Wednesday, September 5, 2012
52 Books in 52 Weeks: August
Save the Cat - Blake Snyder
Following Atticus - Tom Ryan
The Lady in Gold - Anne-Marie O'Conner
Saving Faith - David Baldacci
August was a mixed bag of reading. I wish I could extract a nice coherent theme that would tie all these books together, but I'm not seeing one. The best I can do is to say that I cried through the first two of them, but for completely different reasons and there were animals in three out of the four.
Save the Cat was recommended to me over a year ago by a friend who had read my book and thought it would be a great screenplay. Given that STC is a classic must-read in the script writing genre, he thought it might inspire me to rework The Chicken Thief for the big screen. Little did he know that his recommendation would have me on the verge of tears. Forget script writing, this book is a must read for writers period. By the end of the first chapter I could see pretty much every fatal flaw in the the novel I'm currently working on. By the end of the third chapter, I'd identified a few more and was reading while lying in the foetal position, sobbing quietly. Fortunately from there on in things started to pick up. Yes I could see what was wrong, but I could also see how to fix it. And encouragingly, I could also see what I had done right in The Chicken Thief. This is a great read for writers, and for movie goers who have an interest in deconstructing films. Interested to know what Point Break and Fast Five have in common? (Hint: They're exactly the same movie just with cars instead of surfboards) then this is the book for you. Oh and if you liked The Avengers, you should read this book and find out why!
Maybe I was still a bit teary from my STC experience, but I ended up having a good cry through Following Atticus as well. This is the true story of an overweight, disenchanted journalist who decides to climb all 48 of New Hampshires 4,000 foot peaks in winter...twice. It's a great story that doesn't unfold exactly as you would expect it to. It's a very enjoyable easy read, although perhaps one better left for reading in private...
The Lady in Gold was a distinct departure from the previous two books. Again non-fiction, it is the story of the attempts by a number of Jewish families to reclaim paintings that were stolen by the Nazis during the Second World War, in particular those by Austrian artist, Gustav Klimt. While I've read a reasonable amount about the WWI and WWII, I knew very little about life in Austria at the time. I confess that my knowledge didn't extend much beyond Sound of Music... This book provides a fascinating insight into what was an epicentre of culture and the arts but also xeonphobia and anti-semitism. It paints a less than positive picture of Austria's involvement in the war, suggesting that the Austrians welcomed Hitler with open arms. My one complaint is that the book becomes a bit bogged down in the multitude of stories and individuals it sets out to follow. There are so many characters it's easy to lose track. The author also seems to have suffered a similar fate in the editing stage to the extent that a character may be introduced in detail in one chapter, only to be reintroduced a chapter later. It smacks a bit of an editing process involving last minute shuffling of chapters. That aside it's worth reading.
And finally, my trashy read for the month, bought to fill in a couple of hours while my daughter was at the movies. Ever had a book hangover? You know the feeling that you get when you've read a brilliant book and you can't get it out of your head? OK, well you won't have to worry about it with Saving Faith. It's about a woman named Faith and a guy called Lee and the CIA and FBI and it's set in Washington and people get killed and rescued and shot and stuff. I read it in 24 hours, and beyond that description all I can say is I wish I knew what happened to the dog. Did the FBI hurt it when they stormed the house???? If you're doing a last minute trawl through an airport book store to find a book, sure, grab this one. If you've got time, keep looking.