Oct/Nov 2005  •   Reviews & Reviews

Eclectica Reviewers Recommend

Compiled by Colleen Mondor

Because there are so many incredibly cool things out there, we decided in the Reviews Section to include a new column, "Eclectica Reviewers Recommend." It's purely subjective and highly opinionated, but hey, that's the point. Here's what we like. Take a look, and maybe you'll find something that appeals to you as well.

Scott Malby says that besides reports of alien abductions, Reese's peanut butter cups with strong, hot coffee, conspiracy theories, ghosts, and crop circles, what follows are some of his other favorite things: Ananova.com regarding quirkies, eccentrics and quirky gaffes, like George W. Bush's quote of May, 24, 2005: "See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over again for the truth to sink in... to kind of catapult the propaganda." There's the CD "A Celtic Tapestry," produced by Al Evers, engineered by Bob Ohlsson—he says, "I play it constantly and it puts me in a positive, creative mood." Also, there's a small shop called Acme Gorilla on Newmark Street in Coos Bay, Oregon, specializing in the unique, historical and unusual; like 3,000 year old beads, Empire glass, Buddhist altars and mouth watering, gemstone carvings. On a broader scale, there's the history of everything and as always, the antique and rare books section on Ebay.

Bob Gray wants the world to know about the best movie he's ever seen about art and artists: La Belle Noiseuse, directed by Jacques Rivette. Based, quite loosely, on Balzac's story, "The Unknown Masterpiece," the film is at once lush and edgy, taking its time as the tension among the characters elevates scene by scene. There is a barely restrained ferocity in the way the aging, frustrated artist Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli) twists and turns his beautiful young model Marianne (Emmanuelle Beart) into the required poses, and even a kind of violence in the sound of his sketching.

For books he enjoys A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel by Tom Phillips, published by Thames & Hudson. A new edition has just been published of this miraculous work by British artist Tom Phillips. In his nearly four-decades-long work-in-progress, Phillips has developed an intensely personal and creative relationship with W.H. Mallock's Victorian novel A Human Document, first published in 1892. Phillips has treated the novel's individual pages with acrylic gouache, pen and ink, typing, or collaged fragments, creating separate works of art that leave carefully selected words and phrases from the original text exposed to fashion a loosely organized novel in verse about an everyman artist named Bill Toge. Even in the world of artists' books, there is nothing quite like this one.

And for sounds, listen to "1000: A Mass for the End of Time" by Anonymous 4 (Harmonia Mundi). The notes on the CD's cover tell it all: "With their renowned purity of sound, Anonymous 4 mark the millennium by exploring in chant and polyphony dread of the Last Judgment and fear of the end of the world which pervaded late tenth-century thought." Says Gray, "The dread has gone secular in our time. I guess it's always the Dark Ages somewhere. I counterbalance this image with the memory of an Anonymous 4 concert I attended a few years ago. Their encore, performed with deep medieval sobriety, was a chant version of 'That's Amore.'"

Maryanne Snell is blown away by "Here Come the Tears" by The Tears. It is, hands down, her favorite album of the year. Clear, haunting vocals and deceptively simple orchestrations mark the first collaboration in ten years of Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler, the masterminds behind Suede. And man, is it worth the wait. "The Ghost of You" and "Beautiful Pain" stand out, but every song just soars. On the screen she is watching Untold Scandal which tells the story of Dangerous Liaisons, which has been translated onto film numerous times, but never quite like this, set as it is in 18th Century Korea. Visually stunning and emotionally wrenching.

For your reading pleasure, Capote in Kansas by Ande Parks and Chris Samnee tells the story of Truman Capote's time in Kansas researching In Cold Blood. This book looks at the sacrifices writers have to make for the sake of their art and truth. Samnee's art is spot on, and Parks writes the characters as though he knew them. Heartbreaking, compelling, and essential. Another great book is Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan. Written in 1954 by an 18 year old first time novelist, this novel captures all the angst and confusion of being almost an adult. Cecile loves the life she lives with her bohemian father, and has even come to accept his revolving door approach to lovers. But when an old friend of the family visits them on vacation and she and Cecile's father fall in love, Cecile sees their happy life coming to an end, and decides to do anything to stop them.

Elizabeth Glixman loved God's Mountain, a novella by Erri De Luca, and an international bestseller in 2001. God's Mountain is a cluster of alleys in the heart of Naples where a thirteen year old boy writes his coming of age story. The story told in his diary entries makes his ordinary "common" life extraordinary and the prose is rich and succinct. It is a magical 168 page book. Also, The Cat Who Liked Potato Soup by Terry Farish with illustrations by Barry Root tells the story of an old man and an old "uppity" cat and their unbreakable bond. According to the jacket, "Terry Farish and Barry Root have created a perfect pair of curmudgeons in this wry, unconventional love story." Elizabeth says, "I loved this cat and the man who loved him; it's a great warm and fuzzy story."

For real animals, Elizabeth supports Maddie's Fund, a charitable organization that donates mega bucks to further no kill animal shelters. They donate millions to NYC, which is going no kill (maddiesfund.org). Cockers and Kitties is an LA California animal rescue group that takes death row animals from shelters and finds them homes. There are many groups like this in California and world wide that are trying to stop the animal overpopulation problem. They need support. Cockers and Kitties is an example of one group with great website and deserving of our full support (http://www.petfinder.com/shelters/cockersandkitties.html).

Mela Pollack says that as evolution-deniers marshal their militias and storm into courtrooms, Stephen Jay Gould's The Panda's Thumb (Norton 1980) and The Mismeasure of Man, (Norton 1996) are readable science by a man of genius and compassion, and are certainly worth a second (third or fourth!) look. Also, A Fine Balance (Vintage 1997), Rohintron Mistry's megabook about ordinary people in the India of Indira Gandhi, will open your eyes and break your heart. What more can we ask of a story? And finally, What We Won't Do: Stories (Sarabande Books, 2002), by Brock Clarke, are quirky, funny and wonderfully written. Incredible happenings, unforgettable people, and armchair journeys into secret corners of places you've heard about, never seen, but will want, after Clarke's descriptions, to visit.

As for me, I've read a lot of great books and watched some killer movies, and I was all ready to tell the world about them when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and has ended life as they knew it for millions of people. I grew up in hurricane country, and I know how all us dreaded this one day happening; it is beyond catastrophic. I'm making my donations to the Salvation Army and also to Noah's Wish (because I know when you have lost everything, getting your dog back alive can make all the difference) but I'm also trying to enjoy what I love about New Orleans and the whole Gulf Coast region. I'm listening to Marcia Ball, Harry Connick Jr., the Neville Brothers and the soundtrack to The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, I've watched Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin in The Big Easy several times in the last few days, and I'm rereading some Julie Smith mysteries, because she writes about the city of New Orleans with such deep affection and grace. Mostly though, I'm letting Louis Armstrong sing me to sleep. He says it's a wonderful world and God, how desperately we all need to believe him.

Send money South people, send it, and keep on sending.