Book Review: The Corrections

The Corrections: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001. 576 pp) Jonathan Franzen is an American author. He graduated from Swarthmore College with a degree in German. Franzen has received widespread acclaim for his book, The Corrections. He has won the National Book Award and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. He lives in New York City and Santa Cruz, California. A New Reading Style Without having read any of his work, Jonathan Franzen was the source for rethinking the books I read. After garnering more acclaim for his latest book, Freedom, a few female authors expressed displeasure about his books gaining prestige as literary novels while their books—highlighting the same themes—were labeled “chick lit.”… Read More →

Donovan’s Top Books of 2012

As the end of the year dictates (December is a grumpy and demanding month), I have compiled my top reads of 2012. Before we dive into the list, I feel it’s necessary to give brief notes about the process. 1. Yes, evaluating the best in a given year is subjective so if you disagree, great! 2. I rate fiction and nonfiction differently. To me, fiction requires an element of creativity and entertainment; I want to read art. Nonfiction, on the other hand, is evaluated on its educational qualities. Did I learn and apply the principles found in the book? Therefore, I have split lists between fiction and nonfiction. 3. Reading a book is a linear process. It takes time. Thus,… Read More →

Donovan’s Top 10 Albums of 2012

Much like last year, I am surprised at the continued narrowing of my musical consumption. Narrowing down my music to a Top-40 list a few years ago represented quite a project. Having listened to a continuous stream of music, I had no problem outlining an extensive list. Well, this year, I have added only 18 albums to my iTunes from 2012. As I said last year, this list no longer represents what I feel to be the absolute best music from 2012. I fully expect that I have missed some excellent music. Instead, this list represents a snapshot of my year. These albums sat in my car for months at a time. Most of them found their way to a… Read More →

Film Review: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Jiro Dreams of Sushi directed by David Gelb (Preferred Content and Sundial Pictures, PG, 81 minutes) Starring Jiro Ono and Yoshikazu Ono. Talent or Hard Work? What makes a successful person? It seems as if “born with it” is a common perception. We see unmatched athleticism in sports, celeritous musicianship, or a brilliant thesis, and we praise the talent behind such work. But do people rise to the highest levels of their profession on talent alone? I’m not convinced. As the great Seattle poet, Macklemore, proclaims in “Ten Thousand Hours”: “You see I study art / The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint / The greats were great cause they paint a lot”. As Macklemore implies, success… Read More →

Book Discussion: The Round House

The Round House by Louise Erdrich (New York: HarperCollins, 2012. 326 pp) Louise Erdrich lives with her family in Minnesota and is the owner of Birchbark Books, an independent bookstore. She is also the bestselling author of many critically acclaimed novels for adults, including the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Plague of Doves and the National Book Award finalist The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. She is also the author of the picture book Grandmother’s Pigeon, illustrated by Jim LaMarche. A Crime, Unspeakable In the spring of 1988, a woman named Geraldine, who is living on a Native American reservation in North Dakota, is attacked. Her husband, Bazil, and son, Joe, find her in a car drenched… Read More →

Television Show Review: Homeland: Season 1

Homeland: Season 1 developed by Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa (Teakwood Lane Productions, Cherry Pie Productions, Keshet Broadcasting) Starring Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, Morena Baccarin, David Harewood, Diego Klattenhoff, Jackson Pace, Morgan Saylor, and Mandy Patinkin. The Conundrum of a Pilot When writers draft a pilot episode, they face an unenviable task. Their episode must sell the potential of a long-running and profitable television series. Network executives need a good sense of story, a robust understanding of character, and a solid grasp of the narrative potential. A pilot, to a certain extent, is a pitch. It gained enough traction to slide into production, but it has yet to gain full-scale adoption. For this reason, writers often feel compelled to dive… Read More →

Film Review: Lincoln

Lincoln written by Tony Kushner and Doris Kearns Goodwin, directed by Steven Spielberg (DreamWorks Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Reliance Entertainment, PG-13, 150 minutes) Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Tommy Lee Jones. The Suspension of Disbelief There’s something odd that occurs for A-list superstars. There comes a point in the actor’s life where, no matter the role, the actor overshadows the character. When Brad Pitt stars in a movie, we are watching Brad Pitt playing a character. The real-world Brad Pitt seeps into the character. Pitt’s relationship with Angelina Jolie, his outspoken views on social justice, and his constant appearances in the tabloids become a part of the film. We can’t help ourselves. That’s what popular… Read More →

Album Review: Silver & Gold

Silver & Gold: Songs for Christmas, Vols. 6-10 by Sufjan Stevens (Asthmatic Kitty, 2012.) Sufjan Stevens is an American singer-songwriter born in Detroit, Michigan and based in Brooklyn, New York. Stevens has released many albums of varying styles but is perhaps best known for Come On Feel the Illinoise, a concept album based on the state of Illinois. Stevens collaborates often with a variety of musicians and his work has received much critical acclaim. A Magical Time of Year, A Complicated Time of Year Isn’t December a magical time of year? The air seems to fill with the spirit of the season. People buzz around grabbing gifts, attending holiday parties, imbibing in spirits, and viewing Christmas lights. There is a… Read More →

Television Show Review: The Walking Dead: Season 3

The Walking Dead: Season 3 created by Frank Darabont (American Movie Classics, Circle of Confusion, Valhalla Motion Pictures) Starring Andrew Lincoln, Laurie Holden, Steven Yeun, Chandler Riggs, Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride, Lauren Cohan, Sarah Wayne Callies, and Scott Wilson. Setting Standards Since its initial airing in 2010, I’ve held The Walking Dead to a higher standard than most television shows.  For starters, the series airs on AMC, a network branded as a place for high quality acting and writing. With such sterling dramas such as Mad Men and Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead airs among the best shows on television. Second, the genre is groundbreaking. We’ve all seen our fair share of post-apocalyptic zombie films. But the nature of a… Read More →

Book Review: Confessions of a Pagan Nun

Confessions of a Pagan Nun: A Novel by Kate Horsley (Boston: Shambhala, 2001. 208 pp) Kate Horsley is an award-winning novelist and poet who writes about the untold lives of people who lived during times of dramatic historical upheaval. She teaches English at Central New Mexico Community College. Tracing History I know it is a pretty obvious statement but have you considered the differences between modern life and those of our ancestors. Obviously, from a technological perspective, life is irreversibly different; shelter to transportation, nutrition to wellness—every aspect of life carries little to no resemblance to the lives of people 100 years ago, let alone those living much earlier in our shared history. Interestingly, consider the advancement of Christianity. Over… Read More →