The Face of God (2002) – Bill Myers
Myers wrote an absolutely cracking good thriller a few years back called Blood of Heaven, about a serial murderer injected with DNA taken from a newly found artifact, DNA believed to be that of Jesus Christ. It’s a whip-smart, great read; this is about the third book of his I’ve read since reading Blood of Heaven and all of the other books he’s ever written, apparently, suck tremendously. This one certainly does. This one involves twelve stones from Old Testament times that supposedly enable one to hear the voice of God, if all twelve stones are brought together. Cue mad dash after stones by figures as varied as a CIA assassin, a radical Muslim cleric and a disillusioned, recently widowed protestant pastor. Cue also about the stupidest book I’ve ever read. Blood of Heaven was astounding, but apparently Myers is trying to move in a more main-stream direction; Blood of Heaven doesn’t even appear on his Wikipedia Bibliography. Way to write your only good book out of your history, dude. What an idiot. One great book has made me subject myself to a lot of stupidity chasing another one like it. No more; I doubt I’ll try anything else this author has to offer. Would that he would be as iconoclastic, as dark, as weird, as violent as Blood of Heaven again. It seems it is not to be.
The Hundred & One Dalmatians (1956) – Dodie Smith
Perfectly charming British book that is supposedly for kids, but is equally pleasurable for adults. The classic Disney movie followed the plot pretty closely, but there are enough differences to keep fans of the movie on their toes, thanks to some characters excised from the movie for time. Told in the timeless, warm style of British children’s novels; there’s nothing better on a cold winter day than curling up with a witty, kind British author for some comfort. This book even gives a happy ending to a cat! Now that’s the milk of human kindness.
Stuart Little (1945) – E.B. White, Garth Williams
White’s first book for children (and also the first for soon to be famed illustrator Garth Williams) and a quiet triumph. It’s more episodic and not as perfectly crafted as Charlotte’s Web, but the charms of the later book are evident here as well. White’s tone is a calming one and, if this book doesn’t hold up for adults as well as Charlotte’s Web does, it works well enough. The first step in raising a child that loves great literature is to introduce them to quality young; Stuart Little is a good first step.
Arsenic and Old Lace (1939) – Joseph Kesselring
The play that inspired the riotous film with Cary Grant. Some people don’t like the film much, but I do. The film is incredibly faithful down to the tiniest detail; I can’t, a while after reading it, remember any specific differences between play text and finished film. It’s a hoot, but not necessarily worth a read; it’s such a manic play that it’s better experienced than read.
The Front Page (1928) – Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur
Even more manic and fast-paced play than Arsenic & Old Lace. It’s been given the feature film treatment four times, the television treatment four times and a couple of musical treatments. It’s the story of a cut-throat editor scheming to hold onto his best reporter, who is dead set on quitting the paper to get married. The dialogue has the ring of truth and even on the page it crackles; the film version to see is definitely His Girl Friday, which turned the reporter into a female, in the person of Rosalind Russell, and put Cary Grant (again) in the role of the violently sociopathic, yet charming, editor. The play is still worth a read; the gender swap isn’t the only difference. The play has more emphasis on some of the film’s subplot and some of the dialogue has been bowdlerized in the film. In particular, the play has one of the most hilarious and surprising final lines of all time and it’s absent from His Girl Friday. Watch His Girl Friday; then read the play. What a one-two punch of brilliance.