Monday, August 4, 2008

Not Happy!

Short stories by Mathias B. Freese
134 pages.

Reviewed by King Wenclas.

"--Jon feels that early events and individuals, for whatever reasons which up to this day he can't sort out, deeply imprinted upon him."

Mathias is a psychotherapist and that's how his stories read. Most are unbearably solipsistic, plunging the reader into depths of self-observation, the torpid trivial traumas of childhood, the overcoming of which is the signal of adulthood, but not for author Freese! He's still wringing his hands over the overbearing father kicking aside his shoeshine kit ideas and other such unhappy brutalities. "Woe is me!"

Yes, this world is full of assholes, many of them, and Mathias B. Freese is adept at portraying them-- not overcoming them but in a limp beaten-down way enduring them-- including the brutal father; including a fictional Arnold Schwarzenegger satirized in the collection's most entertaining piece. The rest are tales for the psychoanalyzed; the self-obsessed "deeply imprinted" with something they're still trying to sort out: resting on couches while Dr. Freese murmurs encouragingly; muttering woefully to him, "Why? Why? Why me?"

Which is what I was saying to myself, having received the book, while reading it.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Novel of the Year

PRIVATE SCREENINGS by Lawrence Richette
--a book review by King Wenclas--

"She had become one of those beautifully unreachable women you saw on the Upper East Side wearing a secular halo composed of utter poise and a frightening lack of need."

"The usual gargoyles: God, it takes far less time to get tired of the rich than they would ever dream. Not that this bunch even looked particularly well-dressed: stripped of their plastic and their family names, they'd have rated, at best, a corner table at Wendy's."

"I walked home in an effervescent mood, the kind you enjoy even while you tell yourself it isn't going to last. The rain stopped by the time I reached One Hundred and Tenth Street. Broadway gleamed darkly in the light that poured out of the markets, through the windows of saloons."

I don't like giving quotes from novels, because novels count for their effect not on a well-written sentence, but an accummulation of sentences put together in the right way to create a picture; an experience. For Richette's latest novel, a love story set in New York City at the end of the 1980's, I could give a hundred such quotes which by themselves don't mean a great deal, but placed artfully in-and-out of a compelling narrative in short bursts they add a three-dimensional depth to the tale.

It's a story about a struggling young screenwriter and his struggling young actress wife; but really it's a story about New York, the variety of settings, people, incidents, jammed together like a mosaic; variety which gives the glittering island its appeal. Private Screenings captures this magical, awful place better than any novel I've read. Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City in comparison is an outline, a sketch; while Richette's, covering roughly the same time period, is a deep-hued painting.

The three things I loved about this book:

1.) The narrative voice of the main character-- the screenwriter-- falling in-and-out of love with several women, including his wife. The narrator has the mad unpredictable energy of an artist; doubts, analysis, scorn, sarcasm, jubilation, disappointment: temperament. The final stage: wisdom; appreciation of the things of life. The novel is first the voice: fast-paced nonstop wit and energy, like the city.

2.) I loved the characters, wonderfully portrayed; likeable, maddening, real. From Victor the quack filmmaker to Quentin the jaded friend to rich girl Jill and Holly the prize-- Tony's wife-- toward which he seems to be fighting the entire book; to other quirky types found only in New York like Manfred the Eurotrash pimp. All rendered humorously, as types, yet by the end of the novel becoming to us real people.

3.) This occurs through the novel's warmth, the quality I enjoyed most about the book; a quality obtained through the author's love of humanity, and, for all his satirical jabs at it, of the city he's writing about.

One can finally say it's an accomplished novel, a whole; carrying resulting aesthetic effect-- the artistic power of accomplishment. Form: the novel in balance, so that this incident in Chapter One touches that occurence in Chapter Fourteen, the harmony conveyed to the reader subliminally, not kicking-in fully until the end. Each part of the story, each character, fits, with nothing extraneous. Richette creates not flash, not smoke-bomb rock show pyrotechnics (though the story has pyrotechnics), so much as a sustained vibration of intensity and mood.

Most needed from the American novel today is this novel's optimism; a realistic optimism which comes from enduring the knocks of life. Tony the main character survives crazed and desperate scenarios to arrive back at the starting point of life that is the culmination of experience.

Brilliance is an effect that lingers after the object which created it has passed from view. Private Screenings achieves this.

(Available through Amazon and Xlibris. Buy it!)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Iron Man and the Imperialist Mindset

A MOVIE REVIEW by King Wenclas

THERE ARE many good things about the "Iron Man" movie which has done land office business at the box office. Like many such comic book movies, it understands the basics of classic storytelling: sweep; adventure; troubled heroes fighting malicious evil. My favorite sequence is when the hero, Tony Stark, creates his suit of glowing armor while being held captive in a cave. This is right out of "The Iliad"-- the creation of Achilles's shield. It encapsulates the pure joy of creation, which so defines us as human beings. Wonderfully done; thrilling to watch.

For all its classic aspects, however, the movie is definitely of this time and place, showing where we are now as a civilization; how far we've come from the "conservative" Fifties when action movies were named "Viva Zapata!" and blockbusters like "Ben-Hur" had an anti-Imperialist viewpoint. How far we've morally declined.

It's scary that after five years of a disastrously expensive war, U.S. intervention in the world remains a given.

In "Iron Man" the U.S. Army patrols the globe, cameras surveying every corner. Our Roman soldiers are triumphant Messalas. The grubby Bad Guys' chief flaw if their lack of technology, as an arrogant American arms dealer tells them. Power is the only value.

Two revealing moments:

1.) The conscience of the movie is provided by a WASPy liberal Vanity Fair(!) journalist who's a graduate of Brown-- only the snobbiest, most patrician of the Ivy League establishment training schools. Her liberalism is not a criticism of the System, but a reminder that Empire must be benevolent. She WANTS the Tony Starks of the world out there, only representing good as they interfere with other societies across the globe. (Iron Man's speedy traversal of that globe a metaphor for America's police powers.)

2.) The Brown grad's ethos is underscored by the movie's key turning point, when Stark/Iron Man listens to a female BBC voice-- the British voice of Empire; used as such, ironically, in films like "Ben-Hur" in which the Romans carried Brit accents and were the bad guys. Things have changed!

The BBC voice relates tragedies around the world; horrific happenings. Its message to Stark: Get involved! Go after them! Impose American power! Which Stark as Iron Man does, splattering evil grubby ethnic villains all over the place. Entertaining, but also revealing of the Imperialist ideology which now runs our country.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Blasting Literature!

Stay tuned for exciting reviews.

About Me

Blitzing the book world with reviews of excitement. SEND books to be praised or destroyed to (new address pending).