Monday, April 12, 2010

What I've Been Reading

After commentary and questions regarding my old comic book, XOMBI, and various requests, the email I most often receive are questions about what I've been reading. I get that. Being a writer implies that I'm also a reader (though when I lived in Los Angeles I visited many a writer's home where not a single book could be found which I found baffling). I guess if you're someone who likes my work, you might seek what I'm reading for further reading enjoyment of your own, or I suppose some way of uncovering some insight into how I approach my own work. Whatever the reasons, I too often ask writers I like what they've been reading, so I'm not immune.

Seeing as how I've received a number of requests over the past few weeks, I thought I'd post three books I've recently completed. If there's any interest in this sort of thing here, versus the form of an individual emailed response (which I'm really bad about doing) I'll try to make this a periodic, yet regular feature here.

Most recently, I read BAMBI by Felix Salten. Most of you have probably seen the Animated Disney adaptation, but not read the novel. Like the movie it follows a young deer named Bambi as he finds his place in his world. The animals do speak in the book, but remain animals and not extensively anthropomorphized animals. Their behavior is consistent with the behavior of their real world counterparts. If your a parent who thinks the seen in the movie where Bambi loses his mother is too frightening for kids, then don't even think about reading this to your young ones. This book is far more violent and frightening. Animals prey on other animals, scavenge the carcasses of others whom they were familiar with in life, and the scenes with the human hunters and the wildlife is far more horrifying than anything in the movie, and without any cuteness or sentimentality to be found. I found it to be a pretty riveting read. And, yes, this is something I read in the context of a project I am working on.

Before this I read MAYFLOWER by Nathaniel Philbrick.  As you would probably guess this book is about the Pilgrims who settled Plymouth, Massachusetts and who are now immortalized in the form of Thanksgiving. As someone who grew up, and currently lives, within half an hour of where the Pilgram's settled, I was stunned by how much I didn't know about this historic time period, or the events connected to the settling of this area by the English. Unfortunately, American public schools seem to only teach about the Pilgrims in first grade, then never again, consigning them to the same grade, and same context as the craft project of tracing your hand on a piece of paper and turning it into a turkey. This book was filled with excitement, action, and political intrigue. It would make an amazing television series, and as a book is always fascinating and often times a riveting page turner. I can't recommend this book enough. Yes, I also read this in the context of a project of my own. In fact, it's the same project I read Bambi for.

Before that I read THE RUINS by Scott Smith. This is an engrossing novel about a group of tourists who take a day trip into the Mexican jungle in order to retrieve the brother of one of the central characters from an archeological dig where he's become involved with one of the archeologists. Things begin to go very wrong once they get there and get progressively worse, and worse. The book has a a driving sense of dread that propels the reader to turn the pages to find out what's coming next, and doesn't dish out any revelations or exposition until it's absolutely needed--when it's usually too late. It is a horror story and people do die horribly. This was a book I simply could not put down and I recommend it quite a bit. It may be the best horror novel I've read since PET SEMATARY by Stephen King (which crazy as it seems, is apparently out of print). This one had nothing to do with anything I'm working on. 



Martin Arlt said...

Hmm. I wonder what kind of recommendations I'd get from Amazon if I ordered Bambi and The Ruins at the same time.
I'm curious if you've seen the movie The Ruins, and what you thought.

John Rozum said...

I have in fact seen the movie, which I'm planning to review here in October. The short of it though is that given what a great job Smith did of adapting "A Simple Plan" for the screen (he also wrote that novel) I expected good things from the movie as well. It was okay at best. It's a heavily truncated version of the novel, but with the roles of the characters all shifted around, some to good effect, one in particular, being the character who gets injured in a fall, a major error, since aspects of this character made this situation the incredibly tense center of all bad things that happen in the book, and not such a big deal in the movie. The triumph of the book is that it would still succeed as a nail biting, page turner of a novel if you took out the unnatural element from the plot. The movie could not do that. The movie did do some things well that I thought would have been plain silly if they attempted them. The ending was stupid.

If you haven't seen the movie, then I really recommend reading the book either instead of, or before viewing the movie. I'm sure it is still a good read if you've seen the movie first, but I'm glad I didn't do it that way.