Patton Oswalt’s film obsession is addictive

Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to Film
Patton Oswalt
Scribner
Pub Date Jan 6 2015

I first came across Patton Oswalt in July 2000 at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire, where he was acting as support act and ‘ between-songs banter ‘ provider for Aimee Mann and Micheal Penn. It was a terrific gig and I liked Oswalt immediately. Since that time I’ve bought a couple of records and been pleased to see him crop up in various films and Tv roles ( Young Adult and Justified being two of the better recent examples ). I must confess I didn’t read his New York Times bestselling debut, Zombie Spaceship Wasteland; but when the opportunity to see a proof of his latest book about love of, and addition to film and cinema, I couldn’t resist. Obsessed is the word. For five years he lived and breathed film – all film, new, old, and especially ones mentioned in a collection of film books he owned, amusingly for me, one of those was Danny Peary’s Cult Movies [I’ve just finished his Cult Horror Movies – the 33 Best Scary, Suspenseful, Gory, and Monstrous Cinema Classics, of which more below.] These books become his bibles, his instruction manuals, informing his comedy and his relationships.

All this while he is also working on becoming a success at the day (well, night mostly) job – being a stand up comedian. Indeed it provides a good insight into what the LA comedy scene was like in the mid to late 90s.

The book is an honest portrayal of a man who LOVES cinema, and who is not afraid to admit became a bit of a dick at the height of his filmic obsession – making a girlfriend walk home alone instead of pausing film consumption being a prime example. There are a couple of show-biz stories too, but again it’s not in a naming names type of book manner, more to illustrate things in general.

We end awaiting the appearance of his directorial debut …

Cult Horror Movies: Discover the 33 Best Scary, Suspenseful, Gory, and Monstrous Cinema Classics
Danny Peary
Workman Publishing Company
Pub Date Oct 7 2014

This eBook is one of three (the others being Crime and Midnight Movies) that draws on essays from Peary’s Cult Movies book series. As Patton Oswalt attests to in his book, Peary is one of the ‘go-to’ guys if you’re interested in film. The Horror book is therefore both informative, and engaging. We looks at 33 films including The Wicker Man, Psycho, Night of the living Dead, An American Werewolf in London and Night of the Demon (which always scared the shit out of me as a child) You get the detailed plot synopsis for each film followed by a discussion of its reception and then Peary’s own individual views on the films place in cultdom. For me, where I really fell into sync with Peary is over Night of the Demon : ” Night of the Demon is an exceptional adult horror film …This demon is more terrifying than anything imaginable. It’s the scariest monster in film history as far as I am concerned.” Absolutely: It’s in the trees …it’s coming.

Books of 2014

Set myself a total of 50 reads this year, and have done that so I’m quite pleased, But, of those what really rocked my boat? The Booker threw up some interesting stuff. I’ve not yet gotten around to the winner but I thought Howard Jacobsen – J [my review] was certainly amongst the best he’d written, if not the best. Part dystopian love story, part comment on anti-Semitism (and anything similar). It won me over in a way his booker-winning previous novel The Finkler Question never did. Booker also gave us Karen Joy Fowler -We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves [My review]. If there was a more readable ‘good’ book this year, I’m not sure I came across it. A book about sibling love and kinship and establishing that bond of sisterhood. Build on a clever premise and beautifully executed. If Fowler was the easy then Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake [My review] was the difficult. Frustrating? Annoying? Hard to Read? Yep and then some. And yet, there is something more to this well worked tale of a man at odds with the changing world around him and the invasion of a foreign army. It’s not an easy read, but it is (eventually) a satisfying one.

I’ve always had a soft spot for crime and mystery novels and a few took my fancy this year. Benjamin Black – The Black Eyed Blonde: This was wonderful, convincing and enjoyable chandler-esq romp from John Banville’s crime writing alter-ego, and was certainly good enough that you finished it hoping we hadn’t seen the last of Philip Marlowe. Swiss author Joel Dicker gave us one of the blockbuster crime novels of the year with The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair. An exploration of love and of whether or not the titular character is a murderer or not. Like a melding of Grisham and Conroy is was a great read. Then there was Guy Adams – The Clown Service. A fantasy spy novel of sorts. Witty, well pace and plotted and opening the door towhat, one presumes, will be a series. One of my favourite writers, Arturo Perez Reverte returned with The Siege. A book which provided a good take on the siege of Cadiz in 1811 whilst also unravelling a search for a serial killer. It’s a book which is not in a hurry to reach its resolution, but the meticulousness of its historical detail and the beautifully drawn central characters mean that that resolution becomes secondary to the drama. Both Perez Reverte and translator Frank Wynn make it a reading pleasure. Finally there was Waterstone’s book of the year, Jessie Burton – The Miniaturist. More a mix of gothic mystery and a coming-of-age story of 18th century Amsterdam that explores both feminism and the meaning of love to great effect.

Non-fiction threw up some delights. Andrew Jennings – Omertà: Sepp Blatter’s FIFA Organised Crime Family helped answer the question how corrupt is FIFA? Actually even MORE than you think. Is that even possible you ask yourself? Oh, yes. Riveting stuff. Even more riveting was Bob Stanley’s epic Yeah Yeah Yeah. The Story of Modern Pop: A chronological trip through the history of ‘the pop single’ in the UK/US, and is a pure delight from start to finish. If you have access to a streaming music service such as Spotify etc you’ll also find yourself checking out LOTS of stuff you didn’t know or had somehow forgotten about. Brilliant. And then there were two marvelous books on Adoption. Julia Davis – Preparing for Adoption [My review], which focussed on the ‘introductions’ stage of the adoption process and gave prospective adopters a framework to navigate this process and beyond and to make sure they do so in an attachment focused way. Then there was Sally Donavon’s Unofficial Guide to Adoptive Parenting [My review]. One of the stand out book of any kind this year. It is full of humour and real life examples of practical guidance and strategies for adopters on how to deal with their children.

As a Librarian I can’t not mention Sophie Divry – The Library of Unrequited Love: This short book was a pure delight. Anyone who has ever worked in public libraries will identify with the central character – as we have all worked with someone just like them. Or you will feel some shared annoyances about work colleagues. Brilliant and very funny.

The best man alone, Robinson Crusoe-esq book of the year was undoubtedly Andy Weir’s – The Martian, about a trip to Mars that does not go to plan and one man’s attempt to get home. It manages to be engaging whilst also being (or at least seeming to this reader) convincing on its space science. M.R. Cary – The Girl with All the Gifts: proved you could ask the question when is a Zombie novel not a Zombie novel. This is a well constructed and executed tale of nature v nurture and the relationships between adult and child. One of the surprises of the year. Another pleasant surprise was Ransom Riggs – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children [and the follow up novel Hollow City] This great new children’s book series about parallel worlds was terrific fun. I’m already waiting for part three due next year. Jenny Offil – Dept. of Speculation has appeared in a few best of lists. I’m still not quite sure what I feel about it. It is wonderfully written (as was Lost Things her debut novel 14 years ago) and its seemingly random collection of snippets from one woman’s life was as ‘literary’ as this list gets. One of my all-time favourite writers, Huruki Murakami brought us Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. No one does bonkers fantastical ordinariness better than Murakami, but for this outing he was back on the straight and narrow. This is a fairly conventional novel about how one event can colour one’s whole life. I loved it. Philip Gabriel’s translation jumps off the page and delivers its emotional heart and not for the first time the clear importance of music to Murakami’s writing is plane to see.

So then we have Brooke Davis – Lost and Found [My review]. A road trip across Australia with a little girl and too pensioners packs in a lot of cute and quirky as well as some poignant insights into grief and loss. Out in January, it will be one of the big books of early 2015. Yes, sorry, I am cheating a bit. Not only am I including Brooke Davis’ book which is not out until next month, but I’m also going to include Jonas Karlsson – The Room [My review] also out next month. Probably my favourite read of 2014 and already pace setter for book of 2015. It’s the The Trial as if it were written by Daniel Handler. Wickedly funny, well crafted, and immensely enjoyable.

Cute and Quirky novel about loss and finding happiness hits right note

Lost and Found
Brooke Davis
Random House UK, Cornerstone
UK Pub Date:
Jan 29 2015

Due out in January, there is already a head of steam behind Australian Brooke Davis’ debut novel Lost and Found. It’s already been a smash at home and I strongly suspect it will be a big hit in the UK too Believe me, one of your friends will either buy you this or recommend you read it during 2015. It is a story about how three people who have suffered a loss come together in an unconventional road trip.

Millie Bird is a red-headed seven year old obsessed by death. Following the death of the family dog, she starts to keep a book of dead things to note down and remembers things that have died. Early into the novel she has to add her dad to the list. A big loss, and one that is followed shortly afterwards by her mother abandoning her in a department store – she leaves Millie by the ladies lingerie section and tells her to wait because she’ll be back soon. She sits under a display and waits but her mother does not return. Day turns to night turn to day and still her mother does not reappear. She’s all alone.

Until, that is, see encounters Karl (the Touch Typist) an eighty-seven year old widower who roams the department store for something to do and to escape the monotony of life in a nursing home. He is morning the loss of his wife and soul mate Evie and can’t find a purpose in life. He helps Millie escape the store and the imminent threat of social services. Then she meets Agatha Pantha, an eighty-two-year-old woman, who lives across the road from her. She too is mourning the loss of her spouse, and has become a bit of a recluse, and someone who spends her days staring from behind her curtains and shouting insults and random comments at passes by.

To cut to the chase, this intrepid and partly decrepit trio set out across Australia to find Millie’s mum.

The novel, inspired by Davis’s grief over the sudden death of her mother in a freak accident in 2006, and written for her doctorate at Curtin University is a lovely and touching read. Davis writes well about grief and loss and how if left unaddressed can become all consuming. Her road trip tale is quirky and funny, although there is a fine line between quirky and annoying and I’m certain for some readers they will feel it’s a line that has been crossed and that Davis’ book is too cute for its own good (although if the acknowledgments at the end of the book are to be believed it was previously even more cute). Yes, some reader will really take against this book. Whether its Millie leaving ‘In Here Mum’ messages everywhere, Agatha’s Age Book, Manny the mannequin or the plane preposterousness of the entire plot, some people will be savage and unforgiving.

Not me. I entered into the spirit of the book and as a result felt carried along in a ‘Little Miss Sunshine ‘ way [and don’t be surprised to see this book made into film in the not too distant future]. I liked the fact that two pensioners have lead roles. Agatha and Karl made me smile. I liked their contrasting ways of dealing with their grief and their differing means of showing their love for their passed partners. I liked the innocence of Millie. I liked the supporting cast of oddballs and misfits, some with their own issues of loss and grief. Perhaps it is the mixture of having a daughter not much younger than Millie and having read a number of books about grief in adopted children recently but the way Davis writes about and evokes feelings of grief, depression and loss, especially through Karl, is both touching and moving. There is also a warmth permeating though the story which means it is, ultimately, less a book about loss and more a novel about love and the power of love to heal.

Put you cynicism in a box and just read and enjoy with a sentimental smile and a warm heart.

What’s Shareable is bearable: New book on adoption and the importance of reading all you can

If nothing is happening in the process – READ and the READ some more.

“Children who have experienced traumatic times, as we know, do not just ‘get over it’. Better to come to terms with this than live in hope that one day all will be fixed” - Sally Donovan – The Unoffical Guide to Adoptive Parenting

Today sees the release of Sally Donovan‘s latest book – The Unoffical Guide to Adoptive Parenting. It’s a terrific book from someone who both understands the realities of parenting an adoptive child and who herself has read and learned as much as possible to help herself be the best adoptive parent she can be [Read my review here] With that in mind I was thinking about adoption books and reading and concluded that the best advice I can give to anyone considering adoption is to read. Read every step of way: when you’re considering adopting, when you’re in the process, when your child has been placed – READ. There are a lot of books relating to different aspects of childcare, attachment, trauma, and the adoption process, try and read as many as you can. Some will infuriate you, some will chime true with you, others will seem like new age or whishy-washy twaddle, some will manage to do all of this at different times within their pages. Some will only hit home somewhere down the road. The value to be gained however is immeasurable.

Here are a few I have read over the last 18 months and one example of things they said which connected with me. These may not be deep and meaningful or things that are world changing, but instead they are just simple things that made me go, oh yeah.

Parenting the Hurt Child – Gregory Keck and Regina Kupecky

“A child’s History isn’t only in the past. It affects the present and the future.”

Help Your Child Develop Emotional Literacy – Betty Rudd

“Your child’s needs are like your needs: the need for structure (such as regular meals and sleep time); stimulus (such as going to see a show and being with a friend) and support (such as having someone to talk to and feeling safe enough to ask for a caring hug) in life. As parents you ensure these needs are met, because you understand them, while ensuring that you also take care of yourselves so that you own needs met, in order to be potent role models for your child.”

Raising Children Who Refuse to be Raised – Dave Zeigler

“Behaviors are not causes; they are effects. This means that we behave as we do because we think and feel in certain ways, not the opposite.”

The Unoffical Guide to Adoptive Parenting – Sally Donovan

“Behaviour systems which may work for other children, may not work for adopted children. For example, behaviour systems which involve public shaming or which are long-lasting may just teach a child already well-acquainted with shame that they are indeed bad and everything is their fault.”

Attachment in Common Sense Doodles – Miriam Silver

“Consequences only work when the child is able and motivated to achieve the positive outcome, and is already trusting in the relationship so they know they are an ok person even if they’re getting a negative consequence. As we’ve seen many children who come from a background of trauma, abuse and neglect are missing so many basic experiences that they aren’t familiar with the idea of a caregiver who cares about them and holds them in positive regard, let alone one who is consistent about what is expected of them and keen to support them to achieve the best possible outcomes.”

What to Expect when You’re Adopting – Dr Ian Palmer

“You cannot be perfect. Children can be vert trying at times for any parent, articularly when challenging and testing boundaries through their behaviours. No one feels good all the time, everyone is allowed to snap sometimes. This is normal. Do not add you difficulties by trying to be perfect all of the time; it’s impossible”

Preparing for Adoption – Julia Davis

“Children who have experienced neglect and loss can find it hard to play by themselves. They can feel abandoned or rejected if told to go off and play. They benefit from much more adult-led play than you would expect for a child of their age.”

Twelve Things Adopted Kids wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew – Sherrie Eldridge

“It is important for adoptive parents to discern what kind of fantasy the adoptee has of the birth parents so that honest, loving, and healing thoughts can fill up the void where fantasy reigns.”

And I’ll leave the last word to Sally, and the importance of focussing on you and you child not how it looks to others.

“I now give much less of a shit what other people think. Not giving a shit has been of great benefit to me and mine”