Information, Answers & Reviews

Many Eras, Many Lives

Have you ever wondered how different you would have been if you’d lived during Napoleonic times, the First World War, or the Second? This novel explores how much the era a person lives in affects his or her personality, and choices in life.

In the autumn of 1985, Greta Wells loses her twin brother to AIDS. She’s also been injured in a serious car accident that has also harmed her dear Aunt Ruth.  Because Greta sloughs through a deep depression that will not lift, her psychiatrist recommends an old treatment that is becoming new again. Greta calls it electric shock therapy. Dr. Cerletti corrects her—“It’s called electric convulsive therapy.”

During my college years, I worked as a psychiatric aide at two mental hospitals, and I watched this procedure several times.  It struck me as something medieval and horrifying, but luckily in The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, ECT is not described in great physical detail.

Only the Young

 “Ah, these kids today!”

It’s the collective sigh huffed by every adult generation in history: our youth have no respect, no direction, no values. Fortunately examples like Only the Young (Oscilloscope Laboratories), the debut feature-length documentary from Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims, remind us that today’s teenagers are more than pop-cultured iPhone zombies—that perhaps they’re even human, and not so hopeless, considering the world they’re growing up in.

Only the Young follows skateboarders Garrison and Kevin as they navigate their high school years in a small town outside of Los Angeles. Thanks to the rapport the filmmakers earn with the boys, we’re able to roll right along with them—to an abandoned house, to the skatepark, and into their homes and their social circle. We meet Skye, who as the boys’ cohort, confidante, and sometimes-girlfriend becomes an integral character in the film herself.

Tin Man

Tin Man DVD Cover

Tin Man DVD Cover

 

Let me first say that I am a Wizard of Oz nut. No, I'm not talking about the 1939 MGM Judy Garland film, which don't get me wrong, is a great film. I'm talking the Oz books by L. Frank Baum and those by Ruth Plumly Thompson and others who wrote about the traditional Land of Oz. However, I am not a purist. I enjoy movies and stories about Oz that are non-traditional. Phillip Jose Farmer's Barnstormer in Oz comes to mind. The miniseries Tin Man falls into this category. Imagine a Land of Oz that, while still filled with magic, lacks the Munchkins, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion. Instead you have The OZ (The Outer Zone) which was once ruled over by a beloved queen and her advisors. The marshals became known as Tin Men because of the tin stars they wore; their appearance is much like that of the modern western lawman with long brown trench coats wearing their guns at their sides.

Tin Man stars Zooey Deschanel as DG, the daughter of the beloved queen of The OZ sent to Kansas as a child to escape the clutches of the wicked queen who has taken over her kingdom. DG is raised on a farm by her aunt and uncle and she has no memory of The OZ. The wicked queen played by Kathleen Robertson has punished and/or exiled all who remained loyal to the former queen. She has removed half of the brain of the queen's main advisor, Glitch (Alan Cumming), leaving him an apparent idiot with a zipper down the center of his skull. DG is forced to return to The OZ and, in a journey that mirrors that of the traditional OZ stories, accumulate an entourage to help her defeat the wicked queen. One of these, of course, is a former marshal or Tin Man (Neil McDonough) of the title who has his own score to settle with the wicked queen.

Tin Man moves quickly with a number of twists and turns, some of them unexpected others telegraphed so you know they are coming. Those familiar with the Wizard of Oz will have no trouble figuring out which of the characters of The OZ correspond to those in the original Oz stories. Tin Man is a more adult story than the Oz books and movies, but still likely to be enjoyed by the whole family. If I had a complaint about the series it is that it is too short by about 45 seconds. It isn't that the ending was unsatisfactory, but I was expecting at least one more line. Everyone I've talked with who has watched this film mentally filled in this line or one like it and it really isn't needed to finish the series, but it would have been nice. (Sorry, you'll just have to figure out what the line is yourself as it would be a definite spoiler.)

Next Booksplus Discussion: This Sunday--September 8th--at 2 p.m.

Our next book to be discussed is a thrilling read about early 70’s Britain. I always enjoy novels set in the author’s youth. In an interview, McEwan describes this period of rock and roll and changing mores as the time of his life, ”when it was very bliss to be alive.” Rent was cheap even in London. For only three pounds a month, McEwan scored a large apartment, and could live off writing a few reviews and articles each month. He spent the rest of his time, reading, writing, and socializing.

This novel combines a spy novel, a love story, and a journey into the literary world of early 70s England. McEwan, who has won many prizes, could have titled it a spy in the house of literature.

A North Korean Emigré to Brazil

Want to read a novel but feeling pressed for time with all the craziness of back-to-school and fall a-coming? If so, try this new one, the highly lyrical Snow Hunters by Korean-American Paul Yoon. It tells the story of a North Korean prisoner of war who refuses to return home after the Korean War. Instead the administrators of his prison camp finds him a placement in Brazil. Yohan boards a cargo ship where the sailors befriend him and they set sail for South America. 

Yohan arrives at a small unnamed town in the rain as a young girl on a bicycle rides past. She gives him her umbrella. Yohan shelters himself under it as he goes in search of the tailor Kiyoshi who has agreed to give him an apprenticeship.

The former Japanese tailor and Yohan develop a relationship that is at first wordless. Neither speaks the same language. But Kiyoshi is both very kind and very observant. When Yohan wakes in the middle of the night with

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