Because time isn’t always kind: economic reviews in a world full of waste!
About all I remember from the 1983 miniseries V of my childhood: 1) Faye Grant looked hot, 2) Freddy Krueger was in it, and 3) that lizard baby. V’s writer/director Kenneth Johnson revisits the loose ends of the resulting 1984 weekly series with the novel V: THE SECOND GENERATION. The reptilian alien “Visitors” have wrestled control of Earth by tricking its residents, except for the small splinter group of resistance fighters. Your enjoyment will help tremendously if you’ve revisited V on DVD, as several characters and storylines either are referenced or still in play. Everyone else may be working at a disadvantage, and may be better suited to awaiting the eventual screen adaptation, even if Johnson’s ever-thriving imagination is still in full force.
For THE FORTUNE COOKIE CHRONICLES: ADVENTURES IN THE WORLD OF CHINESE FOOD, Jennifer 8. Lee traveled the globe to find the very best Chinese restaurant. I won’t spoil the surprising winner for you, but the real charm of the book comes in the other chapters, in which she laments the dangers of being a Chinese food deliveryman, explores the origins of chop suey, visits the manufacturers of those white takeout boxes (a wholly American thing, by the way) and recounts a 2005 Powerball mishap when there were more payouts than usual because a fortune cookie string of lucky numbers actually was. Lee writes so friendly, you want to take her out for a bowl of hot-and-sour soup. This engaging buffet of travel, history and popular culture will put a smile on your face and a pang in your stomach. And no MSG!
Gonzo cruciverbalist Ben Tausig attempts to hook kids into pencil games instead of video games with MAD TAUSIG VS THE INTERPLANETARY PUZZLING PEACE PATROL. You’re supposed to stop madman Mad Tausig by doing crosswords, cracking codes, unscrambling words and tackling a variety of logic, word and other puzzles. The quasi-mystery is a lot of fun, with something to do on every page, and the cartoony illustrations by Goopymart – an alias, I’m assuming – help make the book irresistible. Buy one for your kids … and one for yourself. It’s not the most fiendishly clever puzzle book out there – that’d be Lemony Snicket’s THE PUZZLING PUZZLES – but it’s darn close.
The whole of our country’s cinema criticism is chronicled in AMERICAN MOVIE CRITICS: AN ANTHOLOGY FROM THE SILENTS UNTIL NOW – EXPANDED EDITION, edited by Phillip Lopate. Among its earliest entries are poet Carl Sandburg’s awkwardly phrased reviews (“Then it is for you this Caligari and his cabinet”) and Cecilia Ager’s take on KING KONG, which focuses solely on Fay Wray. Film criticism got better as the decades progressed, as Jonas Mekas’ all-question review of Andy Warhol’s SLEEP shows, or the rightfully praised works of Andrew Sarris, Pauline Kael and Vincent Canby. More recent pieces of note include J. Hoberman’s bad movies essay/tribute and screenwriter Paul Rudnick’s take on DANCES WITH WOLVES, albeit under the satricial guise of Libby Gelman-Waxner, the über-yuppie columnist from the late Premiere magazine. At more than 750 pages, there’s a wealth of material here for serious film enthusiasts.
THIS MAY HELP YOU UNDERSTAND THE WORLD, goes Lawrence Potter’s slim little volume, which serves as an FAQ for this current crazed earth of ours. It seeks to tackle – through both commentary and good ol’ hard facts – many of the trickiest hot-button issues of today, including “Is Bush actually stupid?,” “Is it possible that global warming is not taking place?” and “What is Iran up to?” (The short answers, respectively: His IQ equals John F. Kennedy’s, not likely, it ain’t pleasant.) Chapters are divided amongst topics like China, Darfur and Russia. That Potter offers concise, easy-to-follow explanations justifies the book’s title; unfortunately, those in most need of knowing the answers may not even care.
‘Tis easy to see why they call New York “the city that never sleeps”: Because when you have a thousand-plus-page book like WRITING NEW YORK: A LITERARY ANTHOLOGY, you’d better be planning on some long nights. Edited by Phillip Lopate, the book originally was published in 1998, but this 10th-anniversary edition from Library of America is much more relevant with the inclusion of post-9/11 material, like a chilling excerpt from Don DeLillo’s FALLING MAN novel. A wealth of classic writers are here – F. Scott Fitzgerald, William S. Burroughs, Henry Miller, Edgar Allan Poe, Tom Wolfe, O. Henry – paying tribute to (and sometimes knocking) the Big Apple. If you’re a fan of the metropolis, or a New Yorker subscriber, this belongs on your bedside table. –Rod Lott
Buy it at Amazon.