Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Before we launch back into Part 2 of Leanne's Summer Reading Series...as promised...although much much much delayed...

A 2010 Cannes Fashion Retrospective

One of those useless Victoria's Secret models that thinks transitioning from laying around in your bra and underwear to having a two line speaking part as "random bitchy girl at the party" in Party Scene 12 in a teen movie makes you a "real actress." Humph. But I do like her pants suit.

I love Princess Cate. But, I dunno. It's the color I think. Because the cut of this is fantastic. But the color and the makeup and the hair...for me, it's "Designing Women."

Another terrible make-up job (is it make-up artists in France?). And more of this pale pink. But this I like more.

I LOVE Kirstin Dunst. I know. I know. You hate her. And that's completely understandable. But I love the Virgin Suicides, and I love her in it. And I love Little Women. And I hate Amy. And Kirstin makes you hate Amy even more. Which is good. It's how it should be. Amy's a little shit, after all. So try not to be too hard on poor Keeks. This is the best she's looked in a while. Beautiful.

On anyone else, this would be a disaster. No, it's not something I would choose, but she owns it. And that's what it's all about.

I have no fucking clue who this is. But I like her dress for about two seconds before I start realizing it's tacky and ugly...but it's shiny and colorful and, like a fish or a barracuda, I gravitate towards the blingy thingy before realizing I'm wrong and the situation suddenly sucks.

Okay enough of that low-brow fashion tripe. Onward, Upward into the Ivory Tower of Book-dom (Hey Shelbs...is that GOOP-y enough for ya!)

The Thirteenth Tale Diane Setterfield

The other day, I wrote about wanting to fall in love. About once or twice a year, I fall head-over-heels, maddeningly, obsessively in love with a book. This is one of those books. It is my favorite summer book thus far. Probably favorite book this calendar year to be perfectly honest. I am in love with The Thirteenth Tale.

Which only makes sense. Because the book, while it is about a lot of things, is mainly a love letter to reading itself. It's a siren call to stories: the ones we read, the ones we tell each other, and the ones we tell ourselves. And, although there are infinite numbers of books that deal with this meta-fictive "reader as story teller as reader" Mobius strip, The Thirteenth Tale never feels trite.

That's probably because the writing is so beautiful. BEAUTIFUL. There are passages that will knock the wind out of your chest and make the tips of your fingers buzz.

And the story moves. It's engrossing. And gothic. And twisty-turn-y but not in the contrived Dan Brown way.

This is an elegant book.

(And...it's Setterfield's first novel. Her. First. Novel. sigh.)

The Historian Elizabeth Kostova

Unless I'm wrong, I think Kostova's
The Historian is another Herculian "First Book." She has since written The Swan Thieves which just came out which I haven't read, but I'm pretty sure this is her only other book.

I bet Stephanie Myers finished this book and then went to Kroger and bought out their supply of Chunky Monkey ice-cream before going on a five day calorie bender. Because THIS is how you write a fucking vampire novel.

Before you click away, however, let me tell you this. It's not a Vampire novel with a capital "V." It's historical fiction. It's about Vlad the Impaler who was a very very real person. He was the son of Lord Dracule (which just basically means Dragon in Romanian) and is the man who inspired the fictive Dracula of Bram Stoker's imagination. See? No sparkle penis's, or naked boy wolves, or people referring to each other add nauseum as "my love" "my soul" or other Twi-speak barf.

It's thick as a brick and will take you forever to get through. Unless you can't put it down. It's a fun summer beach read. And it will make you look a lot more interesting than the woman in the beach chair next to you with her copy of "Shopoholics and the City Forever."

So there you have it. My Summer Reading List.
But, I'm curious...what are you reading? What are you liking? What are you Loving?

And thanks to E for her submissions in the comments section of Part One's post. David is actually reading Bonk right now. He really likes it. Except he keeps telling people he's reading this great book called Donk, which I think makes them feel weird inside.


Friday, June 25, 2010


*Part 2 will post shortly following this one. Book reviews are always long-ish, and I've also farmed some of them out. And thanks for being patient; I know it's been a while.

Summer Reading lists are everywhere.

NPR, The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Boston Herald, Barnes and Noble, Oprah.

You can't get past the first week in June without seeing what feels like 8 million "Must Read Summer Reads." Sometimes, the lists are good. But sometimes, it's just a collection of Jennifer Weiner or Jody Piccoult novels for women who want to attempt to read on a beach after 8 mojito margaritas. Which is fine. That's probably the only way to get through and understand a Jody Piccoult novel anyway.

For me, I like a little bit more coherence for my summer reads. But, I'll be honest, I also don't want to read Edwig Danticat or whatever else Oprah is trying to tell me will "level" me and change my life. Not over the summer anyway.

In the summer, I want to fall in love. And lately, I've been lucky. Because there are several books (most not about love) that have perfectly fit my summer literary longings. This, of course, means they might not suit yours. Which is why I want to trade. I'll tell you mine, you tell me yours. Will be summer book swingers on the quest for the perfect fling. But I have to warn you. Because, sometimes what starts out as a fling becomes a deep, maddening love.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

It was 1 of the 5 finalist this year for the Man Booker Prize which, if you don't know, is basically the British Pulitzer. It's a big, big deal. And the fact that The Little Stranger was a finalist is an even bigger deal. Because it's definitely NOT an Oprah Book. Or even a Man Booker book in the traditional sense. Because it's not some geo-political, post-post modern, New Yorker type tripe.

It is a thick as a brick, Victorian style, claustrophobic, absorbing, obsessive, possessive novel. Be warned now: This book will OWN you. And I mean this in a good and a bad way. Because, honestly, for about the first 200 pages, it's slow. Not a lot happens. But, for some weird reason, you can't abandon it entirely.

Full disclosure: I can leave books. No, really. I can start and then NEVER finish a book. If it loses me, it loses me. Sorry. I love reading more than 99.9% of the population, but life's too short to read all the good books out there, so if something isn't working, I move on. There are too many other treasures waiting.

Which is why my first few days with The Little Stranger were just so...well...strange. I wasn't absorbed, and yet I couldn't pull the plug. It had gotten inside me somehow in an uncomfortable "It is my duty to see this through" kind of way. And then I got to "the event." You never see it coming. Ever. But the book turns. It pulls the rug out from under you in an all too believable and engrossing way. And then...well...you're done. You realize that the book owns you from then on. (As if it didn't really all along.)

What follows is a brief publisher's synopsis. But my two cents: Just go buy it. Now. And don't give me lip about it still being in Hardback. Use a Border's coupon or buy a used copy offline. The Little Stranger has earned your money.

The Little Stranger follows the strange adventures of Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country doctor. One dusty postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, he is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for more than two centuries, the Georgian house, once grand and handsome, is now in decline—its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more ominous than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become entwined with his.

The Millennium Triology (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest) Steig Larsson

I've already referenced this in an earlier post, so this review will be brief. But, at the time of the aforementioned post, I had yet to read the third and final installment. So, now having finished The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, I can tell you, firmly and unhesitatingly, that you should read the series.

I am a marquis sales skeptic. All those years of "classical" education and Faulkner and Proust have inevitably turned me into a detestable book snob. But I like Steig Larsson. And I like these books. And yes, they aren't great literature. But, really. Who cares? The stories are great. They move. They absorb. They are fruitful for discussion. You stay up all night finishing them and you think about them later. And, really, isn't that what Proust is supposed to do too? So, fuck off if you think you're too good for these novels. You probably shouldn't be reading this blog anyway.

For those of you who don't really know what the series is about, it's technically about a shadowy, anti-social, haunted girl named Lisbeth Salander and a hyper-active, amiable journalist-come-detective named Mikael Blomkvist. Over the course of the three novels, we see how they come together to solve the mystery of a friend, only to be lead into the mystery of Lisbeth's past. But, really, that's not what they're about. If I had to condense it down, I would say the trilogy is ultimately about "social justice". Is social justice ever possible? Really? Because, ultimately, how do you measure it? Who dispenses it? And is it possible to maintain your morality in the face of the injustice the starts it all in the first place?

What would Lisbeth Salander say?

The Magicians Lev Grossman

His name really fucks up my shit. I mean, it is one letter away from being Les Grossman, who, if you've been living under a rock, is this guy.

Also known as Tom Cruise. Les Grossman is his character from Tropic Thunder that got him that Golden Globe nomination. So yeah, Lev Grossman the author of The Magicians has a problematic name. Word to the wise, Lev: pseudonym.

Turning to The Magicians, I am not really sure how to feel. Because I'm not in love. Not at all. But I'm not repulsed either. It's more tepid than either of those emotions.

The best way I can explain it is this. Think back to being 17. You've moved past feeling attracted to Tiger Beat teen idols and are suddenly conscious, all the time, everywhere you go, of Men. Like, you find yourself out to a nice dinner with your parents and you see but don't really notice the floppy haired boy from the rival high school sauntering in with his Chuck Taylors and shit eating grin. Instead you are fixated on the guy in the corner. He's maybe 35 and is wearing a non-descript but crisp white business suit, talking quietly into his cell phone while he scribbles something adult and important on a napkin. Then, he clicks his phone shut just before getting up to hug the tall slender woman in the red dress who is late, and as they sit down, before he hands her the wine list, his fingertips kind of graze the outside edge of her hip. It's nothing really. This gesture is not inappropriate in any real way, and she probably barely registers it at all, but for you, it's like the single most erotic thing you've ever seen in your life and all you can do for the rest of dinner is sit sulkily across from your parents and watch that man out of the corner of your eye while you burn up inside. Then, the next day, you're at the beach and the same boy with the Chuck Taylor's who was also there at the restaurant comes up and talks to you and says he saw you last night and don't you have some of the same friends? You kind of remember him, but he's nothing compared to the man in the white shirt. But he's here and you're at the beach, and he wears Chuck Taylors which is a good sign, and he is really cute in the truest sense of the word. So you give it a go.

This is how I feel about The Magicians. Not that The Magicians is a cute book. It definitely is NOT. It's basically a book about the dark under belly of magic and magical worlds. It's what Harry Potter and Narnia would be if they were infected with all the problems of 21st century American greed, mal-content, and post adolescent angst. It's the anti-Narnia then. But for all it's attempts at philosophizing and maturing the "supernatural young adult genre," it still feels juvenile. The writing feels, at times, pre-pubescent. Don't get me wrong. It's not a Bad Read. There's a lot of good stuff here. It is worth a day or two of your time. But that's about it. Because, at the end of the day, it's a bit too precocious for it's own good. It tries to be just a tad more grown up than it is. It's a little like the boy in the Chuck Taylors.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A month.

It has been a month since I have blogged. Sick. Apologies.

So much has happened in a month. The Cannes Film Festival came and went and I didn't utter a word. I regret this. Because now, there's just no way I can go back and re-tread all that ground. But be assured...there was some spectacular fashion. Of both types. Good and bad. Maybe, in order to make up for lost time, I'll try to post a pic or two from Cannes at the bottom of each post as an attempt at re-capping. Okay, that sounds good.

As for the films at Cannes...well, we'll know which ones are actually "good" around December. Because that's when they'll hit theaters State-side.

And, although I usually cover the MTV Movie Awards, I didn't this year. But, unlike Cannes, I feel no guilt for not bringing you up to speed. Because they were awful. Please just trust me when I tell you they were not worth my time then and they certainly aren't worth my time now. Like, you know it's bad when my fellow culture critic (my dearest Alice...check her site "In Wonderland") could only comment on the adorable Tom Felton's un-adorable V-neck shirt.

Bland. Boring. Lame. These are the words that now describe the MTV Movie Awards. The same awards show that used to be notorious for it's shock value and salaciousness is only deserving of our pity. Embarassing.

This is why I am choosing to live in the now. And what's happening right now is World Cup. I am about to collapse from anticipation. And, just so you know, I'm cheering for England.

That's right mother-fuckers. Go ahead. Give me your best shot. Call me what you will. Call me un-American. Submit me to some fucking goverment anit-patriotism watch-list. My secret agent dad will just take me right off it anyway.

Because what you don't understand is that pre 2006, I could've given a rats ass about Soccer. Totally didn't know and didn't care. And then I moved to England. And it was the Year of the Cup. And England got killed in the World Cup. And it didn't matter. I was hooked. I fucking loved it. I loved the game. I loved watching England play the game. I loved watching the WAG's and their High Street Tans and Chav hair in the stands. So they are my team. Deal with it. If America beats them on Saturday, of course I'll cheer for the U.S. But the U.S. will lose. And England could go far (don't worry, they won't win it all. Idiots.)

Point is...World Cup is all I will be doing for the next month. That and going to see the new A-Team movie so I can decide if I like Bradely Cooper or not. I'm betting on not. Esepcially since he's up against Liam Neeson who is definitely hotter.

That's enough for now I guess. But it's good to be back. And I'll be blogging often for the next bit. Up next is book chat. Because I have read some awesome stuff lately that I want to share. And I want you to share with me as well.

But for now, here's my girfriend at Cannes. It really always starts and ends with her. Her style sense just can't be beat. Show me someone who's consistently better and I'll root against England.

At the airport

Hours later at Karl Lagerfeld's

The next day

Closing Ceremony day

and night