Saturday, June 02, 2007

"We must find another brain."

The Movie: Frankenstein, 1931 (Francis Edward Faragoh & Garrett Fort, screenwriters, from an adaptation by John L. Balderston of a play by Peggy Webling based on the novel by Mary W. Shelley; James Whale, dir.)
Who says it: Colin Clive as Dr. Henry Frankenstein
The context: Dr. Frankenstein discovers that the man he proposed to reanimate has a broken neck, making his original brain useless.
How you can use it: When the one you have just won't do.

I'm a little overstimulated. Sorry for not posting yesterday, but I'm just distracted, like a puppy in a pet store window. Book, there! Friend, there! Client, there! Oh, did you want something? Was I supposed to send you something -- call you -- figure something out? Sorry, sorry, sorry. Normal service will resume Monday night, when I retreat to my mountain (okay, piedmont) solitude.

In the meantime, New York's a darn good time. BookExpo's a good time, though overwhelming. The Javits Center is an annoying place for a conference -- it is convenient to nothing, blocks away from the subway, and the concessionaires should die of shame for charging $3.00 for a 16-ounce bottle of water.

What I Read This Week

James Lee Burke, The Tin Roof Blowdown. Burke tackles Hurricane Katrina in his next Dave Robicheaux novel (coming in July), and this is his most ambitious book in a long time. Dave and his colleagues from the New Iberia Sheriff's Department are called in as relief in Katrina's aftermath, and Dave's investigation of the shooting of some looters comes much too close to home. I have a feeling that this book is far from the last Burke will say on the subject, but this is an impressive start, and the book's last paragraph is a heart-stopping piece of writing.

Tobias Wolff, Old School. At a boys' boarding school in early 1960s New England, the students compete to meet with visiting famous writers -- Robert Frost, Ayn Rand and others. A visit from Ernest Hemingway leads the narrator to some choices that change his life permanently. This small gem of a novel, less than 200 pages, says so much about youth's passionate desires, the ideas of honor and literature, and the things we do to preserve other people's ideas of us. Thanks to Scott Phillips for recommending it.

Joshua Ferris, Then We Came to the End. This first novel is narrated in the first-person plural, which felt like a stunt for the first three pages, then felt normal, and paid off like a skyrocket in the final line. It's the story of the slow collapse of a Chicago ad agency in the wake of the dot-com boom, and I'm not sure I've ever read a better description of this peculiar period of our history, the year or so immediately before September 11 when we all realized that new technology hadn't repealed the business cycle after all. Dazzling.

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