Reader’s Corner: ‘You Will Know Me’

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One of the finest American crime and noir novelists working today, Megan Abbott specializes in tales of domestic unease that stick with you long after the book is done. She’s been getting plaudits from the likes of Paula Hawkins and James Ellroy. Her latest, You Will Know Me, a suburban murder melodrama, was just released and looks like it might be the biggest hit of Abbott’s career.

My review is at PopMatters:

You Will Know Me is an emotionally grisly mystery story where the crime was committed long before the dead body appeared. Set in one of those suburbs where certain kinds of parents seem to do nothing but act as a shuttle service for their off-spring (school, activities, repeat), Megan Abbott’s novel starts at a party where everything just seems wrong no matter how much effort is put into making it right. Parents and teenagers mingle. There’s too much sweet-tasting alcohol, too many songs remembered from younger and more daring times, and too many limits tested. It’s as though everybody were rewarding themselves for abstaining from their true, dark desires for so long…

Weekend Reading: August 5, 2016

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Screening Room: ‘Richard Linklater – Dream is Destiny’

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Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in Linklater's 'Before Midnight' (2013)

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in Linklater’s ‘Before Midnight’ (2013)

In 1991, Richard Linklater helped blow open the American indie filmmaking scene with Slacker, his rambling odyssey of drifters and dreamers on the edge in Austin, Texas. Since then, he’s made everything from high school party films (Dazed and Confused) to modern romances (the Before trilogy).

Richard Linklater – Dream is Destiny opens this week in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International:

It almost seems wrong to use the word auteur when talking about Richard Linklater, especially after seeing this friendly and appreciative survey of his life’s work. As unique and idiosyncratic as Linklater’s body of work is, there remains a modesty to it that carries over into the person who appears onscreen. Unlike in many documentaries about great directors or other artists, co-directors Louis Black and Karen Bernstein hardly stand back in awe from their subject, they sidle right up next to the unassuming artist and simply ask him how he does it. “It’s a lot of hard work,” says the director of Slacker, Boyhood, and other touchstones of the American independent film movement. “And people don’t want to hear that”…

Here is the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘The Childhood of a Leader’

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In Brady Corbet’s debut film, an American diplomat in France at the end of World War I and his wife watch their son turn from spoiled brat into something far more sinister.

Childhood-website-posterThe Childhood of a Leader is playing now in limited release; check it out. My review is at PopMatters:

What if the greatest conflagration in modern human history was sparked not by grander forces but by the whims of one or more determined psychopaths? That’s the nerve-rattling, if hard-to-swallow, idea advanced by The Childhood of a Leader. The directorial debut of actor Brady Corbet, this tricky, frequently overpowering film is set in 1919, just after the end of the First World War. The weight of history couldn’t be any heavier…

Here’s the trailer:

Quote of the Day: Trump Say Newspaper Bad

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Writers, take note: A certain presidential candidate opined today on an apparent lack of standards over at the paper of record.

According to Politico:

They don’t write good. They have people over there, like Maggie Haberman and others, they don’t — they don’t write good,” he said. “They don’t know how to write good.

We are sure that the tiny-fingered tycoon meant to say, “They don’t write well.”

Readers’ Corner: Books of the Convention

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During Chelsea Clinton’s speech at the Democratic convention on Thursday night, she peppered her recollections of childhood in the Clinton family with a couple pointed references to books. In addition to the expected childhood classics (Goodnight, Moon) she singled out a certain novel by Madeline L’Engle:

Growing up, conversations around the dinner table always started with what I learned in school that day. I remember one week talking incessantly about a book that had captured my imagination, “A Wrinkle in Time.” Only after my parents had listened to me talk, would they then talk about what they were working on: education, health care consuming their days and keeping them up at night.

WrinkleInTimePBA1Spencer Kornhaber writes, this wasn’t just an invocation of a classic book beloved by many pre-adolescents, it was a clue as to the personalities of both Chelsea and Hillary:

The parallels between Meg Murry [the book’s protagonist] and adolescent Chelsea Clinton are obvious from that quote alone, right down to the description of braces and unruly hair … Meg is an introverted, brainy heroine rather than a spunky, hotheaded one, a distinction that likely appeals to both Clinton women. And Meg, like Chelsea, is the daughter of two very high-powered parents … There are extra-textual comparisons to be made, too: L’Engle once said that the novel was originally rejected by dozens of publishers, partly for the reason that it “had a female protagonist in a science-fiction book, and that wasn’t done”—a gender barrier of a different sort than the one broken last night…

Clinton’s reference to L’Engle’s novel was greeted by a distinct cheer from a certain segment of the audience. You can imagine for yourself whether a similar literary call-out at the previous week’s convention would have elicited anything but silence.

Quote of the Convention: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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Hillary Clinton (State Department) with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (NBA) in 2012

Hillary Clinton (State Department) with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (NBA) in 2012

This is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar introducing himself at the Democratic convention last night:

Hello, everyone. I’m Michael Jordan, and I’m here with Hillary. I said that because I know that Donald Trump couldn’t tell the difference.

Side note: Abdul-Jabbar has done some writing since he left the NBA. Among the books to his name is Mycroft Holmes, a Sherlock Holmes novel he co-wrote with Anna Waterhouse. Abdul-Jabbar has been a Sherlock fan for decades.

Weekend Reading: July 29, 2016

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Screening Room: ‘Bad Moms’

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The summer’s latest rowdy-femme comedy hits screens tonight, so get ready.

My review of Bad Moms is at Film Journal International:

Five years after Jake Kasdan’s Bad Teacher found easy jokes in the then-taboo sight of middle-school teacher Cameron Diaz showing up to work hung over and mocking her students, the pocket genre of films and TV shows about women in positions of authority shirking their responsibilities (“Bad Judge,” anyone?) seems to have hit a peak. In Bad Moms, writing and directing team Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (The Hangover, Four Christmases) spin the recent trend of just-relax books and blogs extolling “moms who drink” and the backlash against overscheduled childhoods into a rebellious party epic. It’s not exactly for the ages, but it’s not exactly The Hangover Part II, either…

Here’s the trailer:

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