4 December 2019
I’ve got thirty books to read before the end of December to meet my yearly reading goal and … that’s probably not going to happen. But I press onward nevertheless. Here’s what I read in November.
- The Maltese Falcon, John Huston: I read this directly after I read the screenplay for Eyes Wide Shut and the contrast between the two is stark. Where the latter is conceptual and implicative, the former is straightfoward and plain-spoken. It’s a well-designed and expertedly constructed piece of machinery that never pauses or fails.
- Eliot Ness: The Rise and Fall of an American Hero, Douglas Perry: It’s inexplicable that film or television hasn’t yet tackled Eliot Ness as a whole. His mythologizing via The Untouchables is just a small silver of his truth and the story seems perfectly posed for a movie or miniseries. The best we have now is this lively biography that describes the dark sides as well as the light. If this interests you, pick up the graphic novel Torso, which focuses on the Torso Murders in 1930s Cleveland, which took place under the nose of crime commissioner Ness and were never solved.
- My Best Friend’s Exorcism, Grady Hendrix: If the Satanic Panic of the late 1980s had had any real basis, it might have inspired a story like this one. It’s about being a teenage girl in 1988 and having to save your best friend from a demon, but also about being a teenage girl and having to deal with change, growth and losing your best friend. It’s a tremendous amount of fun and surprisingly touching.
- After Dark, Haruki Murakami: I decided to mount a massive Murakami reread. I own almost everything he’s published and I swept through them all when I first discovered his writing about four years ago. But I hadn’t revisited them since. After Dark is the first book of his I read. I picked up the paperback on a whim at the Narita airport on my way home from Tokyo. It’s still a favorite, a slim volume of human interaction and emotional surrealism bound together with an otherworldly, all-knowing perspective. It’s a good place to start with Murakami if you are looking for such a thing.
- The Wall Will Tell You: The Forensics of Screenwriting, Hampton Fancher: I’ve started a new list of filmmaking books and now it’s getting zen-like. This is a tiny book of screenwriting koans, bits of wisdom strung like beads on a necklace. It’s for thinking about the how but, more importantly, the why.
- The Director’s Six Senses: An Innovative Approach to Developing Your Filmmaking Skills, Simone Bartesaghi: It might be because I’m slowly self-teaching myself filmmaking theory and this book is written by a filmmaker who also came to filmmaking later in life, but I found it a practical guide for the space in between the technical nuts and bolts of filmmaking and the heart of storytelling.
- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami: This seems to be a common pick for the best Murakami book. After rereading it, I still don’t think it’s my favorite. But it is very good. All the essential threads of his writing are here: metaphorical realism, odd relationships, exploration of meaning in daily life and modern society. So much questing and so few answers. I wish life were less like his novels.
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