Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fight Club-The Book

Fight Club. The book.  Have never read.  Maybe that’s because I’ve read Palahniuk before.  Choke. Snuff.  Liked. Never loved.  But there’s always been that nagging feeling that I’ve never read the book that put him on the map.  So I did.  I loved it.  No need to go into a plot recap, since most people have seen the movie.  But here are some quick impressions.

It’s reeks of the late 80s and early 90s.  The book is swimming in the influence of of Pranks! (Re-Search), Sabotage In The American Workplace (AK Press), and Apocalypse Culture (Feral House), all of which were underground, small press classics from the post-punk grunge years.  In a way, reading the book in 2012, gives it a strange, nostalgic quality for me.

The book has a great, distinctive style. Spare, economic, post-modern, driving. It is so much more rough-hewn than I anticipated.  I’m kind of shocked someone thought it could be a big budget Hollywood movie.  Granted, it’s a weird movie (and one I haven’t seen since it came out).  But it strikes me as a bold move to turn it into a movie, and a pretty adventurous adaptation at that.  I’ll have to watch it again.

Glad I finally got around to reading it.  It was downright invigorating. Big thumbs up.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Memoirs of Vidocq: Master of Crime

I’m heading to France momentarily and have been reading a lot of French-themed books.  At the height of my crime fascination I picked up this memoir by famed criminal turned informer turned police chief, Francois Eugène Vidocq. It’s sat on the shelf for over 2 years, perhaps due to my reluctance to read a memoir of the late 18th/early 19th century.

I finally picked it up and the writing was actually strong. No question that Vidocq was a fascinating chap, and one who could weave a pretty interesting yarn.  He tells of a life of crime, and in his case the ability to be one of the top escape artists.  The man could master a jailbreak.  Eventually, Vidocq goes straight, becomes a police informer, and is such a skilled detective he becomes Chief of the Paris Sûreté.  The book is definitely an interesting look at the back alleys and low-lifes from a different era.

All of that said, the book definitely drags on. The books biggest problem is that it reads more like a series of anecdotes and episodes rather than a memoir with a conventional arc.  Vidocq is a transformed man by the end, but you never really feel that transformation. It happens as a matter of course.  The book just bulldozers on with one anecdote following the other. After awhile, no episode seems more important than the next.  A hundred pages shorter and I would have loved it, but at its length, I was kind of waiting to be done with it.  And I imagine I could have just stopped reading it and not missed a thing.

So there you have it.  Some good. Some bad.  Absolutely fascinating.  Mildly longwinded.