Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Collection of Bookstores

On Saturday nights in Brooklyn, when I was alone and my friends weren’t calling, I’d take the F train up a stop to Prospect Park and spend the evening in the Barnes & Noble. I wasn’t the only one who did this. The place was packed.

A man once came up to me in a San Antonio Borders and tried to recruit me for the army. It was midday on like Tuesday. I was out of work at the time and must have looked it. He said military service was a good way to make money for a few years. He didn’t mention war. Or patriotism. This was fall of 1999.

There was a Borders in the World Trade Center. You could still see the sign in the rubble.

I went to The Strand the second day of my first trip to New York. I decided then that I needed to move to the city.

Shortly before my son was born, the stress overwhelmed me. I left the condo and walked a long way to a Barnes & Noble (maybe a Borders) in downtown DC. I browsed for several hours until I felt better. Then I bought a Guide to Literary Journals and told myself I’d publish something before I was thirty. I had six months. Four months later, I received an acceptance from Flashquake as my son rolled side-to-side on his mat.

If I’m in Austin for even a couple of hours, I’ll stop by Book People. It’s across the street from the flagship Whole Foods. These are good hours.

There’s a bookstore in Dupont Circle with a bar. I don’t much like coffee. But a martini while I browse the new fiction? Genius.

I own a Kindle. I’ve bought a lot of books from Amazon and spent a lot of time on their site. This is all very convenient. But it never has the right smell.

Every time I take my kids to the nearby movie theater, we do two things after the film is over. We get ice cream. We go to the second floor of the Borders and we pick out a new book from the children’s section.

We should probably do that this weekend.

That store is going to leave a big space to fill.

Friday, July 8, 2011

So, I'm Going to Ramble About Movies for Awhile

The makers of Hangover 2 should watch Cars 2. That’s how you rethink things, fellas. Cars 2 ain’t brilliant, but it’s nothing like the original.

In case I wasn’t clear, Hangover 2 was bad. Has there been a lazier sequel to a good movie in recent memory?

I said sequel to a GOOD movie. Transformers 3, you may put down your hand.

I haven’t seen Transformers 3. But Roxane Gay has. And I trust Roxane.

Still, could it be worse than Green Lantern? I’m a comic book nerd and I thought the GL movie bit more than either of the Hulk movies (both of which bit terribly hard—like gnawing on over-smoked jerky). Amorphous bad guy. Hero who just needs to learn a little selflessness. Final fight scene that mistakes special effects for drama. And the Green Lantern Corps? Oh, lord. They managed to retain all the lameness of the GLC from the comics and STILL butcher the main facts. That takes work.

I officially hate 3D now. Terrible thing. Pointless. Most of Pirates of the Caribbean 4 was unwatchable through those dark, bulky glasses. Biggest rip-off in entertainment.

My kids saw King Fu Panda 2 twice. I didn’t see it at all. I consider this one of my biggest victories of the year. Hot parenting tip: convince other people to take your kids to kid movies.

Bridesmaids is the best movie I’ve seen this year. Not that the competition is strong. But, still. I definitely cared more for Kristen Wiig’s character than I’ve cared about anything in any of the other movies I’ve attended this summer.

Although, actually, Super 8 was okay. Nostalgic for anyone of my generation. A bit “hermetically sealed,” though. Other than the computerized effects and the continuous utterances of the word “shit” from young mouths, it was like a found volume of early ‘80s Spielbergness. A Movie with that capital M. You could feel the gears turning.

I never walk out on a movie. But I’ll stop reading a book pretty quickly. This says something about me, I suppose.

I have fallen asleep in movies.

Movies I wish I slept through recently: Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, Hop, Despicable Me, Owls of Gahoole

I see a lot of kids movies. I need to take my “hot parenting tip” more seriously.

And, yes, Despicable Me is bad. I could write an essay on why. The short version: it’s cynically constructed.

I have high hopes for the newest Harry Potter, though.

I read the first four books to my son. Decent reads. But we never made it past the first 100 pages of the fifth book. It was horrifically slow; J.K. Rowling is just lounging in her fictional universe by this point, enjoying the process of world creation far too much and leaving the reader with scant plot. Also, as the series draws on, the POV choice becomes an increasingly frustrating mess. Everything is 3rd person from Harry’s POV. We don’t learn anything that he doesn’t learn. But, because Rowling expands the wizarding universe to such extremes, this POV means the books increasingly become a series of people telling Harry what has happened and will happen next. Yes, Rowling invents various magical devices that allow Harry to see and even experience events outside of his own life, but it’s never quite enough. Switching to a multi-POV style after the second or third book would have greatly improved the novels, I think. Although, admittedly, I haven’t read the last few.

Somehow a post about summer movies became a lazy book review.

But, seriously, Cars 2 is a spy thriller. Cars was a coming of age movie. More sequels should be so bold.