Haiku and Review: Inside Out, Inherent Vice, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

MV5BOTgxMDQwMDk0OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjU5OTg2NDE@._V1._SX94_SY140_Inside Out

The life of Riley
by way of Joy and Sadness.
It’s all in her head.

Without question one of the best Pixar movies, if not the best one.  The one emotion that I think we could’ve done without is Disgust, but really, that’s the tiniest of complaints.  It’s visually arresting, the story moves, and it’s one of these rare movies that may actually help people, too.  Only three animated movies have been nominated for Best Picture (Beauty and the Beast, Up, and Toy Story 3) but none have won.  Who knows what Oscar bait will come out in November and December, but at the very least, Inside Out deserves to be nominated.

MV5BMjI2ODQ2NzUwMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjU3NTE4MjE@._V1._SX94_SY140_Inherent Vice

Looks good, sounds right — but
how little we care about
anything, really.

Comparisons to The Big Lebowski are obvious (and The Dude is the far superior movie in all the major ways — humor, plot, acting).  After watching the film, I wondered why it didn’t jibe.  It felt like the movie thought it was funnier than it actually was (which was very little).  The only thing of note is the actress Katherine Waterston, who seemed like she was channeling circa 1995 Laura Linney.  Her facial expressions, her movement — she reminded me so much of a young Linney.

MV5BMTQ1NDI2MzU2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTExNTU5NDE@._V1._SX90_SY140_Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

She climbs in beauty
up a bruiser, then turns, falls —
a takedown done right.

I don’t think this was as good as the last one, Ghost Protocol, which had more cool gizmos and a higher hit rate for humor (mostly because Jeremy Renner brought the laughs in GP while here, he’s stuck in a suit in DC for too many stretches).  But wow, what a performance by Rebecca Ferguson.  Give her hair an old-fashioned wave, light her softly, and take some B&W shots, and she’d be a modern-day Lauren Bacall (somebody else agrees, too!).  And a big hand to her stunt double, Lucy Cork, who made all those fights look so good.  Ferguson’s character was actually more action-oriented than Cruise’s character.  How cool is that?

2015 Love Love Book Tour

booktourbanner Love Love Book Tour

(see the itinerary in Google Maps)

Tuesday, September 15 6pm
Book Passage (with Bucky Sinister)
1 Sausalito, San Francisco ferry Bldg #42
San Francisco, CA 94111

Thursday, September 17 7pm
Book Soup
8818 Sunset Blvd
W. Hollywood, CA 90069

Saturday, September 19
Cornell Club of Los Angeles
private event

Monday, September 21 7pm
Magers & Quinn
3038 Hennepin Ave South
Minneapolis, MN 55408

Thursday, September 24 7pm
The Book Cellar
4736 N. Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL 60625

Sunday, September 27
BookCourt
The Eagle and the Wren Reading Series
163 Court St
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Wednesday, October 7
Wells College Visiting Writers Series
Wells College
Aurora, NY

Thursday, October 8 5pm
Buffalo Street Books
The Dewitt Mall
215 N Cayuga Street
Ithaca, NY 14850

[and a few more to come…]

The Suitcase, on The Margins

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Still Life with Suitcase, Paul Coldwell (aaww.org)

‘Our apartment, our home, became an unfamiliar space. We still slept in the same queen bed, but no longer did we speak of upgrading to the capacious king. We could now easily fit two additional people in the valley of the bedsheet between us.’

It’s Fiction Friday at AAWW’s The Margins, and I’m so very proud to have my story up there.  It’s titled “The Suitcase,” and the first decent draft of this story that was sent out to various journals was back in April 12, 2007.  That is not a misprint — this story has been waiting for a home for eight years.  I never gave up on it, rewriting it at least a dozen times.  The original version ran almost 5000 words.  The published one runs around 3500.  I guess I finally figured out how to leave out all the bad parts.

Huge thanks to Anelise Chen, the fiction editor at The Margins, who gave me such great critiques and suggested a new beginning.  Thanks also to Mary Gaitskill, who held a master class at NYU a couple of years back.  Lucky for me, this story was one of the ones she chose to workshop; I still have the manuscript she marked up in my files (tiny print in pencil!).  And finally, thanks to Michael Bahler, who edited an earlier version and helped me reshape it and make it so much better.

The Virgins, by Pamela Erens

virgins

The Virgins, by Pamela Erens

I’m on a roll here, folks.  A week ago, I finished reading Wendy Lee’s Across a Green Ocean, the first published novel I read this year.  And now here I am, merely a week later, with another notch on my belt.  I’m almost two years too late, as Pamela Erens‘s The Virgins came out August 2013, but I’ll say it again: better late than never.  (I think that might be the phrase that goes on my tombstone.)

Firstly, let me say I know Pamela personally to a very slight degree; we have friends in common so we’ve met during family-related/neighborly celebrations.  And I was at one of her book parties when The Virgins came out.  “I can’t wait to read it!” I’m fairly certain I said (lied).  I’m sorry, Pamela — I’m just really, really slow.

Have I apologized enough?  Probably not.  But it’s time to move on.  It’s time to read this book, everyone.  This very sexy book, and I’m not just throwing that word around.  This novel is seriously, incredibly sexy.  Like you’ll blush as you read it.  I know I did, several times, and I don’t blush easily.  If you are squeamish about reading about people having sex, teenagers in particular, what the hell is wrong with you?  Sorry.  I meant to write, “then this book isn’t for you.”  (But seriously, what is wrong with you?)

A side (though I feel like this post has been just one big side so far): for those people who read trashy romance novels or whatever the hell it is that E.L. James writes (from the bits I’ve glanced, I wish I hadn’t), you should give The Virgins a shot, because then you wouldn’t feel so guilty about reading terribly written novels about sex.  Pamela composes gorgeous, sustained sentences that I guarantee will get you hot under the collar.  Her sentences will also make you feel.  Sometimes they’ll make you sad.  Sometimes they’ll make you laugh.  But you will very much feel (even against your will, sometimes) the tortured, elated, breathless, dangerous lives of these students at Auburn Academy, a boarding school that made me glad my parents were poor and could not have sent me to such an institution.

The Virgins is also a very well-crafted book with wholly unexpected twists and turns, but the best kind that make terrible tragic sense when all’s said and done.  It’s a fast read, and full of literary flair.  Just the very POV that Pamela chose is kind of remarkable (neither of the leads but an insider-wannabe outsider who voyeuristically and imaginatively narrates the novel).  If you enjoy The Virgins, then I’d very much recommend her first novel, The Understory, which also features a male narrator with some serious problems, one of which is unrequited love, a theme that I now declare has emerged in the Erens oeuvre (I feel very grown up now, having used that fancypants word).  I’ve read that one, too, and like The Virgins, it is equally devastating and disturbing.

By the way, something else that was kinda-sorta disturbing — the lead male in this novel is a Korean-American kid named Seung.  That’s just one letter away from my own name!  And I’m Korean, too!  Though in this novel, his pronunciation is different (“the past tense to sing“), so no worries, totally different guy.  I’ve actually told people something similar when they ask how I say my name — “the past participle of the verb to sing.”  (I’ve since learned that some people don’t know the past participle tense, so I’ve retired this phrase…)

One last thing — James Salter is an author often mentioned in reference to The Virgins.  I presume Pamela also honors him by naming one of Auburn’s teachers Mr. Salter.  In case you haven’t heard, Salter passed away on June 19.  Here’s a beautiful obituary in Grantland by one of my favorite writers.

Pamela Erens
The Virgins

288pp
August 2013/Tin House Books