Coming Home in Toni Morrison’s New Novel

Frank Money.  I can’t think of a better, more ironic, name for the hero of Toni Morrison’s new novel, Home.  In only 148 short pages (somehow I picture Toni Morrison on that old game show Name that Tune proudly declaring, “I can name that tune in zero notes!” like she could divine what the song will be; and she herself does not waste a single note, syllable or word when she composes) she takes us Home – to an emotionally and psychologically damaged Korean war vet trying to find his way back to Georgia to rescue his little sister from some deep trouble.  More so than any past novels, this one is about as straightforward and accessible as a Morrisonian narrative can get, though there’s a brilliant little conceit where between chapters Frank Money is speaking directly to Morrison and reveals some gut-wrenching secrets.

As she paints for us Frank Money’s journey, Morrison gives us glimpses into the lives and mindsets of people marginalized by society and peppers her tale with those signature Morrison observations, including one passage that playfully argues the only logical response to Truman dropping that atom bomb was for the subculture to create bebop and scat.  There’s also a great little episode where Frank Money is taken in for the night by a good Samaritan whose young son (a precocious and determined math wiz) interrogates Frank about his time in Korea and ultimately how if felt to kill a man, and how Frank’s responses color the boy’s view of this strange guest in his house.  The boy’s “deep” his father had warned Frank…but when asked what he wants to be when he grows up, the boy responds to Frank succinctly, “A man.” (pg 33) Continue reading

Don’t Mess with Texas or Bernie

And I pray unto thee, Dear Lord Baby Jesus, that Bernie gets what he deserves.

I should preface this review by saying I’m no fan of Jack Black (though I think he sometimes gets an unfair wrap) or Shirley MacLaine (she’s a shrill weird old lady) or Matthew McConaughey (beat your bongos, son).  I like some of director Richard Linklater’s oeuvre – most notably Slacker, Waking Life, Dazed and Confused and the Before Sunrise/Sunset films, but he’s made plenty of duds especially when he tries to go mainstream.  Suffice it to say I didn’t pay any attention when this foursome got together to make Bernie

Yet I started to hear some good things – and the plot sounded interesting enough, and I was really bored one Sunday afternoon.  So there I was enjoying against all odds this tale of an affable busybody East Texas assistant funeral director (Black – nicely method and oddly endearing), the weird mean rich old bitty (MacLaine – well cast) he befriends, and the cocky country District Attorney (McConaughey – always better at comedy than drama and doing a tongue-in-cheek and dip-in-mouth riff on his own propensity to play impassioned lawyers) out to nail Bernie when the crazy lady turns up dead.

I’ve long made the case that the hardest film genre to pull off is the dark comedy.  But there’s a subgenre that’s even harder to pull off – the light dark comedy.  Successfully mixing elements of Gus Van Sant’s To Die For, Robert Altman’s Cookie’s Fortune and the mockumentaries of Christopher Guest, Linklater is spot-on in his delivery of this true-crime comedy.  Continue reading

Issue Two of The Stone Digital Literary Magazine Now Available

The second issue of The Stone is now available for download at Amazon.com through the Kindle app!

Cover art for Issue Two comes courtesy of award-winning British photographer Eleanor Leonne Bennett, and inside you will find great stories from three continents.

Here’s a preview:

Stretching my long legs in perfect tandem one after the other in rhythmic fashion simultaneously thumping the ground below my feet, I spring forward—yes, I am running. At a speed either unknown to me or at the speed of light, or so I thought. Running for my life to catch a day-train to Bangalore—the Brindavan Express. – from “Train of Thought” by Prakash Jashnani

All across town clocks were tossing off seconds with loud clicks, obnoxious tapping, or with silent digital precision, and he knew that just because he couldn’t hear them didn’t mean they weren’t out there and that the ticking wasn’t happening, and more importantly, that time wasn’t running out. – from “Deadline” by Vince McGovern

Directly in front of the window, a large white ferris wheel slowly turned up, towards, and away from the window.  Up, towards, away, up, towards, away.  Here and there flashes snapped from inside the tinted windows of the ferris wheel cars.  Miek wondered if she would turn out in any of those tourist photos, a small face peering out of a window facing Dam Square, only discovered when someone’s weekend away in Amsterdam was over and their photos uploaded to their computer.  – from “The Trip” by Amanda Perino

The thought of being alone with Ritchie made Jerry nervous. Yes, the Dunwoodys had a three year-old daughter named Ritchie. Jerry had been totally against it, but it was the trend amongst all of Stephanie’s girlfriends that year to apply boys’ names to their newborn daughters. In Ritchie’s preschool class there were two girls named Sam (just Sam), a Billy and a Bobby.  – from “Puddle Jumpers” by D. H. Schleicher

So go ahead and roll back The Stone to uncover great stories in the digital age. Continue reading

The Avengers or In the Name of Phil

What is this? Some kind of bust?

Let’s get one thing straight – Scarlett Johansson is so smoldering in The Avengers, I was aghast.  I mean can this woman get any sexier?  And director Joss Whedon wisely places her in tight-fitting outfits and under perfect lighting and has her kick wall to wall ass as super assassin Black Widow.  As ho-hum as some of the rest of this film was, for me, bottom line – Johansson and how Whedon utilized her assets were worth the price of admission.  But enough of that…

Break out the extra-large, layered butter, heavily salted popcorn and enjoy this thing for whatever deviant or nostalgic or escapist reasons you so choose.  Here’s the patented Schleicher Spin rundown: Continue reading

Alien vs Aliens vs My Childhood

Inspired by the fan-boy raving over at Condemned Movies and in anticipation of the June release of Ridley Scott’s prequel/not-a-prequel hybrid Prometheus, I decided to take a stroll down memory lane and revisit Scott’s iconic Alien and Cameron’s raucous Aliens.

What kind of damned robot are you?

I have such fond childhood memories of Scott’s Alien.  Even though I first watched it at a very young age (I think it must have been around the time of Aliens‘ release so I would’ve been about seven), it’s not memories of the film scaring me that I remember most, but memories instead of my parents telling stories of how it scared them when it came to theaters in 1979, also the year of my arrival into the world.  There was pent-up giddy kid-wild anticipation in the Schleicher household as our parents regaled tales of the shock and horror and the downright badass spookiness of Alien – a film that took old-school monster-movie horror and melded it with a new wave of gritty futurism.  It was both a throw-back film and pop-avant-garde.  And I remember feeling truly special when my parents finally let us watch it.  The initial shock of the chest-bursting scene lasts with me to this day as well as fractured fairy-tale memories of a an android that bled milk, an acid-filled face-hugging bug, a pretty girl in her underwear, and a kitty that must be rescued! Continue reading

Anticipation in Ron Rash’s The Cove

Anticipation.

Our sweet-natured, sad-soul heroine Laurel anticipating her life to begin after a string of bad luck toiling away in the gloaming of the titular cove. Waiting for love to find her.

Hank, Laurel’s brother who has returned home from Europe after losing his hand, newly betrothed and anticipating a fresh life to begin outside of the shadow of his cursed homestead.

The handsome flute-playing mute named Walter who finds his way into the cove and into Laurel’s heart always looking over his shoulder anticipating his good luck to run out and his past (and the authorities) to catch up to him.

A nation anticipating their native sons to return from a war-torn Europe to safer shores.

The reader anticipating something…anything…interesting to happen in Ron Rash’s lukewarm but evocative Southern-spun WWI-era gothic romance. Don’t worry…it does…eventually.

It’s telling that Rash would follow-up his masterpiece, Serena, with a novel drenched in atmosphere and taking place in a gloomy hollow, eternally in the shadows of the Appalachian mountains (the same mountains where in Serena the Pemberton timber empire loomed ominously and supreme) which cast darkness on the hearts of the inhabitants there. It’s almost as if Serena Pemberton is casting the greatest shadow, as Rash will never be able to conjure a character to match her nor can one imagine a follow-up novel that could scale the same mythic heights. Continue reading