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T. Bently "tbently" RSS Feed (Berkshire, England)

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Kerouac: The Definitive Biography
Kerouac: The Definitive Biography
by Paul Maher
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $24.93
54 used & new from $0.93

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful biography of iconic writer, March 8, 2011
The thing which surprised me about this biography is its sheer length. It's over 500 pages, which is pretty good going even in the wordy genre of literary biography. However, thanks to Paul Maher's passion for his subject and his journalistic skill it makes for fascinating reading and I hardly skipped a paragraph.

Maher claims his main motivation for writing this life is that he shares Kerouac's home town of Lowell, Massachusetts. It's all the more surprising then that the tome doesn't really hit its stride until he starts describing the author's decision to leave for NY and start writing his epic adventure, "On the Road". Maher is particularly skilled at describing the creative process, perhaps one of the hardest aspect of a writer's life to capture.

Kerouac emerges as a complex and contradictory character, who craved solititude but was famed for his beat lifestyle and drinking binges and as someone who sought refuge in living with his mother but refused to recognise his own daughter. There is a wonderful, poignant contrast between Kerouac's early days trying to get published and his subsequent descent into alcoholism as he tries to avoid tabloid notoriety.

This book makes other biographies of Kerouac look rather puny. Maher has cemented his own place in US literature with this work and I look forward to his future projects.

Christmas at Thrush Green
Christmas at Thrush Green
by Miss Read
Edition: Hardcover
32 used & new from $0.77

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite Miss Read, December 14, 2009
I was surpised to see this title for sale as in her last book Miss Read claimed she was laying down her pen with "a thankful heart". It was only after buying the book I realised it was, in fact, a joint collaboration with her long-time editor.

It seems that Miss Read developed the story-line whilst Jenny Dereham wrote the words. Unfortunately, it's the words (rather than plot) which provide the great joy of the Thrush Green and Fairacre series, and the resulting collaboration is rather flat. In particular, there is a lot of exposition and back-story (every time a character appears for the first time) which weighs down the narrative. A lot of the time, statements just don't convince. Poppy complains of "handling customers' smelly feet" at the shoe shop, as if she were providing a chiropody service rather than selling footwear, and I just didn't believe in the Guild of Teashops, which provides one story line. Also people in Thrush Green seem to have developed the strange habit of talking in complete sentences, whereas Miss Read always had the surest knack for dialog.

In short, it's as if you have gone into The Fuchsia Bush cafe and been served a shop-bought scone. It's pleasant but not quite the treat you were expecting.

No Title Available

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slick sex, vivid violence, March 9, 2009
This has got to be one of the longest films I've ever watched but I wished it would never end. It's hard to organise my thoughts into a coherent whole but here are a few pointers:

- Jackie Earle Haley deserves an Oscar for his portrayal of hard-as-nails Eastwoodesque vigilante Rorschach

- Billy Crudup deserves an Oscar for Best Actor in a Nude Role

- you get to see superheroes making love

- the music blows your mind: Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, 99 Red Balloons (in German)

- there are more ideas in the first five minutes than in the whole of most Hollywood releases

This movie made me wish I had read the original comic strip in the 1980s. In fact I've never read comics seriously but I understood (I think) and loved every minute of The Watchmen.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Edition: Paperback
Price: $5.36
37 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary storyteller, February 16, 2009
I had always thought that I had read nearly all of F. Scott Fitzgerald's short stories. It wasn't until the recent film came out that I realised I was wrong. In this collection of seven pieces, The Cut-glass Bowl and May Day are relatively well known but Benjaim Button, O Russet Witch! and The Four Fists were entirely new to me.

There is a heavy vein of irony running throughout Fitzgerald's work. In BB, his family and friends treat his rapidly-shrinking age as if he were persisting in performing a slightly bizarre party-trick of which they were starting to tire.

I particularly like Fitzgerald's perfect ear for words. He describes Button's ageing wife as having, "a faint skirmish of grey hairs in her head", which since he had been talking about the Spanish-American War, is a touch of genius. And in Head and Shoulders (another new story for me) the hero's girlfriend "drapes the last skeins of a Welsh rabbit on her fork" while waiting for him to speak. The author can make even such minor moments in his narratives shine.

Perhaps my favourite story here is Four Fists, in which a businessman philosophically recalls his life in terms of four epiphanies when he was hit on the nose, almost as if were literally having some sense knocked into him.

There is wry comedy too:

"It's the only way," she gasped in a sort of triumphant malignity. "The only thing that keeps old folks like me happy is the sense that they can make other people step around. To be old and rich and have poor descendants is almost as much fun as to be young and beautiful and have ugly sisters"

("O Russet Witch", who proves in the end to be all too human.)

Fitzgerald's dark humor is something which it is almost impossible to transfer to celluloid; the latest attempt with Brad Pitt scorns even to try. However these tales remain masterpieces of the short story genre with their economy of language, wit and cynical eye and are true gems of American literature

No Title Available

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Boring Tale of Benjamin Button, February 11, 2009
Benjamin Button (son of the Button's Buttons tycoon, Mr Button) is born old in the early years of the twentieth century and gradually gets younger. While this was fine as the premise of Scott Fitzgerald's short story, it is way too flimsy to amount to much of a movie.

Brad Pitt and love interest Cate Blanchett mooch around looking beautiful but even this palls after a while. Tilda Swinton and an Irish sea captain (Jared Harris) try to perk things up midway but they aren't on screen long enough to sustain interest. There is simply too much sloppy writing: Do people drink tea to get to sleep? Do tugboats cross the Atlantic? Do tugboat men stay at the same hotels as diplomats? The list goes on.

The worst moment comes when Daisy, a ballerina, does a romantic dance on the riverside to try to entice bashful Ben Button into bed. The whole (very long) movie abounds with such cliches.

The special effects are wonderful though and there are some amusing moments but this film will only thrill people who find The Waltons too cutting edge.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 24, 2009 11:16 PM PST

Rachel Getting Married
Rachel Getting Married
DVD ~ Anne Hathaway
Price: $5.42
262 used & new from $0.01

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wedding, interrupted, February 2, 2009
This review is from: Rachel Getting Married (DVD)
Kym (Anne Hathaway) has been in rehab and this film begins with her homecoming for her sister Rachel's wedding. Everything seems to have been planned without her and sparks fly as a variety of family relationships (her parents have remarried; her brother died as a youngster) come under strain.

Hathaway is superb in the the central role (I particularly enjoyed her scenes with Debra Winger as her mother), seeming to channel Winona Rider at her best. And overall this is a masterpiece of ensemble acting, almost faultless. But there are one or two dud scenes and a big puzzle for me was how underwritten the part of Rachel's husband is. He hardly says a word for the first part of the movie and as a result there is zero chemistry between him and his bride and him and his best man.

Despite the caliber of the cast, some of the plot defies logic. Rachel says to her father, can I talk to you in the kitchen? and the whole party follows them (including a balalaika player) for their "private" conversation.

Such strangeness threatens to sink what is otherwise an assured example of the tricky genre of romantic drama/recovery story. As someone in the audience next to me said, "This is one weird (and very long) wedding."

Elite Wrestling: Your Moves for Success On and Beyond the Mat
Elite Wrestling: Your Moves for Success On and Beyond the Mat
by Thomas Ryan
Edition: Paperback
40 used & new from $1.84

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars High-quality wrestling guide, January 27, 2009
This book contains lots of personal testimonies from experienced coaches past and present, describing how they put together their wrestling programs and inspired their athletes. It's of intrest to wrestlers of all levels, for inspiration and a sourcebook for ideas.

Made in America: The Most Dominant Champion in UFC History
Made in America: The Most Dominant Champion in UFC History
by Matt Hughes
Edition: Hardcover
136 used & new from $0.01

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars UFC fighter tells his story, March 10, 2008
Matt Hughes, as the cover blurb states, may be the "most dominant champion in UFC history" but he sure isn't the nicest guy in the world. I'm not certain that this matters a great deal.

His autobiography is however exciting, truthful and well-structured, thanks mainly to the hard work of his co-author, the wonderfully-named Michael Malice. I like the honesty of his account and the humor too. Perhaps the funniest thing is the photo of Matt Hughes sat in front of a manual typewriter, claiming to be "spending another long night completing the manuscript" of his book. In truth Hughes wouldn't know a manuscript if one bit him on the nose.

It's this lack of self-knowledge which gives the book its strange tone. Hughes, thanks to the Herculean efforts of his friends and twin brother finds God on a Mexican hill-top. As a lapsed Christian myself, I found this quite moving. But he then identifies himself as someone who is always trying to help others, despite there being hardly any instances of him helping anyone outside his own close circle of family and training buddies in the whole book.

Also, despite his bad behavior (including deserting his son from a casual relationship) he criticises MMA legend Randy Couture several times for getting a divorce, even though he barely knows the guy.

On the positive side, his UFC fights and the atmosphere of Pat Miletich's training room are well described. He's also without vanity, telling the assistant on a photo shoot (quite truthfully) that he gets his clothes from a Salvation Army charity shop. His story is also interesting because he must be one of the first amateur wrestlers (he was a two-time All-American champ) to make a career out of MMA - sadly there aren't the same avenues for minority sports stars as there are for college football or basketball players.

Above all, I like his unapologetic attitude towards his profession. "Fighting solves everything," he says and he talks of "that switch within us that gets turned on and can only be turned off by violence". Thankfully with a little help from his wife (and God perhaps) Hughes is just about able to contain his demons and he should be applauded for sharing his life, warts and all, so openly in this surprising and often laugh-out-loud funny book.

Running With Scissors
Running With Scissors
DVD ~ Joseph Cross
Offered by Media Megalodon
Price: $4.80
403 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Flat but faithful adaptation, July 6, 2007
This review is from: Running With Scissors (DVD)
I really wanted to see Running with Scissors when in opened last year, as I love the book. Unfortunately, it was only on for a week at a few screens before closing, and having bought the DVD I can appreciate why.

The book is Burrough's account of his childhood when his crazy mother leaves him to be looked after by her even crazier shrink and his family. It's a remarkable achievement as the author manages to make the often alarming events of his upbringing touching and funny.

The film, though an accurate (but abridged) reflection of the book, seems to miss out on the fact that it's supposed to be a comedy. This is chiefly because it makes Augusten's mother the focus of the plot, when in the book it's her absence which is the driving force. Annette Bening does a fine portrayal of mental derangement but only captures the flavor of the novel occassionally, in for example, a bizarre poetry-reading she organises for her would-be literary friends.

I liked Evan Rachel Wood's performance as Augusten's friend Natalie but she's only given a little screen time, when she should really be a central character. My favorite scenes in the novel - diving through the college waterfall and a trip whale-watching off Cape Cod - involve her but are omitted entirely here.

The only time the movie truly flickers into life for me was during the closing credits, when the real-life Augusten Burroughs stands next to the actor playing his young self. But this single moment of playfulness and humor (qualities seen repeatedly in the book), isn't enough to save a film.

DVD ~ Danny Mousetis
Offered by Collectible Media
Price: $29.98
19 used & new from $11.85

2.0 out of 5 stars Good action, bad acting, June 16, 2007
This review is from: Reversal (DVD)
Reversal tells the story of high school wrestler Leo, who is trained by his father. I enjoyed watching other wrestling movies, like Vision Quest and Hadley's Rebellion and I'm glad I saw Reversal but there are more than a few problems with it.

The film's biggest fault is its lack of focus. It's not sure if it wants the main story to be the sacrifices teenage athletes have to make, or Leo's relationship with his girlfriend, or his father.

Also, a lot of the characters are paper-thin; more specifically, Jimi Petulla is spectacularly miscast. As the father/coach he should be a blue-collar coal worker who spends his time swabbing down the wrestling room floor but instead he looks as if he's just walked off the set of Desperate Housewives. In fact, he's such a nice guy it is hard to see what Leo is rebelling against.

Danny Mousetis as Leo is fine but he's so grumpy and sullen it's hard to have much sympathy for him.

The cinematography is great and the wrestling action is for real but this is not enough to save a movie which has so many acting and structural problems.

As the DVD extras show, a ducumentary on high school grappling is what is really needed. A wrestling equivalent of Friday Night Lights is something I would pay good money to see.

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