What I’m Reading

Because I am, at times, over productive, I have a habit of starting multiple books around the same time.

Also, hello. I know it’s been a while. I’ve been trying to rearrange my online life, simplifying it, and looking forward. I have a few projects I am working on currently and I will hopefully be able to rightfully put details on those here very soon.

Back to the main point:

Right now, I am in the middle of reading four books. Here they are, with a few thoughts on each. (Note: Titles contain links for purchase.)


POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE
by CARRIE FISHER

This is the seco71Neb5zSH7Lnd book I’ve read by Fisher. Her passing inspired me to look into her writing and I have many regrets about not discovering her prose sooner. The first was Wishful Drinking, a memoir based on the one-woman show she wrote and performed in 2008. I loved it.

Postcards from the Edge is a very intriguing read. It delves deep into the lives of Hollywood drug and society addicts. I am about halfway through and I am such a fan of Fisher’s writing; her tone and precision ignite a light into every character. It really is a think piece about society and the various ways we lie to ourselves.

 


THE DISASTER ARTIST:
MY LIFE INSIDE THE ROOM, THE GREATEST BAD MOVIE EVER MADE

by GREG SESTERO & TOM BISSELL

It’s taken me a while to read this book but, honestly, I do not mind the passing time. This book is so enjoyable, I don’t want it to end. If you haven’t seen the room, I highly advise you do. Either watch it alone or watch it with people who know how to have a good laugh, a good, sardonic cry… just watch it.

Or read this book. But then see the film. I’m not sure which is better… or worse.

Anyway. The Disaster Artist follows Greg Sestero, one of the stars of Tommy Wiseau’s cult monstrosity The Room (2003). This book is absolutely hilarious but also has a lot of heart. There are times where I had to dry my eyes, which is saying something. Perhaps it is the subject matter mixed with Sestero’s sarcastic and uplifting tone. You can tell this experience had a profound effect on him and I am thankful that he shared it with the world.


INTO THE WATER
by PAULA HAWKINS

I really loved The Girl on the Train. But I am not a brainless fool who thinks that an author’s first novel should be compared to their second. Or third. Or how many others we, as readers, are given. Into the Water: A Novel by [Hawkins, Paula]

That being said. I love Into The Water. It has depth (ha) and it is truly a mysterious tale. Set in the fictional, wooded town of Beckford, ITW tells the story of… a lot of very troubled, interesting people. At the forefront, we have a family marked by tragedy. However, it is the town’s connection to the tragedy which makes this novel tick. So far, I have counted almost ten characters that are equally important to the plot. I really love reading about all of them.

Hawkins (one of my favorite writers from reading only one book) transports you into the dreary history of Beckford. This is a story riddled with secrets, violence, and prejudice. Definitely read it. Also read The Girl on the Train because the film… isn’t the book.

Sidenote: The cover for the novel is absolutely beautiful.


THE CIRCLE
by DAVE EGGERS

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The most recent of the books I’ve started and, honestly one of the most enjoyable books I’ve ever read. It follows Mae Holland, a new employee at The Circle, the social media/marketing/finance corporation to end all social media/marketing/finance corporations.

This is a highly detailed book. Starting on Mae’s first day at The Circle, the novel tells of society’s place in time as well. Many of the issues covered are relevant today, four years after the novel’s publication (2013). At times, this novel gives me chills. When Mae experiences a technology that I currently use… that wasn’t a thing in 2013… it is spooky, considering the circumstances and eventual outcome of this novel (which I have a prediction about but I’m probably, hopefully wrong).

One level social commentary, another thriller, another a story for the millennial working class, another on the state of technology and its relationship to politics…

This is a story that asks the modern reader, “How much is too much?”


So, I read a lot. Maybe too much – at the same time. However, I find it easier to focus on the stories as I cycle through them. I do have to stop myself from adding books to the already growing list but alas… the fun never ends.

I hope you check out some of these books, if not all of them. I recommend them all equally and I hope I clearly outlined my favorite aspects of each.

More updates soon.

E

Uninvolved

For the saviors of the digital world.

While not unbothered by
The issues of today,
I choose to remain
(In certain ways) uninvolved.
I have passions,
And problems
With the way things go,
The way things have been
For so many years.
But I do not respect
The attitude for change
That bears no action in,
Or beyond it.
Digital fingerprints,
Invisible,
Untouchable,
Uninterested;
It all baffles me.
The ability to change,
To make peace
Where peace has been abandoned,
Is difficult even for those
Who are in those suffering streets.
I speak my mind,
But keep some thoughts quiet,
For I share the human trait
Of being fearful of failure,
Of being wrong in the face of
Others’ opinions.
I desire change,
But can I make it?
What can I do for you to hear it…
The things I want from life…
The things I want for others in their lives?
Am I uninvolved by my own volition,
Or am I, too, bound by history,
Doomed to be alone,
And, from salvation,
Unbidden.

‘Drop Before the Fall’

Well, I’m back at it again:
Real life.
No, it’s not this job,
It isn’t anything really
Related to bettering myself
As a human being.
It’s the emotional side
That bugs me the most,
The ridiculous,
Underhanded relationships
I have built.
I am tired
Of trying so hard
To impress,
To implore.
Do you know what it’s like
To adore
Anyone
Who chooses
Not to appreciate
The gifts,
And the talents
You have been given.
It’s as if I’ve been dropped,
And not picked up
For many years.

‘Mute’

When in the dark,
I try to close my eyes,
But sadly, nothing works.
I’ve never bothered
Counting sheep,
Because, well,
Why bother?
Repetitive, no?
Well, let me guess:
You came here
For a reason,
A reason I cannot
Explain,
Or dare to
Venture further.
I do apologize
For all of
My misconceptions,
All of the lies I’ve hidden
in
These awful,
Mute deceptions.

Review of “La La Land”

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Photo: Summit Entertainment and somehow uncredited poster artist

(Lights up. The writer hits play and ‘Mia and Sebastian’s Theme’ begins to charm and inspire through the writer’s headphones.)

On my way to work today, I decided it would be a good idea to listen to the soundtrack to La La Land. It has been less than 12 hours since I left the theater after seeing the film itself and I thought, perhaps, I was emotionally ready.

Here are some of the things I said while navigating around cars and a quicker way to work, while also enveloping myself in the music.

“Why did I do this to myself?”

“This movie is so… STUPID.”

And then, certain moments (such as the one pictured above) filtered from my mental file cabinet and I was reminded just how…emotional I felt sitting in that theater last night.

From the things I said to myself in the car, you might think that I hated La La Land, but it is precisely the opposite. It is dramatically the opposite.

I met up with a friend from high school (and several years before all of that mess) named Hannah. We both adore Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling and that was basically all we knew about the film. I am in this phase now … actually, correction: We are all in this phase now where movie trailers are designed with the entire plot and its various dramatic elements, twists, and themes laid out for us. It is truly sick. Lately, I have seen some improvements, and it is funny because I’ve noticed that the movies that definitely will get our money are the ones who don’t reveal too much about the plot. In their minds, we will love it and they will get paid.

Anyway, I do not trust movie trailers in general, primarily because hello! They’re not even “trailers” anymore, they’re “leaders.” If you understand this, I am pleased.

Apart from not staying true to their original designation, I am hyperafraid of even one aspect of a movie being ruined for me. So, that being said, I am going to go watch the trailer for La La Land, now.

(Intermission)

Alright, so I just watched the trailer and I am thankful that I did not watch it before the movie. I’m thankful that I basically knew nothing about it in general.

Every moment of the film was new to me from the opening song, the punchy ‘Another Day of Sun.’ For the first several minutes of the film, I was brought back to my days of theatrical acting (I did that from the age of 3 until I was 18) and I was genuinely happy with this.

I solemnly swear to be basically spoiler free.

As we meet Sebastian (Ryan Gosling  <3) and Mia (Emma Stone  <3) it is clear that these two are going to be fatefully beelined to one another. However, the way this occurs is very unique. The passion between these two is also the passion that drives them individually – the theme that wraps this movie (ah, pun).

What impressed me about this movie is its sheer normalcy. It didn’t feel like I was watching a musical, let alone one of the Live shows that are ever so popular these days. Anyone know the next one? Please let it be CATS.

The story flits away through the streets of LA, and the pressures of promised stardom are evident from the start. Mia wants to be an actress. Sebastian is a lover of jazz with piano-born fingers, a soft voice, and dreams to open up a jazz club in the midst of the rise of popular music (by today’s standards – i.e. Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendez, and those who must not be named…*three cigarette emojis*). They are both passionate about their crafts, experiencing and experimenting with their motives and inspirations.

The first monologue we see (and hear) Mia perform actually made me tear up. I was just emotional the entire time. I’m not kidding. Never has a movie made me feel so emotional with a single measure of music, a look from across the room, a turn in a different direction.

Let’s talk performances.

Emma Stone was the perfect choice, in my opinion, for Mia. I do not think that this is a role for someone we see too much. I was very excited to hear Stone’s singing voice because that is always an adventure. Remember when you first heard Meryl Streep sing, whether it was in Mamma Mia!, Postcards from the Edge (ugh Carrie <3), or Rikki and the Flash.

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Gosling and Stone as Sebastian and Mia

It was an interesting experience for me, I promise you. And let us dream to forget those singing roles given to the likes of Russell Crowe (you made me hate you). Anyway, back to Stone. Part of the appeal of Mia’s character is her looks (physically and as a talent). In one scene, she walks past the other women auditioning for a role and they are all taller than her and their hair is even more dramatic. In a sense, the audience (of La La Land) is more entranced with the toned down, solemnity presented in Mia’s struggle for stardom. Stone convinced me of this struggle and I also love actors acting as actors.

Ryan Gosling (whom I fell for when I saw Blue Valentine) was very impressive.

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Gosling as Sebastian in one of my favorite scenes

I loved Sebastian’s passion for jazz, his understanding of it, and the subtle way he drifts through the movie. Perhaps one of the best parts about this movie is the fact that the performances are so understated (namely Gosling’s). Singing isn’t the integral part. It’s music and dreams. As well, Gosling and Stone do not have the theatrical voices that are featured in the ensemble. It’s as if their singing (and perhaps this is actually the truth), is just for each other.

 As I reflect on this movie, I notice more and more. Here are some of the aspects of the film that I love:

  • It is interesting that Mia and Sebastian never really acknowledge the first time they see each other. It’s not in the bar and they don’t talk about the traffic.
  • The wall Mia walks by with the celebrities of times past (i.e. Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Shirley Temple) was very symbolic and honestly a bit sad.
  • The scene with the photoshoot. Cringe cringe cringe. But I loved his tie.
  • The ensemble numbers were amazingly choreographed. Everything about this movie is so extreme but also so subtle. It is hard to explain. Very.
  • Finn Wittrock.
  • John Legend really hit a home run with me. I was so tired of hearing ‘All of Me’ that I basically cursed his name. I acknowledge his talents and all of that but this movie really made me enjoy him and I think a little of his passion for music came through with this role. Also, ‘Start a Fire’ is a hit in my book.
  • This is a love story for this generation. It’s like a breath of fresh air after a punch in the stomach.
  • Gosling’s piano skills.
  • The ensemble was great. J. K. Simmons is a treasure.
  • The planetarium. The silhouettes.
  • The symbolism of the Lighthouse.
  • The name he chose.
  • ‘Audition’
  • The last part of the film, the flashback and recap. Gorgeously shot and so necessary.
  • I also learned that nostalgia is a curse.

Please see this movie. I know a lot of people are freaked out by musicals but it honestly…isn’t one. It has music in it and people sing but I was so impressed by the display of talent and love that it made me want to ask the people around me if they were having a good time.

Because I was.

(Writer reads through, makes a few changes, and goes on his merry way.)

End scene.

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Special Announcement.

In honor of National Science Fiction Day (which takes place on birthday of Isaac Asimov), I am proud to announce my second venture in novel-writing.

My second novel is called Lady On The Moon, and focuses on the experiences of Ella Leveret, whose husband, Charlie, changes their lives forever with a leap into the unknown.

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The concept is based on musings I had with my friend Jenn Rudel, who I’ve known for almost ten years and who is involved with makeup artistry. The story has grown into something quite unique and has the support of the team I work with at Chormeri Books.

Jenn and I (along with Chikodili and Hannah at Chormeri) are looking forward to developing this story over these coming months. I promise to keep you updated on the process and the future of its release.

Thank you for your support,

Erik Parshall

Follow Chormeri Books on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow me on Twitter for updates on the novel.