rookie cop, finds a dead body, gets an award for killing a couple mexicans who run around robbing grocery stores, and marries a girl with a bum leg. He then becomes obsessed with a case involving a girl he shagged during his days as a bachelor. The book starts to go down hill from there. His marriage falls apart and 5 years later he finally figures out "who dun it." The ending is horribly soap operaish and I was glad to be reading it in a foreign country where people wouldn't notice that I was reading such garbage. The awesome thing about it is the gender dynamics. The protagonist sweeps the bum leg girl off her feet with simple lines. "Let's get drunk," "Let's go for a ride down the coast," Let's get married." I wish I was born in those simplistic days of one line seductions.

Odd and the Frost Giant by Neil Gaiman

I don't know why I read Neil Gaiman's stuff. Most of it really isn't that good. Stardust was so so, although the movie was enjoyable. Ansai Boys was quick to read, like American Gods, but both lacked substance. Caroline, one of his children's book was good with its dark "through the looking glass" style. This is another of Neil Gaiman's children's books, well more of a young adult piece. I picked it up for 60 baht, about $2, and it entertained me for an hour. The plot is okay. The winter is long, a little boy in norway, somewhere cold, has to stop the winter. He fools a frost giant (in a not particularly clever manner) and winter ends. Blah, blah, blah. The book has some neat pictures in it but not enough.

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

While out here I decided to read up on statecraft so I brought out "The Prince," and Clausewitz's "On War." The former is much shorter. Its also surprisingly good and has some great quotes in it. Below are some.

"This is because men are won over by the present far more than by the past..."

"I hold strongly to this: that it is better to be impetuous than circumspect; because fortune is a woman and if she is to be submissive it is necessary to beat and coerce her."

"Violence must be inflicted once and for all; people will then forget what it tastes like and so be less resentful."

"... the less a man has relied on fortune the stronger he has made his position."

Private Dancer by Stephen Leather

There are a whole slew of novels about men coming over here from some shit hole western country and going to soi cowboii, nana plaza, or pat pong, and falling in love with a bar girl. The book follows Peter, a writer doing a travel book on BKK, and Joy, a bargirl. The novel is written from a slew of different points of view, mainly Peter, some Joy, and a few spots of secondary characters. It shows clearly the cultural gap between Peter and Joy. Peter just doesn't understand Joy and she doesn't really understand Peter. Hilarity ensues which includes Joy treating Peter like an ATM, Peter being butt hurt all the time, and the other characters thinking Peter is an idiot. Peter is an love struck dumbass and dies in the end of the book. Hilarious. A quick enjoyable read.

The Stranger by Albert Camus

The Cure wrote a great song about this book. I really like it. This was the second time I'd read Camus' short, terse novel. The book, while written in an American style, think Hemingway, has a bit of french flair. The main character kills an Arab on the beach for no reason really, well the sun had him pretty hot but that's a bit of a twinkie defense. He doesn't really feel much ado about it, in fact he doesn't feel much about anything, even shagging his girlfriend. He seems pretty distant throughout the novel but is pretty clever as well. Who wants to get involved these days? Unfortunately his inability to act emotionally gets him killed. Boo hoo. The existential morale of the story is to pretend to have emotions.

Two Caravans by Marina Lewycka

This is a love story about two Hungarian migrant workers who meet while picking strawberries in england. The cover of the book has quotes that say its; "hilarious," "a funny charming rollicking road trip," those quotes are not really true. It was interesting to read about migrant workers doing shit labor but it wasn't really funny. The novel is told in a bunch of different perspectives including a dog's. The main problem in the book is the inability of the two young hungarians to communicate with each other. They always seem to talk past each other, and are unable to understand each other emotionally (note one has a penis, the other has a vagina, thus their difficulties talking to each other). They meet up with some hippies toward the end of the book which is silly. It was an okay read.

Movie Reviews

Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans

I saw the first Underworld with my twin brother James in our small apartment that I paid too much for in Santa Cruz. It was enjoyable with its heavy action, decent plot (for a b-movie), plus there were werewolves and vampires set within a class war dynamic. Huzzah! The second one was good. I think I saw it out here in Thailand. The most recent one was enjoyable. It had a fair amount of blood, a silly sex scene, and an awesome blue gray tint to the entire movie. Oh did I mention there were werewolves and vampires! Wow! The big plus of the movie was the popcorn which I bought for 50baht.

Zach and Miri make a porno

This movie, like other Kevin Smith movies, are supposed to be funny. Remember Clerks, Mall Rats? They were funny. Then Kevin Smith started to suck. Remember Jersey Girl? That movie sucked. The first twenty minutes of this movie were sort of funny. There are funny racial jokes, jokes about masturbating, and funny banter between two gay men. Then I realized it was a stupid romantic comedy that dragged on too long. That's when it sucked. Kevin Smith should quit making movies.

Before Sunrise

Ethan Hawke and some french girl meet on a train. They get off the train and talk, and talk, and talk. At one point they play pinball. They fall in love or something and promise to meet again in six months. The end. Lots of dialogue, little action, no titty shots. Probably a good date movie, especially if your girl is the real mushy type. Has a sequel which I plan on watching soon.

The Edge

Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin get stuck in the woods. They fight a bear. Yes, they fight a bear. Its sort of bitchin. Alec Baldwin was boinking Hopkins wife. Hopkins is the bigger man. Baldwin tries to kill Hopkins and fails, then he dies because he falls into a bear trap. There was obvious foreshadowing earlier in the movie about the bear trap proving once again that Alec Baldwin is an idiot. Although he did boink Christina Applegate or whatever that hoe's name was which I guess gives him some credit. I would have never watched this movie if I wasn't bored out of my mind and in the hospital.


eric. said...

What is a staph infection like?

Pestilent tropics!

Anonymous said...

You have to give "Zach and Miri make a porno" credit for portraying the one black woman in the movie as such a crude racist caricature that it's neither funny nor offensive... just insulting to the viewer for having to waste their life watching it.

Look! A black lady who can only communicate by yelling! She's always angry! Laugh white people! Laugh!

chimatli said...

I sound like a broken record about this book but if you can, read The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolan~o. I think you will like it. Not sure if it's available in Thailand though.

James said...

these reviews are really good.