Deal Me In, Week 38 ~ “Just a Little Bug”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Just a Little Bug” by P.D. Cacek

Card picked: Six of Spades

From: David Copperfield’s Tales of the Impossible

Comments: Well, that was disturbing. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. P.D. Cacek is a Stoker award winning author. I’m not super familiar with her work, but I know the name and I’m sure I’ve read a few of her stories in the past.

Kate’s young daughter Carrie has cancer. When first undergoing diagnosis, the doctor comments that her sickness is probably due to “just a little bug.” To avoid scaring Carrie, the comment turns into a lie –“Don’t worry, we’ll swat that little bug.” In typical kid fashion, as she grows sicker, Carrie becomes more convinced that what’s growing in her chest is not a tumor, but an actual bug. Kate starts to wonder if Carrie’s not wrong.

I’m not sure that adding a horror element on top of something as bad as cancer in a child really works. There’s also a very questionable act on the part of Carrie’s doctor that destroyed the realism that Cacek had otherwise carefully crafted. Still, it was nice to encounter a horror story, a rarity within these Copperfield anthologies.

Aleister Luck ~ The Playlists

Since it’s promo weekend for Luck for Hire, I thought I’d share some of the music behind the Aleister Luck books.

Aleister’s particular way of influencing the universe is reliant on his not observing his surroundings too closely.  As it says on the cover, “MAGIC is the manipulation of what isn’t or can’t be OBSERVED.” While Aliester doesn’t go around with his eyes shut, blind alleys and closed doors always better serve his purposes. He also relies on his trusty MP3 player to keep from hearing too much.

The first seven songs on this playlist are directly from Luck for Hire. Obviously, I was having a bit of fun with the loose theme. I’m currently working on the second Luck book. It’s probably going to be set entirely in Las Vegas; the other album that gets a lot of play while writing Aleister Luck escapades is the Ocean’s Eleven soundtrack. The last two tracks are more specific to In Need of Luck. Could I resist adding a female magician to this book? Of course not. Bennylita Wati should definitely add some excitement to Aleister’s playlists.

If you’re interested in reading Luck for Hire, it’s currently FREE! You can download it from Amazon, Smashwords, or Barnes & Noble.

Review ~ The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

Cover via Goodreads

Joe Kavalier, a young Jewish artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdini-esque escape, has just smuggled himself out of Nazi-invaded Prague and landed in New York City. His Brooklyn cousin Sammy Clay is looking for a partner to create heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit America – the comic book. Drawing on their own fears and dreams, Kavalier and Clay create the Escapist, the Monitor, and Luna Moth, inspired by the beautiful Rosa Saks, who will become linked by powerful ties to both men. With exhilarating style and grace, Michael Chabon tells an unforgettable story about American romance and possibility. (via Goodreads)

I bought my copy of Kavalier & Clay in 2010-ish soon after reading Chabon’s excellent Sherlock Holmes tale The Final Solution. I remembered Kavalier & Clay being critically lauded, even though I don’t put a lot of stock in such things, but I didn’t really know what it was about. I had a notion that it involved the golden age of comics but was surprised when a recent friend told me that one of the main characters has some magic/escapist training. When I bought the book my interest in magic was at a low, but it seems that even when I read book summaries, I forget them before reading the book.

I like this book a lot. It may be that I’m not the best objective judge of Kavalier & Clay because there are so many individual parts that I was going to like.

  • Comics. I’m not a huge comics reader, but I find the history of comic books to be fascinating.  Checking back, I read David Hajdu’s The Ten-Cent Plague two months before The Final Solution. It’s no wonder I then picked up Kavalier & Clay.
  • The Golem of Prague. Golems are one of my favorite folklore beings. I’m going to guess it’s because of the juxtaposition of religion with magic. That isn’t the sort of thing that exists in the version of Christianity that I grew up in. There is also a level of ambiguity to the basic golem story. The golem is a neutral being, a tool.  The Golem of Prague has more of a cameo in Kavalier & Clay and I need to think a little more on its reappearance at the end of the novel.
  • Escape-ology. I loved that Joe Kavalier had this skill set, and had reason for it, but it wasn’t his career. His life took a different turn (multiple turns), but there was still use for lock picking and being able to deal with close quarters. Chabon does a great job returning to imagery again and again. If Kavalier & Clay were made into a movie, it could be a lot of fun for a cinematographer.

This is also a WWII story, but from the American side. It’s devastating to Joe to not be able to help is family. In domino effect, Joe’s reactions affect everyone around him. How many of these stories played out during WWII that haven’t been told?

One thing that I disliked were the tragic love story parts. I know that they work for the story. I know that Chabon isn’t just torturing his characters. I know that bliss is the opposite of drama.  But, man, I hate it when you know that happiness is being set up for tragedy.

Despite my pet peeve, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a great book. After 600+ pages, it ended too soon.

Publisher: August 25th 2001
Publication date: Picador USA
Genre: Literary, but genre

Finally started reading this book due to the Estella Project, but didn’t finish it in time.

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Magic Monday ~ Mysteriously Yours

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I like Mondays. On Monday, I am refreshed from the weekend and exhilarated by the possibilities of the week ahead. I also like magic. I like its history, its intersection with technology, and its crafty use of human nature.  I figured I’d combine the two and make a Monday feature that is truly me: a little bit of magic and a look at the week ahead.

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I didn’t pay much attention to the recent Potter & Potter auction of (mostly) Houdini paraphernalia and missed a rather interesting piece of Joseffy memorabilia.

It’s a giant 7.75″ by 11″ Queen of Hearts, signed “Mysteriously Yours, Joseffy, June 29, 1915.” Of course, even if I did know this was on the block, I wouldn’t have been bidding on it. I don’t know how much it sold for, but the opening bid was $80 with an addition 23% buyer’s premium. Too rich for this poor author.

SmallAce

I’ve been visiting my family in Nebraska this past weekend, but should be back behind my computer soon enough!

Deal Me In, Week 37 ~ “Indigo Moon”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Indigo Moon” by Janet Berliner

Card picked: Three of Spades

From: David Copperfield’s Tales of the Impossible, edited by David Copperfield & Janet Berliner

Review: This story has a 90s TV movie feel. I can imagine very big hair and shoulder pads. It’s a thriller that takes a supernatural turn, a very 80s-90s thing to do. And maybe this nostalgia is also because I associate movies and fiction about Carlos the Jackal with that time period. The Jackal is one of our main characters and the target of some transformation magic. My one objection is that Berliner draws some direct supernatural lines between Carlos the Jackal and Jack the Ripper. These are two very different types of killers. Perhaps some other terrorist would have been a better fit?

(Quick review this week. I am enjoying some crisp fall weather away from my computer.)

Is This Your Card?

R.I.P. IX Update #1 – Perils on the Screen

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Check out more R.I.P. IX Reviews or Join the Perilous Fun!

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Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

True Detective (2014, TV series) – starring Matthew McConaughey & Woody Harrelson. In general, I appreciate this trend toward limited run series, like True Detective and American Horror Story. (Some might call them mini-series, but that has a different connotation.) When there isn’t pressure to keep a story going for multiple seasons (in some cases seemingly indefinitely), writers can write cohesive stories with definite archs. Even if they’re only a meager eight episodes long…  SPOILER AHEAD! – After hearing so much about True Detective‘s nod to Robert W. Chambers and his King in Yellow stories, I was a little surprised that there was no supernatural twist to the show. I was expecting it, but I wasn’t disappointed when it didn’t come. I’m fine with the mundane. –END SPOILER  And in retrospect, I’m also surprised at how reserved the gore was. Hannibal? Much more shocking in its visceral gore. In all, good performances, good characters, and well-made. When I first saw trailers for True Detective, I was excited and it didn’t disappoint.

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Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

Invisible Ghost (1941) – starring Bela Lugosi. This is a schlocky piece with a somewhat silly premise but a few good moments of creepiness. Lugosi plays Mr. Kessler, a–widower? cuckolded husband? I’m not sure now–, who believes that his wife will one day return. Unbeknownst to him, after his wife was involved in a car accident, his gardener has been keeping her in the basement. When Kessler sees his wife, he’s sent into a homicidal fugue and no one is safe. There are just so many weird overtones to this movie. Lugosi dines with his “wife” on the anniversary of her death, but everyone shrugs it off with a “poor old guy” attitude. Then there’s the gardener benevolently keeping the injured wife semi-captive and the fiance of Kessler’s daughter being executed for the first murder. In R-rated modern hands, this could be a very different movie.

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Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

 

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) – starring Tilda Swinton & Tom Hiddleston. In my corner of the internet, I had seen many gifs from this movie. The look of Only Lovers Left Alive *is* gorgeous. The music is also pretty good and Tilda Swinton is captivating as usual. Who else would you cast as a contented vampire?  Unfortunately, this movie strikes me as over-indulgent. Nothing much happens. There is really no tension. Adam (Hiddleston) and Eve (Swinton) have an novel way of existing after hundred of years, but there’s just nothing there aside from Hiddleston being eye-rollingly emo. John Hurt is the other bright spot playing Kit Marlowe.

Magic Monday ~ History Channel’s Houdini

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I like Mondays. On Monday, I am refreshed from the weekend and exhilarated by the possibilities of the week ahead. I also like magic. I like its history, its intersection with technology, and its crafty use of human nature.  I figured I’d combine the two and make a Monday feature that is truly me: a little bit of magic and a look at the week ahead.

A year ago, I had a Saturday Cinema post about various screen incarnations of Harry Houdini. Last Monday and Tuesday, the History Channel broadcasted their mini-series and I figured I’d give it my Cinematic Houdini treatment and a general review.

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“Houdini 2014″
Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

Houdini (2014)
Adrien Brody – 6’1″

  • What it’s got: Houdini as a kid growing up in the small town of Appleton, WI (except it wasn’t a small town), including his brother Theo. Royal performances for everyone in Europe, including Rasputin. Bess threatening to leave due to the dangerous tricks; Harry having affairs, including little bit of bondage for the 50 Shades set, a biting comment from Bess about marrying a Jew. Most of the signature tricks, including disappearing an elephant (except that’s not how it was done at all).  Engineer Jim Collins (except Jim Collins wasn’t an American). A nod to Houdini’s film career. The Halloween curse. The gut punch.
  • What it’s missing: Houdini’s other siblings–it was a big family. “Mundane” jobs before becoming a performer. Martin Beck. Needles. The Scotland Yard challenge. Houdini’s interaction with other magicians. Houdini and Hardeen (his brother Theo) working together to keep imitators to a minimum. The Houdinis inability to have children.

The History Channel’s Houdini includes quite a few things that haven’t been seen in a Houdini biopic, but gets so many things very wrong. John Cox at Wild About Harry has a two part post of fact-checking (night one, night two) that goes in-depth about inaccuracies. The general reaction to the mini-series has been mixed within the realm of Houdini-philes. On one hand, there’s a level of disappointment and even rage at what the History Channel is portraying as truth. On the other, most are also happy that Houdini is getting some play in a nice, medium-to-big-budget manner. The movie is nice looking, though the writing is somewhat flat and I don’t think Adrien Brody quite has the angry-short-man ego to pull off Houdini.

I’m not a fan of Houdini, but when reading about  turn-of-the-20th-century magic, he is inescapable. There is also a certain amount of embellishment that occurs when magicians set down their biographies. I’ve seen several comments along the lines of, “This is schlock, wouldn’t Houdini love it?” I think he would definitely love what a Salon writer is calling the Houdini-Industrial Complex. What bugged *me* about this biopic is something that bugs me in general about what writers (and maybe especially screenwriters) sometimes decide to dramatize. This movie goes for low-hanging fictional fruit.

The biggest example in Houdini is the portrayal of Houdini’s wife, Bess. By all accounts, Bess was supportive of her husband’s career. But the easy dramatic beat is: Bess is upset by Harry doing dangerous escapes, but Harry *needs* to do dangerous tricks. Conflict ensues. To me, there are at least two other angles. A.) Bess didn’t act in the cliched way you’d expect from a wife and didn’t have a problem with Harry doing dangerous things. Or, B.) The tricks really weren’t dangerous. Do we deep down think that Houdini risked his life so often, or that maybe he was, you know, a professional magician who created the illusion of peril? That’s harder to write.

There’s plenty of drama in Houdini’s life. He grew up in poverty and was determined not to live so as an adult (but didn’t blame his father for those humble beginnings). He was an organizing *and* divisive force in the magic community. He had his own motion picture company, which became a bit of a thorn in his side. Like most magicians of the era, he faced having to make the change from vaudeville to a bigger stage–something he did quite well. (Until the elephant scene in Houdini, I hadn’t realized how much I was looking forward to seeing the trick in some fashion. With visions of the enormous New York Hippodrome in my head, I was disappointed that the TV version involved a circus ring and some silliness with gauze on poles.)

Houdini is far from being my favorite magician and Houdini is far from being my favorite movie about him.

SmallAce

What Am I Reading?

I’ll be working on The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon and The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, at least until a late-week trip to Omaha. I’ll probably only take my Kindle with and both of the former are physical copies. I don’t know what I’ll read ebook-wise. It seems too early to read the two ARCs I have planned for R.I.P.. I had a slow start with Kavalier & Clay, but it turned into compulsive reading over the weekend. For Deal Me In, I have a second Janet Berliner story, which I’m not really looking forward to.

What Am I Writing?

On the cusp of 15,000 words on In Need of Luck. Eric’s been working hard on PHYSICa, so I’ve been on my own a bit more than previously. He gave the first 14K a read-through last week. So far, so good, aside from one or two things that will get rewritten.