Sunday, January 28, 2007

January 28th New York Times Book Review

Best Review Ever!

Says Terrence Rafferty of The Keeper:

The most satisfying of the genre’s recent rage extravaganzas, though, is Sarah Langan’s first novel, THE KEEPER (HarperTorch, paper, $6.99). Like Little, Langan is interested in the release of pent-up anger from reasonable gripes: in this case, the source is the indignity visited, year after grinding year, on the residents of a fictional New England factory town.

The story begins a month after the closing of the Clott Paper Mill in Bedford, Me. The town — what’s left of it at the end of a decade or so of layoffs and wearying attempts to deny the writing on the wall — is depressed, uncertain, quietly panicky. Among the many unhealthy forms this collective unease takes, along with alcoholism, domestic abuse and a pervasive meanness of spirit, are shared nightmares, which focus on the most visibly wretched member of the community: a mute, disturbed, flagrantly promiscuous young woman named Susan Marley. While she’s alive, she’s the embodiment of her neighbors’ fears for themselves — and when she dies, her hold on the sad, sick town becomes even more powerful. In death, Susan Marley comes into her own, and so, in an appropriately abandoned, self-immolating way, does Bedford.

“The Keeper” — which is richly populated with small-town characters at varying stages of emotional crisis, from numb puzzlement to unshakable bitterness to abject despair — is as angry as any of the other novels I’ve been discussing, but it’s the only horror story I’ve read recently that finds adequate metaphors for the self-destructive properties of anger.

“Their rage at what had been done to them had no place to go but within,” Langan writes of the people of Bedford, and you can feel it throughout “The Keeper,” growing like a cancer and debilitating the town until this entire complex social organism has no will but the will to merciful oblivion. And that’s when rage becomes truly horrifying: when everyone has forgotten how the poison got into the system and no one knows, or cares, how to get it out.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Mystery Site of the Month! It's posted, thanks to a thoughtful reader.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

Top ten movies of the year, soon to be followed by top ten books:

1) An Inconvenient Truth-- Not a cinematic masterpiece, but before it came out, people were still debating the existence of global warming, thanks to the great scientific minds of Michael Crighton and PhDs in the pocket of big oil. Yay for Al Gore!

2) The Departed-- Matt Damon plays one of the best, and most complicated, back-stabbing, morally bankrupt turds in history against the forthright, decent, and totally screwed-up Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio). The make great enemies. More importantly, Scorsese understands the importance of human touch, and because of that his sex scenes are... really sexy. Jack Nicholson was too campy, but otherwise I loved this movie. Saw it twice!

3) Volver-- A love letter to women directed by Pedro Almodovar, and set in Madrid. Better, even, than "All About My Mother".

4) Half Nelson-- The story of a crack addicted teacher in Brooklyn, written and directed by Ryan Fleck. Smart, relentless, and painfully honest. The young woman who plays Drey has a depth of wisdom far beyond her years, and the main character, played by Ryan Gosling, is heartbreaking.

5) Apocalypto-- An ambitious, ballsy movie in Mayan, about the collapse of civilization. A tribe on the outskirts of the Mayan empire is brutally conquered. In bamboo chains, the men are brought for sacrifice to the Mayan temple to satisfy insatiable gods, who've stopped blessing the kingdom with rain. There's a gleefully grisly shot from the perspective of a decapitated head, rolling down the alter steps. The movie is full of blood lust, but contrasted by disgust for the devastation caused by a useless war. Jaguar Paw's effort to escape his captors and return to his family is riveting, as are all the details of the world Gibson creates, that so closely echo the madness of modern times.

6) Children of Men-- Clive Owen is charged with the safety of the first woman to get pregnant in a decade in post-apocalyptic England. The premise of the movie is executed so seamlessly that I bought it completely, and watched the whole thing with clenched fists, I was so worried for the safety of the woman and her child-- this last hope for humanity.

7) Slither-- I'm not a fan of self-referential horror. It soothes the audience by letting them know that nothing truly bad is going to happen, and even if it does, the characters aren't real enough to care about, anyway. It reminds, us, constantly, that this is only a movie. It's like that kid who confesses something really important during a late-night bs session in college, and then realizes how much is on the line, and adds, "Only kidding!" Slither is the exception. It's too smart and funny not to love. An alien life form lands on earth, and infects a small town, giving them the disease of consumption: they can't stop eating, until finally, they explode!

8) Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby--I love you, Will Ferrell. His character's kids in this movie are named Walker and Texas Ranger. "If we wanted losers, we'd have named them Dr. Quinn and Medicine Woman!" his trashy and gorgeous wife shouts at the dinner table.

9) Friends With Money-- Francis McDormand decides that her husband is gay, and in silent protest, stops washing her hair. Jennifer Aniston's character is a pot smoking maid whose self esteem is so low that she lets her dates steal from her. Catherine Keener and her screenwriter husband have fallen out of love, and the result is a grotesque parody of affection. Finally, there's Joan Cusak, whose incredible wealth and innate eagerness to please her husband make for a harmonious, if weird, marriage. The movie explores the relationships between these women. The premise is contrived, but otherwise, it's got real emotional heft.

10) Dreamgirls-- Eddie Murphy made this movie. He deserves an academy award.

I didn't see Little Miss Sunshine, Notes on a Scandal, V for Vendetta, or Pan's Labrinth, which might all have made the list.