Monday, June 26, 2017

The Paris Wife - Book Review

Published: Feb 2011
The Paris Wife - Paula McLain A-

I can't get enough Hadley and Hemingway since I finished The Paris Wife. This fictionalized account of their 1920s romance and marriage was surprisingly captivating. Now, I'm desperate to separate fact from fiction.

Hadley Richardson was the first of Hemingway's four wives. She was an innocent girl from the Midwest, eight years his senior. Reluctant to fall in love with a younger man, Hadley eventually gave in to Hemingway's charm and youthful ambition. The couple moved to Paris shortly after getting married. In Paris, they fraternized with the likes of Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. This period of their relationship was alive, filled with writing, friendship, and exuberant drinking. Adventures ensued, lines were crossed, and books were written.

The Paris Wife felt authentic. McClain did extensive research that included reading and rereading multiple biographies, memoirs, letters, novels, and stories written by and about Hadley and Hemingway. McClain's writing was simple yet intriguing, which is exactly how I felt about Hadley. Hadley was never the biggest personality in the room, especially among Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Duff Twysden, and Pauline Pfeiffer. But, in retrospect she might have been the best woman in the room. Even Hemingway might have agreed with that when it was all said and done.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare - Book Review

Published May 2017
This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare - Gabourey Sidibe B+

I know Gabourey Sidibe was nominated for an Academy Award. I know she's been on various television shows. But, I've never been more impressed by her talents than I am now. This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare is entertaining, surprising, and one of the best books of 2017 so far. Her fortuitous rise to fame, her engrossing (but not overbearing) family drama, and her witty sense of humor made this book hard to put down. Inspiring and sensible.

For more, check out Sidibe's Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross via the NPR link below.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Lovers - Movie Review

In Theaters Now
The Lovers (R) 94 mins B+

Starring: Debra Winger, Tracy Letts, Melora Walters, Aidan Gillen, Tyler Ross and Jessica Sula

I was drawn to Azazel Jacobs' latest film, The Lovers, because of the premise- a mature, zany bedroom farce with a Woody Allen-ish vibe. The film's trailer was also intriguing, but I feared it might be giving too much away (see the link to the trailer below). Despite what I thought I knew about the film, The Lovers was full of subtle surprises. An unhappy couple, played by Debra Winger and Tracy Letts, are on the brink. The film spares us the typical kicking and screaming that usually accompanies a cheating spouse comedy. Instead, it focuses on the doldrums of their unhappy marriage, the grind of their daily lives and the weight of their unsatisfied lovers. The tone of the film is light yet pensive- Jacobs really gets it right. In lesser hands this film would've been a throwaway bittersweet romantic comedy with a predictable outcome. Jacobs manages an outcome that's both satisfying and unnerving. If you're in the mood for a lite bedroom farce, The Lovers is a perfect matinee on a lazy spring afternoon.

Check out the trailer via YouTube --->

Monday, May 22, 2017

Milk and Honey - Book Review

Published: Nov 2014
Milk and Honey - Rupi Kaur C

Milk and Honey had its moments. I loved the black and white line drawings. However, the majority of these poems felt like appetizers and desserts without a main course. Milk and Honey is artistic and clever, but ultimately unsatisfying. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

So Sad Today - Book Review

Published March 2016
So Sad Today - Melissa Broder B-

Melissa Broder is an essayist, poet and Twitter sensation. I stumbled upon So Sad Today because it was one of those "if you like that, you'll like this" recommendations. I was unfamiliar with Broder, but So Sad Today was a curious title so I kept browsing. I googled the author and found a sample of the book- an essay about her open relationship with her husband and his mystery illness. I was immediately intrigued. Despite the book's title, I was still surprised by the depth of Broder's sadness. Her struggles with anxiety, addiction and depression were on vivid display. Some of her views and experiences resonated with me, some felt adolescent. Nevertheless, there was rarely a dull moment.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spirit - Album Review

Released March 2017
Spirit - Depeche Mode B+

Spirit is Depeche Mode's 14th studio album. Produced by James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco, Spirit sonically finds the synth icons returning to their roots. Lyrically, it's the most socially aware album of their career. As a long time fan, even I was surprised by how much Spirit resonated after one listen. Depeche Mode has always been great at setting the mood - gloomy, soul-searching, sadomasochistic romanticism. This late-career album successfully marries that nostalgic sound/mood with current affairs. "Where's the Revolution," the album's first single is timely and sets the tone. However, it's just the appetizer to the main course. On "The Worst Crimes,"Gahan croons "/Blame misinformation/Misguided leaders/Apathetic hesitation/Uneducated readers." On the opening track, "Going Backwards," a poignant slow burner, the lyrics are direct and on target -"We are still in debt/To our insanities/We're going backwards/Turning back our history." But, my favorite album cut is all about the politics of dancing, the sultry "You Move." After listening to this album It's hard to believe it's been 36 years since Depeche Mode's debut, Speak and Spell. Spirit is an album that sounds more and more vital with each listen. My favorite tracks: You Move, The Worst Crime, Fail, and Scum

My Top Five D-Mode albums

1. Violator (1990)
2. Ultra (1997)
3. Music For the Masses (1987)
4. Some Great Reward (1984)
5. (tie) Spirit (2017)
5. (tie) Songs of Faith and Devotion (1993)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Nix - Book Review

Published: Aug 2016
The Nix - Nathan Hill B

The Nix is a sprawling novel that has all the makings of a classic. It's witty, funny and surprising; a multilayered epic about family dysfunction, thwarted love and political unrest (among other things). This is one helluva debut. But, ultimately the novel is too ambitious for its own good. It's lengthy and I learned more about online gaming than I care to know. Otherwise, The Nix is sort of brilliant.

Check out the NPR review by Jason Sheehan below

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Lion - Movie Review

Lion (PG-13) 118 mins C
A fascinating story that fails to roar

Starring: Dev Patel, Sunny Pawaer, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, Abhishek Bharate, Divian Ladwa, Priyanka Bose, Deepti Naval, and Tannishtha Chatterjee.

Saroo (Pawaer) is a five-year old Indian boy. He falls asleep on a train and wakes up thousands of miles from home. Suddenly, he's a stranger in a strange land lost and alone. Based on a true story, Lion is the kind of drama that should tug at your heart strings. However, the film had no such effect on me. Young Saroo was the best thing about the film, he was truly a lion. But, young Saroo eventually grows up and the film skips ahead twenty years or so. Adopted by a nice Australian couple (Kidman & Wenham), a mature Saroo (Patel) is now attending college, has a hot new girlfriend (Mara) and a bright future ahead of him. Yet, his past begins to haunt him more and more. He becomes sullen and emotionally divided between his past and present. Enter Google Earth. Saroo becomes obsessed with Google and finding his birth family.

This is an intriguing and remarkable true story. There's nothing inherently bad about the film; however, it felt flat and it didn't resonate with me at all. Although, judging by all the sniffling in the dark theatre, it resonated with a lot of my fellow moviegoers. If you're in the mood for a sentimental true life tearjerker with an adorable child act- this one is for you. Me, not so much.

See the trailer via YouTube

A Long Way Home via NPR

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Loving - Movie Review

Loving (PG-13) 123 minutes D
Love Crimes

Starring: Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Marton Csokas, and Michael Shannon

I can't express how significant Loving v. Virginia (1967) is to me. I do not take Richard and Mildred Loving for granted. They were the interracial couple whose love was deemed unlawful in Virginia when they married in 1958. But, I'm sorry to say that this film (directed by Jeff Nichols) did nothing for me. Ho-Hum.

See it for yourself and let me know what you think.

Check out the trailer via YouTube

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Curb Service: A Memior - Book Review

Published July 2013

Curb Service: A Memoir - Scot Sothern C+

Scot Sothern has made a career of photographing prostitutes. His passion for photography and affinity for streetwalkers led to his first book in 2011, Lowlife (published in the UK), and subsequent photography exhibits around the world. In 2013, Curb Service: A Memoir was published by Soft Skull Press. It's an unapologetic narrative that centers around Sothern prowling for and photographing prostitutes, while trying to maintain a "normal" life that includes an ex-wife, a son he adores, and a steady job. The book is gritty and bleak. Sothern does not glamorize or attempt to rationalize his nasty habit. The women he documents are often homeless, drug addicted, and forgotten. Curb Service is part junkie memoir, part exposé. Sometimes it's flat, sometimes it's redundant, but mostly it's too perverse to ignore.

For more info about the book, see the link below via (NSFW!)