Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Nevermore: Film, A Curious Mind, Plagues, A Wolf, and Nordic Noir

The Nevermore Book Club actually talked about movies to kick off a recent meeting.  One member highly recommended “Kind Hearts and Coronets,” a 1949 movie which starred Alec Guinness in a variety of roles.  It’s a dark comedy about a man who decides to murder his way to a title. 

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein is a difficult to classify book.  It’s a coming of age tale, a multi-generational saga, and a ghost story all rolled up into one.  Stein wrote the wonderful and highly acclaimed book The Art of Racing in the Rain, and while our reviewer didn’t feel this book quite measured up, she did enjoy it.

A Curious Mind:  The Secret to a Bigger Life by Brian Grazer is an examination of those who are “intellectually curious,” people who take time to wonder why.  Grazer, a film producer, has found inspiration for some of his work through such people, and he believes that curiosity can improve one’s life. Part of the book is devoted to his conversations with both the famous and the not so famous, while other sections are memoir and meditation.  Our reader found much of the book to be very interesting—just not Mr. Grazer’s biographical sections, which she skipped.  Otherwise, she thought the book entertaining and worth her time.

Yellow Fever remained a topic of interest.  This time the book was American Plague by Molly Caldwell Crosby.  Today Yellow Fever seems to be a footnote in history books, belying its terrible cost. Like ebola,  it’s a hemorrhagic disease with terrifying symptoms that include bleeding, delirium, and jaundice.  People were terrified, and with good reason:  mortality rates were very high.  In the 1853 outbreak in Louisiana,  over 7000 people died in New Orleans alone. It took a terrible toll on medical personnel who were trying to help those infected. Crosby’s book concentrates on an outbreak in Memphis in 1878, vividly portraying the panic from residents.  Our reviewer found it as gripping as any thriller.

White Plague by James Abel is a non-stop action novel that takes place in the Arctic where a highly advanced submarine, the USS Montana, is in trouble.  There’s been a fire and the many of the crew are ill. The Pentagon dispatches bioterrorism expert Joe Rush to the rescue, but he may not arrive before the Chinese do.  This is a fast-paced military thriller that keeps the pages turning.  The Arctic setting is a definite plus, and the twists and turns keep on coming.  One reviewer compared it to the works of  both Michael Crichton and Tom Clancy.

Not quite as compelling was Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle.  The reclusive Sean Phillips develops an online game where players can make choices between adventures.  He becomes quite involved with some of the players, but only through the internet.  Our reviewer said that the book wasn’t cohesive and added, “If you want to be confused, this is the book to read.”

Several people put in recommendations for the novels of Karin Fossum.  She’s the author of the Inspector Sejer series, and often called “the Norwegian Queen of Crime,” but who began her career as a poet.  Her books center more on personality and motive than on strict police procedure.  Inspector Sejer is a calm, patient, polite man, unlike many of the Nordic Noir detectives who spend their time in existential angst.

Finally, the meeting came full circle back to film as some members sang the praises of PUSH, downtown’s Bristol first film festival.  They particularly praised “The Last Pyramid,” a documentary about stained glass artist Trish Barnes, who raised a million dollars for epilepsy research in memory of her son.  The film was described as both uplifting and moving, earning a standing ovation from the audience.  They expressed the hope that PUSH will continue.

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