February 11, 2010

Your micro-review roundup: 11 February 2010

(Because I make my way through so many books and movies for CCLaP, I regularly come across projects that are interesting enough unto themselves but that I simply don't have much to say about, or at least not enough to warrant an entire entry. I thought, then, that on occasional weekends I would gather up such "micro-reviews" and post them all in one large entry; they can also be found on CCLaP's main book and main movie archive pages.)

The Simpsons, by John Ortved

The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History
By John Ortved
Faber and Faber / Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Although the staff of the cultural touchstone The Simpsons has done a good job over the years of keeping it quiet, the fact is that there's been plenty of drama and infighting behind the scenes of that show (now officially the longest-running prime-time television program in history); that's the subject of this new "uncensored, unauthorized" history by hacky entertainment reporter John Ortved, and to his credit he legitimately dishes up the dirt, revealing among other things that series creator Matt Groening has never actually written a Simpsons script, that most agree that Sam Simon has had the single greatest influence over the show's look and feel yet was forced out anyway over personality conflicts, and that although the show has an infamous clause in its contract barring FOX executives from making changes to episodes, there have been plenty of times that FOX has threatened to simply cancel the show altogether unless certain changes were made (which they indeed were). But unfortunately this is also the case of a 150-page book that's been padded out to 300 pages for commercial purposes, which really drags the manuscript down during these sometimes giant sections; just to cite one example, there's an entire chapter here on the various other prime-time cartoons that have been green-lighted over the years because of The Simpsons' success, which frankly I could've cared less about. A good book to borrow instead of buy, this comes recommended to any fan of that foul-mouthed yellow family, as long as you're prepared to skip around a lot while reading it.

Out of 10: 8.0

Where I Stay, by Andrew Zornoza

Sample page from Where I Stay, by Andrew Zornoza

Where I Stay
By Andrew Zornoza
Tarpaulin Sky Press

Andrew Zornoza's Where I Stay bills itself as a "photo novel," meaning that text and images are combined here to produce one unified fictional narrative tale. And I have to say, although I found the written part only so-so (a sort of rambling Jack-Kerouac-meets-Studs-Turkel tale about the freaks and losers who populate the great rural areas of the US), as a publication I found it one of the greatest little basement-press photography books I've ever seen, which just by itself earns this book a decent score and recommendation. It's almost a case study of what smart yet cash-challenged publishers can do with a little forethought and some good design skills, something to be studied by fellow photographers as much as it is to be simply enjoyed.

Out of 10: 8.3

The Sins of Tarrant County, by Sandy Prindle

The Sins of Tarrant County
By Sandy Prindle
Morgan James Publishing

Ever since the rise of John Grisham, it seems sometimes that nearly every single person ever associated with the legal profession has decided that they too have a legal thriller inside them, just waiting to be written down and turned into a Tom Cruise movie; and now we have our latest, retired small-town judge Sandy Prindle's The Sins of Tarrant County. And like many of these thrillers from semi-amateur writers who used to be part of the legal system (and believe me, I've read more of these now than I care to admit), Prindle's book suffers from a series of basic problems that haunt most such books -- entire chapters that read like court transcripts, characters imbued with lazy stereotypes, clunky dialogue containing too few contractions to resemble regular human speech. ("What is it that you are talking about, Jason?" "It is these example sentences that I am talking about!") It's not terrible as far as these types of books go, which is why it's not getting a terrible score; but Lord, it ain't good, and I snarkily confess that I recoiled a little in horror when reading at the end that this is merely volume one of a coming tetralogy (!) of similarly-themed actioners. Prindle still has some very basic lessons to learn about constructing a novel before his books have even a chance of becoming mainstream hits, and here's hoping that he chooses to get some of that training, to match his admittedly admirable ambitions.

Out of 10: 6.9

Filed by Jason Pettus at 2:42 PM, February 11, 2010. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Literature:Nonfiction | Reviews |