Books I Read in April
3 May 2019
Reading! I am doing it! Picking up the pace a bit, although my Goodreads yearly challenge “on schedule” number is still smarting.
- All That Jazz: The Life and Times of the Musical Chicago, Ethan Mordden: This was part of research for my podcast (which I swear is still coming, plodding along determinedly like Frankenstein’s monster) so while I found parts of it useful, as a whole it’s exuberant and somewhat sloppy. It has the tone of an informal work of historical nonfiction and skims over proving conclusions. But it makes up for it in depth of musical theater knowledge and general spirit.
- Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama, David Mamet: Whenever I read a Mamet treatise on artmaking, I find about 40% of it too strict and grumpy, about 40% good common sense and about 20% breathtakingly insightful. So I keep reading him for that 20%. Three Uses of the Knife is no exception. The chapter on the second act manages to pinpoint not only what drama needs in the middle but what our lives need in the middle. I have never read the underlying crisis of middle age and its quest for meaning described so succinctly and stunningly.
- How I Made A Hundred Movies In Hollywood And Never Lost A Dime, Roger Corman: Recently I watched A Bucket of Blood, a 1959 dark comedy directed by Roger Corman (also in the public domain and available in full on YouTube). I really loved it and therefore set out to fill in the gaps of my Corman knowledge, which up to that point had mostly been defined by watching the films of his that Mystery Science Theater 3000 featured, plus, of course, the lurid, dreamy Vincent Price/Edgar Allan Poe films. Corman’s autobiography is entertaining both as a memoir of how a practical-minded creative turned out regular films on micro-budgets and also as a compendium of remembrances from the extraoridinary people he gave chances to, including Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Dick Miller and Francis Ford Coppola. I definitely have a new respect for the boundaries he pushed.
- The Hudsucker Proxy, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen and Sam Raimi: I love a lot about the film The Hudsucker Proxy, but I felt like reading the screenplay revealed some of its stiff pieces. Which is a pretty decent learning exercise.
- Grayson, Volume 1: Agents of Spyral: I’m easing myself back into reading comic books and I’ve begun with a recent series I’ve been meaning to catch up on: Grayson, the adventures of former Nightwing, who is also former Robin, as a spy. I enjoyed the first volume hugely.
- Ghost Talkers, Mary Robinette Kowal: Kowal has been carving out a space for herself with alternate world fantasy. I read all five of her novels set in Regency England featuring characters who work magic as a genteel artform. Ghost Talkers is about a corps of spirit mediums who use their skills to transfer information from Allied soldiers at the front during World War I. It’s incredibly inventive yet doesn’t sacrifice the human drama and emotion for the invention. It’s a good choice if you’re looking for some historical fantasy.
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