“Shutter Island” got pretty mediocre reviews. Thankfully I didn’t actually read them. I was surprised by the movie in pretty much every way. I was surprised by the story, and surprised how much I enjoyed it. I didn’t have particularly high expectations, which always helps, but it’s great sorta scary popcorn.
Oh, and Dennis Lehane has a twisted mind — Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone and this thing? His website bio says he was a counselor for mentally handicapped and abused children. I hope he wasn’t telling bedtime stories.
“Game Change” reminded my why I will never go into politics. It mostly recaps the 2008 presidential election with few shocking surprises. About 50 pages in, I was thinking “I’m wasting my time with this. I have a crap memory, but at least I remember all this. It was less than two years ago.”
But it turns out that the book is really about psychology, sociology and some seriously fucked up people (there are no shortage of F-bombs in the book — a review without one or two would not do the book justice). The book focuses on relationships, rather than the daily grind of politics or the soundbites, strategery and polls. Pretty much every politician has a really dysfunctional personal life and marital relationship. The Obamas may have the healthiest marriage, but by no means smell like roses by the end of the book. Michelle Obama didn’t really want Barack to jump into the all-consuming circus of campaigning. Also, the grueling campaign schedule seems even harder and nastier than actual governance, even with Obama’s overly ambitious schedule and agenda.
Ted Conover closes his fascinating new book with a Springsteen quote from “Thunder Road,” and that’s not even the best thing about it. I couldn’t put this book down, and every page was enlightening and surprising. In fact, it made Springsteen seem like a hack — what with all his wonderful stories about freedom and youth and love and hopes and dreams. OK, so I still love Springsteen, but Conover travels some less familiar roads for the stories in his book.
“The Routes of Man: How Roads are Changing the World” shines six spotlights on stories of globalization.
So I’m still conflicted about the health care bill. I want to believe Dennis Kucinich when he says the new bill was a starting point, and Congress will keep moving toward universal health care. But I think Congress only had one shot, and they missed. They didn’t even hit the dartboard … or the wall behind it.
But on to more important things: This photo of Obama signing the health care bill today. Look at that kid next to the desk. Is Obama training a mini-me who will always stand next to him and wear the same clothes? He could cop an attitude like Arnold Jackson on “Diff’rent Strokes.” “What you talkin’ ’bout, Joe Wilson?” How fun would that be? Or maybe it’s Biden’s mini-me. They’re all wearing blue ties.
… for some of the bios on his Web site. WTF?
By the way, he hosts another brain episode this Wednesday. These episodes are really cool. Our brains are really wacky.
This Mother Jones article about human rights in Burma is the best piece of journalism I have read in a while. The writer started teaching English to a group of Burmese refugees in Thailand before even really understanding that they were among a group of Karen refugees who risk their lives to document the massacres and brutality of the Myanmar junta. The story became a book and earned her a promotion from copy editor to “roving human rights reporter” at Mother Jones.
She didn’t seem to go into the project with any preconceptions or perhaps even a plan to write her story. But she ends up with a piece that is gripping and flows beautifully, while being tragic, heartbreaking and, at times, surprisingly funny. She writes in first person and clearly acknowledges that she changed the story through her presence (too many writers pretend otherwise). She is also wonderfully honest and open about her fears, confusion and vulnerability.
Most important, it puts human faces on the underreported travesty of brutal oppression in Burma. Here is her cleverly presented summary of the situation in the country:
“Imagine for a moment, that Texas had managed to secede from the union, Continue reading
Thankfully I am currently reading an intense book about globalization and roads. My track record for books so far this year is pretty weak — one heavy non-fiction book about the Armenian genocide alongside a children’s book and two beach reads. The second was Nick Hornby’s 2007 novel “Slam.”
It’s another comic drama about a manchild facing up to adulthood (in this case, the manchild really is a child). I read the whole thing on the plane to New York, and would have read another 300 pages. It’s not heavy lifting, but the characters are wonderful and the simple story is compelling. About two thirds of the way through, he notes that nothing else of significance will happen in the book, and talks about storytelling in one of my favorite passages (ellipses in quotes always look like journalistic cheating, so you should know that I only edited out plot spoilers).
“So you know everything. There’s nothing more for me to say. … So now you’re probably thinking, If this is the end of the story, why doesn’t he shut up so that I can get on with something else. … It’s just that there comes a point where the facts don’t matter anymore, and even though you know everything, you know nothing, because you don’t know what anything felt like. That’s the thing about stories, isn’t it? You can tell someone the facts in ten seconds, if you want to, but the facts are nothing.”
By the way, look for this cover, not the blue one (which thankfully doesn’t even seem to be available on Amazon right now). Don’t even look at the blue one because it gives away part of the story that should have been a surprise (I’m a slightly bitter owner of a blue-covered copy).