Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Book It!....the New Phase

Been reading books at a ferocious clip lately. More out of a sense of "why the fuck have I not been reading books regularly," and/or, "music is boring the bejesus out of me, causing movies to bring to the spotlight my appreciation and obsession with fictional storytelling, a natural progression into fiction literature if there ever was one." Yes, my thoughts are that unnecessarily wordy.

And, just as I suspected, falling in love with Cormac McCarthy's brilliant The Road (the first book I cracked open and submitted to in the wake of this "I sweat fiction" realization) unleashed the prose-piercing beast within. I've read six books in the month-and-a-half-and-change, two of which (Jose Saramago's Blindness, and Dennis Lehane's phenomenal Shutter Island) I've already "blogged" about.

Now, I feel the need to keep records of the books I've consumed here. Sort of like a log, a capsule of narrative treasures. No long-winded reviews or analysis; just quick-hitters. Plot summaries, in case anybody reading is open to my influence, followed by snappy feedback. Gotta feed the beast within somehow, now.

1) Cell, by Stephen King: What The Signal flick must've ganked inspiration from, or if not, would call its "kindred spirit." A sudden transmission sent through cellular phones turns users into ravenous killers, mumbling gibberish while feasting on warm human flesh. A ragtag crew of non-cell-owners (a graphic artist, a gay suit-and-tie type, and a high school girl) band together for survival, and gradually realize that this ever-growing society of "phone-crazies" is evolving, and operating within lifestyles codes and peculiar behavior.
Reaction: Way, way overlong, flipping in at around 350 or so pages. Easily could've clipped a good 80 off, give or take. But its scope is so enormous and fully-realized that I find myself now appreciating Cell more than adoring. Writing-wise, though, its vintage King---droll humor, snappy pop culture references, and matter-of-fact violence dictated with a stellar sense of visual gusto. Didn't fall head over heels for the book, but still enjoyed. The random way one major character dies slugged my emotions, more than I'd have imagined the book could or ever would. So for that moment alone, this one earns mucho points...Would make for one sick movie, hopefully one not overseen by Hostel's Eli Roth, the long-rumored filmmaker circling the project. Why not somebody like Ridley Scott? Too much of a "slumming" project for his caliber, you say? Pish tosh. Scott's command of action would work wonders with Cell's three major setpieces, and he's clearly a genre head (Blade Runner, or Alien, anyone?)

[a visual bonus....somebody's artistical rendition of Cell's opening scene....which, in the pantheon of opening scenes, is pretty fucking great. Grabs you in like a fishhook through the cheek]

Next Up....

2) Red, by Jack Ketchum: A peaceful, world-worn-down war veteran, and widower (not to mention father of a psychotic runaway son who murdered his mother and little brother), lives alone with his loyal, aging dog, named Red. One otherwise routine day, he and Red are fishing down by a river, when three derelict teens try their hands at robbery. The old man doesn't have much $$$, so in unprovoked retaliation, they shoot poor Red in the doggy-head. Setting off, naturally and justifiably, a Charles Bronson-like revenge-stimulated bloodlust in the old fella. And things get messy.
Reaction: Loved this book. Granted, any tale involving the death of a friendly and loving dog heartily tugs at my inner strings, making the old man somebody I'd loudly root for, any day of the week. But basic plot aside, its the smooth, addictive way that Kethcum writes. Told in such succinct to-the-pointness, yet reaches levels of unexpected complexity, in each and every sentence. It's linear storytelling, yet, it grabs you in ways that any Memento-ish structure could. The violence doesn't erupt; it blindsides your senses, offering little warning. Slap-boxes on the spot, rather than even-slightly-telegraphed hits.....consider me a Ketchum-head now, and his infamous opus The Lost is in the running for "next book I'll read." It's sitting on my desk, waiting.

And finally...

3) Lullaby, by Chuck Palahniuk: A journalist is investigating various cases of infant "crib death," those tragic fatalities where babies flatline suddenly, in their place-of-sleep. The deeper he digs, though, the more he uncovers a mystical cause--a book, Poems and Rhymes from Around the World, which, on page 27, has a "culling song" written out, a lullaby-spell that, when read, kills whomever passes through the reader's thoughts. The unfortunate, unsuspecting person slumps to the ground, dropping dead-as-a-doornail. The journalist discovers that a real estate agent also knows this culling song, and together they go on a nationwide road trip in hopes of all existing copies of the book, specifically every page 27. But, being a Palahniuk book (dudes is notorious for non-linear prose, rampant deviance, provocative tales and truly-bizarre imagery....he wrote the original Fight Club book, for those not in the know), there's much more at play here. Wiccan practitioners of the cynical variety; paramedics who get off on sticking their dicks in deceased hotties; and flash-forwards that feel like flashbacks, amidst other outrageousness.
Reaction: Like Red, Lullaby has given me a new author to bow down to--Mr. Palahniuk. I've heard tons about his loyal readership, referred to as The Cult, and now I see why. Talk about "having a writer's voice all his own"; dude is so sick with it, I had to re-read the book IN ONE SITTING immediately after I completed it, just to wrap my head around the twists and turns that reveal themselves in the final chapters, yet were now-obviously at play since page 1. It's the kind of book that is done little justice being read on noisy trains full of please-shut-the-fuck-up worthy girls and Goth guys blasting shitty metal through their iPod-connected-headphones. Who frequently inhabit the PATH train. No, Lullaby is best indulged in the quiet of my bedroom, as I'm suspecting all Palahniuk books are. There's so much going on at once, its like feeling your way through a labyrinth. Like a David Lynch film in written form, only Palahniuk's books actually tie together by El Fin.

--Stacked atop the cigar humidor in my bedroom, awaiting my eyes: Jack Ketchum's The Lost (something about the disturbed post-murder lives of a serial-killing duo); Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones (a little girl dies, and then, as an unseen spirit, watches her family cope with her passing while investigating her unsolved, supposed murder); Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted (a group of writers are locked in a room, and none can leave 'til they write one head-spinning tale a piece, or something like that).

I'm also gung-ho about tearing through the entire Ketchum and Palahniuk catalog(s) now. Part reading pleasure, part must-take-notes-because-these-are-two-authors-I'd-love-to-soak-up-as-much-game-as-possible-from.

Detecting a dark, anti-Harry Potter and the Whatever Nerdy Shit's Whatever The Fuck/Twilight/Babysitters Club theme here?

I prefer my yarns strangling, not sweater-knitting.

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