Jason Felch & Ralph Frammolino - Chasing Aphrodite
The piece on the cover of this book is why I am at law school. When I was a kid I visited the Getty Villa in Malibu just to see these two colored griffins in person. A few years ago it disappeared back to Italy. I was devastated. After learning its history I was presented with an ethical question that rocked my system: Where does art belong? At Book Court today I saw this book and instantly became giddy. I’m at school to be the lawyer who breaks cases like the one in this book. I can’t type anymore. I’m getting goosebumps.
The scene is set:
A giant molten iron monster is chasing our heroes down a corridor as ranks of smaller minions close in on them from all sides. One of the heroes falls behind and is instantly set aflame and killed. Death to the whole group looks certain. Suddenly one of the heroes casts a spell, creating a miniature black hole that sucks all of the approaching foes into nothingness and the group is able to make it safety. When everyone realizes that they are free from danger, the first line spoken about the incident goes something like this, “Did you check out the dick on that molten iron dude? That guy was hung!”
In the genre of fantasy there aren’t a lot of sexually charged, drug-filled worlds that tie attempt to tie the reader into a place that seems an awful lot like our reality. Lev Grossman set out to make “Harry Potter with a shot of whiskey.” Sure, he included lots of boozing, drugs and sex, but does it make for a worthwhile read, or is it simply for the the booze, drugs and sex’s own sake?
To put it briefly, the book was crap. Grade A garbage. The characters were all shallow cliches from the cast of any generic teen movie: there was the emotionally conflicted protagonist, the gay lush, the nerd-turned-beauty, the rich slut, the shy fat nerd. It was all there and set out from the first page each character was introduced. I expected the plot to reveal depth and inject some conflict into the relationships between these people, but the story was so shallow that none of what I predicted occurred. It was as if Grossman wrote an outline of a story, because we’re given a bunch of events, but the author does’ t elaborate on ANYTHING beyond the rudimentary details. He doesn’t create a world so much as simply assume the reader has read Harry Potter and therefore gets the gist of magic. But Grossman defines his world as something much more “complex” than simply “waving around a wand and shouting made up latin.” Sure.
I didn’t even bother picking up the sequel today because I know its going to be a bunch of the same drivel. Sure, he’ll put some threesomes, drinking ranting and hangover complaints all through the book, but does that make it worth reading? Taking two poorly executed elements and combining them doesn’t make up for the fact that neither is can hold any weight on their own.
I don’t know how this became a best seller.
Lev Grossman - The Magicians
Well I’m back. I’ve had my nose buried in my law school books, which destroyed any potential time for pleasure reading. But I realized that my life was becoming too much of a grind and that an injection of fiction could break up the monotony of Torts and Civil Procedure. So here I am.
Since I now live in Brooklyn I think I is appropriate to read a little Brooklyn-based fiction. I got The Magician’s on a recommendation from the fine people at Book Court and I’m hoping to get this, and the next book in the series finished before Lev Grossman comes to read at the end of the month.
From the back cover:
"Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A high school math genius, he’s secretly fascinated with a series of children’s fantasy novels set in a magical land called Fillory, and real life is disappointing by comparison. When Quentin is unexpectedly admitted to an elite, secret college of magic, it looks like his wildest dreams may have come true. but his newfound powers lead him down a rabbit hole of hedonism and disillusionment, and ultimately to the dark secret behind the story of Fillory. The land of his childhood fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he ever could have imagined…"
Supposedly this is Harry Potter with a healthy injection of sex and drugs. Can’t wait.
Dead funny: Humor in Hitler’s Germany by Rudolph Herzog
I’ve always found the rise and fall of Hitler to be fascinating and after recently finishing Eric Larson’s In The Garden of Beasts I wanted to delve a bit further into the period. Dead Funny isn’t a traditional way to look at history, but its something that isn’t oft explored. From the inside cover:
"Is it permissible to laugh at Hitler? This is a question that is often debated in Germany today, where, in light of the dimension of the horrors committed in the name of its citizens, many people have difficulty taking a satiric look at the Third Reich. And whenever some do, accusations arise that they are downplaying or trivializing the Holocaust. But, in fact, there is a long history of jokes about the Nazis.
In this groundbreaking volume, Rudolph Herzog shows that the image of the ‘ridiculous Furhrer’ was by no means a post-war invention: In the early years of Nazi rule may Germans poked fun at Hitler and other high officials. It’s a fascinating and frightening history: from the suppression of the anti-Nazi cabaret scene of the 1930s. to jokes about Hitler and the Nazis told during WWII, to the collections of ‘whispered jokes’ that were published in the immediate aftermath of the war, to the horrific accounts of Germans - including many soldiers - who were imprisoned and executed for telling jokes about Hitler and the other Nazis.
Significantly, the jokes collected here also show that not all Germans were hypnotized by Nazi propaganda - or unaware of Hitler’s concentration camps, which were also the subject of jokes during the war. In collecting these quips, Herzog pushes back against the argument advanced in aftermath of World War II, that people were unaware of Hitler’s demonic maneuvering. The truth, Herzog writes, is more troubling: Germans knew much about the actions of their government, joked about it occasionally … and failed to act.”
— Darcy O’Brien, A Way of Life, Like Any Other
John Wayne and Marguerite Churchill in “The Big Trail” (1930)
A Way of Life, Like Any Other is a fictionalization of Darcy O’Brien’s tumultuous childhood as the son of two movie stars.
A Way of Life, LIke Any Other by Darcy O’Brien
July was a crazy month. August provides a return to routine, and with that more regular reading… well, at least until classes start. Until then I’ll just continue to enjoy that last days of summer by idling away in pure book-induced nirvana. From the back cover:
"The hero of Darcy O’Brien’s A Way of Life, Like Any Other is a child of Hollywood, and once his life was a glittery dream. His father starred in Westerns. His mother was a goddess of the silver screen. The family enjoyed the high life on their estate, Casa Fiesta. But his parents’ careers have crashed since then, and their marriage has broken up too.
Lovesick and sex-crazed, the mother sets out on an intercontinental quest for the right - or wrong - man, while her mild-mannered but manipulative former husband clings to his memories in California. And their teenage son? How he struggles both to keep faith with his family and to get by himself, and what in the end he must do to break free, makes for a classic coming-of-age story - a novel that combines keen insight and devastating wit to hilarious and heartbreaking effect.”
— Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana
— Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana
Our Man In Havana by Graham Greene
My dad brought this on vacation and couldn’t stop laughing out loud. He constantly told me how funny and relatable the book was. So even though I brought a ton of books from my own to-read shelf, I’ve put them on hold to satiate his desire for me to give him my opinion. I’m a huge fan of Graham Greene so I have no problem obliging him. From the back cover:
"M16’s man in Havana is Wormold, a former vacuum-clearner salesman turned reluctant secret agent out of economic necessity. To keep his job he flies bogus reports based on Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare and dreams up military installations from vacuum-cleaner designs. Then his stories start becoming disturbingly true …
First published in 1959, Our Man in Havana is an espionage thriller, a penetrating character study, and a political satire that still resonates today. It remains one of Graham Greene’s most widely read novels.”