Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Hamilton: The Revolution

Hamilton: The RevolutionHamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Annotated lyrics, collected research materials, topical essays, production stills & other ephemera make up this weighty, in-depth look at the Hamilton musical from creation to performance & beyond. Since there is so much contained in these pages, it is best to know something about the musical before reading. (Which might not be hard since it seems to be everywhere in 2016.) There are two reasons I gave this book 5 stars: first, despite the zeitgeist-y-ness of Hamilton, Miranda is still able to convey a lot of humor & insight about a play he’s probably talked about way too much at this point & his enthusiasm is infectious. Second, the pure idealism behind the production choices & the absolute hope that many of the players express about their craft is moving & deeply inspiring to this reader, especially in growing cynical times. Even though this is essentially a “making-of” book, there is a lot of heart & creative passion here that elevates it to one of my best books of 2016.

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“This World In Not My Home”: Driving the Zero

Let me be among the many bloggers & gamers that celebrated this week: “Thankyouthankyouthankyou, act 4 of Kentucky Route Zero is here!!!” Or to quote the game itself, “GLORYITISGOODTOBEAMONGFRIENDS!”

Oh KRZ, I have missed you so. I have missed your weird Lynchian drone noises & your stripped-down bluegrass. I have missed your restless ghosts & reconfigured mythology. I have missed your orgy of references to literature, computer programming, theater, & psychology.

Screenshot from Kentucky Route Zero by Cardboard Computer

Continue reading ““This World In Not My Home”: Driving the Zero”

Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Library Wars: Love & War, volume #15

Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 15 (Library Wars: Love & War, #15)Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 15 by Kiiro Yumi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here we are, readers, at the end of this awesome series & guess what. Happy endings for everyone! Kasahara succeeds in getting the author Toma to the British Embassy to defect through a crafty plan that involves birthday cards in code & the author himself dressing up in drag. The Library Forces turn out in droves to support their lone agent & the world’s attention is drawn to Japan’s censorship conflict. Kasahara & Dojo admit their feelings to one another, the federal government begins talks with the prefectures to end the war of attrition, & everyone gets paired off with their ideal partner. (And Satoshi has too much to keep him busy & stops being any more creepy than he already is. Whew!)

There’s something old-fashioned to this happy ending where everyone ends up with who they like, but overall this last volume of the main story satisfies on both the action front & the romantic side. Kasahara’s plan seems desperate & once again returns to the theme of her loneliness before her squad turns out in force to support her. (Genda is pleased by her daring, of course, crazy man-bear-barbarian that he is.) And then, after her heroics, our heroine visits “her prince” in the hospital & they kiss & kiss & kiss & kiss before settling down to have a quiet, egalitarian marriage. Awwwww. . .

I honestly don’t know if there’s another manga quite like this for me. I think this is not just because the romance takes a backseat to the action, but there is something that is so 1990’s about it that just really pleases me. (And yes, I realize that this is meant to be a futuristic story but hear me out.) Everything from Kasahara’s accessories (her dolphin pendant at the end of this volume looks like thousands of cheap necklaces Clair’s used to sell) to her struggle as an action girl surrounded by guys (Ms. Parker, Agent Scully, Samantha Waters–anyone?)–all of it just hits that specific nostalgia point for me without being dated or cheesy. Library Wars just hit me at the right time & I’m sooooo very happy to have read it.

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Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Cronenberg on Cronenberg

Cronenberg on CronenbergCronenberg on Cronenberg by David Cronenberg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A series of essays edited together from co-writer’s Chris Rodley’s conversations with director Cronenberg from his first short films up through his (at-the-time) latest movie Crash. I picked this book up after having a small re-exploration of Cronenberg’s films last winter & since his movies are still pretty niche, these interviews themselves will probably only be of interest to Cronenberg’s fans or aspiring movie-makers.

Cronenberg is not someone whose kept quiet about his interests or why he focuses on certain topics–just look at the opening lines of his Goodreads bio, “one of the principal originators of what is commonly known as the body horror or venereal horror genre”. What these essays do, though, is to get deeper into why that fascinates him, why he chose art over science, & why he’s struck by certain medieval sensibilities & using them as a sort of catalyst for his transgressions. I was also interested in his thoughts on the horror genre itself & how to keep it at its best–as a confrontation of the status quo & not just a titillating indulgence. If I thought more horror filmmakers were thinking that way about their genre, I might actually be more interested in seeing them.

Even though the book ends with Crash, what topics are discussed throughout give interesting glimpses into his future projects. (Cosmopolis, A Dangerous Method, Consumed–I’m looking at you.) I’ll probably end up getting a copy for myself just so I can refer back to certain sections because if this book did anything it cemented my ongoing curiosity in Cronenberg’s work. (And also gave his cameo in Barney’s Version an extra layer of irony.)

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