Friday, 9 July 2010

A book a week in 2010: Fup by Jim Dodge

Jake Santees is 99 years old.

He likes to gamble.

A lot.

Jake brews his own whiskey, Ole' Death Whisper, from a secret recipe passed on by a dying Indian man.

He lives on his farm with grandson Tiny.

Tiny likes to build fences.

Fup is a duck, found by Tiny when a newly-hatched duckling, and saved by a drop of the whiskey.

Together they hunt for the wild pig Lockjaw that terrorises Tiny and his fences.

Not making sense? Don't worry. It will, kind of.

First published in 1983 this has quietly become a modern classic. This beautifully illustrated edition was published by Canongate in 2009.

Jim Dodge lives on an isolated ranch in California, west of Sacramento. His sparse, matter of fact prose is bizarre, surreal and in the spirit of Cormac McCarthy and the expanses of the mid west.

This is 'A Modern Fable' well worth the read. Not one for the kids though.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

A book a week in 2010: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The hype around the Millenium series (named after Millenium magazine the main protagonist is editor of) has been extraordinary. It has it all. Critical acclaim for the bleak and tense prose; strange and compelling characters; a plot with more turns than a turkey twizzler; the tragic, sudden death of the author only months after he'd finished the final part of the trilogy; and the ensuing battle for his estate between his family and partner.

Then there's the film. Already released in 2009 in Swedish to commercial success (grossing $100 million worldwide according to Wikipedia), an English language production is rumoured to be in hand.

The crusading business journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, is commissioned to write the history of the dysfunctional family of Henrik Vanger, head of a sprawling family business dynasty now on the wane.

Well, that's the cover story. In reality he's using his journalistic skills to investigate the murder of Henrik's niece many years ago; a mystery that Vanger has never been able to let go of. Mikael teams up with the strange, prickly and intriguing Lisbeth Salander, a private detective like no other, with her own dark, family secrets. Together they discover that the Vanger family are not all they seem, and there are many who would anything to cover it up.

If you liked the Swedish film Let the Right One In, there's a good chance you'll like this book. It's not perfect, but the slow build of tension and the level of detail in describing each scene produces a particular Scandianvian feel: hyper-realism, grim, depressing, whatever. I haven't seen the film or read the sequels, but on the basis of this, I'll get round to it.

Here's the trailer for the film.

And here's the trailer to Let the Right One In.
I'm spoiling you.
This. Is. Brilliant.
In fact, it's so good, it's taking over the end of an unrelated book review.