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  • Nicole Hill 4:00 pm on 2014/12/10 Permalink
    Tags: , , b.j. novak, , cary elwes, , , edgar cantero, , , , , how to win at gifting, , one more thing, , , , , ,   

    9 Books to Buy Your Secret Santa 

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    Secret Santa booksBecause the holidays weren’t difficult enough, man invented the Secret Santa exchange, that age-old pastime in which you must procure gifts for good friends, curmudgeonly coworkers, and casual acquaintances alike. It can be tricky to pick up something you know will be a hit. But it can be done, with the safest bet of all: a good book. Here are a few 2014 releases that are so universally crowd-pleasing, they’ll be treasured by anyone and everyone on your Nice List.

    Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
    By now, it may actually be illegal not to adore this finalist for the National Book Award. It’s rare that apocalyptic fiction can be called “glittering,” but Station Eleven‘s story of a pandemic and the interconnected lives it touches, from a traveling Shakespeare troupe to survivors at an airport outpost, is so seamlessly spun, few other words do it justice.

    As You Wish, by Cary Elwes
    You know what else is probably illegal? Not having seen (and readThe Princess Bride. Elwes (Westley himself) takes you behind the scenes of the filming of this beloved adaptation of William Goldman’s equally beloved book. From dealing with a tardy R.O.U.S to giant-sized flatulence, here’s an account (with additional commentary from other members of the cast and crew) that every fan of twue wuv will need.

    The Walled City, by Ryan Graudin
    In The Walled City, there are three rules: run fast, trust no one, and always carry your knife. So begins one of the most refreshing takes on the YA dystopia trend. Three teens narrate the story in alternating chapters, each trying to claw their way out of this dark, damp, and dangerous ruin of a city, Hak Nam, brimming with criminals and unfortunates. What’s even more frightening? It’s based on a real place. If that doesn’t get your giftee’s heart racing, you might want to check their pulse.

    We Are All Completely Fine, by Daryl Gregory
    Ever wonder what happens to all the characters who survive horribly traumatic supernatural terrors? They end up in a support group, like any other cluster of damaged people. As Gregory unpacks each character’s backstory—from the man called the Monster Detective to the guy who’ll never take off his sunglasses—in this slim little number, he simultaneously untangles and entangles their mysteries and their troubles. It’s clear pretty early on that the monsters these people fear can’t all be referred to in the past tense.

    The Supernatural Enhancements, by Edgar Cantero
    Bringing home the trophy for the year’s book that should most quickly be made into a Wes Anderson film is Cantero’s twisted yet hysterical gothic ghost story. Few good things happen to young men who inherit estates from mysterious, distant relatives, and that’s exactly where we pick up with A. He’s just crossed the pond to take possession of Axton House with his mute (but cleverest of them all) companion, Niamh. There are secret societies and ghosts and intrigue, but what makes this story stand out is its unusual mode of storytelling: modern epistolary, with journals, notes, security footage, audio recordings, and the odd cipher or two.

    Yes Please, by Amy Poehler
    America’s best-friend-in-chief has written a book! This is one of the happiest times since Tina Fey bestowed Bossypants on the world. Poehler groupies and mere casual viewers of Parks & Recreation alike will want to read the skinny on Poehler’s life, from her childhood outside of Boston to her tenure on Saturday Night Live (including that rapping-while-pregnant Sarah Palin bit) to her lessons on motherhood.

    So, Anyway…, by John Cleese
    Now for something completely different. Well, not quite, but when your read is written by one of the founders of Monty Python, you know you’re not getting just any old memoir. This is a comedic bildungsroman, chronicling the rise of one of the finest employees of the Ministry of Silly Walks comedy has ever seen. It would be daft to give your Secret Santa anything less than this, or a shrubbery.

    How to Build a Girl, by Caitlin Moran
    In 2011, Moran taught us How to Be a Woman. Now she’s back with her first foray into the world of YA, a coming-of-age story that tells us how to build a girl. In Joanna Morrigan lies a teenager relatable to all: so displeased with her awkward, clunky self that she reinvents herself into Dolly Wilde, a hard-charging rock journalist who takes the early 90s music scene by storm, for better or for worse. It’s frank, hilarious, and a total must-read.

    One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, by B.J. Novak
    B.J. Novak was funny on The Office, and now he’s hysterical in his debut short-story collection. The humor is offbeat and sometimes absurdist, but the tone is intensely human and warm. In bite-sized nuggets of story we meet Sophia, the sex robot with an unrequited love; Wikipedia Brown, a detective for our time; and Sisqo, attending the roast of Nelson Mandela. Bonus: If your gift recipient has little ones, be sure to consider Novak’s other 2014 offering, the riotous The Book With No Pictures.

    What’s your favorite go-to book for gift-giving?

  • Joel Cunningham 9:47 pm on 2014/11/06 Permalink
    Tags: , , cary elwes, , , , michel faber, , , , , , , , ,   

    What to Read Next If You Liked As You Wish, Yes Please, The Peripheral, The Book of Strange New Things, or The Secret History of Wonder Woman 

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    wtrn116Every fan of The Princess Bride is sure to fall in “twue wuv” with As You Wish, a loving memoir of the making of one of the most universally adored movies in history by the Dread Pirate Roberts himself, Cary Elwes. If you’re still not satisfied, you can ask your grandpa to read to you from Which Lie Did I Tell?, by William Goldman, who wrote both the screenplay for the film and the novel upon which it is based, featuring an account of how the film’s surprising success saved his floundering career. Don’t miss either of these—I mean it! (Anybody want a peanut?)

    After the smashing success of best-pal Tina Fey’s Bossypants, I can’t imagine the pressure Amy Poehler was under to deliver with Yes Please, but her hybrid memoir/showbiz insider account more than delivers. It’s one of the funniest books of the year, packed with insights on life, motherhood, marriage, and making it as a woman in the cutthroat world of comedy. If you’ve already shown love to Tina and Amy, go straight to the source with I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts About Being a Woman, by Nora Ephron, a trailblazer whose remarkable career set the stage for so many funny ladies who followed her.

    In 1984, William Gibson’s Neuromancer managed to more or less accurately predict exactly the ways the rise of the not-yet-invented Internet would change all of our lives (even if some of the more outlandish sci-fi trappings, like neural implants, haven’t come to pass quite yet). The jury is still out on whether his newest work, The Peripheral, which deals in quantum theory, augmented realities, immersive gaming, advanced drones, and global catastrophe, will be regarded as prescient one day. In the meantime, it’s probably a good idea to read both of these books, just to be prepared.

    The Book of Strange New Things, by Michel Faber, is lyrical literary sci-fi, the epic story of a missionary sent to spread the good word to the alien inhabitants of a distant planet, even as the Earth he’s leaving threatens to crumble away in a global environmental and political disaster. Mary Doria Russell’s 1996 debut novel, The Sparrow, similarly imagines the hardships and communication barriers faced by a band of Jesuits who travel to make contact with a distant star and discover that some cultural divides may simply be too great to bridge.

    The Secret History of Wonder Woman, by Jill Lepore, uncovers the feminists roots of the world’s most famous superheroine via the strange history of her polygamist, counter-cultural creator. For another book that takes a look at female heroes, feminism, and sexism in comics, The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines, by Mike Madrid, is an engaging, pop-academia read.


  • Nicole Hill 3:30 pm on 2014/10/17 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , cary elwes, , , , , , , ,   

    5 Facts About The Princess Bride We Learned From As You Wish 

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    Cary Elwes's As You WishIf there is a universal cultural touchstone in this fractured world, it is, perhaps, The Princess Bride. Between the ever-quotable Rob Reiner movie and the equally beloved book by William Goldman, at this point, only a very few particularly isolated tribal peoples are unaware of the twue wuv story of Westley and Buttercup, as well as the swashbuckling adventures of their hangers on (Fezzik, Inigo Montoya, Miracle Max…).

    Because sometimes good things happen, Westley himself (i.e., actor Cary Elwes) has released a memoir of sorts, As You Wish: The Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride, that details his experience of making one of the most memorable and adored film adaptations of the last half century. It’s chock full of cute on-set anecdotes and includes inserts from several of its movers and shakers, including Reiner, Billy Crystal, Robin Wright, and Christopher Guest. Basically, besides eating a mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich (when the mutton is nice and lean) on a picnic at the Cliffs of Insanity, there is no better way to spend a day than reliving the elaborate sword fights, daring battles of wit, and “kissing parts” of The Princess Bride in this compendium of behind-the-scenes tales. Below, just a few nuggets we learned from Elwes. Have fun storming the castle!

    Alternative castings!
    As is so obvious from the finished product, the cast of this film is perfect, from beginning to end. But it wasn’t always such a sure bet. Elwes hints that among the actors considered for Westley were none other than the dashing Mr. Darcy, also known as Colin Firth. Joining him could have been Sting as the fiendish Prince Humperdinck, Danny DeVito as the Sicilian mastermind Vizzini, and, drumroll please, Arnold Schwarzenegger as friendly giant Fezzik. I can’t imagine the peanut rhyme would have come off as well with the Terminator, but it’s fun to wonder.

    Bill Cosby impersonations!
    Apparently, besides his dashing resemblance to Errol Flynn, Elwes won his leading role as farmboy-turned-pirate thanks to his expert impersonation of…Fat Albert. Lesson: when you have to prove you have a sense of humor, always go with Cosby.

    Errant wind and other Andre the Giant hilarities!
    Among the absolutely funniest stories from the set related here involves Andre the Giant, a mostly dead Westley, and a monumental gastric anomaly outside Humperdinck’s castle. The scene is too giggle-worthy to say more, though its amusement is rivaled by the other irregularities recounted about working with the gentle gargantuan actor (who used to be chauffeured by Samuel Beckett, for your obscure trivia needs).

    Jangled author nerves!
    Goldman has long stated that The Princess Bride is the work nearest and dearest to his heart, and this fondness for the base material made him a nervous wreck during filming—so much so that his incessant praying and fretting interrupted it. Clearly, looking back, he had nothing to worry about, for both Reiner and Elwes wear their fanboy passions freely on their sleeves.

    Ad libs!
    Not that this comes as any great surprise, but outside of the brilliant Goldman dialogue, there was quite a bit of improvisation (see: basically the entire Miracle Max scene). Even part of the Greatest Swordfight in Modern Times was thrown together last minute, and executed near flawlessly. Of all those moments of genius, only some of them were planned.

    So, to reiterate…no, there’s too much, let me sum up: life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something, and in this case, it’s an entertaining look at one of the greatest stories ever told. Please consider it as an alternative to suicide.

    As You Wish is on sale now.

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