June 29th, 2012

Gackt is fucking pretty

Book 5/50: The Wind Through the Keyhole

The Wind Through the Keyhole stands as Dark Tower book 4.5, according to Stephen King in the introduction to his recent novel. To what he calls the "Constant Reader" this is a direction on where to shelf the book, but it's also a call to mind of the book Wizard and Glass (this new book's predecessor in the series). That particular novel focused on backstory, a story within a story, if you will. The Wind Through The Keyhole is similar in that it begins with the ka-tet (group bound by fate, essentially), moves into Roland (their dinh, if you ken it, which is Tower parlance for "their leader") speaking of his past, and then telling the story for which the novel is named.

For anyone coming into the novel hoping for 300 more pages of Dark Tower prose, this novel could be something as a disappointment. At first it reads similarly to J. K. Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard in that King is weaving a story for us that is from an old book of stories about Arthur Eld (King Arthur, if it pleases you). It fits into the mythos of the world, and that makes it interesting, even if it doesn't seem to include any information that helps take the travelers any closer to the Tower.

The story itself is one of a boy overcoming fear and tragedy, braving a wilderness unknown to him, fighting a dragon, discovering forgotten magic, fairly basic stuff, to be honest. But it's peppered with King's brilliant imagery and his true knack for the macabre. Horror comes to this master easily enough, and he weaves it into the scenery without seeming to try very hard at all, which for me is the mark of a true great. Additionally, there are surprises within the story of Tim Stoutheart, that murmur of Gilead that was, and of Roland's future. Things that are so questionable that you have to ask yourself, "Did Roland change this story for the sake of his present companions, to make it more relevant to them?" Any time a character changes something so prevalent in his own world to suit the needs of, not the audience holding the book, but the audience to whom he speaks within the novel's pages, it makes me believe in the character, in his own reality.

All in all, The Wind Through the Keyhole did not disappoint, though I'm not certain I agree with King's assurance that it can be read by newcomers and Constant Readers, alike. The story is simple enough, and would be understood well enough, by someone unfamiliar with the series are large, but there are many things that would simply go unnoticed. The repetition of the number 19, phrases such as "ka-mai," references to Gilead and wars long since passed. Yes, you could pick it up and read it without ever thinking before or after of the Tower, but I implore you, if you're to start this series, start where it really begins. Pick up a copy of The Gunslinger, and begin the journey as so many of us did:

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

Books 16-23

Book 16 - American Gods by Neil Gaiman. No offense to the fans, but I hated it.
Book 17 - Maze Runner
Book 18 - Scorch Trials - both by James Dashner. Feels like a mix of Ender's Game and Hunger Games with much weaker writing. Will not recommend.
Book 19 - Shiver by Maggie Stiefwater. YA once again. Better than Maze Runner. Heavy Twilight influence.
Book 20 - Boy by Roald Dahl. Fantastic! And sweet and funny autobiography by the acclaimed children's writer.
Books 21, 22, 23 - Black, Red, White by Ted Dekker. Recommended by a friend. Somewhat interesting, but not strong writing.
Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

Graphic novels continue:

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century: 2009. I liked the earlier ones better. What can I say?

Then, there was a more dry piece of work, Osprey Weapon #13: The M1 Carbine, a weapon from WWII primarily, though it was used up into the Vietnam War. What brightened this book were the anecdotes that peppered the prose. Not bad.

Finally, a few minutes ago, I finished reading another graphic novel, Get Jiro! written by Anthony Bourdain. Something of a chef's wet dream, crossed with an Akira Kurosawa movie in comic form. Not bad, and the artwork was something to see.


Cornell historian Jefferson Cowie attempts, in Stayin' Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class, to come to terms with the end of the World War II New Industrial State and the propensity of blue collars to cause red necks.  I exaggerate, but only slightly.  The book is a different perspective on blue-collar politics from those proposed by Thomas Frank or by Richard Longworth.  Although Professor Cowie takes pains to assure readers that working-class is not equivalent to organized labor, the book we read switches among Presidential politics, Big Union politics, and perusal of songs and movies by Big Entertainment, particularly those directed by Big Entertainers who might have been red-diaper babies.  Book Review No. 21 will consider, at length, the ways in which Stayin' Alive tells readers more about the intellectual failures of the last forty years of post-everything in cultural studies, and perhaps in the academy generally, than it does about the difficulties confronting blue-collar workers.

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Let me finish by noting that a few movies and currents in popular music do not by themselves provide evidence.  The seventies might have begun after the breakup of the Beatles, the descent into excess of Elvis Presley, and the emergence of Bruce Springsteen and disco.  But Garry Trudeau -- note, long before Mark Slackmeyer started dating a Republican man -- nailed disco's social sensibilities long before Professor Cowie went looking for messages of escape from the idiocy of post-industrial life in it.  One could as easily argue that a crass and degraded popular culture, again, long before Jerry Springer and Jersey Shore, meant more guardrails removed from people who might not have been properly socialized to the guardrails by parents or schools.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)


Book #41: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

I remember being shown an old movie version of Treasure Island twice at school when I was about eight years old. In those days, though I got bored easily by anything that wasn’t a cartoon and didn’t have talking puppets, so I was nonplussed. I recently decided to read the book and enjoyed it a lot.

It starts when Jim Hawkins is visited by a stranger, Billy Bones, who has a treasure map, and dies suddenly after being visited by a mysterious blind man. This all leads to an adventure on the seas and the eponymous “treasure island” to find where the treasure is buried, and it leads to the introduction of a very memorable literary character, Long John Silver.

Long John Silver is a fantastic character, who seems to start off as a villain and end up as something of an anti-hero in the novel, as he instigates a mutiny during the attempts to uncover the treasure. The book is really easy to read, and I found myself compelled to keep reading to see what happened next.

Next book: Persuasion by Jane Austen