Reviews Published

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Desperate Housewives

Is it just my critical pen, or is Desperate Housewives deteriorating to the point of becoming just another soap opera?

I was addicted to Desperate Housewives even before I saw the first episode. The title rings true with every “family woman”, whether she works for a living or not. I must admit, the suicide mystery was not what I expected, but I went along with it and it was fun for a while. The early episodes of the first season made sure they justified the adjective in the title by pointing out the little frustrations of being a homemaker, a mother and a sex partner; and I really enjoyed my Monday nights in front of the box. Ok, so it wasn’t as quirky as Ally McBeal or as fascinating as Lost, but hey, I liked it.

We are now over halfway with season two, and so far we’ve had Gabrielle in a punch-up with a nun, we’ve had chopped-off fingers, we’ve had Insane Susan hop around the hospital with medical equipment. What once was a semi-intelligent TV entertainment program (if you forgive the oxymoron), has now turned to slapstick.

I don’t know about other housewives, but this one is indeed desperate. Change the writers or I’ll change the channel.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

You Drive Me Crazy

I like books by Carole Matthews. They are fast easy reading that relax the brain without engaging it, and they take place in the UK, which is a nice relief from all the USA settings. Having said that, I was disappointed with “You Drive Me Crazy”. The male protagonist is Mr Nice Guy, and, while that is supposed to be a good thing, I couldn’t find him sexy. Perhaps it’s just me, with my unhealthy attraction to arrogant bastards (come on, admit it, they are irresistible!), or perhaps the Romance genre has had it right all along with their insistence on Alpha Males as their heroes (you know the ones: big-headed millionaires with big anatomy and bigger hearts, gorgeous womanisers subconsciously waiting for The One, boardroom sharks, the Heathcliffs and the Rhett Butlers), but I found it difficult to stomach a whole book about a nice car salesman (sic!) who gets shafted by customers, conmen and ex-wife.

Average writing, average characters and not a single new situation or resolution. “More to life than this” by the same author was miles better.

Not to mention “We need to talk about Kevin”. That book is going to stay with me for a while, despite its USA setting, so prepare to meet it time and time again. And, for goodness’ sake, read it if you haven’t.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Don’t come back from the moon put me onto this one. “Don’t come back from the moon” is about blue-collar America, so not something I know a lot about. But what attracted me to the book, apart from its original idea and readable style, was the portrayal of second-generation emigrants who are the protagonists of this book. People with names like Kolya or Tom Slowinski consider themselves pure USA, yet they happily eat kielbasa and celebrate Paczki Day. The mixing and matching and melding of nationalities fascinates me as much as my daughter’s flexible accent which she adjusts for pre-school and home.

I saw a discussion about that recently: Americans (rightly or wrongly) are fiercely proud of being American. What can New Zealand do to achieve the same level of patriotism? Are we too tolerant of different cultures here, too eager to preserve our home languages and customs, and is that what’s preventing us from bubbling happily in the melting pot as True Blue Aotearoans?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

We need to talk about Kevin

Ordinarily, I don't read Booker or Orange Prize winners. For one, the writing is often pretentiously inaccessible. For another, I want to write Orange Prize winners, not read them. And finally, I have a bone to pick with the woman who recommended this book (she runs a bookshop and she refused to put my murder mystery on her shelf because “murder mysteries don’t sell”.)

Nevertheless, I made an exception for this book, and I both glad and incredibly sad that I did.

To begin with, I admit the title’s catchy. "We need to talk about Kevin"... and even before you know that the book is about a teenage mass-murderer, you are burning to know why, why we need to talk about this Kevin chap.

The why is peppered throughout the book: why did he do it? But the sense of mystery and helplessness is not why the book is such a success. Neither is the beautiful prose. For me, the book’s value lies in its astute philosophies and acute observations. The author is merciless on the American way of life, which I admire (the fact, not the way of life); and she exposes the mind of a mother so well that I needed to stop reading a few times just to catch my breath.

Being a mother is, of course, why I’m also so incredibly sad that I’ve read the book. Some emotions are not meant to be experienced, not even through the narrative of a fictional character.