As you can tell by the lack of posting last week, I got pretty swamped with work. When I get swamped with work, I have less time to blog and get sleepier earlier. In other words, I have less time to not only write about things, but also wind up falling asleep about four minutes into things (sorry Alien).
Anyway, we did watch the Olympics pretty much non-stop and I found myself enjoying them for the most part. I’d like to see robot judges comparing moves to Platonic ideals in judged sports, but we’re at least two years away from that. After the games on Saturday, I was surprised to find myself watching NBC’s new half hour comedy About A Boy.
When I first started seeing previews for this show, I was pretty skeptical. I read the book back in 2012 followed quickly by the movie, both of which were emotionally powerful looks at two strong adult forces and the child in between them who’s trying to figure out which elements to bring into his own life. The story is funny and heavy and a really tough but satisfying ride. So how would all that translate into a half hour sitcom?
Pretty well actually. The first episode is basically a condensed version of the book/film minus the mother’s more intense emotional problems. Basically Marcus (Benjamin Stockham) and his mom Fiona (Minnie Driver) move next door to Will (David Walton). Marcus is very much his earthy mother’s son, but that’s lead to some trouble at school. He winds up forcing his way into Will’s life where the two start becoming friends, something Will uses to his advantage, but eventually comes to realize is mutually beneficial.
By speed skating through the source material, the first episode (which you can watch on NBC.com) might have felt a little quick and off balance, but it also seemed like a good way to jump right into the series. It’s about this kid and these two adults and them all trying to live around each other and figure out the world. I think this cast is well equipped to handle that challenge. Driver pulls off the struggling single mother who also has a strangely positive outlook on the world while Walton seems ready to take on Will’s life which goes from completely detached emotionally to (hopefully) immersed in relationships with others. But the real pressure lies on Stockham’s shoulders who needs to have the kind of innocence that leads a pre-teen to sing a One Direction song at the talent show and dedicate it to his mom because he knows it will make her happy, but also the knowledge that the world doesn’t always react positively to such things. I think he’s got it and am interested to see how things pan out with this show.
Longtime readers might remember that I tried to tackle a large stack of classic books for my Ambitious Summer Reading List last year. Well, that wound up spreading into the beginning of this year and wound up not being a whole lot of fun. So, this summer, I wanted to try something different and finally read some of the books that have been sitting under my bed for ages. This is a mix of autobiography, mystery, psychological thriller/horror, slice of life, drama, food, music and just about everything else. I started off with Nick Hornby’s About A Boy (review coming soon because I finished it today), but don’t have an order figured out (last year’s was chronological).
The pile includes another Fletch book by Gregory McDonald (Fletch And The Man Who), Stephen King’s Misery, the aforementioned Boy, an oral history of the punk rock and new wave movements called Please Kill Me by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, Anthony Bourdain’s follow-up to Kitchen Confidential called Medium Raw, Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake (I loved her book An Invisible Sing Of My Own), Alice Sebold’s The Almost Moon which I know nothing about but liked The Lovely Bones, the latest Diary Of A Wimpy Kid installment which doesn’t really count but I want to finally read it, Steve Martin’s autobio Born Standing Up, actor George Hamilton’s autobiography Don’t Mind If I Do, a book about a band I’ve never heard of called Petal Pusher by Laurie Lindeen and Erik Larson’s historical thriller The Devil In The White City.
It’s a pretty eclectic mix, but also a pretty apt representation of the kinds of books I’ve been wanting to read for a while, found for a few bucks at various places or both. I’m hoping that by choosing books I’m interested in, I’ll stick with them a little better. I also admit that the idea of actually focusing on getting through a dozen of the books I’ve been collecting for more years than I can count and either put them on a shelve (or more likely a box in storage) or give away to someone else. I’d much rather store books I’ve read and liked than ones I’m still waiting to get to.
Every now and then between reading trades, watching movies and re-watching Buffy I do read some books without pictures. A personal favorite author of mine is Brit Nick Hornby. I got introduced to Nick’s work after finding out that High Fidelity was based on a book. Soon I went to the bookstore and picked up my own copy of one of the few books I’ve actually read twice and read it for the first time. I was blown away by the way his narrative weaved in and out between the world of record collecting and intense relationship stuff that I didn’t really understand at the time.
I haven’t read About A Boy or How to Be Good, which are the two books after High Fidelity that everyone asks me about when I tell them I like Hornby. What can I say? I’m a slow reader and I had plenty of books to read throughout college. But, after getting a real job and moving to New York I started trolling Barnes and Noble and Borders for their bargain books. I now have a stack of about 20 books that I’m getting through slowly but surely. Two of those books have been by Hornby: A Long Way Down and Slam.
I picked both books up (in hardcover even) without even reading what they were about. His name (and the under $7 price tag sold me from the word go). I read A Long Way Down in a few days, which is pretty impressive for me. It’s a book about four very different people who all meet at a popular suicide spot on New Year’s Eve. What I like about Nick is that he gets to the part of the story that a lot of other authors would use as their endings and then pushes on from there. In this case, you’d think that the people meeting on the building to kill themselves would be the end, but it’s just the beginning as they become friends, form a strange little club and learn more about each other (as we do when each character takes a turn at narrating).
Tonight, I finished Slam which is about a 16 year old kid who talks to his Tony Hawk poster and gets the first girl he’s ever slept with pregnant. Again, Hornby really delves deep into the psyche of a kid who’s about to have a kid. And while it’s funny, it’s also incredibly scary and intimidating. I actually put Slam down for quite a while after starting it (I do that a lot). Sometimes its because I don’t really like the book and sometimes its because I’d rather watch TV or read trades. For some reason I thought that Slam was the latter, but I’m glad I picked it back up last week and finished it because I really, really dug it. Horny keeps the focus on Sam the whole time, telling the story from his perspective. It’s an imperfect perspective, of course, but that’s what makes it so charming. It wasn’t TOO long ago that I was 16 (though I didn’t have the problems Sam does), but I can distinctly remember feeling some of the same things he does and feeling the same way. It’s a great book for guys to read and enjoy, but I also really think it’s the rare book that you could hand to a woman and tell her “this is what it’s like to be a 16 year old boy.” Even if he is British.
I do wish his books came with a bit of a glossary though. I’m familiar with most of the British slang, but there’s always something that throws me. I had to look up the word “skint” (it means poor) and I wasn’t sure if British college is the same as ours. I think it is, but I’m not sure. I do think I’m going to start using “do my head in” when someone’s driving me crazy. Also, I kind of want to go to Hastings to see what it’s really like.