"Pride and Prejudice and Zombies"

You know, if they'd given me books like this to read in high school, I might have actually read them.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies features the original text of Jane Austen's beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton--and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers--and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead. Complete with 20 illustrations in the style of C. E. Brock (the original illustrator of Pride and Prejudice), this insanely funny expanded edition will introduce Jane Austen's classic novel to new legions of fans.

Outstanding. I just hope that someone has bought the movie rights. Who do you think should play Elizabeth in the film version? Leave a comment and let me know. Thanks to Crooked Timber and The Little Professor, both of whom have their own suggestions for similar works, for the link.

02/08/09 | permalink | comments [0]

RIP-to-be: Opus the penguin

You've probably already figured this out from the tone of the recent strips, but for the third and apparently last time, cartoonist Berkeley Breathed is preparing to quit the funny pages.

The 51-year-old cartoonist said he will pull the plug on his comic-strip career and "Opus" after Nov. 2.

In an e-mail to the Los Angeles Times, the 51-year-old Breathed wrote, "30 years of cartooning to end. I'm destroying the village to save it. Opus would inevitably become a ranting mouthpiece in the coming wicked days, and I respect the other parts of him too much to see that happen. The Michael Moore part of me would kill the part of him that was important to his fans."


Breathed, who won a Pulitzer Prize for "Bloom County," also writes screenplays, novels and children's books. In a press release from the Washington Post Writers Group, which syndicates "Opus," he said, "With the crisis in Wall Street and Washington, I'm suspending my comic strip to assist the nation. The best way I can help is to leave politics permanently and write funny stories for America's kids. I call on John McCain to join me."

Five years ago, when Breathed first spoke about resurrecting Opus, he said "It was painful to sit through the war without a public voice." I guess he decided that the voice he had, doing children's books and other stuff, will be sufficient for him going forward. I wish him well in those pursuits.

By the way, if you go to BerkeleyBreathed.com, you can guess what ulitmately happens to Opus. I think I'd feel a little too weird about that to participate. Better to imagine him as perpetually in the 1980s, pursuing dandelions, rock and roll, and Diane Sawyer.

10/10/08 | permalink | comments [0]

"The Strangerer"

You may recall the news from 2006 that President Bush read Albert Camus' "The Stranger" while on vacation in Crawford, the announcement of which caused a few heads to explode. If you think you've sufficiently recovered from that, then you will be pleased to hear that The Catastrophic Theater will be presenting the regional premier of the play "The Strangerer":

In hopes that the French philosopher might shed some light on the recent political clime - or vice versa - Mickle Maher's new play The Strangerer collides several of Camus' works with the first Bush/Kerry presidential debate in 2004. The formalities of the debate are overturned as Bush and Kerry struggle with the question not of if or why an innocent man should be killed (the man in question being moderator Jim Lehrer), but rather what is the proper manner in which to go about killing him. The Strangerer is part political satire, part classical drama, and part contemporary debate. A murder mystery with the murderers in plain view.

And who among us hasn't wanted to murder a debate moderator this year? The show runs on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from October 16 to November 8 at DiverseWorks Artspace (1117 E. Freeway). Check it out.

10/05/08 | permalink | comments [0]

And so we come to the end...

It all started nearly five years ago, and now it has finally come to an end: Slacktivist has reached the end of the first "Left Behind" book. How do you wrap up something like this? Here's a taste:

Left Behind, ultimately, is just nonsense. It makes up its own rules and then breaks them. And then it makes up more rules that require its other rules to be broken. Left Behind refutes itself.

The premise of the book is clear and clearly stated. The Rapture and all the other events foretold by premillennial dispensationalist "bible prophecy scholars" are all real and are all really going to happen. Soon. The book wants to show us the events of this cosmic drama acted out before our very eyes in a story that takes its plot from the authors' End Times check list.

Yet the more we watch, the more we read, the less convinced we become that such a series of events could ever occur. Not because they're too outlandish, but because they contradict and preclude one another. We cannot accept the authors' assertion that A will be followed by B and then by C, because A renders B impossible and C could never take place in a world in which B had already happened.

This is the great and insurmountable failure of Left Behind. It set out to be a work of propaganda, a teaching tool meant to demonstrate -- the authors would say to prove -- that the events it describes could and indeed will really happen. Yet their attempt to present a narrative of such events instead demonstrates -- I would say proves -- that these events could not and indeed will not ever happen. It proves that the weird and contradictory events of their check list could never happen in a world anything like the world we live in, or in any other imaginable world. It proves that their supposed prophecies will never, and can never, be fulfilled.

Left Behind fails as a novel for many, many reasons, but all of its other faults -- the odious lack of empathy it holds up as a moral example, its blasphemous celebration of self-centeredness masquerading as Christianity, its perverse misogyny, its plodding pace, its wooden dialogue, it fetishistic obsession with telephones, its nonexistent characterization, its use and misuse of cliches, its irrelevant tangents, deplorable politics, confused theology, unintentional hilarities, hideous sentences, contempt for craft, factual mistakes, continuity errors ... its squandering of every interesting premise and its overwhelming, relentless and mind-numbing dullness -- all of these seem to be failures of the sort that one might encounter in any other Very, Very Bad book hastily foisted off onto the public without a second glance.**

Any one of those faults, on its own, would have been enough to earn Left Behind a place on the Worst Books of 1995 list. The presence of all of those faults -- in a single book and in such concentrated form -- is more than enough to secure its place on a list of the Worst Books of All Time.

If you've not been reading this outstanding series, which I'll say again is some of the best contemporary writing anywhere, all I can say is you've been missing out. Read The Visitation Preacher, with a box of Kleenex handy, for a singular example. You can plow through those archives, or you can hope someone takes up Chad's suggestion and gets the whole series published as a book, but either way, go read. And wait as I am with bated breath for the (hopefully less than five years length) series on the "Left Behind" movie, and the first of the book sequels.

09/26/08 | permalink | comments [0]

Kos comes to Houston

I mentioned before that I had the chance to meet Markos Moulitsas Zuniga from Daily Kos. He mentioned to me as we chatted that he'd be back in Texas soon, Houston in particular, as part of his book tour. Turns out he'll be giving a lecture as part of The Progressive Forum's speaker series. The event will be Monday, September 22 at 7:30 at the Wortham Center, Cullen Theater. More details will be forthcoming in August, but for now you can find everything there is to know at that Progressive Forum link.

07/23/08 | permalink | comments [1]

The book was different

So one of the things I did while on vacation last weekend was finish reading Gregory Maguire's book Wicked, which I'd been meaning to do for awhile. It's a very interesting book, if a tad bit slow at times, and the chapter about the inevitable confrontation between Elphaba and Dorothy is excellent. But man, is the book nothing, nothing in any way, shape, or form like the musical. I mean, sure, you expect differences, and a dense 400+ page book is surely going to need radical surgery to be transformed into something stage-worthy, but really, the two things almost can't be compared. For one thing - I don't want to give anything away here, so I'll be brief - the musical takes place almost entirely during the college years of Elphaba and Galinda/Glinda; that same time period is maybe 25% of the book. Glinda hardly existed as a character after the Shiz years in the book, whereas she shares top billing in the musical. And though it hardly needs to be said, the endings are very different.

While there is of course nothing unusual about a stage/movie adaptation of a book taking a wide divergence from the source material, it's usually the case that experiencing one form of the story will give you some idea of what to expect when you experience the other form. That just wasn't the case here. Another example of this is the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, which is completely different in just about every way than the book Who Censored Roger Rabbit?; whichever one you consume first, you will not be able to anticipate the action when you experience the other. What's your favorite example of this?

One thing that reading "Wicked" makes me want to do is actually read the original source version of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz", namely L. Frank Baum's book. It was clear to me in reading that last chapter of "Wicked" that the movie version, from which I gathered almost all of my Oz-related knowledge, was not Maguire's inspiration for those scenes. I did read one of Baum's sequels, The Magic of Oz as a kid - I have no memory of how I came across it - but not the original. Time to fill that gap, I suppose.

06/01/08 | permalink | comments [2]

Judy Norsigian in town

One of the fine people I met at my precinct convention on March 4 was a woman named Cathy who served as the convention secretary. She sent me the following information about an upcoming appearance by Judy Norsigian that I said I'd pass along:

Saturday 4/12/08. 4pm Pregnancy & Birth: women's problems & nurses problems in Houston.

Judy Norsigian, founding member & Exec. Director of Our Bodies OurSelves (OBOS), Nuestros Cuerpos, Nuestros Vidas, Boston Women's Health Book Collective representative, writer, and international women's health advocate, hosted by National Nurses Organizing Committee-Metropolitan Houston Chapter (NNOCTexas):

Public invitation: Labor & Delivery nurses, Ob/Gyn nurses, midwives, childbirth activists, community women, women's health advocates...

3:45pm Press conference; Dinner. NNOC Houston Office:1709 Rosewood near N. Main St. Houston

4pm Dialogue & Dinner

Contact Linda Morales lmorales@calnurses.org

Sunday, 4/13/08, 10:45am-noon, Houston Women's Group, Politics of Pregnancy & Birthing in the USA: Sojourner Truth Room, 3rd floor of the
First Unitarian Universalist Church, 5200 Fannin, at Southmore.(elevator accessible).

For more information email Courtney c3_courtney@yahoo.com; website: http://www.houstonwomensgroup.com/

Judy Norsigian, Exec.Director, co-author, of" Our Bodies, Ourselves," will lead discussion on the politics of women's health movement, creating choices in pregnancy and birthing; book signing. Lunch afterwards.

Website: http://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/publications/childbirth/default.asp

Tuesday 4/15 5:30-7pm Texas Medical Center Women's Health Network, Women's Health and Sexuality & Childbirth Controversies. Houston Academy of Medicine-TMC Library, 1133 John Freeman Blvd., Ground Level Conference Room (directions and parking information here.

The program is free and open to the public. Refreshments are served.

Judy Norsigian bio informtion here.

Any questions, let me know and I'll pass them on.

04/04/08 | permalink | comments [0]

Houston. It's Worth It: The Book

Houston. It's Worth It. is now in book form. Houstonist has a conversation with its authors, Randy Twaddle and Dave Thompson. There's also info in there about a couple of "big blowout parties" related to the book, one of which is tonight. Check it out.

11/29/07 | permalink | comments [0]

"The Tales of Beedle the Bard"

Here's one book by JK Rowling that won't sell a gazillion copies.

A set of fairytales mentioned in the final Harry Potter novel, which have been handwritten and illustrated by JK Rowling, are to be auctioned off to raise money for a children's charity.

The author has handwritten and illustrated just seven copies of the Tales Of Beedle The Bard.

It is her first work since the last Harry Potter book was published in July.

While one copy will go under the hammer at Sotheby's in London next month, the others will be given away by Rowling to those most closely connected with the Potter books.

Her agent? Someone at the publisher? Daniel Radcliffe? Melissa from The Leaky Cauldron? I can say with some confidence that I am not on that list.

The Tales Of Beedle The Bard played a central role in the seventh book about the boy wizard, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows.

Only one of the five fairytales, The Tale Of The Three Brothers, is recounted in the book.

Now for the first time, Rowling is revealing the four remaining untold stories which make up the set.

They are The Fountain Of Fair Fortune, The Warlock's Hairy Heart, The Wizard And The Hopping Pot, and Babbitty Rabbitty And Her Cackling Stump.

Rowling said: "The Tales Of Beedle The Bard is really a distillation of the themes found in the Harry Potter books, and writing it has been the most wonderful way to say goodbye to a world I have loved and lived in for 17 years."

The aforementioned Leaky Cauldron has more. One presumes that a non-handwritten version will hit the bookstores presently, but the AP version of the story makes it seem like that may not be the case. It also mentions that Rowling is back at work:

Rowling said she was working on a new book, "a half-finished book for children that I think will probably be the next thing I publish."

One way or another, she'll be back in bookstores.

11/03/07 | permalink | comments [1]

Dumbledore comes out

Well, this is a surprise.

J. K. Rowling, author of the worldwide best-selling Harry Potter series, met some of her American fans Friday night and provided some surprising revelations about the fictional characters who a generation of children have come to regard as close friends.

In front of a full house of hardcore Potter fans at Carnegie Hall in New York, Rowling, sitting on the stage on a red velvet and carved wood throne, read from her seventh and final book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," then took questions. One fan asked whether Albus Dumbledore, the head of the famed Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft, had ever loved anyone. Rowling smiled. "Dumbledore is gay, actually," replied Rowling as the audience erupted in surprise. She added that, in her mind, Dumbledore had an unrequited love affair with Gellert Grindelwald, Voldemort's predecessor who appears in the seventh book. After several minutes of prolonged shouting and clapping from astonished fans, Rowling added. "I would have told you earlier if I knew it would make you so happy."

I confess, this possibility had never occurred to me. Not because I think there's anything inherently ridiculous about it, but because I just never gave any thought to the relationships of the adults, other than those who were directly connected to Harry's parents. Which, I might add, were about the only adult relationships examined in any detail by Rowling. So it was just never on my radar. And for what it's worth, if having "no close relationship with women and a mysterious, troubled past" is evidence of gayness, then one could make the same case for Voldemort. Without bothering to look, I'm sure more than one dedicated fanfic writer has already explored the possibilities of Dumbledore/Voldemort slash. I'll leave the rest to you. Pete has more.

10/22/07 | permalink | comments [1]

Watterson on Schulz

10/15/07 | permalink | comments [1]

Books by people I know

09/11/07 | permalink | comments [2]

Stephen King and Harry Potter

08/24/07 | permalink | comments [1]

JK Rowling's new gig

08/20/07 | permalink | comments [0]

Fifteen geek novels to read before you die

08/02/07 | permalink | comments [1]

It is finished

07/29/07 | permalink | comments [5]

Spoiler shields still up

07/23/07 | permalink | comments [1]

Spoiler alert level: High

07/09/07 | permalink | comments [1]

Harry Potter hacked?

06/28/07 | permalink | comments [0]

The Harry Potter Experience

06/02/07 | permalink | comments [2]

How unromantic

05/07/07 | permalink | comments [1]

What if Harry Potter was a black kid?

04/20/07 | permalink | comments [0]

A chat with Berke Breathed

04/05/07 | permalink | comments [0]

Fifty years of "The Cat In The Hat"

02/27/07 | permalink | comments [1]

Last Harry Potter book due July 21

02/02/07 | permalink | comments [0]