odds and ends

I took my sweet time finishing Case Histories by Kate Atkinson, and I mean that in the broadest sense of the term. I started reading the book about a year and a half ago. Not knowing I was about 30 pages in, my lovely wife borrowed the book. After that, I sort of lost track of Case Histories until a couple of weeks ago when I rediscovered it on my bookshelf.

It’s a really wonderful book, a skewed look at the private detective genre with an appealingly sad sack main character in Jackson Brodie. Brodie investigates three separate missing persons cases over the course of the novel. All three stories dovetail thematically and ruminate on the idea of lost family, forgotten mistakes, and the nature of love. I give Atkinson a lot of credit for her prose- this is the first time in awhile that I put down a book in anger at the behavior of one of her characters (Brodie’s selfish, materialistic ex-wife, if you were wondering). That I could get so worked up over a fictional character is telling as to the quality of the book.

I’m excited to find Atkinson’s written a couple of Brodie books I’m going to start working on, and BBC produced a Case Histories mini-series starring Jason Issacs. I’ve put both the next book and the DVD set on hold at my local library.

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Any of you check out my GoodReads profile? It’s been posted over there in the right-hand column for about two years. If you have, please friend me! I’m always looking for good book recommendations. If you don’t have a GR profile, I’m about to give you a really good reason to sign up for one.

I found out a few weeks ago that GoodReads has a “giveaways” section where members can request review copies of new books from authors and publishers. They send you a book; you write a review. The types of books on offer really run the gamut- at a casual glance, there seems to be a high number of Twilight-inspired supernatural romance. There are many other genres and mediums though. In the past month and a half, I’ve snagged celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson‘s autobiography and a hardcover copy of the third volume of DC Comics/Verigo’s American Vampire!

The Giveaways section of GoodReads rates a look if you dig free literature. Trust me, if a schmuck like me can get a cool book out of the deal… ANYONE can get a cool book out of the deal.

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This may sound weird to some of you but… I like FOX‘s new animated series Napoleon Dynamite.

Based on the quirky 2004 film directed by Jared and Jerusha Hess, the creative team has managed to wrangle all the original actors back to bring voice to the ND universe. The show is about six years too late to really cash in on the inexplicable popularity of the movie, but I’ve gotten a few laughs out of the seven episodes I’ve seen on Hulu. After years and years of the nonsense cutaway gags and garbage plotting of Seth McFarlane’s prime time cartoons, Napoleon Dynamite is a welcome change of pace. It doesn’t really hold a candle to Bob’s Burgers… but as a Sunday night diversion, I’ll take it.

It strikes me that Napoleon Dynamite deploys writer/executive producer Mike Scully quite well. Scully’s known to and abhorred by many for his time at EP on The Simpsons. Under Scully’s tenure with the show, The Simpsons‘ tone veered away from somewhat-grounded reality to off the wall lunacy over the course of his three seasons at the helm. Many fans today decry “the Scully years” as being far too broad… as well as being instrumental in allowing Homer Simpson to become an angry, stupid “jerk-ass” (Homer’s words, not mine).

Perhaps there is something to that criticism. At the same time, I think those critics overlook Scully’s considerable writing prowess- he’s contributed some sterling episodes (Lisa’s Rival, Marge Be Not Proud) to The Simpsons‘ canon. Further, those critics overlook the fact that Scully took over The Simpsons when the show was in its’ NINTH year. After over 150 episodes, it was natural the writers’ had to start hitting different notes. If going broad meant breaking new ground for the show… well, it’s not my favorite tone to strike with the characters, but I do understand why the writers’ went down that road.

This is exactly why Scully is a good fit here. The characters from Napoleon Dynamite are already so far off base from reality that their personalities are well in his comedic wheelhouse. I’m hoping the show gets a second season.

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4 Responses to “odds and ends”

  1. Aww man, I’ve entered loads of Goodreads giveaways and never got anything! But I will persevere now I know that real people do receive real books!

    Haven’t read any Kate Atkinson but my mum loves them, so maybe it’s time I gave them a shot.

  2. Case Histories is great. I just finished One Good Turn and while it wasn’t quite as good, it’s shaping up to be a really interesting series. I like what you said about it inverting the detective story — in many ways, it feels like Brodie is an incidental character who happens to be the detective, but he’s definitely not the novel’s driving force.

    • Christopher Pearce Says:

      I’m working on One Good Turn right now! I’m enjoying it but starting to wonder whether Atkinson painted herself into a corner with Brodie at the end of Case Histories. I’m assuming not, since she continues the series for a couple of more novels. Still, it’s weird having the normally sad-sack Brodie be so financially well-off.

  3. […] exciting new books to read. I have the second Jackson Brodie mystery patiently awaiting a look; I waxed rhapsodic about Case Histories¬†back in March. I should be excited for One Good Turn. Lauren Groff’s Arcadia is another book I really want […]

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