Monday, August 15, 2011

B. Franklin's Book Club

I bet you're as tired of the Washington gambol as I am. Call it a Super Dooper Committee of the Devoted and Caring, if you want--I don't care. As Vladimir said to Estragon in Waiting for Godot, "I begin to weary of this motif."

Really, how many times can they avoid the obvious solutions? Talk about the blind leading the blind. Here's an idea: let it burn to the ground...perhaps we can make something interesting from the rubble. No? Well then I'm sorry, but my dance card is full and I'm looking for other, more soothing, forms of entertainment.

How about a book or two? Glad you asked.

Comedian-actor-screenwriter-director Albert Brooks has added another hyphenate: novelist. His Twenty Thirty: the real story of what happened to America is a fairly entertaining look at what becomes of the USA in the year 2030. Hint: we're deeply in hock to China and the BIG ONE finally hits Southern California. Brooks is not much of a prose stylist, but some of the dialogue is clever, and the book is brimming with interesting ideas--sometimes amusing, sometimes frightening--about the future of our benighted land.

Crime is a collection of short stories by a German defense attorney, Ferdinand von Schirach, and it contains enough fascinating characters to keep a legion of film noir screenwriters busy for years. Mr. von Schirach knows the intimacies of the criminal mind and this is flat out a wonderful book. Like the man says, "most things are complicated, and guilt always presents a bit of a problem."

Equus and Amadeus, two of the great plays of the last century, were written by Peter Shaffer. His most recent play, if 1992 can be considered recent, is The Gift of the Gorgon. "A famous playwright has fallen to his death on the Greek island where he exiled himself after the failure of his last play...leaving his wife and a son he never acknowledged to sort through the wreckage..." And then the "fun" begins. It is a difficult and complicated piece, laced with allusions to Greek mythology, which probably accounts for it never having any major American production. Judi Dench, who starred in the award winning London production, reportedly hated the play. And, as you read it, you can understand her reasons. But still, a major work from a major playwright, and attention must be paid. PS there's a multi-part conversation between Shaffer and the playwright John Guare posted on youtube, if that sort of thing interests you.

And last but not least, Padgett Powell, a novelist I was previously unaware of, gives us The Interrogative Mood, a novel?, which consists of nothing but questions. It is laugh out loud funny, but also much, much more. A short book that you never want to end. Trust me, my poor words do not do it justice.

If they haven't shuttered your local library--necessary austerity measures, you know--or if there are any bookshops left open near you, preferably of the independent variety, put down the remote control, get thee hence and start thee reading.

Remember, a mind is a terrible thing to waste. Unless you're in the Congress, of course, where wasted minds go to quorum.

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