Sure, the world-building could’ve been stronger (more on that later), and it would’ve been nice to see more of Jacoby’s back story, but there’s a lot of good in the movie. Great performances by Will Smith and Joel Edgerton, and, yes, that it is a loud, ungainly, expensive, bizarre buddy-cop movie. For an escapist flick, it is different and an altogether enjoyable ride.
What drives the story isn’t so much the buddy-cop angle with wondering if an Orc can get along as the first Orc in the Los Angeles Police Department; rather, it is the presence of terrorists, a rogue Elf, the hunt for a powerful wand, and the possible return of The Dark Lord. If you don’t think too much about it, and let the movie’s strangeness wash over you, it is a fine cinematic time.
The problem with the movie is that it is both too much and not enough. Perhaps this is a fault of marketing that foregrounded the Orc-Human buddy-cop angle, and not enough of how it is really a chase movie through a world that is both familiar and strange.
Following Tommy by Bob Hartley is a gem of a book: hard, brilliant and valuable.
It tells the story of Jacky O’Day, a bookish teen who lives in a changing Irish neighborhood in 1962 Chicago with an alcoholic father and a troubled older brother, Tommy. All of them live in the devastating aftermath of the early death of the woman in their life, the clear-headed mother and wife who had kept the three on the straight and narrow.
Without her, Jacky follows Tommy into his forays of petty crimes, as if that is the only viable path through their hardscrabble world. When Tommy’s crimes grow more violent, though, Jacky begins to question their relationship and himself.
Hartley delves into questions of identity and race, and offers a dramatic portrait of how a specific kind of Chicago neighborhood operates, with and against the law.
Through it all, Hartley’s clear, concise prose remains unflinching and cutting at times.
“After Birth” by Elisa Albert tells the story of three months in one woman’s life around a year after giving birth who befriends a former “almost” rock star/poet who is about to give birth. The narrator says of the poet: “I’m a little obsessed with her, by which I mean a lot, which I guess is what obsessed means.”
In that sentence, Albert achieves the creation of a distinctive character in her narrator: a sharp sense of humor, somewhat confessional, somewhat striving for clarity, while also somewhat muddled. Ari, the narrator, may not always be a sympathetic character (one of the first things she does is call the upstate city she lives – a fictional town called Utrecht, but an easily readable blend of Albany, Troy, Schenectady — a “shitbox”), but her language is so seductive that it can charm the reader, even in her most negative moments.
After all, Ari seems to be suffering from a kind of post-partum depression, a severe disorientation in which she feels betrayed by a world that didn’t prepare her for life after having a child, she’s lost interest in completing her doctorate in women’s studies, she feels isolated in the aforementioned “shitbox” town, and all of it has been exacerbated by having undergone a c-section operation.
If that weren’t enough, there is also that special kind of existential dread a parent faces by bringing a new life into the world: “I’m not going to pretend my kid is special, like other kids who starve and freeze and get raped and beaten and have to work in factories and get cancer from the fumes, too bad, so sad, but my kid is going to be warm and organic and toxin-free and safe and have everything he wants when he wants it and go to a good college and all is right with the world! Fuck that myopic bullshit. He’s going to suffer. He’s going to get mauled by some force I can’t pretend I can predict. We all live in the same fucked-up world.” Continue reading “Book review: After Birth by Elisa Albert”→