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Signs [VHS]
Signs [VHS]
Offered by Back In Stock
Price: $5.32
109 used & new from $0.01

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I see dumb people, January 9, 2003
This review is from: Signs [VHS] (VHS Tape)
"Signs" was a dull, silly mishmash of a movie. It tried to be a scary thriller with thematic content, but failed on both counts. It also ripped-off "Independence Day", "Panic Room", and "Night of the Living Dead".
"Signs" opens in aptly named Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Mel Gibson�s character, Graham Hess � an ex-preacher who lost his faith when his wife died � has become a farmer. Since family farms are notoriously unprofitable, and Bucks County real-estate notoriously expensive, I can�t imagine how Hess survives � particularly since we never see him so much as turn over a shovelful of earth. Is it one of those farms where they�re paid *not* to grow anything? Are there hemp plants hidden among the cornstalks?
One morning, Hess notices that his fields have acquired crop circles overnight. Are they the work of rowdy teens, or is Something Out There? We already know the answer from the scary, tingly music at the beginning; but we have to sit through much aimless meandering before the movie lets us in on the "secret".
Hess and his family cower in their house, passively waiting for the aliens to show up. Meanwhile, they pass the time with sappy stories ("When you were born�") � instead of stockpiling food, water, firewood, weapons (they�re rural guys with pickup trucks, so surely they must have gun collections) � like anyone with half a brain would.
*Spoiler warning*.
Spaceships arrive, and everyone obsessively monitors their progress on TV. One alien is caught on videotape, crashing a backyard birthday party. The networks broadcast the tape, and the alien is finally shown � walking like "Bigfoot", and looking like the Creature from the Black Lagoon in the 1950s movies. After all that suspense � the aliens are *little green men*? How does a movie this creatively bankrupt even get made?
Panic ensues in the outside world � we assume. All we actually *see* is Hess� family barricaded in their basement (unnecessarily, since the aliens, despite their mastery of intergalactic travel, apparently can�t work a simple door).
The next day, the radio announces that the aliens are gone, as abruptly and arbitrarily as they arrived. The only explanation offered for this is that some guys in the Middle East defeated a few of them by "primitive methods undisclosed at this time" (??), and the rest instantly fled.
Except for one left behind � who, furthermore, bears a grudge against Hess. The lone remaining alien is quickly and effortlessly dispatched using water (no, he doesn�t squeal, "Help me, I�m melting!", which at least would have been *intentionally* funny) and a baseball bat. Where/how did the guys who routed the other aliens find water and/or baseball bats in the middle of the desert?
Hess & Co. are saved. Hess decides that, since he won this round, there IS a divine plan after all. Hess and God kiss and make up; and the conclusion is that mysticism is not only morally superior to rationality, but also works better from a practical standpoint� or that since aliens are real, so are all other supernatural beings� or that if you believe in God/Allah/Vishnu, He/She/It will save your bacon when the going gets tough.
This simpleminded "God and baseball" theme is exacerbated by cardboard characterization. Mel Gibson plays the same sort of rah-rah reactionary doofus he�s already played in half a dozen movies. To be absolutely sure that everybody "gets" his virtuousness, the movie makes him a preacher AND a farmer; the only way they could have made him more saintly is to give him a volunteer job working with handicapped puppies. Mel gets to use only one of his two facial expressions � the furrowed brow of manly resolve � the roguish twinkle is absent, probably because the only non-dead woman in the movie is a police officer.
Hess is established as a namby-pamby from the beginning � he can�t force himself to swear, not even to keep his house from being broken into. He was even a priss throughout the supposedly cathartic binge-eating scene � Bruce Willis would have shoveled those mashed potatoes in with both hands.
Supporting cast members Cherry Jones and Rory Culkin were fine. As for Joaquin Phoenix � why is he even *in* "Signs"? He had absolutely nothing to do except baby-sit � and even that was unnecessary, since Mel was always home. What did they need Phoenix for? They could easily have made Mel a ballplayer � or not, since you don�t have to be Mark McGuire to brain somebody with a bat.
The daughter was one of the most gratingly cutesie-poo kiddie characters I�ve ever seen; her phobic neurosis made her even more repellent. After the second time she pushed away her water glass, I was itching to empty it over her, methodically soaking every inch of her face, hair, and clothing.
The religious content was simultaneously preachy and pointless. I couldn�t care less whether a fictitious character believes in another, equally fictitious, character � so restoring Hess� "faith" was no more commendable than restoring his belief in Santa Claus.
Shyamalan�s depiction of religion as a wishing well was morally repugnant. Hess� beliefs fluctuate according to whether or not he�s getting his way at a given moment: "My wife died! Boy, am I mad at God!�The aliens went away, so now I like God again (even though he was presumably the one who let them invade earth in the first place)�My shoelace broke; looks like that�s it for God.", etc. Incidentally, a supernatural being so devoid of ethics and integrity that he resorts to endangering children to frighten his followers into submission is a bully at best, if not outright psychotic. Is this supposed to be God � or the Boogeyman?
"Signs" is neither a well-thought-out parable about religion, nor entertaining trash. It�s a two-hour-long "Like a Rock" truck commercial with aliens and proselytizing. Asinine screenplay, plodding pace, holey (not holy) logic, self-indulgent direction (that *subtle* cameo?!) � this full-of-itself mess wouldn�t have made a good "X-Files" episode, let alone movie. Caution. Stop. Do Not Enter.

White Oleander
White Oleander
by Janet Fitch
Edition: Hardcover
604 used & new from $0.01

18 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Aims high, but misses, November 25, 2002
This review is from: White Oleander (Hardcover)
"White Oleander" by Janet Fitch was an ambitious, well-written book which doesn't quite hit the high mark the author set for it.
The story is that of a sensitive, artistically talented girl named Astrid. When Astrid is twelve, her mother Ingrid goes to prison for murdering a lover who dumped her. Astrid, whose biological father disappeared long ago, is sent to a succession of foster homes, all of which are disastrous in different ways.
The book is an Oprah pick, it's been on the bestseller list for ages, everybody's raved about it -- so maybe I was expecting too much -- but it didn't live up to its potential.
Astrid's mother Ingrid? Couldn't stand her. She should have been a flawed yet fascinating character -- a beautiful, talented, obviously intelligent free spirit, simultaneously inspiring and exasperating. Instead, she came across as an unintentional self-parody.
Something could have been made of Ingrid's attempts to live in a world that doesn't have a place for creative people, or headstrong people, or people who don't want to be Ward/June Cleaver. But Ingrid was an insufferable, self-conscious, self-aggrandizing bohemian -- the sort of person who invariably refers to the suburbs as "the burbs" -- forever declaiming, in eye-rollingly flowery language, about what a struggle it is for sensitive, misunderstood geniuses like herself to have to deal with ordinary people and their nine-to-five jobs and button-down lives, blah blah blah.
And can we send her Viking ancestors to Valhalla, already? She invoked them every time she behaved inappropriately, which was way too often. Most of us probably had a few noteworthy ancestors in all of recorded history, but I don't tell people I'm descended from Macchiavelli every time I run a yellow light.
Astrid (the daughter) was much more credible and likeable than Ingrid -- and since it's essentially Astrid's story, that's crucial. Fitch does a good job with Astrid's characterization. It was interesting to watch Astrid gradually mature to the point where, near the end of the book, she was a worthy opponent for her narcissistic, egomaniacal mother. I enjoyed the fact, too, that no matter where Astrid was, or what she was doing, her artwork was always there. But for the life of me, I couldn't warm up to her. I felt sorry for her, I understood why she was the way she was, I admired her perseverance and determination -- but she never touched my heart.
Even though Astrid was a competently rendered character, the book was somewhat flawed. The opening subplot was completely lacking in credibility. In the first place, Barry, Ingrid's ex-lover, was repeatedly described as short, tubby, and unattractive, with a greasy ponytail and tacky polyester clothes. An image-conscious snob like Ingrid wouldn't have let a slob like Barry empty her wastebaskets, let alone had a passionate affair with him. Such contact as the "Barrys" of the world have with the "Ingrids" of the world usually consists of listening supportively when the "Ingrids" phone them at inconvenient times to complain about their sexy but callous *real* boyfriends.
Secondly, dumpy unattractive men don't ditch full-breasted blond goddesses except on "Seinfeld". Ingrid, whatever her shortcomings as a mother, was beautiful, charming, witty, sexy, and semi-famous. Even supposing that Ingrid would have condescended to date Barry at all, she wouldn't have lost him -- she probably couldn't have blasted him out of her house with dynamite.
Thirdly, it was out of character for Ingrid to actually murder Barry -- it would have been more like her to have wept and raged melodramatically for days/weeks, written some bitterly vindictive poems featuring luridly exaggerated descriptions of Barry's physical/sexual imperfections, restored her ego with a succession of twenty-year-old bar pickups, and then gone on to her next victim.
Fourthly, the murder described in the book won't fly. Despite the first three implausibilities, Ingrid might possibly murder Barry in some impulsive, grandiose, operatic, push-off-a-cliff way, but she had too short an attention span for poisoning: Somewhere in the midst of all the plotting and planning and driving around, she would have come to her senses, or decided Barry was "a small, sadly ordinary person" (as she'd undoubtedly word it) and therefore not important enough to kill, or met somebody else, or just plain lost interest in the project.
There was also the problem of the book being such a relentless downer. I don't doubt that some foster homes are as abusive as Fitch describes them -- and hopefully this book's popularity will raise people's awareness of that -- but this was overkill. Two or at most three foster homes would have been enough to make it clear that Astrid got stuck into a series of dreadful environments and learned to mistrust and manipulate everybody as a result.
I don't know why the plot tangent about Annie was included. It had no relation to anything else, and wasn't especially interesting.
Bottom line: Good writing, thought-provoking story, well-executed main character, cartoonishly evil second lead, implausible plot, depressing middle segment, triumph-over-adversity theme that could have been better conveyed, unsatisfying and incomplete-feeling resolution. "A" for effort, "B-minus" for content; worth at least one read, but get it from the library.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 30, 2009 8:55 AM PDT

Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber: The Katya Livingston Chronicles
Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber: The Katya Livingston Chronicles
by Adèle Lang
Edition: Hardcover
184 used & new from $0.01

13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Fatuous, September 27, 2002
"Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber" by Adele Lang was about half a dozen good chuckles above the level of an outright stinker.
The book, which could have been hilarious but missed, can best be described as "The Evil Anti-Bridget Jones' Diary". Katya Livingston, like Bridget Jones, is a single thirtyish Englishwoman -- but unlike Bridget, who is sweet and earnest despite her dysfunctional qualities, Katya is conniving, vindictive, egomaniacal -- and too often, just plain nasty.
For an example of how this sort of character/story is supposed to be done, read Dorothy Parker's short story, "Diary of a New York Lady". Then read it again. Go ahead, I'll wait.
La-de-da, dum-de-dum [taps foot, buffs fingernails].
Oh, good, you're back. Now do you see how a witty, clever, insightful story about a neurotic, pea-brained, self-absorbed social climber *should* read? Note the light, subtle touch, the deft use of language, the compassion that makes the character human rather than a two-dimensional cartoon? Now flip through a few pages of "Confessions".
Even worse than you'd originally thought, isn't it?
"Confessions" suffers -- first, foremost, and always -- from an unsympathetic and unconvincingly portrayed protagonist (I can hardly call Katya the "heroine"). Despite the fact that everybody has an inner brat that's greedy for too much of everything, it was impossible to identify with Katya. I didn't like her. I didn't feel sorry for her, although it was clear that she had a pretty pathetic life despite her bluff and bravado. I didn't enjoy her escapades in a scandalous, guilty-pleasure, "I wish I could get away with that" sort of way. She's evidently supposed to be charmingly naughty a la "Absolutely Fabulous" -- she did everything but wink at the audience and smirk, "Ain't I something?" -- but I found her simultaneously obnoxious and dull.
The other huge, insurmountable problem is that, as everyone who has ever watched "Saturday Night Live" knows, a joke that was basically good to begin with, and then is run into the ground, eventually invokes the law of diminishing returns to the point where you're moaning, "Please, someone, make it stop!". The characters and events that make an entertaining 10-page story cannot, take my word for it, adequately sustain a 200-page book.
The net result is that of the same 10-page story repeated 20 times, with minor differences; and becoming increasingly more shrill, labored, and thuddingly unfunny with each successive repetition. Katya is hideously rude. Katya treats everybody like dirt. Katya abuses alcohol and/or other drugs. Katya spends a ton of money she doesn't have on yet another shopping binge of extravagant designer clothes. Katya goofs off at work. Katya makes a play for somebody completely inappropriate, demonstrating in the process that she ridiculously overestimates her attractiveness to men. Katya exploits her long-suffering doormat friends, whom she seems to actively dislike, but who nonetheless never seem to wise up to her... over and over, and on and on.
For the first fifty pages, I was -- I admit it -- often chuckling, and occasionally guffawing out loud. By page 100, I was muttering, "Okay, already -- I get the idea". By page 150, "Confessions" had become more a source of frustration than anything else. I'd pretty much given up hope that the rest of the book would be anything but still more variations on the same theme, and probably not even particularly interesting variations. Although there were still a few widely scattered snickers, I had an unpleasant suspicion that any hope of anything resembling a good wholehearted belly laugh, let alone character development or a plot, was pure wishful thinking. PS, I was right.
There are at least a dozen authors who do wicked humor better. Cynthia Heimel, S.J. Perelman, and Bill Bryson spring immediately to mind. In addition to the many humor books that succeed where this book tries and fails, there are at least another dozen "girl power" and "bad girl" books on the shelves of any bookstore in any town that succeed where this book tries and fails. "Confessions" does have a few good laughs, but unless you can pick up a thrift-store copy for a quarter (which ought to be sometime next week), it's not worth bothering with.

Bee Season: A Novel
Bee Season: A Novel
by Myla Goldberg
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.91
637 used & new from $0.01

27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars O-V-E-R-R-A-T-E-D, September 13, 2002
This review is from: Bee Season: A Novel (Paperback)
"Bee Season" by Myla Goldberg is about the gradual disintegration of a dysfunctional family. It�s well-written, but tough going -- and I�m not sure it was worth the effort.
Each member of the Naumann family is obsessive-compulsively seeking control and perfection in a completely different way. Saul, the husband/father, is basically well-meaning, but clueless and shallow. He tries to spend time with his kids -- partly because he truly cares, partly because he feels obligated, and partly so he can encourage them to excel, thereby deriving vicarious pleasure from their accomplishments. When Aaron is the prodigy in the family, Saul spends time exclusively with Aaron -- and woe to anyone who interrupts. When Eliza�s star begins to rise, Saul switches his attentions to her, and Aaron is abruptly left out in the cold. Saul, who at least tries to interact with his children, is the better of the two parents (I suppose it�s a rare parent who *never* has mixed feelings toward his kids, anyway). His flaws are a product of thoughtlessness, not malice. As things get increasingly problematic, Saul tries -- first earnestly, then desperately -- to hold them together.
Eliza, the sister/daughter, is an average student -- or has she been unfairly labeled average? It�s discovered that she has an extraordinary talent for spelling; she begins to eclipse Aaron as the achiever in the family as she wins first small, then ever larger spelling bees (hence the book�s title). Saul, anxious to be on whatever team is winning, starts coaching Eliza -- but, not content to have Eliza develop her talent simply as something she enjoys and excels at, he urges her to pursue spelling in the context of an esoteric subcategory of Judaism. Eliza, accustomed to being considered a nonentity, enjoys the attention and accomplishment, but isn�t ready for the kind of fanatical scholarship that Saul wants of her. She�s eager for his love and approval, but aware that she�s being used. Eventually, tired of being a performing animal, she upsets the applecart.
Aaron, the teenaged son/brother, is a classic geek -- badly dressed, socially inept, no friends except the other outcasts. He�s understandably hurt and angry when his father abandons him in favor of Eliza. He fills the void by shopping for a new religion, and becomes drawn into Hare Krishna, a religion which sounds (as depicted in this book) like obsessive-compulsive heaven --don�t do this, do say that, don�t think that, do chew your food this number of times -- and ends up spending all day, every day, constantly striving and fretting over minutiae, and never quite getting it right. It was horrifying to watch brainy Aaron get stupider by the day, yet I never felt sorry for him because he was such a willing participant in his own destruction.
Miriam, the wife/mother, is distant and strange, though we don�t find out until the end of the book just how strange. She works compulsively, cleans compulsively, and is in compulsive pursuit of "Perfectimundo" (the name gives some idea of what�s involved), which requires an elaborately constructed/maintained double life. She�s the least likeable, or credible, character. Granted, she�s supposed to be at best neurotic, if not psychotic, but she still has a viewpoint and motivations that are meaningful to her, and they�re not coming across. What�s missing in Miriam�s life? What drives her to do the things she does? The portrait of her character could have been that of a woman becoming progressively more unraveled and out-of-control in (ironically) her quest for control and perfection -- but I didn�t get a sense of that.
I found this book overrated -- not bad, but overrated. It was well-written, to be sure, and all the more impressive for being a debut novel -- but I thought it was good, not great. I kept putting it down without much eagerness to pick it back up again (usually a bad sign). The reviews used words like "astonishing", "brilliant", and "superb" -- but like Saul�s "parenting", I was reading as much from a sense of obligation as from a genuine enjoyment of the book itself. Perhaps it was a question of unrealistic expectations. Perhaps I was missing something that everybody else was getting. Or perhaps the book would get better if I stuck with it. So I pressed on -- but it never really grabbed me.
The writing was skillful, and although dysfunctional family books have been done to death in the past few years, the story had enough fresh twists so that I wasn�t thinking, "THIS again?".
But that simply wasn�t enough. For one thing, it�s difficult to enjoy a book where two of the four main characters (Miriam and Aaron) are so unlikable -- and the other two weren�t wonderful, either, they were just OK.
For another thing, the book was a bit too over-the-top, to the point where I felt that some of it was weird sheerly for the sake of weirdness. Miriam becoming progressively crazier and hiding it from everyone -- OK, things like that happen. Aaron turning into a religious crackpot -- hmm, that�s an awful lot of craziness for one family, but then I suppose you can�t expect a delusional mother to raise healthy kids. By the time Eliza had her seizure/religious vision/hissy fit/whatever it was, it had become The Obligatory Crazy Scene; and I wondered what Saul would do when it was his turn: Foam at the mouth? Invent an imaginary friend? Start talking exclusively in Pig Latin?
"Bee Season" was for me the literary equivalent of a date with a perfectly nice, pleasant, admirable person -- with whom you have absolutely no chemistry whatsoever. I wanted to like the book -- I appreciated its positive qualities -- but it just didn�t do a thing for me. On the other hand, there�s nothing much wrong with it, either -- it�s original, well executed, and often thought-provoking. Worth a look if you like family dramas.

The Bombshell Manual of Style
The Bombshell Manual of Style
by Laren Stover
Edition: Hardcover
145 used & new from $0.01

216 of 275 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not exactly da bomb, August 30, 2002
"The Bombshell Manual of Style" by Laren Stover was a major disappointment. It's one of those schlocky "empowerment through high heels" things that have unaccountably become popular lately -- and not even a particularly good example of its ilk -- made even worse by combining it with schlocky nostalgia, a la the movie "Swingers". I kept waiting for the book to turn into a bitter parody of itself, i.e., "The Bimbo Manual of Style, 1957 Edition" (which at least would have been entertaining), but it never did -- or not intentionally. If only Ms. Stover had been content to let the book remain a frothy romp through vintage-style glamour, instead of also trying to make it a how-to book. It aimed for glitzy, missed, and ended up embarrassing, like reading old issues of "Cosmo".
"Bombshell" encourages its readers to derive self-worth from that which is dumbest, silliest, and most trivial about femininity. It pretends otherwise, telling us that bombshells are intelligent, authentic, compassionate, etc. -- then suggests prancing into a job interview braless in a tight sweater. I can't see intelligent, authentic, compassionate women like Marie Curie or Rosa Parks or Mother Theresa doing that; so while a bombshell might be *permitted* to be intelligent, authentic, and compassionate, those qualities are clearly secondary -- what she's *required* to be is a busty floozy. I'm well aware that women have hearts and bodies as well as minds -- that we can be smart, strong, and functional while also enjoying love, sex, men, and traditionally feminine pursuits -- and three cheers for all that.
I also want to make clear that I usually enjoy frivolous fun and/or "girlie" books. I loved "Kiss my Tiara", "Sex Tips for Girls", and "The Sweet Potato Queens' Guide to Life". I enjoyed "The Grrl Genius Guide to Life", "Mama Gena's School of Womanly Arts", "Miss Piggy's Guide to Life", and most of "The Bad Girl's Guide to Life" (all these books, by the way, do what this book tries to do, with far more amusing and helpful results). But there are limits.
First of all, "Bombshell" assumes that 1950s-style femininity is good clean fun; innocent of social/cultural baggage, and bravely persevering despite a conspiracy of spoilsports to forbid it. I like dressing up and flirting as much as anyone; I'll admit that cleavage flaunting and the occasional tantrum have their place; and I work out faithfully, get pedicures, and wear perfume.
What I find baffling and irritating is the notion that this is somehow rebellious -- as though there were Orwellian puritans prowling the streets, slapping lipsticks out of women's hands. I've never encountered anybody like that; but every single day of my life, I encounter movies, TV shows, magazines, advertisements -- and yes, books -- telling me in blatant and subtle ways that I should wear makeup, dye my hair, get "cosmetic" surgery, etc. Whether or not I comply is optional (so far), but one can't have it both ways. An image mandated by all of corporate capitalism, all of the mainstream media, and all of popular culture, cannot possibly be considered rebellious -- or even original. Fishnet hose may be fun, but they're not "fighting the power".
Secondly, "Bombshell" is off-puttingly dated. Almost nothing in it postdates 1960. For example, one chapter is devoted entirely to perfumes popular between 1920-50 ("Jicky"? OK, Collette wore it, but where do they even sell it nowadays? In one shop in Paris?), including an elaborate, gushing description of one that no longer exists ("My Sin"). Everything introduced after 1980, no matter how popular it is/was, gets lumped together in a one-sentence dismissal, apparently because the fragrances of that era are too old to be trendy -- but, unlike the equally untrendy perfumes the author praises, are not yet old enough to be nostalgic.
Thirdly, "Bombshell" conveniently overlooks the fact that being a bombshell went out of style for a reason -- it didn't work. Women have had the past few thousand years (surely a fair trial period for testing a theory) in which to act like shallow airheads, and it hasn't done us or anyone else any good. We still don't have world peace, comparable pay, or even a decent parking space.
Stilettos and simpering only worked for beauties and movie stars -- and usually, not even for them. Marilyn Monroe, whom "Bombshell" constantly cites, had a miserably unhappy life, abused drugs and alcohol, and died, probably of suicide, while she was still in her thirties. So did Dorothy Dandridge, another of the book's "role models". Elizabeth Taylor has been divorced -- what, eight times? -- and in and out of rehab repeatedly. I don't wish to be unkind to any of the ladies in this book, but their combined track record suggests that its methods produce less than successful results.
There's also a strangely artificial feel to "Bombshell". It has the same relationship to actual women as Ralph Lauren ads have to actual cowboys. Real-life women don't dress or act that way. With the exception of a few starlets and showgirls, nobody did, not even in those days. This book isn't about women in the 1950s -- it's about *movie characters* in the 1950s.
Retro can be charming and fascinating in its own way, and there are several good books about various elements of retro style. "Bombshell" wasn't one of them. Those who don't enjoy this sort of thing should skip it. Those who *do* enjoy this sort of thing should *also* skip it, because they'd be better off watching Marilyn Monroe videos, listening to Frank Sinatra CDs, or reading hard-boiled detective stories (since those always seem to have at least one bombshell "dame" in them). Ms. Stover should have put together a coffee table book about vintage clothes, music, and movies; and gotten it out of her system. The illustrations in this book are delightful -- but otherwise, this "bombshell" is a dud.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 15, 2012 1:21 AM PDT

The Tightwad Gazette: Promoting Thrift As A Viable Alternative Lifestyle
The Tightwad Gazette: Promoting Thrift As A Viable Alternative Lifestyle
by Amy Dacyczyn
Edition: Paperback
276 used & new from $0.01

30 of 48 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How to Save ($$$), August 28, 2002
I have mixed feelings about "The Tightwad Gazette" by Amy Daczyczyn.
Some suggestions are practical. The observation that consumers are expected/encouraged to spend all that we make -- and if our incomes increase, to spend still more -- The concept that one should not merely restrict, but *prioritize* spending -- clarified some assumptions I'd already had, and made me re-think other assumptions.
But other suggestions are so absurd as to be simultaneously cringe-inducing and hilarious, as when Amy suggests cutting a piece out of an intact sock to patch its holey mate. Is my arithmetic wrong, or would the end result of all that effort be zero intact socks instead of one?
Sometimes it seems like Amy doesn't comprehend what money is *for*. Here, she suggests "saving 50%" by lathering once, rather than twice, with shampoo. There, she suggests using half the usual amount of coffee when brewing a pot. This is advice we're supposed to be paying for? I'm perfectly capable of figuring out on my own that half as much shampoo/coffee costs less than the full amount.
Suggestions like these are not only inane, but also miss the point on some basic fundamental level -- they're like saying that leaving your car in the garage improves its fuel efficiency. Of course half-strength "coffee" would be cheaper -- but it would also be undrinkable. I think what most consumers want to know is how to get the most value out of whatever amount we do spend. If Amy knows where to get coffee for half price, she should tell us -- if not, she shouldn't waste our time and insult our intelligence trying to persuade us that brown water is just as good. Morning comes early around these here parts, buckaroo, and those of us with day jobs don't take kindly to folks messing with our caffeine!
Admittedly, it's difficult for me to evaluate the content of this book objectively, because while reading it, I developed a pronounced distaste for the author. She's currently in a tie with the authors of "The Rules" for the author whom I'd least like to meet. If I were more compassionate, perhaps I'd find the book a fascinating account of a mind that gives every indication of suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder. As it was, I just found it annoying. Every page radiates self-congratulatory smugness and narcissism, if not outright megalomania.
There's way too much guilt-tripping of non-tightwads, too. At one point, she posits a scenario wherein her neighbor nervously justifies an expensive phone bill. Get over yourself, Amy! Just because you're obsessed with money doesn't mean everybody else is, and nobody who isn't terminally codependent could care less whether you approve of their phone bill.
As anyone who reads this book will see, Amy has some appallingly extreme attitudes/practices -- as when she rhapsodizes about how much she's saving by dressing her children in thrift-shop clothing and feeding them leftovers and powdered milk -- which was particularly grating in light of her continual tiresome references to her many pregnancies and grandiose description of herself as a "matriarch". I wondered what the matriarch was doing with the money she saved that was more important than buying food, milk, and clothes for her children.
This would be distressing enough, at least at the bizarre extremes to which Amy takes her "philosophy" -- at one point (I swear I am not making this up), she suggests decorating a cake with *ten-year-old candies*! -- but she's also inconsistent. There's an irritatingly puritanical "this-is-good-enough-for-the-likes-of-you" tone underlying her advice, which somehow doesn't apply when Amy wants something expensive, e.g., her vintage farmhouse on a sprawling plot of land, "with attic, basement, and barns for storage". Vintage farmhouses on multi-acre lots are cheap neither to buy nor to restore nor to maintain -- nor, presumably, to heat, since they live in Maine -- and using half one's living area for storage strikes me as an inefficient use of rent/mortgage money. If that were anybody else, Amy would be scolding them to throw out all their "junk" and move into a nice cheap 500-square-foot trailer.
She asserts that brand-name pet food is worth extra because it's superior to store brands. Pet food is essentially the same irrespective of the brand name. Even the big supermarket chains don't have their own pet-food factories; as with store brand stringbeans or aspirin, "Kroger" pet food has probably been manufactured by, say, Purina. So Amy, who approves of "trash picking", is here advising us to pay extra solely for the label. And does it chill anybody else's blood that a woman who insists on premium food for her pets turns around and feeds her children table scraps?
A story about driving across town to save ten cents on a can of tunafish (although the round-trip drive had to use more than ten cents' worth of gasoline) is followed by a story about a $700. bed that Amy just had to have. If a regular person wanted a bed, they'd simply buy it, and that would be that. But because Amy is warped on the subject of money, we're subjected to a long-winded rationalization about how the bed was *really* an "investment" (as though she couldn't have bought $700. worth of stocks if she'd wanted an investment) because it was an antique. Unfortunately, she also says that she had the bed lengthened -- thereby making it no longer an antique, since it's not in its original condition -- as the antique dealer will tell Amy's children when he buys the bed out of their attic for a-dollar-ninety-eight. Oh, well, if only she can get her family to eat 7000 cans of "bargain" tunafish, the bed will be paid for, right?
Read it (I deliberately don't say buy it, since I'm loath to make such a money-crazed whacko even richer) for the suggestions, but take with a very large grain of store-brand salt.

A Painted House
A Painted House
by John Grisham
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
725 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Departure, August 16, 2002
In "A Painted House", John Grisham breaks away from his usual yarns of suspenseful shenanigans in the legal world to write a story of a family farm, as seen through the eyes of a small boy. The result is a book in the tradition of Steinbeck and Faulkner, an interesting and fairly well-done departure from the typical Grisham novel.
Luke Chandler, age seven and a devout Cardinals fan, lives on a cotton farm outside of Black Oak, Arkansas with his parents and grandparents. Since a good harvest is essential if the family hopes to break even for the year, everybody works hard -- even young Luke, who is kept out of school to pick cotton and expected to do his share alongside the grownups. Two other groups are hired for the harvest season to help with the picking -- a truckload (literally) of Mexican migrant farmworkers and a family of "hill people". The interrelations of Luke's family, neighbors, and the two groups of pickers; and the resulting events, make up the bulk of the book.
While I enjoyed some aspects of the book, others were less successful. For starters, the book was rather leisurely paced, especially at first. That's probably appropriate to the feel and tempo of life on a small farm in the Deep South, but unfortunately, the book lacked focus, tended to ramble, and the length came at the expense of other qualities. It took some stick-to-it-iveness to get through, say, the first 50 pages. Things pick up after that point; however, some judicious cutting by a good editor would have improved matters.
Characterization was uneven. I liked Luke, and enjoyed reading about his world, so different from my childhood years. Though I'm not much of a sports fan, I was charmed by his absolute certainty that his becoming a professional baseball player was only a matter of time. But as other reviewers have mentioned, his character wasn't credible -- I could have believed that he was fourteen or twelve or even ten... but seven?
The other characters were a mixed bag. Some -- e.g., grandfather Eli ("Pappy") -- were outstanding. Others were not as well portrayed. Hulking sadist Hank was a monster straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon, apparently unstoppable, with no motives other than pure malevolence. Except for the snake-eyed, snake-hipped, lean and mean Cowboy, all the Mexicans are generic. So are the Spruills. Tally, and especially Trot, had the potential to be developed to a far greater extent -- and consequently, to be much more interesting -- than they actually were. We learn virtually nothing about Tally except that Luke is sexually attracted to her (now is he one precocious seven-year-old, or is he not?). Bo and Dale are barely mentioned all book, let alone given anything to say or do. Ricky, the relative who was off fighting the Korean War, was more vivid and engaging than many of the characters who were actually physically present.
The result is that, with a few exceptions, we get a book's worth of Luke thinking and acting against a backdrop of vague, nearly faceless characters. Some of the rambling narrative might have been trimmed, thus allowing for more detail and depth in characterization. Having Luke interact with a variety of fully fleshed-out individuals would have given the book greater richness and balance, while still having it remain Luke's story. I will say, however, to Grisham's credit, he managed for the most part to stay away from the opposing pitfalls of making the characters either salt-of-the-earth rural saints or too-bad-to-be-true rednecks.
As other reviewers have also pointed out, Grisham raises a number of questions and plot threads that are resolved inadequately, if at all. This was frustrating, since the questions and plot threads start out slowly, gradually become intriguing -- and then, after drawing us in, leave us hanging. The ending also had an abrupt feel. I felt as though so much time was spent setting up the problems that, by the time we got to even thinking about the resolutions, we were on the next-to-last page. These problems could easily have been solved by tighter writing and/or adding an additional chapter; an epilogue set one year later, or five years later, or told by the adult Luke.
Despite these problems, however, I thought the book was good overall, an interesting and generally commendable effort. The story, even given its laconic pacing, kept my attention and (except for the baseball-intensive segments) my interest. Working on a cotton farm is undoubtedly less glitzy than working in a high-powered legal firm, but there were enough twists and turns and suspense to keep me turning pages. There were a lot of nice little if-you-blink-you-miss them moments, like when the rather menacing Cowboy, star pitcher for his softball team, shows his human side long enough to teach Luke how to throw a curve ball.
It's also worthy of note and respect that Grisham was willing to write this book at all, instead of being content to remain a one-trick pony. He could very easily have played it safe and cranked out yet another legal thriller -- or ten more, since there are probably enough fans out there who would buy anything with his name on it to make that sort of thing profitable. But rather than stick to the sure-fire formula, he took a risk with something that was obviously a little more close to home (literally), and personal. The resulting book, though a bit flawed, is in some ways better and more authentic than the bestsellers. Grisham's evocation of life in that time and place is immediate and has a very real, naturalistic feel to it.
Those who want a more traditional Grisham tale and won't be truly happy with anything else should probably pass on this book. Everyone else who gives it a chance just might be pleasantly surprised.

Fight Club [VHS]
Fight Club [VHS]
Offered by Collectiblecounty
Price: $4.30
41 used & new from $0.01

45 of 132 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Huh-huh-huh, blowing stuff up is cool, August 2, 2002
This review is from: Fight Club [VHS] (VHS Tape)
"Fight Club" tries to be provocative and oh-so-hip, but it's essentially an ugly, mean-spirited -- and worse yet, *pointless* -- tantrum.
You can't help despising every one of the characters. Ed Norton plays a weak, neurotic nonentity. Helena Bonham Carter plays a thoroughly unpleasant lowlife -- the sort of woman who wouldn't care if she were wearing underwear even if she were hit by the proverbial bus (which, by the time she'd been in the movie ten minutes, I was devoutly hoping for). Brad Pitt (whose character "Tyler" inspired similar bus longings) plays an insufferable overaged brat. He's a smug, know-it-all windbag who spouts preachy anti-materialistic rants -- while wearing expensive trendy clothes -- but in garish colors, so we know that he's a "nonconformist". Luckily for Tyler, his physical attractiveness lends a specious credibility to his lectures, because their content was simplistic and hackneyed -- we've all heard it many times before, done better. If they'd cast, say, Dennis Franz in that part, the tirades would have had the underwhelming effect that they actually merited.
The movie begins with the content and theme of a fair-to-middling "Dilbert" comic strip -- suburban white guys whining about how they can no longer assume as a given a life of effortless wealth, privilege, and power. Their jobs are dull and don't offer intellectual challenge, spiritual fulfillment, or satisfaction. In other words, because of evil corporations... or having been raised by single mothers... (or something)... they've been cheated out of what they'd considered their rightful due, and are now stuck with the same problems that everyone thinks normal when faced by women, African-Americans, and the working class.
For some reason -- possibly because the filmmakers quite correctly surmised that a movie consisting entirely of anti-corporate sermons wouldn't sell very many tickets -- Tyler's solution is to reclaim their masculinity... or overthrow the corporate hierarchy... (or something)... by picking fistfights and blowing stuff up. This becomes popular with other suburban white guys with way too much time on their hands, who decide that they're all victims, too, and that they all want to pick fights and blow stuff up, too.
This spirals out of control, Sorcerer's-Apprentice-like, and (d)evolves into a dystopian cult/army of suburban white guys; complete with rules, chants, and rituals (see what I mean about these people having way too much time on their hands?); every bit as dehumanizing as their jobs. The members of "Fight Club" start as sheep-like drones mindlessly obeying corporate bosses, and end as sheep-like drones mindlessly obeying rabid-dog sociopath Tyler. The movie has the nerve to try to pass this off as rebellion... or asserting their individuality... (or something).
Granted, the movie is well made, well acted, and visually interesting. Granted, it makes points -- about the amorality of megacorporations and the inadequacy of consumer capitalism as a substitute for independence, worthwhile work, and fulfillment -- which are valid, and might even have been thought-provoking, had they not been delivered in such a God-awful heavy-handed fashion. Anyone intelligent enough to contemplate such issues doesn't need them pounded home with a sledgehammer.
But a competent presentation of a ridiculous, muddled premise ("Single mothers"? Who is this -- Dan Quayle?) is worse than an incompetent one, because it's harder to dismiss. The filmmakers attempt to disguise/justify/redeem the movie's hateful, no-win false dichotomy (one can escape being a victim only by victimizing others) with trite thematic content (materialism bad), but all that does is make it prissy and hypocritical as well as thuggish -- like putting a doily over a Sherman tank.
The movie has no African-American, Hispanic, or blue-collar characters, although those groups face at least as many difficulties and injustices as the middle-class office workers depicted. The lone woman character is physically and personally repellent -- worse, her only purpose is as a spittoon for the men. So if I understand correctly: The movie has no blacks, no Hispanics, no working-class people, only one woman (who's a caricature, and loathsome as well), and crypto-Nazis (Tyler actually confesses he renders soap from human flesh -- but it comes from fat people, so that's supposed to be hilarious and cool -- apparently he's not quite subversive enough to deconstruct mainstream esthetics), setting bombs and beating people up as a solution to depersonalization... but it *does* rag on Ikea. REAL progressive!
Get a clue, fellas. If your self-worth and autonomy depend on a "masculinity" defined as brutality, a dull job is the least of your problems. It's supposed to be shocking news that jobs are unrewarding sometimes? Companies are in business to make money -- period -- and *nobody's* life is fun every minute of every day. Imbuing your life with meaning is *your* responsibility, not your employer's. If you're bored or unfulfilled -- paint a picture, climb a mountain, volunteer at the homeless shelter -- do whatever matters to *you*. If you hate Ikea -- don't buy their stuff. If you hate consumerism -- throw your cellphone in the trash and wear your 1980s-vintage stonewashed jeans until they fall apart. Or wouldn't that be trendy enough?
Testosterone run amuck and mindless nihilism have cathartic appeal to angry, frustrated adolescent boys of all ages, but they don't make for a good story, nor interesting filmmaking. Despite pretending to be a Deep Meaningful Parable... (or something), "Fight Club" is still very obviously a movie about picking fistfights and blowing stuff up, and not much more. Presenting bombings and beatings as self-empowerment is reprehensible enough without also insulting the viewer's intelligence with a smokescreen of "moral" posturing -- to say nothing of the infuriatingly condescending assumption that those who disagree "just don't get it".
Even Brad Pitt with his shirt off can't make this movie watchable -- and I am a person who likes looking at Brad Pitt with his shirt off. Unless you prefer your dimwitted violence with a side order of sanctimonious rhetoric, skip this movie and watch "Beavis and Butthead" -- at least they're funny.
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Seventeenth Summer
Seventeenth Summer
by Maureen Daly
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
148 used & new from $0.01

14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sweet, but not lowdown, August 1, 2002
"Seventeenth Summer" by Maureen Daly is a novel about a shy girl named Angie who has never dated. Right after she graduates from high school, a popular boy named Jack asks her out, and they see each other all summer until she has to leave for college.
I'm very fond of this book -- I've read it every summer since my teens, and most winters, too -- though it has some elements that are off-putting.
On the downside, Angie is difficult for me to like, or even to empathize with. Not to put too fine a point on it, she's my worst nightmare of an uptight Midwestern stiff -- to the extent that she has any personality at all. "Marjorie Morningstar", also about a 17-year-old girl coming into womanhood during the 1930s, was much more accessible because Marjorie, while distinctly a product of her era, is nonetheless intelligent, articulate, and assertive. Angie, in contrast, is meek, passive, immature -- and often, downright boring. She's sweet and well-meaning, but undeniably a bit of a dullard. When Angie's not with Jack, she's barely even alive. She doesn't go anywhere, do anything, or have contact with anyone outside her immediate family. The only character in fiction that has less of a life than Angie is "Carrie", and at least Carrie had uncanny powers.
Most of the other characters are similarly vapid. As pleasant and peaceful as it is to read about a 1930s summer in small-town Wisconsin; the characters, with very few exceptions (Swede, Dollie; Angie's mother, who appears to be a closet alcoholic), are rigid and provincial. They're so bland they border on being creepy -- it's like reading about polite, featureless androids.
Parts of the book are also sadly dated by contemporary standards, which makes it difficult to relate to. The book is set in the 1930s, but not John Steinbeck's 1930s -- nor even Dorothy Parker's. Sex, race, politics, the war brewing in Europe, and the Depression -- simply don't exist. Angie and Jack's relationship is so naïve and prudish that if the book came out today, they'd have to call it "Twelfth Summer". Everybody is obedient and authority-identified and so overly repressed as to seem one broken shoelace away from climbing a tower with a telescopic rifle.
In the scene where Jack joins Angie's family for Sunday dinner, Jack accidentally clicks his spoon against his teeth, causing Angie to fly into a rage: "Nobody has to put up with that!". Seething with anger, she speculates that Jack's (working class) father probably sits down to the dinner table in his shirtsleeves. I was actually baffled -- not only because the provocation seemed near-nonexistent; but also, shirtsleeves as opposed to what? Surely not a jacket and tie? Did anybody actually wear that to eat dinner at home -- during the hottest part of summer, yet? Were people really that formal in those days? Or does Angie just need to vent somehow, somewhere, because her life is a pressure cooker?
That said, I nevertheless find this book irresistible in many ways. Daly has achieved near-perfect success at a near-impossible task -- capturing on paper what new love feels like. She seems to remember everything, down to the smallest detail, and her sensitivity and precision in describing Angie's thoughts and feelings evokes in the reader her own long-forgotten (or maybe not?) experiences and emotions. Whenever I re-read those passages -- e.g., Angie the morning after her first date, not wanting to wake all the way up because she doesn't want "last night" to turn into "this morning" -- I find myself thinking, "Yes, that's just how it is".
The other observations, which are plentiful, are the sort which often seem mundane when encountered in everyday living; but are rich, glowing, and almost gem-like in recollection. The physicality which Daly couldn't write into the romance circa 1938 gets sublimated into these observations, so that the book is permeated with a lush, almost tangible, polymorphous sensuality that drenches every page. Descriptions of the smallest and most ordinary things -- the smell of Ivory soap, tomatoes growing in the backyard, an ironed cotton dress, the sparkle of lake water in early-morning sunshine -- stand out vividly, yet are woven seamlessly together. The resulting tapestry is a poignant daydream of a perfect summer in a long-vanished America.
There's also a minor but compelling subplot, which supplies a much-needed dark side to a book threatening an overdose of sweetness and light. Angie's sister Lorraine (a twentyish coed with negative self-esteem) goes on a blind date, which gradually turns into a dysfunctional relationship, with a salesman named Martin. The relationship, shown only in brief glimpses from Angie's perspective, is nonetheless chilling as it spirals downward. The reader watches from the sidelines in helpless horror as Martin is increasingly revealed as toxic -- hostile, selfish, arrogant, dishonest, cold, rude, exploitative -- and Lorraine does everything NOT to do with this type of man, frustrating us with equal parts pity and exasperation as she tries ever harder, yet makes matters ever worse.
The scene where Lorraine and Martin join Angie and Jack in the piano bar is gut-wrenching in its tension. In stark contrast to Angie and Jack's lighthearted, affectionate relationship; Martin insults, mistreats, and publicly humiliates Lorraine as everyone else squirms uncomfortably; then tops it off by cruising two prostitutes while walking Lorraine to the door. It's a disturbing, truly hellish vignette of an abusive relationship.
If you want an action-packed adventure with two-fisted characters, look elsewhere. "Seventeenth Summer" is sentimental pastel nostalgia, as sweet and fragile as meadow flowers. The dated elements are awkward; the prose is, if not purple, then certainly lavender; and the story occasionally verges on romance-novel territory -- but the yearning emotion and meticulous detail lift the book above the level of soap opera and give it a gentle, soft-focus quality of that's as sensuous and reassuring as comfort food.
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by Stephen King
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
85 used & new from $0.02

41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stunning effort, July 19, 2002
This review is from: It (Mass Market Paperback)
"IT" is, bar none, the best Stephen King novel I've ever read.
Since most readers are probably at least somewhat familiar with the book, I'll briefly say that "IT" is about a group of eleven-year-olds menaced by a monster (also called IT) on a child-killing rampage, which takes the shape of whatever will scare the victim most -- then, the same people reunite in their hometown as adults, to confront the thing in hopes of defeating IT once and for all.
At the very least, the book is jim-dandy entertainment, a riveting page-turner. The writing is Stephen King (admittedly not everyone's cup of hemlock) at the top of his form; the idea of a Mobius strip story/ies is clever; the stories themselves are both gripping and skillfully interwoven; the thrills and scares (and gross-outs, of course) come without letup; and the plot, though based on a simplistic and slender premise (Good Guys confront Bad Guy; who will prevail?), is a quite satisfactory cliff-hanger...
But what really puts "IT" severed head and shoulders above King's other books is the authenticity of the emotion. "IT" is the Stephen King novel with a heart -- a bloody, still-beating heart ripped out of its owner's chest -- but a heart nonetheless.
What distinguishes King's books in general from those of, say, Dean Koontz or John Coyne; and "IT" from the more mediocre of King's books; is the sensitivity and compassion (odd words for King, but in this context, I think they're fitting) with which he writes about his characters. They're kids (at least throughout the majority of the book), but they're also real people -- individuals with thoughts and feelings and likes and dislikes and hobbies and ambitions and (usually dysfunctional) families. We care about them. We laugh when Richie tries to charm the ticket taker at the movies. We quail when Beverly's irrational father rages at her. Our hearts ache with pity for Ben when he denies writing the haiku because, "if a fat kid like me wrote a poem to a girl, she'd probably laugh herself sick". And when they successfully stand up for themselves (as in the rockfight scene), we stand up and cheer for them. They're brave, they're flawed, they're sweet, they're smartassed, they're goofy. The kids' part of the story would make a great Spielberg movie!
King takes the readers into the world of his book in a way that's nothing short of phenomenal. We're transported back to middle school days: the sights, the sounds, the smells; the teachers, the classmates; watching the clock on the last day of school, the barrel of sawdust that the custodian sprinkles on the floor before sweeping (which I'd completely forgotten about until the moment I read that!). King remembers it all, and evokes it vividly here.
IT is a thoroughly fascinating and horrifying nemesis (especially in ITs werewolf and hobo forms; others, such as the bird, are less effective) -- but as is often the case in King's novels, the human monsters are by far the most frightening and best portrayed. Brutish school bully Henry Bowers, vacuous and crazy Patrick Hockstetter, the distressingly numerous abusive fathers (Beverly Marsh's and Eddie Corcoran's and Henry Bowers', and I'm probably forgetting someone), the adult Beverly's abusive husband -- all are crueler, creepier, and more malevolent than any supernatural creature could possibly be. The section with the gay-bashing teenage hoodlums was also superb -- perfectly capturing every detail of the wretched boys' speech, clothes, and homelife -- rendering them empathetic without mitigating their loathsomeness.
There's also quite a bit of humor (thank goodness). Richie, the class clown, provides many of the "chucks", but most everybody gets their moment in the spotlight. Eddie Kaspbrak is usually meek and depressed, but when his overprotective mother won't let him take gym, he sardonically wishes she could see how fast he runs with IT chasing him. The scene where Henry's sidekick tries to explain that he can't join the gang for bullying and mayhem the next day because he's got a job delivering the local "Weekly Shopper" newspaper was hilarious, though in a dark way. King's gift for language, and memory for how childhood really feels, combine to recapture the humor of the days when the very word "girdle" was enough to reduce everyone to hysteria.
A few quibbles: First, the book's supposed climax and denouement were disappointing -- muddled and uninteresting -- a real letdown, especially after eleven hundred pages on a roller coaster. Second, the Corcoran boy (Dorsey's brother) should have been named Jack, Charlie, Bob, etc.; introducing a new "Eddie" after we'd already read several hundred pages containing a main character with the same name created needless confusion. Third, some gross-outs were overdone. Over-the-top descriptions are part of King's charm, but the book was already well-written and interesting enough that including the literary equivalent of plastic doggie-doo detracted from the overall quality. Fourth, the editing is downright sloppy in spots, e.g., "this fact or concept or whatever it was to him" when "this concept" was all that was needed; or when Richie is Catholic on one page and Methodist on another. And finally, the scene in the tunnel was rather dismaying. It's King's book; he can put all the sex he wants in it -- between consenting adults. A scene depicting group sex with an eleven-year-old girl is a bit outside my comfort zone.
Those considerations aside, though, "IT" is King's best book, hands down. Highly recommended to all King fans -- "IT" is scary, sad, funny, heart-tugging, rousing, compulsively readable -- all the reasons why Stephen King *has* fans. If you've never read him, this is the book to start with (sure, it's a 500-pound gorilla -- but there's no such thing as a short, palatable Stephen King novel suitable for newbies). Amazing what the man is capable of doing when he rolls up his sleeves and gives it his best shot.

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