Charlie's Books

Charlie's Books
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Leave the (political) party. Take the cannoli.

"It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela

Right now 6 Stella crime novels are available on Kindle for just $.99 ... Eddie's World has been reprinted and is also available from Stark House Press (Gat Books).

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Orphan Master’s Son … Prisoners … Dieting, bad knees and snow removal … SNHU MFA …


The Orphan Master’s Son, by Adam Johnson … it takes some time to get there, maybe too much, but I did enjoy the novel and read it fairly religiously (at least once a day). I preferred Part I, as told by the protagonist, Jun Do (John Doe?), over Part II, as told by a Party Narrator. The intermingling of storylines became a bit unnerving at times, especially when I couldn’t give the book the full attention I normally make for a read, but it came together well enough.

Jun Do was a fine character, either as himself or Commander Ga, but at book’s end, I found myself at least as interested in Commander Buc and Brando (a dog). I was never really interested in the party narrator or his Arc. Sun Moon (and her two kids), for whatever reason, probably because of the two Commander Ga(s), were sympathetic enough, but they just didn’t hold my attention the way the Party Narrator’s parents did (for that matter).

It was interesting to learn some more about the situation in North Korean, although a 60 Minutes expose (I think it was 60 Minutes) was more than enough for me. What was left to the imagination was equally frightening. I don’t think there’s anyone who doubts that Kim Jung Il (the dear leader) was a whack job. And his offspring, Kim Jung Un (the fat-faced little psycho), appears to be no less whacky than his dear old dad. The lifelong prison camps are atrocities enough … so by the end of this long novel, the dear leader’s appearances became boring for this reader. Basically, I knew what to expect.

Overall, I wasn’t as satisfied as when I first started reading this novel. The very ending was brilliant, but probably could’ve come 50-80 pages sooner. Part II, I guess, got on my nerves.

I chose this book because I was curious about all the literary praise the novel received (it’s a Pulitzer Prize winner). It was a good read, maybe a bit longer than necessary, but you should be willing to spend some time with it.

The author interview at the end restored some of the intrigue. Mr. Adams spent some time in North Korea (he’s a lot braver than I’ll ever be) … and although he wasn’t allowed total access (as much as Dennis Rodman?), he was able to observe some of everyday life there. Revisionist communism propaganda was well balanced with capitalist propaganda; the potshots taken at both sides was reasonable.

I can recommend the read to those willing to spend some time on this lengthy novel. I enjoyed it, but by book’s end, I was looking forward to picking the next on my TBR list (never a great thing), a controversial book about (and titled), Treblinka, by Jean-Francois Steiner … orrrrrrrrrrrrr, I am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak (author of The Book Thief, which I loved).

Prisoners ... A painful movie to sit through, although it was very intriguing. Two young girls are abducted on Thanksgiving … the parents suffer … one father goes to extremes when a suspect is caught and released … the other father is more cerebral, but gives in to his fear of losing his child forever … it ends up an absurd situation, but getting there is truly terrifying … everybody is right/everybody is wrong … and the ending is a kick in the stomach … the entire cast (Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Paul Dano and Maria Bello) were terrific, making the movie worth the $5.99 we paid on pay per view …

The Master ... and then we made the mistake of ordering The Master and had to restrain ourselves from blowing our brains out. Great acting throughout The Master, but to what end I defy anyone to explain. “WTF?” is all the Principessa Ann Marie and myself kept asking one another … WTF is the point of this movie? It was like one very long acting class for actors who well know what they’re doing. Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman were brilliant … and WTF this was about remains an F’n mystery. Do yourselves a favor and read a book instead.

The snowstorm … well, I’ve learned a few things about dieting, bad knees and snow … for one thing, they don’t all go together … I went out to shovel twice this fine day … the first time (5:00 a.m.), I nearly yanked my back into oblivioun but was saved by Ben Gay and sitting up straight for a solid hour … then I tried it again around 8:00 a.m. and twisted my bad knee like a pretzel … that hurt like an MF’er, (and I MF'd lots immediately after) … I’d already scheduled a visit to the orthopedic doctor for Monday (all by myself) from my fall 7-8 weeks ago, I guess it is now, (that was the morning Dana King’s, Grind Joint, was launched in Oakmont, PA) … that day I fell off the last two stairs on our porch from hell and landed on my right knee … both knees have already been diagnosed arthritic … the right one hasn’t stopped hurting since the fall … climbing steps feels like performing one-legged squats. Enter Percocet …

The moral to this story is screw Colorado and its recreational marijuana use … how about some recreational Percocet for fat old men with curmuodgeonitis?
On the other hand ... I love this weather!

SNHU MFA … some of my fellow schoolmates in the MFA program at SNHU are graduating this week. How cool is that? Unfortunately, the weather precludes a drive up to the White Mountains and the Mountain Grand View Hotel (it’s a gorgeous place with GREAT food and atmosphere) … and, hey, Rick Ollerman lives nearby … but the weather is uncompromising and I’m wounded … in fact, the weather is delaying some of the students’ traveling plans as well … but they’re in for a great time up there when they get there. I really do miss the program and the camaraderie … and the classes and the personalities … it’s a great program and the residencies are truly wonderful. I hope to feature some (or all) of the graduates in upcoming posts here at TK … in the meantime, here’s a flash from the recent past … my graduation speech last June.

Congratulations Graduates! Yous rock!


From Tommy Isler … the original Bring it on Home (the one Led Zeppelin remade without giving credit to the originator).

A good live version by the rip-off artists, Led Zeppelin …

For yous MFA Graduates …