REVIEW: Factotum

Charles Bukowski became a blip on my radar when I was 17. My father obtained tickets to a screening of the film adaptation of Factotum at Lincoln Center. The event included a talk back with the director, Bent Hamer, and the lead actor, my celebrity crush, Matt Dillon. I attended the screening with the sole hope of getting a chance to interact with my dreamboat. Having indeed captured a couple of moments with Mr. Dillon, (I have the photo and autographed book to prove it. Also. He’s even more beautiful in person) I left on a high. Needless to say, that while I enjoyed the film, my focus was elsewhere. 

However, something about the feel of the film, and Henry Chinaski’s nomadic and troubled artist lifestyle always stuck with me.

Cut to: 10 plus years later.

Having matured since the ripe age of 17, and beginning to broaden my intellectual horizons, Bukowski quickly popped into my brain as a writer I should explore. And of course, I started with Factotum.

Bukowski was worth the 13-year wait. The vibe of the film, which stuck with me all these years and was paralleled in the novel, engulfed me (well, really the film paralleled the book, but I experienced them in the opposite order. You get the point).

Bukowski’s writing style is uncomplicated; poetic, yet simple. Realism at its finest. You traverse this snippet of Henry Chinaski’s life – the cities, women, jobs, alcohol, and writings – and yet as tumultuous as the journey is, Bukowski gives you the gift of calm.

There’s a voyeuristic aspect to reading novel’s like Factotum, as though you are peeking through a window; the novel contains no set plot structure, you are merely catching a glimpse into a segment of Chinaski’s life.

I’ve always maintained a fondness for this breed of novels and films; the lack of a period at the end of the story, because life presses on.

 

Rating: 4 Shots of Whiskey

REVIEW: My Man Jeeves

After a successful introduction last year to Mr. Wodehouse via Leave it to Psmith, I decided to deepen my relationship with the author by delving into the world of Jeeves and Wooster with My Man Jeeves.

Being familiar with the BBC series staring Jeeves and Wooster, I read every Jeeves story in this collection with the voices of Stephen Fry, and my main love, Hugh Laurie in my head. I recommend doing this if possible, as it enhances the Wodehouse experience. Considering my love of the TV series, and since I was already impressed with Wodehouse’s writing, I had an inkling My Man Jeeves would be an easy sell for me. And it was.

There was rarely a moment I wasn’t smiling while reading My Man Jeeves, and Wodehouse had me literally LOLing at least once in every story. All the narratives follow a sitcom formula, which makes for an easy and enjoyable read (though doesn’t lend itself to a ton of variety). The 8 stories in the collection are evenly split between Jeeves and Wooster, and Wodehouse’s early prototype for Wooster, Reggie Pepper.  While the Pepper tales provide plenty of fun, the character he ultimately turns into is stronger, and the addition of Jeeves takes the stories up about 10 notches.

While the plots alone are examples of well-executed farce, my favorite aspect of My Man Jeeves is the dynamic between the two leading men. A dynamic I will clearly continue to enjoy exploring.

 

Rating: 4 Unintended Crises 

REVIEW: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

I’ve been putting off reviewing le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold partially because I’m lazy, but mostly because I can’t figure out how to properly review the novel.

I’ll start by saying The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is an even stronger novel than le Carré’s first two (Call for the Dead, A Murder of Quality).  Le Carré has hit his stride with his intricately and precisely woven plot, and stand out characters. The novel’s star, Alec Leamas, is one of the most well developed spies I’ve read. Le Carré creates a strong sense Leamas’ character without an abundance of backstory, providing the appealing mystery all great spies possess. To add a cherry to this sundae of “can’t put down” plot, and luscious characters, the reader is served a little dose of everyone’s favorite spy: George Smiley.

Now we’ve come to the part that’s turned me into the world’s worst procrastinator.

The problem is, I can’t write a lengthy review of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold without ruining the book. I want le Carré to know I am still wildly devoted to him; however, I will be putting him in a brief time out. He knows what he did.

Rating: 4 Foreign Bank Accounts