Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Book #6 + BONUS

Lamb by Christopher Moore is one of those books that catches you off-guard and takes time to be truly appreciated. The premise, is hilarious and simple: the gospel according to Biff, the best friend of Joshua (Jesus to some). One of the interesting approaches that Moore takes is in relying as much as possible in a hysterical comedy of a novel on the truth of the gospel. No one really knows what happened to Jesus from the time he was little boy until the time he was thirty. Suffice it to say in Moore's version: hilarity ensues. On the back one of the tag lines states what if Jesus knew kung-fu? That should get some people to buy the book, but obviously not all.
At this point the book could easily be dismissed as a comedy of errors but it is much more than that. The writing is fluid, deep, engaging and emotional. This story tugs at the heart strings and at the end the soft beauty was evident. This is a touching book, and it is easy to get involved with characters whose names we have heard before in the bible. There is a slow melancholy at work here, and it mixes perfectly with the humor to create a wonderful blend of a novel.
There are others who will dismiss it based upon the whole "blasphemy" thing, but prove to me that this is not how Jesus spent thirty years and we will talk (and no, the bible does not count as "proof").
Highly recommended, and highly readable this story has a little bit of something for everyone. Read, learn and enjoy!
The Bonus:
From time to time, we are struck by something we read because it is so frighteningly powerful it becomes nearly overwhelming. Just last week, I learned something new about a part of the world where a history of brutality is becomming lost in the shadows of time. I was born after 1983 and thus had never really heard about the Khmer Rouge before, as there was really no connection to make. It seems as if that time period is still struggling to be understood by those who were silent witness to the atrocities. The level of brutality has never been connected to the Holocaust or "ethnic cleansing" and I believe we are at a crossroads. Should we continue to hold on to memorys of past atrocities in order to make sure they do not repeat, or should we try and put them past us? I say we can never forget the past because it will inform the future. Despot dictactors continue to exert control but their names are blurring over time - sure, I had heard the name Pol Pot but I never made the connection until I read this article on www.gq.com entitled "Never Forget" by Michael Paterniti. I read magazines now and again, mostly when I am intruiged by five or more of the articles. Gary Smith who writes for SI is my all time favorite magazine writer and had written the best article I had read. Until last week. Yes, this article is that good. It is long, haunting, powerful and really, there are not enough adjectives to do it justice. Go to the website and hit features to read one of the best pieces of literature I have yet come across. Period. If he ever writes a book on the subject, I will be first in line on the first day it comes out. The article pushed me to research and discover new things on the topic. Good articles make you curious; Great articles push you into entirely new territory. "Never Forget" falls into the great catagory. I have a new magazine writer who I will faithfully follow. Read this article, and never forget.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Book #5

Darkness Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane is one of those books that grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go until the last, brutal page. I read Mystic River and Shutter Island by Lehane but steered clear of his PI books featuring the team of Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro.
That was a huge mistake.
I love the way Lehane writes, he truly makes you feel as if you are along for a pulse pounding ride with the characters. He writes with such emotion and naked truth that you cannot but glimpse the dark side of life and how it affects his protagonists. This story, like most that he writes, starts with a simple premise that explodes into a twisty landscape one can barely hold on to. Lehane shifts the mysteries within his book with a deft hand and pulls the reader from a confrontation with a mob enforcer to a story of a twisted serial killer looking for revenge against a mob that killed his partner. The twists are breath-taking and the writing elegant. Lehane is a master and this book stands out for me above all else. He examines the worst of us and finds a strange, twisted beauty beneath the darkness. All the Patrick Kenzie books are incredible and he writes few unmemorable bit players. The character Bubba, a childhood friend of the protagonist is an example: he is a psychopathic, homicidal, near-warlord, arms dealer who just happens to like the flawed hero of the story.
This was the book that reignited a love for mysteries I felt I had lost. I tend to have one guy for areas of the US (Pelecanos for DC, Burke for NO) Lehane is, and will always be, my Boston guy.