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    Saturday, March 01, 2008

    Miscellaneous: Grab Bag

    Busy, busy, busy, so here’s a bunch of stuff at once.

    A Diet of Treacle, by Lawrence Block (1961/2008). Hard Case Crime has reprinted some extraordinary early novels by Lawrence Block. But Treacle, originally published as Pads Are For Passion by Sheldon Lord, is the first that seems like a paycheck gig. It’s a sordid trip through the Greenwich Village beatnik world. Block paints the scene as peopled largely by posers and venal layabouts, a characterization I have no problem with. As always in a Block book, there’s fluid prose and vivid New York atmosphere to spare. But nothing much happens until the last forty pages or so. To be fair, those forty pages are pretty damn good, but Treacle is more a curio than anything else.

    And then there’s that title. I dig that it’s a riff on Lewis Carroll, who always seemed like he Got It. But as a title, man, it’s strictly from Squaresville.

    Stardust (2007). Why wasn’t this a big hit? High adventure with a noble hero, a fallen star, evil princes, wicked witches, and a swishbuckling sky pirate (not a typo), all of it served up tongue-in-cheek. Loads of fun.

    Let’s All Kill Constance, by Ray Bradbury (2003). In 1960 Hollywood, an unnamed writer (c’mon, it’s Ray himself) is asked by a legendary star of the silent screen to figure out who left two “Books of the Dead” for her. If James Joyce wrote a pulp detective novel after mainlining Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon, Constance would be the result. I don’t know if I completely got it, but I did enjoy it.

    Larry King Live. Last night, Larry was responsible for the single dumbest hour of television I’ve ever seen. I was on a treadmill at the gym, but as fast as I ran I couldn’t escape it. Larry had tag teams of celebrities talking up their picks in the 2008 presidential election. The dictionary may not agree with me here, but I’m making a new rule I expect Larry to follow. Newspaper editorial boards, political organizations, and elected officials can “endorse” a candidate. Samwise Gamgee and Kumar can only support the individual of their choice. I have spoken.

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    I share your opinion of Stardust. I watched it on DVD last night and enjoyed it immensely. It seemed to be genuinely magical in ways that Eragon, Narnia and others green lit in the wake of LotR completely missed. At the same time it was grounded in its own reality.

    OK, the story as a whole was one big cliché, but within it there were enough inspired moments to more than make up for that.

    It didn't hurt that it seemed like every decent British male thesp who missed out on Harry Potter had a cameo in it too (though, personally, I cannot see why people hire Ricky Gervais outside of his own comedies, in a film featuring boats and forests he was the most wooden thing in it).


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