Book Jones Books

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Voting and Viewing

Bernie Sanders: Democratic presidential candidate

Donald Trump: Republican presidential candidate
Today is much ignored New Hampshire's time to shine nationally. First in the nation, at least as far as political primaries are concerned, voters will finally reveal who they fancy on both ends of the political spectrum. Will it be nationalist uber-bizness-man Donald (Combover) Trump? Could it be commie/socialist Bernie "No Comb for Old Men" Sanders? Will it matter in the long run? We will soon find out later this evening (to the great relief of many).

Meanwhile, I've been binge watching the Amazon Prime show, Mad Dogs. Apparently this is a remake of an English effort also created by Chris Coles and first shown on Sky 1. The plot revolves around Milo (Billy Zane), an American now living and ostensibly selling real estate in Belize. He mysteriously invites four old buddies Joel (Ben Chaplin), Cobi (Steve Zahn), Lex (Michael Imperioli), and Gus (Romany Malco), down to his palatial villa for a reason to be named later. Ben Chaplin is a holdover, he played the character of Alvo (called Milo in US), in the original production. After a short boat ride and a bizarre visit from a vertically challenged character wearing a cat head, the gang embark on a treacherous tumble down the Belizean rabbit hole. 

Cast of Mad Dogs: l to r: Ben Chaplin, Michael Imperioli, Romany Malco, Steve Zahn
Currently, I'm on episode seven and I'd have to admit this is a show which grows on you like a jungle fungus. It gets better with each chapter, as more mysteries, of not only plot but of character backstory, are revealed. Bright spots are: Allison Tolman (Fargo), who has a delightfully tentative turn as Rochelle, an enthusiastic US embassy underling; and Ben Chaplin (The Thin Red Line), who shines as the pensive and guarded, Joel.

Monday, January 25, 2016

What's on the Telly?

Zach Galifianakis as Baskets on FX
Two new television shows are on my radar:
  • Billions (Showtime, Sun, 10 pm EST), a drama -or I should say melodrama- about a billionaire hedge fund tyrant, Bobby Axelrod, and the US attorney, Chuck Rhoades whose goal it is to nail him. Just to twist things up, Chuck's wife, Wendy works as an industrial psycologist for Bobby's firm, Axe Capital. In the opening scene of the pilot, we learn our US attorney has a penchant for a little BDSM (OK I get it: the powerful in real life need a little submission time to help level themselves out), but who was that masked woman? I've watched the first two episodes and can't help sensing a bit of pedantic dialogue and perhaps some emoting going on among the principal actors. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and write it off to early episode-itis. Average (so far)
  • Baskets (FX, Thurs, 10 pm EST)  is the latest comedic vehicle from co-creators Louis CK, Zach Galifianakis, and Jonathan Kristel. It stars Galifianakis as an unlikely clown, Chip Baskets. The pilot shows him at the Clown Academie in France where he manages to graduate without understanding a word of French. He soon marries a French national - who cares nothing for him - and moves back home to Bakersfield CA. The show is as hilarious as one would expect from the mind of Louis CK, with Galifianakis prat-falling and dead-panning in clown-face. An especially rip roaring scene features Louie Anderson in drag and speaking in his normal voice as Chip's mom (cut to the spit take). Martha Kelly is spot on as a lonely insurance adjuster who takes a liking to Chip.I'd rate it above average.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Thanks and Praise

After an entire day of snow yesterday, we shoveled out this morning, then, since it was such crisp and beaming day, took a nice stroll into town for brunch. To my wife Maureen I recounted my blessings: it was fortunate I didn't have to drive during the blizzard and had plenty of time to clean up afterward on this sunny Sunday. Hey, there had been plenty of times to deal with weather last winter, I'm thankful we're almost through January and Ive managed to escape the dreaded precarious drive so far; for me, two large and twisty mountains stand between home and work.

As I continue to read At Last, St. Aubyn does not attenuate the graphically acute tone of his earlier volumes. This is a good thing. His character, Dr. David Melrose, the sadistic patriarch of this narrative quintet, is perhaps the most purely evil I've ever encountered in literature. I won't give away any of the lurid details, but suffice to say that he leaves no aspect of cruelty unexplored and gets quite creative into the bargain. Being a physician, he is by definition, a paradox. The fifth novel opens during the wake of Patrick's mother Eleanor, a lifelong victim hence enabler of her hateful husband. I'm about a third of the way through and they have yet to perform the cremation, so much of the book is told in flashback narrative. 

Some other new books I'd like to mention here are:  
  • The Past by Tessa Hadley about a family reunion of sorts revolving around the fate of an ancestral country rectory. It was received fairly well in this week's NY Times Book Review. Maureen has decided to read this one next. 
  • Mr Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt is a contemporary Gothic tale about two women on separate journeys in space and time heading toward a common reckoning. This was one I found and thought sounded interesting. It's been called a "subversive ghost story that is carefully plotted and elegantly constructed".

Joanna Newsom
In the music realm, I spent last evening listening to a very offbeat album of songs by Joanna Newsom. She is primarily a harpist and chanteuse that has been recording since around 2003; she has a vocal style very evocative of Kate Bush, whom I love. The latest album to which I listened is entitled Divers. It contains some seemingly straightforward melodic work but often the songs morph into haunting and delightfully eccentric ballads. Listen to eponymous cut below.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes etc...

Diamond Dogs album cover atwork (1974)

I haven't written a post in quite some time. I'm not quite sure why, perhaps because I haven't had a review to write for a while. Of course I could have written reviews for some of the recent books I've read like The Magus or The Sacred and Profane Love Machine, but these are older novels; although still relevant, not as relevant perhaps as something more current - at least from a review standpoint. It has been snowing considerably today so I thought I would take some time to re-enter the world of blogging; now maybe with a fresh approach, a more relaxed tone.

I have to mention the recent death of David Bowie. Instead of attempting to write another eulogy of the man (there have been scads of them on-line and elsewhere) I will just include an embedded video and let his incredible talent speak for itself. I've been a fan of Bowie since around 1973 or 4, when I bought his second apocalyptic concept album, Diamond Dogs and fell in love with the spooky echo of Mike Garson's piano playing. I stopped following his work after the release of Never Let Me Down in 1987, but I never stopped listening to his earlier work. The last time I saw him perform live was during the Sound and Vision Tour of 1990 at Giants Stadium in New Jersey; a very solid show in which he performed his greatest hits and in so doing retired them from his repertoire forever - at least that was the intent. The show featured Adrian Belew on guitar, Erdal Kizilcay on bass, Michael Hodges on drums and Rick Fox on keyboards. The highlights of this show for me were Panic in Detroit, Stay, and Rock and Roll Suicide. 

Currently, I'm finally reading the fifth and last volume of Edward St Aubyn's Patrick Melrose novels, At Last. These novels, if you are not familiar with them, are emotionally intense. They tell the story of a simple solicitor, one Patrick Melrose, survivor of childhood abuse, heroin addiction and alcoholism. St Aubyn is such a wonderful writer. I wish he was was more widely read. On the audio front, I've been slowly listening to The Cartel by Don Winslow. This is a highly touted thriller about the world of  Mexican drug lords and their pursuers. It is very graphic in nature and quite entertaining if you like this type of stuff; the narrator, Ray Porter, is very talented. That's all I've got for now. And in keeping with my new approach to this blog, I will attempt to post much more often with a focus more on personal experience. Check out the Bowie video below (Panic in Detroit from 1976).

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Book Review: The Book of Evidence/The Sea by John Banville

Confessions of Things Past

In the Introduction of the new Everyman's Library volume of John Banville's  novels, The Book of Evidence and The Sea, Adam Phillips writes, "The drama of these the drama of self exposure." In both fictions, the narrators confess their past and in so doing explicate the existential morass in which they seem to be mired. Whether Banville's protagonists are absolved in the end is ultimately a judgement for the omniscient reader.

In the earlier work, The Book of Evidence (perhaps a fitting title for any of Banville's subsequent novels), Freddie Montgomery, a character based on the convicted murderer Malcolm Edward MacArthur,  addresses his confession from his jail cell to his soon-to-be judge and jury-- a written testimony of his alleged crime. Although the reader has no reason not to believe him, Freddie is, nonetheless, an unreliable narrator. But it's not until the ambivalent last line of the document that the reader feels free from any postulation and is reminded that ultimately, remorse is all that matters.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Poem Zero

maybe the ones who have left
us early by the malice of their own
hand knew what matters most:
procreation; the evolution of
planetary life amply illuminated, steeled
to survive in our natal fount or
with mastery of the universe poised
at the precipice of infinitude.

the greatest of these is escape
abandonment of the world one
has been born to 
and from.

swarm behavior
there is no heaven

practice makes perfect
preppers will kill you
one good turn deserves another
dust to dust
white sky

due to:
8 billion humans
5 billion years
smokey the bear
ember orange horizon
super volcano

orbital decay
"war is hell"
"mars needs women"
reality trumps fantasy
euphoria is temporary
mortality is enough
i'm writing a poem that no one will read
i'm writing an ur-poem
poetry has never existed  

because I'm writing a poem.

©2015 by Michael Jones

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Literature Limning Art

While reading The Sea by John Banville recently, I came upon a passage in which the author describes in detail a painting by the French post-impressionist Pierre Bonnard. The narrator, Max Morden,  has been at work on, as he says "...a monograph on Bonnard, in which I have been mired for more years than I care to compute."

Nude in the Bath and Small Dog (1941-46) Oil on canvas. Pierre Bonnard
Later in the book he describes the painting entitled  Nude in the Bath and Small Dog (although he gets the title wrong) started by Bonnard 1941 and finished in 1946. the subject is the artist's late wife, Marthe de Meligny (her real name was Maria Boursin). Banville's Morden describes the work thus:
"...she lies there, pink and mauve and gold, a goddess of the floating world, attenuated, ageless, as much dead as alive, beside her on the tiles her little brown dog, her familiar, a dachshund, I think, curled watchful on its mat or what may be a square of flaking sunlight falling from an unseen window. The narrow room that is her refuge vibrates around her, throbbing in its colors. Her feet, the left one tensed at the end of its impossibly long leg, seem to have pushed the bath out of shape and made it bulge at the left end, and beneath the bath on that side, in the same force field, the floor is pulled out of alignment too, and seems on the point of pouring away into the corner, not like a floor at all but a moving pool of dappled water. All moves here, moves in stillness, in aqueous silence. One hears a drip, a ripple, a fluttering sigh. A rust-red patch in the water beside the bather's right shoulder might be rust, or old blood, even. Her right hand rests on her thigh, stilled in the act of supination, and I think of Anna's hands on the table that first day when we came back from seeing Mr. Todd, her helpless hands with palms upturned as if to beg something from someone opposite her who was not there."
Anna is the narrator's doomed wife, a supplicant to both cancer and the allusive stamp of Mr. Todd, her physician. The painting seems an apt analogical device for Banville's short yet profound novel he called The Sea; as Pierre Bonnard himself wrote of his chosen vocation, "There is a formula, which fits painting perfectly: many little lies to create a great truth."


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