This is a list of the books and movies I'm intending to check out or recently actually did, compiled from friends or appealing reviews and articles. I won't pretend to know why anyone might be curious about it, but it IS helpful to me in my everlasting search for new and interesting material. So, should you think you recognize my taste and feel so compelled, please recommend away to firstname.lastname@example.org.
BOOKS IN HAND AWAITING A READ...the fruit of many garage sales & Goodwill visits
The Looking Glass War - John Le Carré
Single & Single - John Le Carré
The Arabian Nights - (various)
The Honorary Consul - Graham Greene
The Comedians - Graham Greene
Arabia Through The Looking Glass - Jonathan Raban
Ulysses - James Joyce
The Works of Plato - Plato
Maximum City - Bombay Lost And Found - Suketu Mehta
The Human Stain - Philip Roth
Half A Life - V. S. Naipaul
Magic Seeds - V. S. Naipaul
Wild Child - T. C. Boyle
Water Music - T. C. Boyle
When The Killing's Done - T. C. Boyle
The Winter Of Our Discontent - John Steinbeck
Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver
The Piano Tuner - Daniel Mason
The Cold Dish - Craig Johnson
Herzog - Saul Bellow
In One Person - John Irving
The Lost City Of Z - David Grann
Stories of Five Decades - Hermann Hesse
Beneath The Wheel - Hermann Hesse
Nostromo - Joseph Conrad
BOOKS NOT IN HAND AWAITING A READ:
Autobiography of Mark Twain - Mark Twain - at NCRL
The Ghost Writer - Philip Roth - not at NCRL
In Search Of Lost Time/Remembrance of Time Past - Marcel Proust - at NCRL
Revolution for Dummies - Bassem Youssef
Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) - David Sedaris
Olive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Strout
Giant of the Senate - Al Franken
Therese Raquin - Emile Zola
My Antonia - Willa Cathers
The Secret Sharer - Joseph Conrad
The Wretched of the Earth - Frantz Fanon
Tarzan of the Apes - Edgar Rice Burroughs
A Visit From the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan
BOOKS MOST RECENTLY READ (IF ANY)
The Lawless Roads - Graham Greene
In 1937, Graham Greene traveled through a Mexico lost now to the sands of time and modernization. Travel by mule between towns, rickety boats on the verge of sinking at all times, mystics, and a political situation that had essentially outlawed religion. An intriguing timepiece, this work served in a sense as a study for his classic novel which followed, The Power and the Glory. It's a fantastic snapshot of Mexico before industrialization, in the late 1930s, detailing those years where Mexico continued to deal with the ramifications of its revolution and severe break from its past.
The Plot Against America - Philip Roth
If FDR hadn't won his 3rd term and Charles Lindbergh had won the presidency instead, here's a take on what might have happened under the leadership of the noted Nazi-sympathizer and (evidently) racist populist. Shadows of Donald Trump foretold, methinks.
The Fortress of Solitude - Jonathan Lethem
A white boy grows up and out of a mostly black neighborhood of New York City over the 70s, 80s and 90s. Racism, gentrification, music, drugs - it's all there and well-described with a certain amount of affection and rue.
The Women - T. C. Boyle
For all his genius in the field of architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright was no less a petty tyrant and womanizer with no shortage of affectations. Or so it's made abundantly clear in this somewhat fictionalized take on his most notable relationships with a few of the women in his life.
Zorba the Greek - Nikos Kazantzakis
A man comes to Crete with the excuse of building a fortune, taking on a local who seems to have both an insider's view of life on Crete and how to live an general. Both a testament to seizing the day and how little people can be, it's worth the price of admission alone to see this rural side of traditional Greek culture.
Seize The Day - Saul Bellow
A novella, this one's a tale of a man trying to make a fast buck and prove himself to his established father. But a fast buck entails a certain amount of trust in a system of which he's essentially ignorant. Gamblers can have beginner's luck... or be taken to the cleaners.
Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed - Jared M. Diamond
Part Two of the masterful treatise on why certain societies succeed at the expense of others, Guns, Germs, and Steel. This one focuses more on case studies on how we are destroying the planet with our relatively unchecked resource extraction. It's happened many times before; now it's just global.
Tatiana - Martin Cruz Smith
Yet another Arkady Renko novel, brought up to date and into the age of Russian mobsters that are the reality of Russia in the Two Thousand Teens. It's not a pretty picture of power struggles and casual murder of opponents and journalists both.
Journey Without Maps - Graham Greene
The Adventures of Augie March - Saul Bellow
A tour-de-force that details the life and (early) times of Augie March, a kid born on the poor side of the tracks who finds more than his share of luck and nerve in making his way on the mean streets of Chicago. So it goes, from gangster to mol, until he's left to his own devices... and more or less makes do. Comic adventure with a great eye.
Born A Crime - Trevor Noah
Trevor Noah's coming of age story, living in South Africa as a young boy and then man who was technically "illegal" under the days of Apartheid. A black mother, a white father, and a kid making his way. Many a laugh as well as insightful in dealing with a neck of the world woods not often on display outside of its borders.
Based On A True Story - Norm Macdonald
More or less a memoir for the comedian best known for his several years of feeding "fake" news on Saturday Night Live. That or it's a newer version, perhaps, of Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, Norm-style. Entertaining as hell, regardless of which tidbits are true or not.
Kitchen Confidential - Anthony Bourdain
Something of a no-holds-barred take on chefs and kitchen staff at those restaurants that try to take themselves seriously or at least appear to. Bourdain nevertheless has a respect for food and the art of cooking in spite of his admitted extended dalliances with drugs and the frankly seedy characters that have inhabited most of the kitchens he's worked in. There's a joy and fun oomph to this work which put Mr. Bourdain on the map and onto the TV tube chasing down ever more bizarre things to eat by at least our mentally-restricted standard.
The Labyrinth of Solitude - Octavio Paz
One of Mexico's great writers takes on the Mexican character via nine essays examining various parts of Mexican history and how it has formed the Mexican people circa 1950-something. Admittedly a not-insignificant amount of the analysis was above my head by mere sentence construction, but there is a sufficient taste and feel for the matter that is even accessible to the likes of me and other less-gifted readers.
Death In The Andes - Mario Vargas Llosa
Llosa touches on the reign of terror imposed on the Peruvian Andes by the Shining Path guerrilla insurgency movement. His recurring character Lituma shows up again, here running an outpost seemingly always on the verge of being overrun by them - or the devils of the mountains, as local lore and legend tells it.
Hotel Honolulu - Paul Theroux
Short tales of visitors to the creaky Hotel Honolulu mesh together in giving a rather detailed depiction of Hawaii as an outlier states of outcasts, dreamers, and disillusioned folks in search of something that is perhaps impossible to find. Although some would insist that they've found it. Much more lustful fare than the usual Theroux, and seemingly at least partially autobiographical in relating pieces of the manager's history.
Krakatoa - Simon Winchester
Teacher: Two Years in the Mississippi Delta - Michael Copperman
La Muerte de Artemio Cruz - Carlos Fuentes
The Bone People - Keri Hulme
Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
The Accidental Tourist - Anne Tyler
The Importance of Being Earnest - Oscar Wilde
The Inner Circle - T. C. Boyle
Ragtime - D. L. Doctorow
Satyricon - Gaius/Titus Petronius
Beowulf - unknown
My Secret History - Paul Theroux
The Immortal Irishman - Tim Egan
Are You Anybody? - Jeffrey Tambor
MOVIES I'M HOPING TO WATCH
Baenken/The Bench (Denmark) - NOT at SPL; purchase declined
The Tree Of Wooden Clogs-unrated - at SPL; purchase declined at NCRL
Very Semi Serious - at SPL, purchase declined at NCRL
Douchebag-unrated - NOT at SPL; NOT at NRCL
Little Fish-R (Oz), - at SPL
No-R, at SPL
Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter not at SPL or NCRL, purchase declined
Mr. Kaplan - Uruguay 2014 - streaming at SPL
rewatch A Clockwork Orange - dir. Stanley Kubrick X not at NCRL
The Wolf Of Wall Street - dir. Martin Scorcese
The Light Between Oceans
The Salesman - Iran
The Holy Mountain - dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky
I Called Him Morgan
The Big Sick
The Death of Stalin
Jerry Before Seinfeld
The Square (denmark)
Battle of the Sexes
The Meyerowitz Stories (New & Selected) - dir. Noah Baumbach
rewatch Snatch - dir. Guy Ritchie
rewatch To Die For
MOVIES MOST RECENTLY WATCHED (IF ANY)
**+ True Grit
In this remake of the classic John Wayne epic, a girl once again hires a bounty hunter to help her avenge the wrongful death of her father in the Old West. Jeff Bridges is said bountyman in a memorable role where he mumbles his lines as only JB can. A worthy retelling.
*** Interstellar - dir. Christopher Nolan
In some slightly future dystopia, crops are failing worldwide and civilization is taking a dive back toward a more primitive and mistrustful past. Fortunately - maybe - there is the possibility of colonizing other worlds... but which, and how?
The idea of lesbian relation in the 40s/50s America is taboo enough to cause problems for Cate Blanchett's Carol, a liberated woman in an un-liberated world.
** Rogue One
The first of the Star Wars standalone movies, this one explains the whole bit about how the plans to the Death Star were stolen in the first place to set off the original film. It's a nice world to again be a part of, to be sure (love the cinematography), but the unending battle scenes are past getting old and the reliance of one-liners (mostly spoken by a new robot to the stable) is becoming ever more necessary.
**+ Monster's Ball
A woman's husband is on death row and two of his scheduled execution squad are a wholly disfunctional father-son pair - who really are only following in the footsteps of their father/grandfather, a bigot of high order in ol' Missip. The son goes his way as the father falls for this wrongest of women, and hilarity does not ensue.
** Time Bandits
Nowhere near the quality of its Monty Python predecessors, this one tries to get by on cuteness more than anything else - and it doesn't really work. All things come to an end.
Another Christopher Guest film, this one straight to video under the auspices of Netflix. It's still the same ensemble cast, a great thing, if it doesn't quite have je-ne-said-quoi its predecessors did in exploring the world of team mascots.
Saltieri, the court composer for the Austro-Hungarian emperor, reflects from the madhouse on his not-quite-protege, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The genius, the ego, the bombast, the clown, one can only hope life was this colorful back then courtside. But the music, of course, lives on.
** Frances Ha - dir. Noah Baumbach
Livin' the hipster dream in New York, bouncing between pads while trying to do something creative that'll actually make ends meet. Poseurs, trust fund kids, and some real deals, one supposes.
Chronicling the meat industry with a focus on cattle, neither "humane" nor "sustainable" seem to be in the offing. Informative and depressing, of course, but not to the point that one can't make choices in the real world.
***+ The Usual Suspects
They're the usual suspects, these five, with past histories of crimes done well and gone bad both, now called in to answer for a bad scene at the docks. Who's telling the truth? What possibly IS the truth?
The true story of an Irish woman who had her son forcefully adopted from beneath her while living under supposed sanctuary at a convent workhouse. She wonders for the rest of her life what happened to him until she decides to actually find out.
**+ What Happened, Miss Simone?
The life and times of Miss Nina Simone, (jazz) pianist extraordinaire with classical training who eventually also took to the civil rights movement with a passion... until she couldn't take life in the U.S. any longer and decamped for Paris. Fascinating, tragic, resilient.
** The Whole Gritty City
Kids in New Orleans's tougher districts are afforded the interesting out of gang life in picking up an instrument and joining one of the local marching bands. Playing in Mardi Gras parades and football games is the prize for those who otherwise might get sucked into a world where all too often the reality is a violent end. A number of case studies provide the vehicle to explore this both hopeful and tragic world.
*** Monty Python and the Holy Grail
King Arthur's tale as told by Monty Python with scads of quotable scenes. Ridiculous in the right way.
*** The Life of Brian
Brian's story parallels that of Jesus, which isn't a fun way to end up on a cross. But it is plenty of fun for the viewer to take chapter and verse of the new testament apart for dissection in a decidedly wrong way.
*** The Meaning of Life
My favorite of the Monty Python offerings, with the most quotable moments and, frankly, the most philosophical take the troupe has on offer. It is, indeed, the meaning of life.
A dramatization of the amazing story of a little Indian boy who falls asleep on a train - to next find himself in the massive city of Kolkata/Calcutta some 16 hours away. Ultimately adopted into a new home in Australia, he never forgets the family he unwittingly left behind. So he makes an effort to find them all too many years later.
A realistic look at the days and events leading up to the Civil Rights Marches in Selma, Alabama. Martin Luther King struggles with the place and means, if not precisely the message.
*+ What's Up, Doc?
Barbara Streisand and Ryan O'Neal in a goofy caper of four identical luggage bags that lead to hijinks in a hotel. Dated, sure, but somehow still modestly entertaining and lacking any means to take offense in its saccharine.
**+ Young Frankenstein
The latest Dr. Frankenstein is sucked back into his ancestor's castle to ultimately decide on an updated take on how to make a monster. Here's Gene Wilder at about his best, plus Madeline Kahn, Terry Garr, and Marty Feldman. Quotable.
*** Manchester By The Sea
Not exactly entirely gloomy, but one can't escape the morose aspects of a brother coming to terms with his brother's death and his own tragic past. Utterly real and phenomenally acted.
** Café Society - dir. Woody Allen
Allen takes on L.A.'s movie studio life - in the days when the studios and their bigwigs owned the actors - plus the similar high society world of Jewish mobsters in New York at the same time period - which seems to be the '20s or '30s.
*** Jodorowsky's Dune
** Get Out - dir. Jordan Peele
** El Topo - dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky
** Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
*** Kill Bill, Vol. 1&2 - dir. Quentin Tarantino
***+ Fargo - dir. Coen Brothers
**+ Munich - dir. Steven Spielberg
** Ghost In The Shell
**+ La La Land
** Logan Lucky
**+ American Made
*** Blade Runner
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