I always balk when people say to me, “I couldn’t put this book down!” That rarely happens to me. As I writer, I almost always start micro-managing the books I read, wondering what was going on in the author’s head at the time, the hidden meanings behind their choice of words, the turn of phrase, the setting…what this, that or the other thing is supposed to represent. I pillage the words on the pages for deeper meaning even if there isn’t meant to be any…even if the author’s only aim was to entertain. I’ve often been known to nitpick books to death, especially popular best-sellers, to my own displeasure and in a disservice to the author, to the point where I just have to put them down. And then there are overly ambitious, bloated literary messes (cliché…cliché…touché…) that I…just…can’t…pick up.
Then there’s the golden rule that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Or by its title. But that’s just what I was doing when wandering through an abnormally large and sanitized Barnes and Noble at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on no mission other than killing time when I came across Derek B. Miller’s Norwegian by Night. Cool title. Cool cover. What’s this all about, eh? I bought it on impulse.
And now I can say with cool confidence, you can judge a book by its cover, and I COULDN’T PUT THIS BOOK DOWN! For those keeping track, the last book I couldn’t put down was Ron Rash’s Serena. I ransacked Miller’s debut tale in record time over the three-day Memorial Day weekend. There’s nothing mind-blowing or revolutionary about Miller’s book, but like its cinematic cousin, Mud, which also contained a strong Huck Finn motif, it represents good old-fashioned storytelling bravado: Simple. Layered. Sympathetic characters with complete and satisfying arcs. Interesting setting. Good story. Well told. Continue reading →
Inspired by the current polling going on at Wonders in the Dark (which for my money is the best movie blog site on the web right now) concerning the Best Films of the 1970’s, I decided to catch up on some of the great films from that decade I had yet to see. One thing led to another, and there I was with the obscure Edvard Munch sitting atop my Netflix queue. Directed by renowned forefather of the docudrama, Britian’s Peter Watkins, this complex and nearly four hour long biopic of Norwegian post-Impressionist painter Edvard Munch was originally made as a miniseries for Norwegian/Swedish TV in 1974. It was released theatrically around the world in 1976 and was recently done up as a two-disc special edition on DVD. I watched it in those two parts over the course of two nights and was completely transfixed.
Brazenly presented in the style of a documentary, Watkins’ film begs you to feel as if his cameras were literally there from “moment one” in Munch’s childhood during the late 1800’s all they way up through the abrupt close of the film half way through his life around 1910. Continue reading →