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  • Joyce Carol Oates: WE WERE THE MULVANEYS

    Joyce Carol Oates: WE WERE THE MULVANEYS
    Pick this one up in the autumn and read it as fast as you can - the longer you tarry with the Mulvaney crew, the harder it will go on you. Seriously, I wish every fucked up family could trace the roots of its despair, dysfunction and dislocation as well as can the Mulvaneys. That said, it's a Greek drama in short pants and will worm its way into your soul. It did to Oprah, yes it did. As for me, I read it last year and I'm writing this review at the tail end of summer. And just remembering it makes me miss my family bad - and my past life too - but the characters from this book are memorably amazing and I've rotated them in my casting director app like at least a dozen times - and that's just since i sat down. Susan Sarandan is the mom, my new boss is the dad, some of my daughter's friends animate the youth population. It's one of those books where the pages - even the happy ones - are stuffed with horror, need, loss and desperation, all dripping off each word in a salty sweat. Pick it up cautiously and don't say I didn't warn/encourage you. (*****)

  • Michael Chabon: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh: A Novel

    Michael Chabon: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh: A Novel
    It's been a long time since I've read a book I couldn't put down. I had read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay several years ago, and liked it, but for some reason had never followed up with Wonder Boys, Chabon's more famous tome. This story, and it is a wonderful tale, is about the friendships formed in the first summer after college, a time filled with the confusion and hope felt as one steps away from the rigorous order of higher education and into the free-fall of hilarity, mediocrity and wonder that is "real life." The main driver in the story is friendship within the context of life starting anew, and while at times a bit strained and overreaching, Chabon's writing for the most part is hypnotic and acutely observant; he understands friendship, particularly friendship between men, and words tumble from his pen in a steady stream of glory. And this was his first book! Although there were a couple of heavy-going spots, as a writer, I was humbled to the bone by Chabon's eloquent, compassionate, funny and authentic voice. And as a reader, I simply didn't want the ride to end. (****)

  • Khaled Hosseini: A Thousand Splendid Suns

    Khaled Hosseini: A Thousand Splendid Suns
    I began this epic with shame - shame that even though it was 2007 I still knew nothing of the plight of women in Afghanistan over the previous two decades. I came away with humility and awe for the resilience and indomitability of the human spirit. This is a tale of love, respect, hope, and a life lived in spite of the utter lack of these things. I found myself filled with gratitude for the smallest things: clean water, a place to sleep, no rockets falling in the night, no one to order me about and beat me if I don't do as told. And in the end, I was grateful to be reminded that life is to be treasured. Wherever you have the luck, good or bad, to have been born. (*****)

  • Charles Dickens: Bleak House

    Charles Dickens: Bleak House
    Some of the most fully realized characters in what I believe to be Charles Dickens' masterpiece. An excoriation of Britain's legal mires, but you could apply the same infuriations and woes to our justice system, especially in light of the recent rape by Bush. No pat resolutions, so much goes wrong, so much is terrible and so much is terribly funny. I became completely attached to the characters in this book, so much so that I wept at its ending. Which was as unexpected as the wonderfully warm and welcoming home with the dark and forboding name. (*****)


  • Zadie Smith: On Beauty
    The fact that she took E.M. Forster's work, Howards End and added race and politics into the already charged stew of a clash between two families and three classes puts Zadie Smith on the level of a Champion of 3D chess. I only tried to play that game once, and it was while I was stoned on hashish and listening to Rick Wakeman's "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" so there you go. Zadie Smith has the ear of Roddy Doyle, the wit of Charles Dickens, and, at the end of the day, a tender, tender heart. I look forward to reading her next story. For that is what she is: a wonderful storyteller. (***)
  • Edith Wharton: The Age of Innocence (Virago Modern Classics)

    Edith Wharton: The Age of Innocence (Virago Modern Classics)
    Sometimes, it's better to yearn than to acquire. When I saw the movie back in the '90s, it had little to no impact. I wondered why my fiancee found it so compelling. I just finished reading it last night and confess to having a good cry at the end. Newland Archer and my now ex-husband have so much in common - our shipwreck of a marriage was what would have resulted had Newland and Ellen Olenska been allowed to unite. Edith Wharton is a masterful storyteller, and while the modes and mores are quaintly by-gone, the emotions and wistful backward glances still pack a powerful punch. (*****)

  • Claire Messud: The Emperor's Children

    Claire Messud: The Emperor's Children
    Claire Messud is like a cross between Noel Coward and Attila the Hun: her characters' ruthless agenda within the fizzy settings of upscale Manhattan give the reader the sense of watching a pitched battle... at the Carlyle. The result is high tension, bitchy wit, grand entertainment, fatal flaws and some insights that make you squirm, with a sucker punch at the end that makes you long to know what will happen to at least some of her characters after the party's over. I'd like to see the Coen Brothers direct the movie. (****)

  • Jennifer Egan: The Keep

    Jennifer Egan: The Keep
    Like those Russian Dolls, or an Escher print, you don't know which perspective is the real one. Is it a story about revenge? Or redemption? You won't know until the last page. Haunting and lovely and terrifying and sad. (***)

  • Deborah Madison: Vegetable Soups
    I'm not a cookbook freak, but I do love soupmaking, and fall, and this volume brings the two together in the coziest of cuddles. On deck? Broccoli Rabe and White Bean Soup with Toasted Whole Wheat Country Bread and Parmesan Cheese. Pass the Beano! (***)

Ears On

  • White Stripes -

    White Stripes: White Blood Cells
    Go from "The Same Boy You've Always Known" to "We're Going to Be Friends" and the spell will be complete. (****)

  • Joan Osborne -

    Joan Osborne: Righteous Love
    Woman has the voice of an angel. An AVENGING angel. (***)

  • Smashing Pumpkins - 1979

    1979
    Smashing Pumpkins: Adore

    Also, "To Sheila": one of the most beautiful songs ever written, played, sung. (****)

  • Jackson 5 - I Want You Back

    I Want You Back
    Jackson 5: The Ultimate Collection

    There's some schlocky crap on this disc, but the good shite more than makes up for it. Ah, Michael, Dude. I choose to only remember the cute loveable kid with the voice and the moves on "Hullabaloo"...

  • Various -

    Various: Songs of Almodovar
    What woman doesn't want to star in one of Pedro's movies? Put this one on and you're instantly Carmen Maura or Penelope Cruz... (****)

  • Chet Baker - The Thrill Is Gone, But Not For Me, There Will Never Be Another You

    The Thrill Is Gone, But Not For Me, There Will Never Be Another You
    Chet Baker: The Best of Chet Baker Sings

    Someone once told me this was music to fuck by. Hmmm. Maybe. But I'm convinced that Gabriel dropped his trumpet to Earth and Chet picked it up; carrying the music of the spheres was too heavy for this angel and between the heroin and the open window, he finally had to get some relief. No one has ever delivered "You Don't Know What Love Is" with more of a broken heart. His playing will leave you weak; his voice is thin, but true. (*****)

  • Faithless - Insomnia

    Insomnia
    Faithless: Reverence

    If you're looking for REAL house/Trance music, this is the SHIT. I've been listening to it regularly since 1996 when it made it from London to the states, and it is still the most glorious dance album I own. FOOKIN' AWESOME. (*****)

  • Joshua Bell - Various

    Various
    Joshua Bell: The Red Violin: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack [SOUNDTRACK]

    Overwrought. Scenery-chewing. Emotionally draining. Put this one on when you're REALLY feeling sorry for yourself, and you can envision the opera based on your heartbreaking life. (****)

  • Gustavo Santaolalla - Lago Frias

    Lago Frias
    Gustavo Santaolalla: The Motorcycle Diaries [SOUNDTRACK]

    Haunting and inspiring, like all the best roadtrips. (*****)

  • Van Morrison - Into The Mystic

    Into The Mystic
    Van Morrison: Moondance

    Play it at my damn funeral. Tha's all I'm sayin'... (*****)

  • Gabriel Yared -

    Gabriel Yared: The Lives of Others
    Common wisdom tells us to relax or we'll look like hell. Turns out, tension and beauty do coexist. Gabriel Yared, who did the fine score for "The English Patient" (the film of which I was never a fan) has created some of his best work yet. Put it on when you're driving to your next job interview. You'll feel like your real employment is for the C.I.A. and the people you're about to meet don't have a clue how much of their future depends on you. (*****)

  • Björk - Human Behavior

    Human Behavior
    Björk: Debut

    She's a rebel. An ancient elf. An arctic sprite. Modernica incarnate. My adoration for this avante savant knows no bounds. Slap this disc on LOUD for some nekked housecleanin' and skeer the neighbors but good. (*****)

Watch This

  • Atonement
    Forget what all the pr wonks are saying about this being a "Sweeping love story" - this is a story about the horrors that befall everyone when someone tells a whopper. Saoirse Ronan as 13 year old Briony Tallis lives a life of regret and remorse after destroying several lives, including her own. She is chilling in the role - as is Vanessa Redgrave as the dying Briony. This story will follow you out of the theater and into your life. I watched this in 2007 and as of Feb 08 I still haven't been able to shake it.
  • Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others)
    A story that makes you squirm and brings into sharp focus core issues of privacy and freedom of artistic expression - not just in 1984 Berlin, but in Big Brother's, uh, I mean the current administration's America. What happens when what you say, what you do, even what you think can be cause for complete ruin - from the soul outwards. The most important and beautiful film I've seen in years. Possibly ever.
  • Barton Fink (1991)
    A genius delivery on the age-old warning of "be careful what you wish for." The best movie I've ever seen that depicts the comic horror of a writer gone mad with block and all the heinous things he'll agree to in order to remove that block. Forget Texas Chainsaw Massacre: John Goodman's turn in this pic is truly the most terrifying character in cinema. The Coen Brothers' Masterpiece.
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's (Anniversary Edition) by Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Stanley Adams, and Elvia Allman (DVD)
    The best opening credits ever. I challenge any woman to stay dry-eyed upon hearing the first strains of Henry Mancini's accordion at the top of Moonriver...
  • Motorcycle Diaries
    Walter Salles, Gael Garcia Bernal are Alberto Grandado and Che Guevara, respectively, in their teenage years. The motorcycle trip they took across South America and learning about its people and their trials, up close and personal, formed the basis for Che's ideology. It's a breathtakingly beautiful film, an inspirational story, with compelling performances by Bernal and Salles and a gorgeous score by Gustavo Santaolalla.
  • Chinatown
    Robert Towne and Roman Polanski collaborate on the most classic, heartbreaking, funny and darkly accurate noir comment on the shady history of the ever-parched Los Angeles of the 1930s and beyond. Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway are the star-crossed lovers in a twisted who-dunnit-to-whom-and-why. There's a million reasons why it's my #1 favorite film of all time. But the only one that counts is, it's a fucking great movie. /Users/ldavies/Desktop/B0000014XW.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg

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February 28, 2012

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