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August 29, 2013

Throwback Thursday: That’s What She Said!

Posted by emily

Hey hey hey! It's been a slow week over here at the Book Report Network, what with half the staff out on vacation, and the other half  making a huge dent in the beer stock in the office fridge (jkjkjk) --- we're one "that's what she said" joke away from a nice, long holiday weekend. But despite being seriously short-staffed, we have a really great TBT turnout for you. So check it out, and take it easy, because Labor Day is as ironically titled as ever (look it up).

One could fairly say that I have a little bit of an obsession with Bret Easton Ellis. I wrote about AMERICAN PSYCHO just a few short weeks ago for #TBT when The Canyons was about to be released. Side editorial note: I watched, and then I wished for those two hours of my life back. While not ALL of Ellis' work translates well from page to screen, THE RULES OF ATTRACTION was one book that defined the typical 20Something college and partying theatrical genre --- other movies that fall into this category include Animal HouseRoad TripOld SchoolGood Will Hunting and we must not forget Selena Gomez' acting debut...and James Franco's rough-around-the-edges gangster the jaw-dropping recent release, Spring Breakers. I read THE RULES OF ATTRACTION before I saw the movie, and it goes without saying that I think the book is better, but the movie doesn't fall short behind. With a high-quality, well-rounded cast that includes Jessica Biel, Shannyn Sossamon, James Van Der Beek, Ian Somerhalder, Kate Bosworth...the list goes on...there was no way the film could fail. It perfectly visualized Ellis' crazy, incestuous, hyper-sexualized world of college debauchery. While reading the book as a teenager, it triggered fantasies of what college life would really be like --- no parents, dorm life, meeting and making strange friends and attending even stranger (themed) parties like "The End of the World." The only thing different about my experiences, looking back on it now, is that I studied way harder than any one of Ellis' characters --- there is a way to have your cake and eat it, too.

Like many of his other books, Ellis' THE RULES OF ATTRACTION is exemplary of what he does best --- tap into the outlandish world of his stereotyped characters and create very exaggerated scenes of unique social behaviors and interactions, all based in a 20something-ish reality. Do you remember your first college party, your first college beer...and your first college crush?

This Throwback Thursday I’d like to hearken back to a simpler time --- a time before I had to cook my own meals and wake up before noon, a time when the most important decision I had to make was whether or not I would even bother studying for my Egyptian art midterm. Of course I’m talking about college. And what better time to read Truman Capote’s breathtaking BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S? I was a freshman at NYU (go…Violets?) when I read it for the first time, and not quite new to the city, but definitely still dreamy about actually living there. Holly Golightly is the quintessential New York City transplant --- a country girl turned society girl, with great style (although I’m sure Audrey Hepburn and Givenchy are mostly responsible for that), a great walk-up on the Upper East Side and a cute struggling writer neighbor. I mean, maybe that’s not your New York Dream, but it most certainly was --- still is? --- mine. The romance was subtler in the book than in the movie --- the relationship never quite moving out of the friendzone and into romantic territory --- and the ending was still heartbreaking and way less Hollywood. The story unfolds slowly and deliberately --- kind of like an origami fortune teller (or, as Liz calls it, a “cootie catcher”) --- as Holly slowly reveals her true self to the unnamed narrator, referred to as “Fred,” after Holly’s older brother. Along with Joe Bell, a besotted bartender at a bar he and Holly used to frequent, Fred puzzles out the mystery of Holly, and the permanence of her impact upon all she meets despite her flighty and elusive nature. It doesn’t get any better than that, and also, I’ll read any story I can imagine a young George Peppard is narrating.

Every week I struggle to think of a book to base my Throwback Thursday post on. I search the far reaches of my memory for that one book that will inspire my original 3 or 4 sentences. For some reason this week, I found it particularly difficult and so like reaching for a well-worn pair of blue jeans, I reached for my copy of THE COMPLETE TALES OF WINNIE-THE-POOH. The copy's seam is broken, the edges are tattered from carelessly being tossed into a bag and some of the pages have chocolate stains from my kiddie fingers, but one can tell just by looking that it has been well loved over the years. Throughout my life, no matter what problem I was facing, inevitably one of the stories would fix it. I had utter faith in Christopher Robin and Co. To heal my wounds and wipe my doubts. When I was little, the stories taught me to share and be kind. As I grew older and my problems became more complicated, it was a comfort to, just for awhile, return to the Hundred Acre Woods and chill with my pal Pooh. It may sound silly to rely on a book meant for children even now in my 20s, but I certainly hope you all have something that brings a little bit of nostalgia and comfort to your lives. Go ahead whip out that old blankie and snuggle up! I won't tell. 

I thought long and hard about how to explain Eoin Colfer’s excellent young adult novel in a few words and the best I could come up with was “Die Hard with fairies.” Now that’s pretty good if I do say so myself, but it doesn’t even come close to doing the book justice. So instead of explaining how much I loved this book (and still do), I’ll just explain some of the things that happen within the pages and let you draw that conclusion for yourself. For starters, our protagonist (-ish) Artemis Fowl is an evil genius straight out of a Bond movie...and he’s 12 years old. His latest scheme (Artemis’ schemes tend to actually work, which I guess puts him ahead of most of the Bond villains already) is simple. He’s after gold. But not just normal gold. Artemis is after fairy gold, and this classic trope plays out in a way the Grimm Brothers never could have imagined. Instead of looking under rainbows and chasing midgets in green tights, Artemis gets his hands on a real fairy and holds her for ransom. Simple, right? Not really. These are Irish/Germanic mythology fairies, not the Disney Tinkerbell variety and this particular fairy is Officer Holly Short (our other protagonist), a member of the reconnaissance unit for the Lower Elements Police (LEPrecon for short). Turns out the rest of the fairy police don’t take too kindly to one of their own getting kidnapped by some human. They want her back. And did I mention that these fairies have guns? Armed with magic and enough technology to put the Mission Impossible crew to shame, they launch an all-out assault to rescue their kidnapped partner. And Holly’s far from helpless herself. But Artemis is a genius after all, and his plan has many twists and turns before we realize what he’s actually after.

So there you go. Die Hard with fairies, with Hans Gruber as a 12-year-old and John McClane as a feisty fairy lady packing some serious heat.