::Literate Blather::
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Our Favorites (and Not So Favorites) from 2007

Best Book

“The Road” by Cormac McCarthy

“All the Pretty Horses” left a bad taste in our mouths about McCarthy. We found that popular novel to be pretentious in every sense – it was a maudlin affair filled with forced writing. But our opinion about McCarthy changed after we picked up “The Road.” It’s a beautiful novel – a celebration of human connection. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic America and features a father and son traveling down an ash-ridden road looking for the ocean – and possibly some hope. It is a true treat for readers.

Worst Book

“Hundred-Dollar Baby” by Robert B. Parker

It was written in 2006 – but the paperback came out this year (and it’s when I read it). Ouch. As life-long fans of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series it dawn on us after “Hundred-Dollar Baby” how badly the series as been going for the last few years. We used to believe the rote and formula of the Spenser novels was one of its strengths. Not anymore. The series is tired – and old (kind of like Spenser). “Hundred-Dollar Baby” is the definition of an author mailing it in.

The book was so bad we implored Parker to kill Spenser off.

Best Surprise – Book

“Alex” by Mark Katesniko

We’ve recently discovered the magic of graphic novels – and while the genre can be hit or miss, Katesniko’s beautiful drawn and powerful story of despair was a marvelous achievement. “Alex” (published in 2006) is about an artist who suffers a breakdown and moves back to hometown hoping for a new beginning. Instead, he struggles with alcoholism and the loss of his dreams. Amazing read.

Biggest Disappointment – Book

“Darkly Dreaming Dexter” by Jeff Lindsay

With all the hype for the series about a serial killer who kills other serial killers (and the inspiration for the Showtime TV series), we were expecting great things from Dexter. Alas, the first novel is a grand waste of time. It’s poorly written with plot holes so enormous that Dexter’s ego could actually fit through them. It’s also a book that doesn’t even try to disguise its disrespect for women.

We gave reader 10 damn good reasons to avoid this one.

Favorite Poems

We have been privileged to have published a lot of good poetry from a lot talented poets this year. But two poems really stood out for us in 2007.


Alexis Ryan gives us an aggressive, dazzling poem about being a woman in love.

Enjoy it HERE

Quiet Contemplations in my Hometown Church on Christmas Eve

Poet Jess Myers has a wicked wit – and her autobiographical poems are brutally honest and riveting for readers. This one simply dazzles.

Enjoy it HERE

Our Favorite “Best Of” Lists

The 12 Coolest Women in Rock History

What’s not to like about a list that includes rock goddess Joan Jett and Garbage vixen Shirley Manson? Women rock!

The 5 Most Addicted Arcade Games

Channeling our inner 12-year-old, we picked out the five games that stole most of our quarters in the 1980s when local newspapers used to write scathing editorials about how mall arcades were nothing short of serial killer breeding grounds.

Puncturing Your Eardrums

Our list of 18 awful bands that should be erased from rock history. Caused quite a stir on several Internet music forums because we included Radiohead on the list.

Best Movie

“Eastern Promises”

How can a movie that features a naked knife fight in a steam room be bad? It can’t. David Cronenberg has created a nightmarish, brutally violent gangster movie. Viggo Mortensen (who could have been forever typecast as Aragorn from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy) delivers one of the finest performances of the year as the mysterious Nikolai – a Russian immigrant to London who works as a driver for the son of a Russian mafia godfather. The movie is visually stunning and not for those who can’t handle ultra violence. But the real achievement is the acting – especially the crackling chemistry between Mortensen and Naomi Watts.

Worst Movie

“The Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer”

Sometimes the option of sticking your head into a used public toilet is better than watching a movie. That’s how utterly amazingly terrible this sequel is: not that the first “Fantastic Four” movie was any good to begin with. But how is it possible to make two duds in a row? Can a third possibly be in the cards? One hopes not. The problems are many – from plot to writing to acting (Chris Evans is insufferable as Johnny Storm). But the worst part of the film is watching Ioan Gruffudd as Reed Richards and Jessica Alba as Sue Storm trying to feign a loving relationship. These two actors have such a limited range that cardboard cut-outs could have ignited more passion on the screen.

Biggest Disappointment – Movie

“I Am Legend”

Zombies, last man in the world, gun fights, explosions – and a deserted New York City. Plus the whole movie is based on a respected science fiction classic. How could this not work? The movie begins with such promise. The plot begins to unfold just like the Richard Matheson novella. Matheson’s premise was that his hero (played by Will Smith) – the last survivor of a plague the killed mankind and turned them into hordes of vampires – has become a monster to the vampires. He, in fact, becomes the stuff of legends: thus the name of the novel. But the Smith vehicle copes out and the last 20 minutes of the movie descends into bad cliché.

Here are our thoughts on Matheson’s novel.

Biggest Disappointment #2 – Movie

“Number 23”

The trailers for “Number 23” gave us jitters. The movie looked like a twisted whodunit – with horror movie thrills. They should have hired the director of the trailer to make the rest of this car bomb of a film. “Number 23” is dog vomit on a popsicle stick. What should we expect about a mystery involving a dog catcher? Basically, the usually reliable Jim Carrey reads a book about a detective obsessed with the number 23 – and decides the book is about him. The leaps of creditability and coincidence to make the plot work are like a three-year-old trying to use a hammer to insert the square peg into the round hole. It’s enough to make a grown man moan.

Our Three Favorite Interviews

We interviewed more than 30 scholars, musicians, authors, and other experts on a variety of topics this year – from ants to ghosts. But our three favorites (and it was close) were:

Friday the 13th

Black Washer and Brenna O’Brien run the fan site about the Friday the 13th films at Fridaythe13thFilms.com. Who knew that there could be such passion and knowledge about Jason Voorhees – the hockey mask wearing psycho killer?

Led Zeppelin

Paul Sinclair, the lead singer of Get the Led Out, a Led Zeppelin tribute band, showcased his love of Led Zeppelin music and insight into why Zeppelin’s music remains so timeless. Besides, he loves to sing “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” in concert.


Academic Elizabeth Miller looks so – well normal. But she happens to be the world’s most knowledgeable scholar on Dracula. She answered questions about Bram Stoker’s novel and its incredible impact on literature, movies, and on Western culture.

Our Favorite Under God’s Right Arm Column

“The Cult of Darwinism”

Reverend Colson Crosslick (yes, we’re related to the pious old cleric through marriage to one of our aunts) of Ripsaw, Arkansas, has stirred the passions of liberals and conservatives alike with his fiery right-wing Christian columns. He saves his best stuff for attacking Darwin (and Nathan Lane) and this column really shows off his incredible reasoning and intellect.

Our Three Favorite Essays

The Trouble with Mormonism

Mitt Romney finally talked about his religions beliefs – but he didn’t cut to the bone about the weird and crazy beliefs held by the Mormon religion. We do that for him.

A Vote for Labor

Corporate America has done a remarkable job of demonizing the union worker. And so far the most aggressive and successful public relations plan in history has worked. Union membership is down – and so are salaries and benefits. Congratulations!

Banning Harry

We’re not fans of the Harry Potter novels (unless they are being read by children), but we’re certainly not for banning them because they contain magic. Hey, didn’t the Iliad have magic in it?

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