howmanybeards

Tag: review

060: ‘Salem’s Lot

There are a lot of different ways to describe different types or genres of literature. So many that I never really bothered to pay attention to them. Simply one more way for people to classify, pigeonhole, and thereby engender a license to be an elitist prick about something. I can only imagine that most people don’t have very kind descriptors for the kind of work that Stephen King writes, but regardless of his literary merits there is one undeniable tenant to his work: it’s fun to read. I’ve read a few other books by King over the last few years and have always found them entertaining. I even read his half advice/half memoir On Writing and found it uniquely interesting (but that’s a conversation for another post). Most recently I was in the midst of prepping for a trip to Boston, MA and Portsmouth, NH so I swung by the library and picked up a copy of a distinctly New Englandish book, ‘Salem’s Lot

salems lot cover

Now for all you font/grammar weirdos out there, let me clarify right off the bat that the apostrophe at the front of ‘Salem’s Lot is not a typo. Right away in the book they identify that the setting is a town called Jerusalem’s Lot, conveniently shortened to ‘Salem’s Lot. King even provides a back story. To me the most interesting part was the brief insight that Jerusalem contains the word Salem. But whatever.

The main reason I’m convening a post on this book though is its subject matter.  This is a story about vampires. Now you might already be clicking for the close window button but hear me out for just a second. Yes, vampires are played out, over saturated, or whatever you want to call it, but that’s exactly what makes ‘Salem’s Lot so satisfying. It was King’s 2nd novel and it was published in 1975. What this creates is a charming and refreshing take on the vampire menace. There’s nothing sexy going on here, just old school unspeakable horror in the night style vampires who want nothing more to consume. As an added bonus the setting naturally precludes all modern amenities (cell phones, internet research, etc,). And lastly, this is from when King was still fresh to writing, when he was writing more for himself than for any audience.

I am recommending ‘Salem’s Lot as fodder for your next thesis paper? No. But am I recommending it as a incredibly fun and compelling read? Absolutely. So get to it. 

Have you read ‘Salem’s Lot? Any thoughts or concerns? Leave’em in the comments.

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057: 1776

1776 4/5

What do you know about the American Revolutionary War? Hopefully you know that we won. That’s usually a good place to start. You might know we fought the English when they were still truly Great Britain. Hell, maybe you’ve even seen the Patriot and have some inkling of how horrific the war actually was. More than likely though you don’t really know much. That’s where David McCullough comes in. He’s a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author who specializes in historical accounts and biographies. You’re probably most familiar with his book John Adams, or more likely the superb mini-series HBO made based on it. But I digress, we’re here to talk about 1776.

1776-mccullough

 

Let’s clear something up right away. This is a book about history. This is not a History Book. You probably won’t realize until you get to the end and see that the last 40 pages or so are filled with the references, bibliography, and index that this book is exhaustively well researched. But thank god it is because it’s the details that make 1776 what it is. The book follows the Continental Army from roughly the time Washington is appointed General/right after Bunker Hill all the way up through his crossing of the Delaware to rout the Hessian soldiers from Trenton. It primarily follows Washington and provides thorough insight to his psyche during these 18 months or so, but it also follows several other lesser known heroes of the Revolutionary War, the young men whom Washington came to trust most to help lead his army.

battle of princeton

The book is not terribly long, less than 300 pages, but still manages to pack in a dizzying amount of easily digestible information without moving at a snail’s pace. Rather, McCullough gives you just enough to make you feel smart but not too much to make you feel like you’re studying for a midterm. I would definitely recommend this for Summer Reading as a nice break to all that fast fiction or lady empowerment comedy stuff you’re reading. Plus Independence Day is right around the corner.

 

 

 

 

049: Astronautalis

This is a guest post from the inimitably impassioned Meghan. She’ll be bring us regular updates on the music-world with a Left Coast take from her current home in Portland. To get your fill of music nonsense and passionate rants about New Girl, follow her on Twitter. Meghan is now the 1 of the 2 better halves of Secret Rad Media!

An impromptu, short introduction to Astronautalis.

Portland, Oregon – Wonder Ballroom

WHY and Astronautalis 012

I’ve got a new Wednesday recommendation for you all. To begin, when I try to explain an artist to someone as an introduction I usually use the “If so & so and so & so had a baby” analogy. That has always worked perfectly until this past Sunday night when I found myself in front of clean-cut and handsomely charming Andy Bothwell, aka – Astronautalis.

Opening for WHY? which I was set to attend that evening, I decided to throw some of his tunes on before the show, just to get acquainted. Now let me throw some names at you. First I heard the rising addictive hip-hop beats and vox of recent phenom, Macklemore. Perfect, I thought. Then I heard the grungy southern twang ala Lucero with the added smoothness of a one Caleb Followill. “This guy is all over the place;” I stumbled forward in confusion. More deep beats. Okay, he IS hip-hop. Now synth. Now he is Isaac Brock. Then, wait, did someone put on Billy Joel? What is happening?! And then my brain imploded.

When I came to, I found myself at the front of the stage of Portland’s Wonder Ballroom. Looking up at Astronautalis he explained how he used to be a ‘little British girl,’ later to amend “that was a lie, I was never a little British girl. Everything from here on out will be the truth.” The center crowd, slow to feel him out, finally broke into an all out dance party as he belted through what appeared to be his biggest hit – “Contrails” (which recorded, features Tegan Quin).

Astronautalis ft. Tegan Quin – Contrails

As sweaty bodies and exhausted breath overwhelmed the crowd, Andy asked us to name some topics for the backbone of his traditional freestyle session. Bukowski, drinking tea, being 21, The Walking Dead, redheads, an unavoidable sneak-in of C.S. Lewis, three or so more and he was off. I looked around the crowd as he spit out a slew of words, band building beats behind him, as if this was a poem years in the making. The closing of his set produced gaping jaws on faces of the crowd, as the percentage of bodies who had never heard of Astronautalis inevitably accepted they would be leaving their brains behind at Wonder ballroom this night.

An Astronautalis Freestyle

041: This Is How You Lose Her

This Is How You Lose Her 4/5

It seems that in the modern world successful storytelling has to come as part of a planned, or at least the intention, or a three or more part series. While this may not be true of quote unquote literature, it has become relatively standard fare for sci-fi, fantasy, romance, and of course the ubiquitous teen fiction. All of this seems to be slowly eradicating the world of stories that simply happen to fall into the same universe a la Tom Clancy’s novels or Terry Pratchet’s Discworld series. Now it seems everything has to be Part One, Part Two, Part Three etc, demanding dogmatic adherence to progressing a singular story line with a static main character and a relatively constant supporting cast. Don’t take this to mean that all serialized fiction is terrible (it’s not), and it has done great things especially in the realm of increasing readership amongst young people. So maybe all of this is why I liked Junot Diaz’s newest book so much.

this is how you lose her

 

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032: Looper

Looper: 5/5

If you haven’t seen Looper, then you’re doing yourself a mighty disservice. Even if you don’t like Sci-Fi or Time Travel or all that riff-raff, don’t worry. Watch it anyway. Don’t believe me? Follow me down the rabbit hole.

Metropolis - Final

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013: Lawless

Lawless: 3/5

What is Lawless? Well it’s a movie. But what is it? Is it True Life? Gangster? Time Piece? Action? Romance? Can a movie be all of these things? Yes, it can, but, can it be all of these things and not only survive but thrive? Well, yes. And that is what Lawless is, a tale of survival, survival of the fittest by those who are willing to do what needs to be done.

lawless tom hardy poster

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