Monday, October 31, 2011
What: P.G. Wodehouse novel, the idle rich, 1948, articulate farce, England, financing a manor house, Earl of Ickenham, delicate domestic situations, Pongo, housemaids, impostors, baby-judging contests, Mugsy, constables, going incognito, Uncle Fred, nocturnal marauders, tea
Representative quote: "Bill, who had been staring dully at the beetle, transferred his gaze to his companion. It was a wide-eyed, gaping gaze, speaking eloquently of a mind imperfectly adjusted to the intellectual pressure of the conversation."
Also: Cocktail Time (Rec. #24), Jill the Reckless (Rec. #136), Much Obliged, Jeeves (Rec. #153)
Sunday, October 30, 2011
What: Tour de force novel from Margaret Atwood, multiple-award-winning, 20th-century spanning, sisters, roman à clef, button factories, pulp science fiction, wealthy industrialist, adultery, newspaper articles, suicide, Canadian history, bridges, dingy backstreet rooms, socialist agitator, dead husband on a sailboat, World War II, self-delusion, potboiler, story within a story within a story
Representative quote: "Herbivores flee before them, scavengers follow, wolves lope alongside."
Also: The Robber Bride (Rec. #105) and The Penelopiad (Personal Wreck Week, List #3)
Thursday, October 27, 2011
What: In the short-lived TV series The Riches, a family of Irish-Traveller grifters con their way into a place in the affluent suburbs. After witnessing a car accident that leaves a wealthy couple dead, parents Wayne and Dahlia Malloy (Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver) decide to assume their identities. They and their three kids start a new life in a Baton Rouge gated community. But the past catches up with them. Of course.
Comparable to: The kinds of shows you expect to see on cable channels that cost more.
Representative quote: "The American dream. We're gonna steal her."
You might not like it if: You expect too much from season 2. It has its moments, but it doesn't really go anywhere.
How to get it: Available to watch instantly on Netflix and Amazon, if you're into that sort of thing.
Connection to previous Wreckage: He's a Serious Actor here, but you might know Eddie Izzard from his fanatically adored stand-up shows, including Dress to Kill (Rec. #152).
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
What: Josephine Tey's Brat Farrar and Mary Stewart's The Ivy Tree are two glorious examples of mid-century suspense. Each novel centers on a fiendishly clever scheme to impersonate a missing heir. But as Brat Farrar becomes Patrick Ashby and Mary Grey becomes Annabel Winslow, the plans start to twist themselves inside out.
Representative quote, Brat Farrar: "But then he had never been interested in other people's concerns: their sins, their griefs, or their happiness. And anyhow, you couldn't be righteous with a man whose food you were eating."
Representative quote, The Ivy Tree: "There has to be luck, certainly, and there has to be careful planning. But it's like murder, isn't it? You only know about the ones that are found out. Nobody ever hears about the ones that get away with it."
You might not like them if: You're not willing to be won over by some charming, gutsy impostors.
Connections to previous Wreckage: Tey also delved into psychological suspense in Miss Pym Disposes (Rec. #75). I previously mentioned The Ivy Tree during Personal Wreck Week (List #1).
Thursday, October 20, 2011
We are well within pinching distance of Rec. #200! I hope very much to do at least another 200 and, in aid of that, I have a small favor to ask.
When you have a spare moment during the next few days, please let me know if you've enjoyed any posts in particular --- whether it was the actual thing being recommended or how the recommendation was presented. (You don't have to include any "why" if you don't want to. And you can comment anonymously! That's fine!) This will be a tremendous help in planning future wrecks.
Perhaps you'd like a refresher of some of the older posts? If so, here is a list of the first 100.
(P.S. Yes, you're right, that is a picture of Stephen Fry skipping. Because what says "brief interlude" better than that?)
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
What: Carol Shields, collection of short stories, day in the life, meteorologists, narrative theory, mirrors, hotel room, biographer, steering wheel muff, hyperverbal compulsion, keys, book tour, window tax, flatties, curious strands of asceticism
Representative quote: ". . . for the first time she comprehends who her brother is, that deep-voiced stranger whose bedroom is next to her own. Today, for a minute, she is her brother. She is Ralph Eliot, age seventeen, six feet tall, who later this afternoon will make a dazzling, lazy touchdown, bringing reward and honor to his name, and hers."
Also: More Carol Shields, in novel form, with The Box Garden (Rec. #146).
Monday, October 17, 2011
What: Sequel to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, towels, Deep Thought, ghosts, Arthur Dent, humming, eccentric orbits, Vogons, publishing offices, Zaphod Beeblebrox, existential elevator, talking meaty quadrupeds, Trillian, nut trees, Marvin, supercilious green blur, desert sound system, Ford Prefect, dead for tax reasons, apocalypse with dinner
Representative quote: "The story so far: In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move."
Also: Start at the beginning with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Rec. #42).
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Sometimes I feel a bit bad for Paul Schneider because Parks & Recreation became widely and fervently adored right after he left the show. Sure, his movie career is doing just fine, thanks, but is it enough? Can it be enough, when he must see "Leslie + Ben forever!" scrawled on all the lockers of the metaphorical showbiz high school?
What: Amusingly (for me), Paul Schneider is in both Lars and the Real Girl and All the Real Girls. Both films are excellent, and he is excellent in them.
In Lars and the Real Girl, he plays a key supporting role as the older brother of Lars, a troubled and introverted young man whose new companion is a doll he ordered online. The movie does not go in for cheap laughs. It is careful instead of knee-jerk, thoughtful instead of facile, and generous instead of petty. (Also, Patricia Clarkson does a superb job and . . . whoops, she's been on Parks & Rec recently. Sorry, Paul.)
In All the Real Girls, he takes the lead as a womanizer who forces himself into sincerity when he falls for his best friend's sister. It is not a romantic comedy. (The currently overexposed Zooey Deschanel is also in this, but don't hold that against the movie. It came out in 2003.) (And, also, Patricia Clarkson is here, too.)
Representative quote from Paul's character (Lars and the Real Girl): [on what it means to be a man] "Like, you don't jerk people around, and you don't cheat on your woman, and you take care of your family, you know, and you admit when you're wrong, or you try to, anyways. That's all I can think of --- it sound like it's easy and for some reason it's not."
Representative quote from Paul's character (All the Real Girls): "When people from before come up, I want you to understand what they hate when they see me."
Connection to previous Wreckage: Paul Schneider played Mark Brendanawicz on the first two seasons of Parks and Recreation. And the show was very good! But season 3 was a-maz-ing (Rec. #119).
Thursday, October 13, 2011
What: Kira Henehan's debut novel is about Investigations, puppets, a snake named Lavendar, mimed bowling, yellow eyes, surf memorabilia, gravel, Assignments, marbles, red hair, contemporary art, memory loss, savage pocketry, Russians, baseball jerseys, framing, shrimps, Lolita, and golf carts. Finley is the painstakingly accurate --- but never reliable --- narrator.
Comparable to: It's a little bit like George Saunders and Jaclyn Moriarty went on a road trip with some Tom Robbins characters and then wrote a book about it. Which is to say, it's free-spirited, impressionistic, episodic, and highly stylized, but nonetheless often an incisive reflection of how people really do act and speak.
Representative quote: "It was all over gravel, but better than the last place. There was all over swampland and crocodiles."
You might not like it if: At its most self-indulgent, the book skirts the edges of impenetrability. So watch out for that.
How to get it: Look at me, recommending a fairly new book that's in print and everything! (And, yes, Kindle-able.)
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
What: Screwball comedy, 1939, Claudette Colbert, showgirl, would-be gold-digger, stranded in Paris, taxi cabs, Don Ameche, evening gown, the Ritz, noses, party crashing, John Barrymore, fake barons and baronesses, railway station, missing luggage, Billy Wilder, millionaires, divorce court, Mary Astor, hats, taxi driver cafe
"I landed a lord, almost."
"Well, the family came between us. His mother came to my hotel and offered me a bribe."
"You threw her out, I hope!"
"How could I, with my hands full of money?"
Also: Claudette Colbert and Mary Astor reteamed for more screwball in 1942's The Palm Beach Story (Rec. #17).
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
1. Moominvalley in November, by Tove Jansson (Rec. #109)
"Meant" for: Late-elementary-age kids who love funny names like Mymble, Toft, Fillyjonk, and Snufkin.
Actually for: Thoughtful types who are vaguely and wistfully considering a move to Sweden, Finland, Norway, or Denmark.
2. Confessions of Georgia Nicholson, by Louise Rennison (Rec. #130)
"Meant" for: Young teens who relate all too well to Georgia's hilarious misadventures.
Actually for: Grown-ups who are looking for honest-to-goodness funny writing, and are not above laughing at a 14-year-old.
3. The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, by George Saunders (Rec. #18)
"Meant" for: Late-elementary-age kids who totally dig the way those gappers look. Plus, a goat on a table!
Actually for: Design nerds who want an excuse to read George Saunders out loud.
Monday, October 10, 2011
What: In the noir classic Laura, a police detective falls in love with the woman whose murder he's investigating. The director is Otto Preminger; the detective is Dana Andrews; the woman is Gene Tierney; the suspects include Vincent Price, Judith Anderson, and Clifton Webb; the dialogue is sharp enough to draw blood; and the rest is critically-acclaimed film history.
Representative quote: "I should be sincerely sorry to see my neighbor's children devoured by wolves."
Bonus representative quote: "You'd better watch out, McPherson, or you'll finish up in a psychiatric ward. I doubt they've ever had a patient who fell in love with a corpse."
You might not like it if: You are inexplicably anti-noir.
How to get it: Buy it, borrow it, stream it, rent it. Whatever you do, though, please don't get confused about which actors are playing which roles. Take note: Dana is the man, Gene is the woman, and Vincent Price is not the gloomy one.
Connections to previous Wreckage: Get more noir with I Married a Dead Man (Rec. #47) and Brick (Rec. #62).
Sunday, October 9, 2011
What: Kate Atkinson's third novel featuring (ex) detective Jackson Brodie is --- without a doubt --- my favorite (so far, at least). This is almost entirely due to the introduction of Reggie Chase, a sixteen-year-old with a criminal brother, a dead mother, a missing employer, and (luckily) a skill set that includes CPR.
Representative quote: "Mum used to say, 'Billy may be trouble, but he's our trouble. Blood's thicker than water.' It was a lot stickier, too. The day the puppy went flying through the window was the second-worst day of Reggie's life so far."
You might not like it if: You're hoping that the answer to the title is "Now! Here it is, right here, all good news, all the time." It's not.
How to get it: Widely available in many formats. I still haven't seen the series adaptation starring Jason Isaacs. If they've gotten Reggie wrong, then when I eventually do watch it, I will likely fly into the sort of rage that hasn't been seen since someone cast Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet.
Three caveats: 1) If you haven't read the preceding Jackson Brodie books (see below), you may get a bit muddled. 2) In my opinion, many reviews of When Will There Be Good News? give away too many pieces of the plot. Avoid them if you can stand to. 3) Lest you fear that this is 388 pages of doom and puppy-throwing, let me reassure you that the whole novel is permeated by a rich, dark, clever humor.
Connections to previous Wreckage: Kate Akinson first presented Jackson Brodie in Case Histories (Rec. #3), which was followed by One Good Turn (Rec. #69). Both are excellent, even though they don't have Reggie.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
What: Halfway point of acclaimed Canadian television series, Shakespeare festival, dead artistic director, prepping for new season, Macbeth, broken neck, government grant, playwright, German-influenced Romeo and Juliet, audit, interns, funding, ad campaign, dark comedy (Stratford)
Representative quote: "You know me. I'm petty and bitter. There's a reason for that, OK?"
Bonus representative dialogue:
"This is my life. I live in a storage room. I eat soup with a dead man."
"It could be worse."
"You could be the dead man. Did you ever think of that?"
Also (with more info): Slings and Arrows, season 1 (Rec. #127)
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
What: Ngaio Marsh, murder mystery, 1943, New Zealand, sulphur springs, Scotland Yard, foreign ships at sea, Maurice Questing, stage star, German agents, flashing lights, a boot, Septimus Falls, English exiles, poison, Maoris, letters, Harpoon Club, spies, death by boiling mud bath
Representative quote: "Dikon was an over-civilized young man. He belonged to a generation whose attitude of mind was industriously ironic."
Also: Death and the Dancing Footman (Rec. #37) and Night at the Vulcan (Rec. #102)
Monday, October 3, 2011
What: Wes Anderson movie, Roald Dahl book, stop motion animation, animals, caper, farmers, George Clooney, apple juice flood, lab partners, Meryl Streep, bandit hats, cuss, Jason Schwartzman, mud, psychotic rat, Bill Murray, digging, bully, Michael Gambon, tree, supermarket, Willem Dafoe, blueberries, cellar, Owen Wilson, cider, tails
Representative quote: "If what I think is happening, IS happening... It better not be."
Bonus representative quote: "I understand what you're saying, and your comments are valuable, but I'm gonna ignore your advice."
Sunday, October 2, 2011
What: Fran Lebowitz, author of the 1974 essay collection Metropolitan Life, has often been compared to Dorothy Parker. This comparison is trite, but accurate. Which, of course, leads us to . . . lots of quotes (below).
Comparable to: Dorothy Parker. I just said so. Also, all those collections of humorous essays that have been published in the last ten years? By David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, David Rakoff, and basically anyone else from This American Life? They all owe a heck of a lot to Lebowitz.
"Having been unpopular in high school is not just cause for book publication." --- from "Letters"
"Children respond inadequately to sardonic humor and veiled threats." --- from "Children: Pro or Con?"
"He is audibly tan." --- from "My Day: An Introduction of Sorts"
"I love sleep because it is both pleasant and safe to use." --- from "Why I Love Sleep"
"There is no such thing as inner peace. There is only nervousness or death. Any attempt to prove otherwise constitutes unacceptable behavior." --- from "Manners"
You might not like it if: Like Parker, Lebowitz will go a long way for a pun. This can get exhausting.
How to get it: After the success of Martin Scorsese's documentary on Fran Lebowitz (Public Speaking), we got a rerelease of The Fran Lebowitz Reader. It includes both Metropolitan Life and Social Studies. It's also Kindle-able.
Connection to previous Wreckage: I suggested The Portable Dorothy Parker during Personal Wreck Week (List #3).