Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pseudo Review: "The Little Sleep" by Paul Tremblay

A couple of months back, I had the estimable pleasure of bouncing my wonderous self off the pavement of South Huntington Avenue. I'd been riding my bike for two hours per night after working a full day's shift and thought this might be a great, inexpensive way to both get to know the areas that I wasn't so familiar with and to lose a few pounds. Night One was along the Charles from Allston up to MGH and into Cambridge a little. Night Two took me down toward Boston College and around the Reservoir a few times. Night Three consisted the back streets of Cambridge along the Harvard area; lot of ins and outs and what-have-yous. And then, Night Four: along Jamaica Pond, through JP and down toward Huntington. That's when it happened.

Trying to move to the right side of South Huntington in order to let cars pass more safely, my front tire got stuck in a Green Line trolley track and I flipped over, head first, to the waiting rubberized street below. I remember velocity, the sudden and winded "HUNNPH!" as I hit the ground, and I recall coming to rest on my left side... almost as if I'd planned to go to sleep there. Three or four seconds later I was getting up onto my feet. I'm a fast recoverer, partially because I'm so damn tough (yeah, right) but moreso because I'm typically embarrassed of such a fall and somewhere, deep down, I want any possible witnesses to know that "I'm just fine, thank you, there's nothing to see here, so move along."

Though there wasn't any pain to speak of, I certainly looked the part of the banged-up bicyclist. Road-rashed knees, arms and face, bloody cuts, newly slightly-chipped tooth... This was nothing I couldn't handle. I've never thought much of my particular look anyway, so I was able to deal with what happened, mostly. I'd broken a wrist in three places but not known it; it was stiff, I felt, but not painful. In short (if it's not already too late to make such an attempt) I felt like a big, mangled dope who was supremely lucky not to have been killed. I limped my way home, having neither my cell phone on me nor enough money to call a cab. After being bandaged up and told to stay off my feet for a few days, I opened "The Little Sleep," a great detective novel with a rich and often tough local flavor by Paul Tremblay.

As a guy who's seen and loved probably a few too many Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade stories, myself, I fell right in with Tremblay's protagonist, Mark Genevich. A South Boston private investigator with a form of narcolepsy that flows from fatigue to hallucinations to full-on cataplexy, he eeks out his existence with a sizable helping of contempt for both others and himself. The novel's opening scene is a grabber: a local female television celebrity reveals her hand, which is missing a few fingers, and asks the dark Detective Genevich to find the people responsible. But soon Genevich "wakes up" and is wondering... Did this meeting just happen? Was anyone just here? And where did this mysterious note in my handwriting come from?

Genevich is referred to as being somewhat facially disfigured following the accident that brought on his narcolepsy in the first place. Though he covers his scars with a growth of beard and the requisite detective raincoat and hat combo, his spirit is just as shattered as his rumpled appearance, if not more so. Hiding in plain sight, he's an imposing figure masking a deeper soul. He's all-there in his interior world with a razor sharp humor that he wields like a weapon, yet often has great difficulty saying the right thing to the right person at the right time. He's the classic underdog hero; one that might seem like - and even consider himself - the perfect loser, but has an inner strength that can, and often does, serve as a sort of salvation.

Genevich's investigation takes him from the streets of Boston to the power offices of Local Government, through a hallucination or two and eventually into his own past. The narrative works brilliantly on its own, but it's the character himself that's the novel's ace in the hole. He's gruff, he's dark, he's often unpleasant. A moralist who's ready to believe the worst. He's the blue collar joe in the white collar corridors. The damaged hero that we love and want to succeed; to solve his crime and to find personal peace. As I mentioned above, I sympathized with this character to a dramatic extent. Not that Genevich would ever accept anyone's sympathy. And as I'd been feeling a little "off" that particular month due to my bicycle wreck, moving through the chapters of "The Little Sleep" I'd thought to myself, "I know this guy." And though I knew I'd be fine in a few days once the wrist healed up, I found myself hoping that Genevich's situation would turn itself around, too. Sometimes a character just clicks with you, you know?

A second novel featuring Genevich, "No Sleep Till Wonderland" is also available and it's quite a ride in its own right. I look forward to what I hope will be many more installments in this local gumshoe's life and times. He, and creator Paul Tremblay, have great things ahead of them.

More info:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Little Big Man: A True Story

Howdy, people. Not much news to report these days. Broke my wrist biking on South Huntington Avenue in Boston. (Healed now, but ligament surgery awaits.) Regressing to my younger days by recalling and playing a lot of classic 80's music and video games, as well as watching lots of 80's movies; wondering if they'd hold up as well as I hoped they might. Some did, some didn't. Got me one o' thems "iPod Touch" deals. Like it a lot, especially for listening to 80's music and playing 80's video games. Still perfecting my homemade chicken soup. Hopefully evolving as a person. And recently, I introduced someone new to this blog. She went all the way back to the first post and reminded me that I'd mentioned early-on that this report would include discussions of film criticism, love, honor and the occasional dirty joke. "But," this new reader commented, "I don't really see any dirty jokes yet."

Well, I hate to disappoint people. So it's time for a kinda-sorta dirty joke, one which some of you might have heard before... but what the hell? The following is a true story.

Back in my post college days, I had a lot of terrible and meaningless temp jobs. Manual labor, mostly. Organizing and moving warehouse merch around, conveyor belt and truck loading gigs. That sort of thing. One such job was at the local Georgia Pacific housewares storage facility, unloading 18-wheeler shipments of window-sashes and door accents and various adornments for McMansions all over the state. Ten hour days, five days a week, starting at 7 o'clock every morning. It wasn't the worst job I'd had in those days, but I have to admit that I would often fantasize about jumping a fork lift off the second story landing and knocking down the first wave of bay window storage shelving to see if I could wipe out row after row of the warehouse's entire capacity like a giant million-dollar set of dominoes... A man can dream.

Some of my coworkers were cool, but one just plain sucked. "Freddie" was about my age. About 24 or so; fairly young for this particular shop. But despite being about a foot shorter than I was and without any sort of education or apparent need or desire for one, you could still refer to him as a blowhard. Talking loudly at every moment, full of sound and fury while signifying nothing, this guy thought of himself as the big man on campus, while some of us enjoyed referring to him as suffering from what we called LGS: Little Guy Syndrome. That is, the affliction under which someone behaves like a loudmouthed braggard of total idiocy in order to make up for being so small in physical stature. Sometimes I find it a pleasure to take people like this down a peg. And just a couple of days after starting this job, I'd decided to test this lame's personal waters.

"Hey assholes," he'd called out. He'd considered "asshole" the group nickname for those of us that were just temps. "I don't care what anybody else says in this place, okay? I gotta lotta shit that's gotta get done around here. When it's quittin' time, I go. Fuck overtime. My nights are mine. So no matter what they give ya' to do in the office... If I need ya' to help me out, ya' help me out. Remember that, fellas. No matter what, I always come first."

I just laughed and joked, "No wonder your girlfriend always looks so disappointed."

Hiyooooooooooo! :)

Theatrical Reviews
Brazil: The Director's Cut (1985) ****
Predators **1/2
Red **1/2

The Films of Akira Kurosawa
Sanshiro Sugata II (1945) ****
Rhapsody in August (1991) ***1/2
Madadayo (1993) ****

Films of the "1980's"
Miracle Mile (1988) ****
Brainstorm (1983) ***1/2
D.A.R.Y.L. (1985) ***1/2
Big Shots (1987) ***
Outland (1981) ***
Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) **1/2
The Manhattan Project (1985) **1/2
Cloak & Dagger (1985) **1/2
Weird Science (1986) **1/2
Capricorn One (*1979) **1/2
Runaway (1984) **1/2
Cobra (1986) **1/2
The Philadelphia Experiment (1986) **
Silent Running (*1972) **
Dreamscape (1983) **
Spacecamp (1986) **
Firewalker (1986) *

DVD/Home Video
Twin Peaks: Definitive Gold Box Edition ****
Midnight Run (1988) ****
The Long Goodbye (1973) ***1/2
Michael Clayton (2008) ***1/2
New York, I Love You ***1/2
K-20 (Japan, 2008) ***1/2
Oleanna (1993) ***1/2
The Girlfriend Experience (2009) ***
Goemon (Japan, 2009) ***
Timeline (2003) ***
Next (2007) ***
The Bogey Man (UK, 1992) **1/2
My Name Is Bruce (2007) **1/2
Deja Vu (2006) **1/2
Bangkok Dangerous (2008, USA) **
Babylon A. D. *1/2
Angel of Death (2009) *

The Rum Diary (Hunter S. Thompson) ***1/2
No Sleep Till Wonderland (Paul Tremblay) ***
On The Road (Jack Kerouac) ***

Music/Spoken Word
The Social Network (score by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross) ***1/2
The Runaways: Music from the Motion Picture ***1/2
Hal Hartley: Soon (Music from the Play) ***1/2
The Blue Note 7: Mosaic ***1/2
Juliana Hatfield: How To Walk Away ***
Edy (score by Nils Petter Molvaer) ***
Bob Dylan: Modern Times ***
Lisa Gerrard: Departum ***
Chris Isaak: Mr. Lucky ***
Eric Clapton: Clapton ***
Assault Girls (score by Kenji Kawai) **1/2
Chris Isaak: Live at the Filmore **1/2

Video Games
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (PS2) ***1/2

Board Games
Back To The Future: The Card Game (Looney Labs) ***
Rory's Story Cubes (Gamewright) ***
Pass The Popcorn ***

Star Trek (2009) Review (Red Letter Media) ***