You'd be hard pressed to find someone who is going to argue for the film supremacy of the Bad News Bears In Breaking Training, and that hard press will continue here: I imagine the film is not that good. Having read every single sentence of Josh Wilker's excellent book examining the film, it sounds like the sort of thing that a certain kind of person would respond to a description of its pleasures with the smugly delivered retort "I guess you had to be there", and as a card-carrying smug piece of shit sure to die by my own hand at some rapidly approaching point, I have to cosign that, if only for a bit. Liking this movie sounds exactly like the sort of thing you had to be there to do, and yet, by the conclusion of Wilker's text--actually fuck that, by the conclusion of the section "Unstoppable Decline" on this book's 16th blistered page--you can't help but feel the rising tide of envy for what it would have been, to be there, then.
Wilker's book isn't like the other books in the Deep Focus line. (We know it's been abandoned, yes? Unceremoniously shut down? It has, just to be clear. Put your Lethal Weapon dreams on ice, for now. Soft Skull has more shit to foist upon the seven people interested in books about zine culture who don't understand how to use the internet). Wilker is lyrical, hyperbolic, at times unsubstantiated, insanely personal, and violently masculine in a fashion that mysteriously sneaks past 2011's dominant trifecta of man-boy, misogynist, and creepy-asexual-feelings-geek towards something that feels more truthful while still weirdly patriotic, as long as you understand we're talking about the America of baseball cards, which also happens to be Wilker's primary mode of expository camouflage. There's no more fitting example of the mistake Soft Skull made in this line's cancellation than this: a book dependent only on a singular writer's commitment to an idea absolutely no one else could have had in such detail. Back to the micro audience, it seems. If only they'd let them play!
While most of the conversation about Simon Reynolds of 2011 revolves around his Retromania book, America also got a chance this year to see this, a curated collection of his writing from the last twenty years originally published two years ago in the UK. It's a no-bullshit fascinating attempt by one of the best music writers imaginable to codify his own twenty-year response/reaction to a whole measure of cultural questions. Race, innovation, what the responsibility of the artist is or might someday be--Reynolds plays it a bit loose when it comes to proving that's what he was always asking after in the heat of it, but you'd have to just hate the guy completely to deny the clear consistency of his curiosity.
That's the thing about Reynolds that sticks the most, actually; and what makes him more valuable then the quadrillion consumption junkies and ocd isolationists that populate so much of contemporary music writing. He's up front about what he's doing, what we should be doing, which is figuring it out, asking after, searching for why. It's a book that fails to answer almost all of the questions it posits. By the end, the reader should have figured out why that is.
Butcher's Moon is the 16th Parker book, and while the pr guys are absolutely right--you can read these books in whatever order you'd like and not miss a bit--there's a great satisfaction to be found in having read the prior 15 before you take the plunge. Being a direct sequel to Slayground, Butcher's Moon circulates around Parker's pursuit of the cash he left behind, the men who kept him from it, and the waste of salted earth he'd left when he'd broke from these men last. It's nothing like the other Parker books, and yet it's the nearest they come to those text's logical conclusion. The broken families of crime and the violence he brings to their feet, the hideous display of emotion that he experiments with and embraces, having shown so little for the last 15 books--this is the book where Parker witnesses what might be his own bastard creations, and he sets himself as executioner for them all. This is vile perfection, and it should be earned. No one did this better.
*That is one fucked up drawing of the female face. "Very Superior" indeed!
The only thing you ever hear about detective character Matthew Scudder is that he's a recovering alcoholic, and that's because "recovering alcoholic" is the main thing that distinguishes Scudder from all the other ex-cop turned private eye characters that show up in crime fiction. And honestly, there was a time when Scudder's recovery was a novel, notable trait, a time when alcoholism mostly showed up in the more precious strands of serious lit-fiction. Getting drunks sober--now that's a television story, one that people never seem to tire of. But Block's depiction of slow-burn long-term sobriety (albeit one heavily dotted with near-misses and threatened relapse) was relatively unusual for the genre. Does it make the books any better? No.
Not even a little bit.
This is the first Parker book Stark wrote after 1974's Butcher's Moon, and it's got some of the best violence--and most immersive writing you'll find depicting the mechanics of one man taking out an entire room--that anyone has ever put to paper. There's a whiff of repetitive perfectionism in Comeback's recreation of the Parker Versus A Horror Movie conclusive structure, with Westlake locking the character up in a reverse home invasion, but the experience is so incredibly satisfying that it's impossible to criticize.
Coming so soon on the heels of Comeback, it would have been totally understandable for Backflash to suffer by comparison. And it does. Make no mistake: it's a great piece of Parker arcana, a smart, weird heist featuring some fo the best non-Grofield back-up players. But Comeback is so good--so violent, so aggressive, so weirdly human--that it's impossible not to feel like a little of the air has been taken out. There's a lot of brilliance to be found watching Westlake struggle against self-imposed restrictions--Parker's workshop mentality makes it hard to do emotion-driven exception. My advice is to let more than a few days go by between when you start this one, and whenever you finished the last.
-Tucker Stone, 2011