Monday, October 18, 2010

Author: Did You "Love It" Love It or "Like It" Love It? A Post on My Year of Flops, by Nathan Rabin, Who is Coming November 6th.

I have this funny experience with a friend of mine whenever I read his or her (no gender!) latest new novel. I tell this author that I liked it. But like it means, translated into "author", that you didn't really like it. You have to love it. But "love it" sometimes gets downgrade to like it. So then you have to really love it.

It's complicated territory, especially since I, like most people, wind up liking some books more than others. And honestly, there's something off-putting about someone who loves, loves, loves everything. And who can believe him or her? Fortunately, I really did like the author's latest novel (as I do most of them) and we're doing well with it in paperback.

Why do I confess this now? Because I liked Nathan Rabin's memoir, The Big Rewind, which is now out in paperback. But I didn't love it--it's a hard memoir to love because it bites at you. As Dwight Garner said in his New York Times review, "The Big Rewind nonetheless has something real and scuffed and quite winning at its core. It’s probably true, as one of Mr. Rabin’s employers observes, that all his stories share the same problem: “They begin really cute and end with you getting viciously beaten.” Read the rest here.

Perhaps I'm emotionally unprepared to be viciously beaten too much in one book (referencing original blog post here). It's smart, movie-obsessed, and has some good Milwaukee and Madison stuff in it. But I didn't know if I'd read his next one, especially because there was no official tour on the book. But I was intrigued.

Here's the premise. What if we went to a hundred movies and they all sucked? But what if, afterwards, we had a beer or two, and after some discussion, several turned out to be works of genius, and others, well, still sucked? And then one of us wrote a column about it?

That’s pretty much Nathan Rabin’s new book, My Year of Flops. Rabin watches (in most case, rewatches) a commercial and generally critical failure, offers his critique, and puts it in cultural perspective and biographical (his) perspective.

We’re talking calamitous comedies like “The Adventures of Ford Fairlaine” and “Skidoo”, unsexy sexy films, including “Exit to Eden” and “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” and super-powered action flops such as “Hulk” and “The Rocketeer.” A special section documents the floppiest of flops—where would we be without a look back at “Ishtar”, “Gigli” , and “Battlefield Earth.”

And who can’t forget floppy musicals? I imagine, based on what I remember, that the book could have been all musicals, but My Year of Flops sticks to the floppiest—“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “I’ll Do Anything” (now with no music) and Lucille Ball’s “Mame” among them. So what if she was 20 years too old for the part?

It helps that Rabin has encyclopedic film knowledge. He was on that short-lived AMC review show with John Ridley, remember? (You don’t? Read the memoir again.) The razor sharp wit also helps. The book (which seems to be about 1/3 book exclusive) is truly laugh-out-loud funny, and as I read much of the book in public places, I have a number of strangers that can vouch for that statement. You love to laugh, don't you?

This is the kind of book that I immediately thought of five people for whom it would be the perfect gift. Do you have to have seen all the movies? Absolutely not. Will you want to see more of them? Undoubtedly.

OK, with that reaction, I asked Rabin and his publisher if we could get him up here anyway, especially since my last two AV Club talks have had respectable crowds. Rabin said yes to Milwaukee. He's coming on Saturday, November 6th, at 2 PM. He likes you, he really really likes you. Poor Sally Field. Anyway, now it's your turn to like him and show up.

If I were doing "All Things Considered" this fall (and I figure I'm probably not--lightning doesn't strike three times, does it? And by that, I mean good lightning), it would be one of my five picks. Now do you believe how much I love it?*

I also loved the illustrations. But who did them? I can't find a signature anywhere. The only acknowledgement is the designer, Carla Jayne Jones. But artwork is usually a different gig than book design, isn't it? I dare you to name all the movies referenced on the cover. Hey, that's a good contest.

*But my favorite book of the year is Day for Night and it's not likely to change at this point. I'm emotionally connected to the book and I still expect you to buy it from me. How the heck did I work this into the post? Hey, there's referencing to Truffault's film in the book, and that's a film, although it doesn't suck. That's the best I can do.

1 comment:

brian said...

I hope I am not too jetlagged to make it to the signing on Saturday. I'm coming all the way from Shanghai just to see it.