12 Days of Boredom Day 9 – Fiction

As best as I can tell, I read 46 books in 2011. Considering I spent a good portion of the year reading various parts of The Old West series and started and stopped a fair few of books, I’m happy with that number. (Of course, in a perfect world I would be able to read one book a day.) But, a better indicator of a successful year of reading is the quality of what I read and this year, I enjoyed more books than I disliked. That’s a win.

First US edition cover

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Best Book(s)To Kill a Mockingbird, Memoirs of a Geisha, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, The Searchers, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Unwritten Volume 3: Dead Man’s Knock, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Best TeenPerks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – It’s always impressive when you stop and consider how well some adult authors can get inside the head of their teen protagonists and tell their story. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an uncomfortable read, for parents, at times. But, I think the nervousness engendered when reading something like this reminds parents 20 or 30 years removed from being a teen just what it was like.

Best YAThe Lost Hero by Rick Riordan – Riordan has done what JK Rowling either doesn’t have the ability or desire to do – continue the story of the world he created past his initial heroes. Children and adult readers are richer for it.

Book I Still Haven’t FinishedThank You, Jeeves by PG Wodehouse – Honestly, there are too many books that I started and haven’t finished to list, but Thank You, Jeeves is the biggest disappointment in that group. I heard so much praise for Wodehouse’s wit and the seminal characters of Jeeves and Wooster that I fully expected to be drawn in immediately. Never happened. I’m not sure I’ll ever pick it up again.

Biggest DisappointmentA Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear – I wrote a detailed review about my disappointments with this book so I won’t bore you with a rehashing of all that (though I do recommend you read the review; I feel it is one of my best). I see on Amazon that Winspear has another novel coming out in March. I’ll buy it and read it, but I’m wary.

Unintentional Consequence of Joining a Reading Challenge – Discovering I don’t like Sense and Sensibility – I joined two challenges and finished none, but the biggest disappointment was my growing dislike of Sense and Sensibility. I’m not sure I’ll ever read that book again, but I’m sure I’ll watch another adaptation or two in my lifetime.

 

Late to the Party Television Review – Deadwood

Deadwood (TV series)

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I’m on a Western kick again. I have no idea why. Maybe it’s because Westerns are truly the only acceptable visual historical fiction that Americans enjoy. Unlike the British who constantly celebrate their history with television series and movies, unless it’s a war movie, preferably about WWII, Americans just aren’t that interested in where we’ve been. If you are an American like me and love historical fiction, you’re pretty much hosed.

The acceptability of Westerns is even a little suspect. Over the last 40 years, the Western as a visual genre has fallen to the bottom of the Hollywood barrel. Of course, there have been moments of brilliance – Lonesome Dove is one of the best mini-series in the history of American television; Dances With Wolves dared to be sympathetic to Indians; Unforgiven stripped away the John Wayne veneer to reveal the realistic grime and violence underneath; 3:10 to Yuma while good, was a pointless remake of a classic; Appoloosa was great but, in this reviewer’s opinion, was sabotaged by Renee Zellweger’s squint and pucker. The next big Western is True Grit, opening on December 22. Directed by the Cohen Brothers, I have to wonder if this isn’t another pointless remake. I’ll hold off judgement, especially since I firmly believe that classic movies based on novels, like True Grit, are not sacred cows that should never be remade. It is fair game for a new generation’s interpretation. I will read the book and watch the John Wayne movie and be objective with my review of the new one.

There just aren’t a lot of modern-day Westerns out there to watch. I’ve seen all of the classics, at least twice and sometimes more, and there are just so many times I can watch The Man That Shot Liberty Valance. Which brings me to Deadwood.

Created by David Milch, Deadwood ran on HBO for three seasons before being axed. I don’t subscribe so hadn’t watched it. During one of the free HBO weekends, I happened on an episode. One of the characters was in the middle of a drunken, f-bomb filled tirade and I was immediately turned off. Look, I’m not a prude. I drop the occasional f-bomb. I also am not naive enough to think that no one in the Old West cussed. I’m sure they did. I’m sure they dropped the occasional f-bomb. But, what I saw seemed too modern and over the top, and not in a good way.

But, when you’re on a Western kick and you’ve almost depleted the genre (at least anything that interests you), and you have Netflix, you watch what you can. And, I choose Deadwood. I’m sorry I didn’t do it sooner.

In short, it is fucking brilliant. I’m only two episodes in (why doesn’t it instant stream, Netflix? WHY?) but I’m enthralled and repulsed in equal measure. I’m not entirely sure I will ever look at bacon and ham in the same way again. I’m not going to explain that. You’ll have to watch the first episode for yourself to see what I mean. And, the second.

This show is a great example of how execution and realism makes all the difference. You have all of the normal characters and situations – the whore (not sure she has a heart of gold, though); the corrupt bar owner that runs the town through fear and intimidation; the Easterner who has dragged his wife to the frontier to find his fortune in gold, against his father’s wishes, natch; the former marshal that’s trying to make a go in civilian life but is drawn to the right side of the law because of his hatred of the corrupt man; the nebbish Jew; the newspaperman; the drunk doctor; the lackey…I could go on but why? You’ve seen this story before. But, you’ve never seen anything like Deadwood.

I wish I hadn’t sent the first disc back to Netflix already. I should have kept it, watched the episodes again and reviewed them here, in detail. I still might. Or I might get so caught up in the series that I can’t wait to get through it. Magic 8 Ball says signs point to the latter.