I decided to make a quarterly update about the books I’ve been reading. This was done because I have a hard time writing reviews without just recapping and spoiling the fiction books. Honestly, for some of these books, I could write papers as I did back in school. However, I’d like to keep a little more concise and share some titles and necessary information about them in the hopes you go out and pick up a book that hooks you.
I’m Thinking Of Ending Things by Iain Reid A narrator tells us about her trip to boyfriend Jake’s family home out in the rural environs of some darkness consumed place. She recalls how she and Jake met and the development of their relationship, eventually admitting to the reader she’s planning on breaking up with him when they return from this visit. Something feels off during the car ride, but things genuinely get bizarre when the narrator and Jake arrive at his parent’s home. You’ll likely recall shades of David Lynch in the surreal and subtle horror of the encounter. The novel also owes much to the classic Gothic genre, with a contemporary American twist. I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a fast read, it hooks you quickly, and the flow encourages you not to put the book down. Charlie Kaufman is in production on a film version of the novel starring David Thewlis and Toni Colette as the parents; I suspect their portion of the story will get a more significant focus in the movie.
14.The Last Circus (directed by Alex de la Iglesia) From my review: If Michael Bay made films that have substance he would be Alex de la Iglesia. In this pic, a man is haunted by his father’s destruction at the hands of the fascist Franco government and attempts to honor his pop’s memory by continuing the family tradition of clowning. He ends up the “sad clown” to a masochist “happy clown,” and both vie for the affections of a beautiful acrobat. The violence gets pretty bad in this one as both men grow increasingly insane. One of the most fun, and still intellectually rich movies I’ve seen in a while. There’s also a lot of classic film references, particularly in the big finale which reminded me a lot of Tim Burton’s Batman work visually.
Upgrade Soul (2018) Written & Illustrated by Ezra Claytan Daniels
Hank and Molly Nonnar have been married for 45 years when they agree to undergo an experimental to give themselves new bodies and a second lifetime. However, as these things so often go, there are complications, and the couple’s bodies and souls undergo something life-shattering. As the two are led through the recovery process by the unethical scientists and researchers at the institute, they begin to uncover truths about themselves and their relationship. Molly makes breakthroughs in her research and sees her typical day to day needs fading away. Hank finds intimacy in an unexpected relationship and begins to imagine a future beyond the walls of their hospital. But as more is discovered about their conditions the bleaker the outcome appears to be.
It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012) Written & Directed by Don Hertzfeldt
This animated feature focuses on Bill, a very average man is going through the routines of his life when he’s struck with severe memory loss issues. Other health complications follow and pretty soon it’s clear that Bill’s life is forever changed. Interspersed with Bill’s story are flashbacks and vignettes about his childhood and members of his family. As these smaller stories unfold, they add to the larger narrative that Bill is the byproduct of generations of mental illness. Because the film is told from a third person perspective inside Bill’s head, we see the world the way Bill sees it. His hallucinations are woven into the flow of the story almost imperceptibly at points. His memories of his family and stories he was told about them become suspect as fictions.
Gideon Falls: The Black Barn (2018) Written by Jeff Lemire Art by Andrea Sorrentino
Father Wilfred has been reassigned to a new parish after issues with drinking. His new home will be the rural town of Gideon Falls, where their last priest went missing and is presumed dead. His first night in the priest’s quarters of the church leads to an encounter with the absent father and the corpse of Mrs. Tremblay; the church secretary/housekeeper found bled out in a cornfield. Wilfred swears he saw a black barn in that field, but the police find no traces of it and suspect Wilfred was involved in the murder. Meanwhile, in a city far away a paranoid schizophrenic man named Norton scours the back alleys and dumpsters for fragments of charred wood and rusted nails. Norton believes the city is revealing a larger cosmic truth to him, that all of these pieces when assembled will make a construct that answers questions he has repressed. The stories of these two men living great distances from each other slowly become entangled and promise to lead to genuinely dark places.
Years ago young Adelaide was visiting the Santa Cruz Boardwalk with her parents when she became separated from them. Wandering inside a funhouse of mirrors the girl has an encounter that continues to haunt her into her adult years. Present day finds Adelaide, her husband Gabe and two children Zora and Jason are on the way to their lake house in Central California. Gabe has a new boat and their plans to meet up with some friends across the lake. When Adelaide finds out they are going to the beach, right off the boardwalk, she freaks out but eventually relents. Strange coincidences occur with a sense of impending doom coming for our protagonist, images harken back to her childhood trauma, and something she has repressed for so long begins to leak out. That night a strange family appears at the end of the lake house driveway which will lead to Adelaide and her family descending into hell.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012) Written & Directed by David O. Russell
Pat Solitano’s mom picks him up from a mental hospital in Baltimore, despite the doctors saying he’s not ready yet. Eight months earlier, Pat came home to find his wife in the shower with a co-worker which sent Pat into a frenzy. He’s been diagnosed with bipolar disorder but believes he doesn’t need meds or a psychiatrist; Pat requires positive thinking. His dad, Pat Sr. shows all the signs of OCD and likely has some undiagnosed issues himself, and he thinks the time he devoted to the elder sibling is what led to his younger son becoming so volatile. Through an acquaintance, Pat meets Tiffany, a widow who has very similar challenges with social cues as Pat does. The duo verbally spars, and there is the spark of an attraction, but Pat is convinced he can get his wife back if he stays on his path of self-improvement. Tiffany sees his wife regularly and promises she’ll deliver a letter to her if Pat pledges to be her dance partner in an upcoming competition. This was an event her late husband would never do with her, and it has become Tiffany’s primary focus. Pat hesitantly agrees with hopes he’ll end up reunited with his former bride.