Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Personal Rule Change

For years, I've followed a simple rule:  If I don't like the first novel by an author, I don't read the follow-ups.  The reason for this was simple--the first novel an author puts out, like the first album a band puts out, should just hum.  The story, the style, all of it honed and crafted.  The writer has had years to get that thing right, and like my friend Daryl Gregory says, the first novel is your one and only chance to make it as perfect as possible before it's published because after that, you're on deadlines most of the time.  Make sense?

So back in 2010 after I read Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects, which had received a lot of praise, I said, "Nope, no more."  I didn't like that novel.  I found the story unoriginal and flat on the page.  So I was done with Flynn books.  No worries though, plenty of other author's out there, right?

Then Flynn's Gone Girl came out a couple of years ago, and again, lots - no, TONS - of praise.  I heard of some great twist and an ending that really divided people.  My wife read it and told me she thought I would really like it.  Other people I respected said the same thing.  But nope, I wasn't going to do it.  I had a rule I followed, and I'd be damned if Flynn would get me again.

But I got worn down.  My wife continued to say I should read it.  I kept reading film updates.  And man, that trailer for David Fincher's upcoming adaptation is just fantastic.  Right in my wheelhouse.  So I found my wife's copy and read it in a couple of days.

And oh man.

Gone Girl is just excellent.  I read a lot of crime novels, but this is probably the best one I've read in years.  The story isn't anything new - a woman goes missing, investigation follows - but Flynn's handing of it is what makes the novel so good.  Flynn also pulls off one of the greatest twists I've ever seen in a novel, and this from someone who reads everything anticipating twists.  I won't go into what the twist is, but if you've read the novel, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  It's like Flynn lures you farther and farther out into the ocean saying, "See, it's safe out here.  No worries", not realizing she's taking you into shark infested waters.  I sat and thought on that twist for days, thinking about how she'd pulled it off, how she manipulated the reader's assumptions, and just being jealous as hell about all of it.  I have no idea how Fincher can make the twist work in the movie, but if anyone can pull it off, he can.

Oh, and the writing...again, excellent.  Amy's voice in the diary entries here is just dead-on perfect.  Then there's this section, my favorite in the entire book (Maybe a spoiler alert?  I don't know):

That night at the Brooklyn party, I was playing the girl who was in style, the girl a man like Nick wants: the Cool Girl.  Men always say that as the defining compliment, don't they?  She's a cool girl.  Being the Cool Girl means I'm a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she's hosting the world's biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot.  Hot and understanding.  Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want.  Go ahead, shit on me, I don't mind, I'm the Cool Girl.

God, that's brilliant, right?  So well-written.  And so true.  Men do think that way.  In fact, there are a lot of moments in  this novel where I think Flynn must have men tied up in her basement tortured  into divulging all of the secrets of male thinking.  She nails the complexities of marriage, too.  And at times she's awesomely vulgar, which I fully appreciate.

So that old rule of mine about not reading follow-ups if I didn't like the book is just that, an old rule.  Gone.  And maybe next time I'll listen to my wife a little more.  :)  Heck, that's even one of the lessons of the book, I think, so there's that.

Go read this book now, and feel free to complain about the ending with me.  Personally, I thought it was the only possible ending.  Others, lots of them, disagree.  But that's what's fun about books, right?

Happy reading.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Reality Boy: My Favorite Book So Far This Year

So far this year I've read 35 books.  (Don't judge me...three kids keeps reading time down a bit).  A good many of these are YA, some are graphic novels, and there are a bunch of crime novels.  Of these books, my favorite by far was A.S. King's Reality Boy.

The summary: Gerald Faust's life has been hell ever since his mom brought a reality TV crew into the house when he was young.   He's known as "the shitter" for having crapped throughout the house in front of the production crew, his sister and her boyfriend party naked in the basement, something his parents ignore, and he has major anger issues.  What's a former reality star to do?  Run like hell.

Okay, this is a bad summary of a great book, but trust me, it's a fantastic read.  King's written a fully-developed character who you root for to catch a break because he's been dealt a terrible hand.  And man, this book is funny.  Go read it now.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Today Twitter, Tomorrow the World

Here's something funny that happened last night--working summer school has given me a good amount of time to update my blog more recently (yay me!) and in doing that, I decided to start using my Twitter account, too.  The problem is that I don't fully understand who is seeing what.  If I follow someone who isn't following me, and I post on my account, they don't see that, right?  But how do you "interact" with someone who's not following you?  By following them and ... what?  Tweeting at them?  Is that something?  Or did I make that up?

(It's actually all rather embarrassing to confess.  I mean, my parents can work the DVD player I bought them, and it always has me wondering what will I not be able to understand when I'm older.  ((I'm hoping the answer is a teleporter.))

So last night, I decide to mess around with Twitter, and one of the people I follow is Tom Morello, the guitar player who recently played on Springsteen's latest album and tour.  Don't know him?  Here he is being amazing in the last few minutes of "The Ghost of Tom Joad" when I saw Springsteen back in April: Pure Awesomeness. 

Anyway, I was looking at his Twitter account and saw a button that I guessed may send a tweet to Morello.  Here's what I wrote: Listened to a live version of "Tom Joad" tonight and my head exploded at your solo.  I'm sending you the medical bill.

Dumb, right?  But hey, it was a test to see if it would show up on his "wall".  (Okay, a wall is a Facebook thing, not a Twitter thing.  I can't remember what...oh, it's a Feed!  No, I will not go back and edit this paragraph.)  And no, the message didn't show up, so I figured Okay, who cares, go open a book.  And that's what I did.

So an hour later I was getting ready for bed and I checked my email...

Aside: I have this rule about not checking my email after 8 o'clock.  Only bad news can come after that time.  Some of the worst nights of sleep I've had have been from reading a bad email late, and not being able to sleep as a result.  However, I fail nightly at this rule.

...and waiting for me are 65 messages.  Huh?  I figure this has to be a spam thing, and I open to folder to find that the messages are all from Twitter.  The first message:

Kurt Dinan,
Tom Morello replied to your Tweet!
Kurt Dinan
Kurt Dinan@KurtDinan
@tmorello Listened to a live version of "Tom Joad" tonight and my head exploded at your solo. I'm sending you the medical bill. - 01 Jul
Tom Morello@tmorello
@KurtDinan: Listened to "Tom Joad" tonight and my head exploded.I'm sending u the medical bill.” One more reason for universal healthcare
01:30 AM - 01 Jul 14

The other 64 messages were people either favoriting this message or retweeting it.  And it's continued through the night and into this morning.   Kind of fun, especially since I really had no idea what I was doing.  But see how easy it is?  Just pick a random celebrity, Tweet at them (am I supposed to capitalize that?) and they respond.  Tom--he wants me to call him Tom, I'm sure, since we're clearly BFF's--is now probably going to show up at my house later  for beers and a discussion on the current political climate.  After he leaves I'm going to Tweet at Springteen and Stephen Colbert and Mary Louise Parker.  The four of us will likely be having dinner this weekend.

Oh, and even crazier, a couple of people, angry at the tweet, want me to explain how the country can afford to pay for Obamacare.  No, seriously.  That was their response to me.  So I'm also now a spokesperson for Obamacare...which I'm a big supporter of, by the way.  But what's funny is that my message wasn't political at all, at least not originally.  I like that Morello used it that way though-just me doing my part in support of universal health care. That's how we revolutionaries like Tom and I roll.

Viva la revolution!