The Most of Nora Ephron
In 2012 the world lost a great artist, Nora Ephron. The Most of Nora Ephron offers the reader a comprehensive sampling of the various literary forms Ephron mastered throughout her career. This posthumous collection is divided into 9 parts which showcase each of her writing pursuits. Among them: journalist, novelist, screenwriter, and blogger. Ephron was all of these things—wearing many hats while staying true to her hilarious and candid nature. The pieces her editor and friend Robert Gottlieb selected for this volume allow you to witness the sublime arc of her life and career in one place. From her early essays as a magazine journalist in the 1970s to her recent blog pieces from the Huffington Post, Ephron’s personality bursts through every page with sardonic wit and unapologetic truth. Her screenwriting devotees will find both the screenplay for When Harry Met Sally as well as the complete Heartburn novel in this collection. For any writer or fan who ever considered stopping short of their goals, Ephron’s career is a testament to keep going while laughing at every stumble and setback. Never one to take herself too seriously, Ephron still remains a journalist at heart, a witness to the world around us, both personally and politically.
You’re Not The Only One Who’s Anatomically Correct ‘Round These Parts – Tales of Phallocentrism
This is an irreverent fable of sorts about a group of stuffed animals that live in the land of Bed. The protagonist of the story is Travis T. Bear, a rough, opinionated, hard-drinking teddy bear who, after some bad choices involving fallen women and penis envy, discovers what is important in life.
Though Bed may look like, well, a kid’s bed, it is a world whose society resembles the human world, with stuffed animals that resemble stereotypes (albeit very unflattering) of people. Protagonist Travis T. Bear is an outspoken bear that engages in lively rants about the politics and politicians of Bed. While Travis is “cantankerous,” he has time to be a pal (versus “an enabling therapist”) and advises his friend, Percy Herbert Wimpledon the Third (AKA Wimpy), to “get [yourself] a job, rather than just sit around and suck the system’s tit dry.” Like some citizens of Bed, who can only fix their stressors, like unemployment, social recession, food allergies, and social media envy, with mood stabilizers, Travis has issues. Penis envy is one. So much so that he, through a crazy stint on “the queen of daytime TV” – Winny Elephant’s show, receives a penis transplant/enlargement. This leads to all sorts of other issues, but also to a revelation about what and who is important to him.
This politically incorrect, in-your-face narrative offers some moments of entertainment (besides shock value), with the irony of a foul-mouthed, womanizing, teddy bear, and his take on the world today. The obvious references he makes to various socio-political situations parallel real life characters and situations: the Go-Between’ers Party, the Grouper’s Party Liberals with their “lazy and free” (laissez faire) attitude, business mogul, Darren Hump, and the “flipped-his-lid despot” – Ping Pong Un – who is threatening to blow Bed up once again.
The plot, if any, is extremely weak, and barely camouflaging the diatribe on political shams, the breakdown of social mores, and personal integrity. The in-your-face commentary, foul language and the amusing Monty Python-esque humor can be overwhelmingly unbalanced due to this lack of plot and character development.
Illustrations are bold, and like the story, are definitely not suitable for children. Strong bold lines and thatching add a roughness to the sometimes explicit (as graphic as teddy bears in human sexual positions can be) images.
Monty Python meets Babes in Toyland in this often provocative, and sometimes funny, take on today’s socio-political state.
Zen and the Art of Cannibalism: A Zomedy
The Cerulean Moon is rising, and a hellhound named Seth has come to the world to raise zombies and bring about the apocalypse. He can only be stopped by another godlike being, a mysterious man called the Baron. Meanwhile, a pot dealer, known as the Wizard, has forty pounds of his product to deliver to a group of Russians, even though the town he’s traveling to has his older brother as the sheriff and, unknown to the Wizard, currently has a DEA officer in its streets. Also in the town is Ava, the woman the Wizard has a serious crush on (though he has to compete with Franz, the doctor), and Amy, a young woman babysitting her cousin, who has gone missing under mysterious circumstances.
All that seems to be too much to fit into one book, and to another author, it might well be. Daniel Younger, however, manages to make every plot and subplot fit into a book that’s just long enough to say everything, but just short enough to be easy to carry around. In the first few chapters, it does seem as though there are a few too many things going on, but once the action picks up, everything ties together remarkably well. The real triumph of the book, however, comes not from Younger’s skill with plot-juggling, but from his skill with humor, which ranges from silly to downright witty. I found myself chuckling as I read, and even laughing aloud, though I was hesitant to share some of the jokes with my family. The only problem I had was that the few serious parts of the book didn’t mesh very well with the rest, but luckily, the book almost never takes itself seriously.
For those who don’t mind a little naughty humor, and want something a little different in a market already glutted with zombie stories of all sorts, Zen and the Art of Cannibalism is exactly what you’ve been looking for.
Mr. Thorleifson has created something astonishing for a new fiction author; a work of true educational merit that immediately engages interest.
Beginning and centered in Yonkers, in the disputed territory between British and Colonial forces in early 1777, economic, social, and political realities of the period are made explicit.
Bold line drawings, also by the writer, convey the utilitarian simplicity of buildings, transport, and tools.
Clear intent to teach is established with notes in simple declarative style, a paragraph here, pages-long elsewhere. These are all professionally presented, as though one had a friendly teacher reading along. Some of those insertions are historical background that is not conveyed in the story line, but is necessary for full understanding of the environment through which that tale wends its way. Some are biographical, some financial . . . how shillings and pence and pieces of eight and seasonal scarcity and plenty interacted could have been stultifying. Set this way, these snippets of information are easily learned and remembered. A great contribution for neophyte students of our revolutionary period, and for some of us not so new–come to the era!
Having said that, any experienced editor will wince at frequent telling, rather than showing; where dialogue is employed to relieve the telling, it is sometimes stilted so the read is jarred. None of this detracts from the desire to know what happens next! Point of view shifts enough that a grateful reader needs to leaf back to the Characters page set handily before Chapter one.
This is not Johnny Tremaine for the grade schooler, though the protagonist here, too, is an apprentice, to a carpenter, a trade for which the boy lacks some focus. His sobriquet is “Tim Useless” among his fellows. He is plunged into action on the first page and into serious legal trouble just as fast. In the course of time and while he grows, both physically and mentally, Tim’s adventures pull the reader into frightening military intelligence, a seeking for a murderer, and to a developed self respect.
This would be a fine Christmas gift for a youngster or even an elder who likes a good read.
Pianist in a Bordello
Richard Milhous Nixon Youngblood—better known as Dickie, is running for Congress in California. A Democrat, Dickie is certain that his “first completely honest political autobiography” will be the winning ticket to get him elected. His personal account is an interesting one, to say the least, especially growing up with a dad who is an enigmatic radical hippie and wanted by the FBI, a mom who is a New Age yoga instructor with a right-wing leaning, and his staunchly Republican grandfather who is a well-known congressman. But as his story unfolds and election time draws near, problems pop up along the way—especially with his obsessed “girlfriend.”
Steeped in political satire, Mike C. Erickson’s debut novel offers a hilarious look into the issue of transparency. Erickson’s first-person narrative, set in 2010, opens with a chaotic prologue of campaign staffers urging the ever-optimistic Dick not to go through with his autobiography before Dick delves into his life story. Erickson has created a character whom is contrary to that of the near-pristine Forrest Gump from the epic movie that bears the same name. Aside from Dick’s unfortunate name, the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree, as his radical ideas reflect that of his consistently elusive, yet iconic, father. As a result, Dick finds himself in various precarious circumstances, especially with his antagonists. And, again, contrary to the unexpected, yet heroic, feats of Forrest, it’s not Dick who gets himself out of sticky situations, but Dick’s father, who has an uncanny ability of showing up out of nowhere. It also helps to have a friend like Sacathy, a computer wizard of sorts.
True to Dick’s salacious moniker, his list of female companions goes on and on. Erickson’s character doesn’t delve into erotic scenes. Yet, at the same time, Dick feels compelled to “tell it as it is”—transparency—to his future reading audience. While interweaving Dick’s love life into the sketch of his autobiography, Erickson sates Dick’s account with familial and personal background that highlights historical markers (much like in Forrest Gump) from the 1960s on. Markers include Students of a Democratic Society, the Black Panthers, the Kent State shooting, Watergate, Grenada, the Iran-Contra Affair, South African apartheid, Tiananmen Square protest, the Dot-Com Crash, and 9/11—just to name a few. But Erickson does not stop there. He also includes a slew of issues that are still pertinent today, such as animal rights, pro-life, and LGBT rights.
With an interesting combination of literary tools to keep Erickson’s plot constantly moving—opening chapters with sarcastic quotes, alternating between the above mentioned scenes, various plot twists, and closing on a humorous, yet thought-provoking note, Pianist in a Bordello is definitely a fun read for all.
Call Me Pomeroy
There is more than meets the eye in the seemingly bold, boorish and narcissistic Pomeroy.
Fifty-five-year-old Eddie Beasley – a.k.a. “Pomeroy” is a homeless musician, who believes he is a stud – a “star” – and it’s just a matter of time before he’s going to be famous. Pomeroy lives his life on the street (when not in various prisons and shelters), singing from and adding to Ants In My Pants – the song that will get him discovered. Soon after his release from Quentin, Pomeroy finds himself in the middle of an Occupy Oakland demonstration, and is mistaken for kidnapping policewoman, Nora, when he is in fact saving her from a mob of angry anarchists. Despite the best efforts of Jessica Jiminez, his sexy Latina parole officer, Pomeroy lands himself in one spot of trouble after the next, as his adventures take him across the globe. While Pomeroy appears to be nothing more than a foul-mouthed, self-centered, womanizing misfit, he is an entertaining study in paradoxes. Despite his lifestyle, never-ending use of expletives, crude, misogynistic references to women’s body parts, and narcissism, he states: “Pomeroy ain’t no illiterate, crack-smokin’ bum”. He is right. Pomeroy is well-read, and can bring up literary analogies to his observations of life (not to mention his repartée of euphemisms to describe his belief that all women want to have sex with him); has the ability to learn from his downfalls (“When a woman puts Pomeroy in jail, Pomeroy cuts her off”); even reveals a sense of chivalry that prompts him to save Nora (“Can’t let no women get beat up, even if she is a cop”). He even has respect for those he cares about (“Jessica’s always been good to Pomeroy and Pomeroy takes care of his own.”). And through all his shocking language, no holds barred views, Pomeroy shines as a funny and curiously endearing anti-hero. While his talk about women is offensive, and so condescending on one hand, it humorously sheds light on Pomeroy’s own flawed nature as he, at times, takes on the persona of the hapless victim of every woman’s sexual desire, that lead him, for example, to quickly disembark a boat “before the women have a chance to tear [his] pants off”.
Pomeroy defies all things sacred – relieving himself on Ireland historical Blarney Castle. His views attack the hypocrisy in society, as he questions the morality of the men whose faces are on our money, the ethics of our presidents (“If a man wants my vote, he can damn well keep his pecker in his pants”) and comments on the state-of-the-art housing units in the Santa Rita lockup. Pomeroy’s rudimentary appearance and behavior invite judgment against him, but it becomes clear very quickly that his appearance and behavior belie a sense of values and decency that is missing from many who appear to be far more dignified and well-spoken.
Tight writing makes for a brisk-flowing narrative, while strong characterization captures the ironies that make Pomeroy thoroughly tawdry, yet peculiarly appealing and ridiculously funny.
Call Me Pomeroy brings us a protagonist who is a bold anti-hero that challenges the boundaries of superficiality in today’s society.