“The Help” the movie: Two more reviews

Los Angeles Times:

Critic Betsy Sharkey writes:

“The Help” is a delicious peppery stew of home-cooked, 1960s Southern-style racism that serves up a soulful dish of what ails us and what heals us. Laughter, which is ladled on thick as gravy, proves to be the secret ingredient — turning what should be a feel-bad movie about those troubled times into a heart-warming surprise.

New York Times:

Manohla Dargis calls the film a “big, ole slab of honey-glazed hokum” but praises Viola Davis’s performance:

Ms. Davis keeps her cool even as she warms your heart and does her job, often beautifully. She doesn’t just turn Aibileen, something of a blur in the novel, into a fully dimensional character, she also helps lift up several weaker performances and invests this cautious, at times bizarrely buoyant, movie with the gravity it frequently seems to want to shrug off.



Learning to Love a Killer: John Hart’s Fourth Novel Takes Different Twist

Learning to Love a Killer: John Hart’s Fourth Novel Takes Different Twist | The Pilot: Southern Pines, NC.

Iron Horse, the fourth novel by New York Times best-selling author John Hart, was released last week.

“Given the success of the first three, I always allow myself to feel confident when I might be feeling uncertain,” Hart says. “It’s taught me to push the envelope and given me the confidence to do aggressive story-writing.”

It is this style of writing that sets Hart apart from other authors in his genre.

“I think what I do is blend hard-charging thrillers with meaningful characters,” he says.

The character Michael, who essentially murders people for a living, is one of these characters. Hart says that making people feel for a killer was one of the ideas behind the novel. Michael has killed people, but he is trying to leave that life behind. This lets people still care about what happens to him and his attempt at a new beginning.

How difficult is it for an author to make us care about a character happens to be morally reprehensible? Can you think of any other examples of such characters?

My nominee in this category is John Keller, the contract killer in Lawrence Block’s series:

  • Hit Man
  • Hit List
  • Hit Parade
  • Hit and Run

Virginia Woolf, my mother and me | Books | The Guardian

Author Michael Cunningham writes about how, as a teenager, he discovered Virginia Woolf through a reading of her novel Mrs. Dalloway, and how his own mother figured in his attempt to write about Woolf in his novel The Hours.

As a woman, Woolf knew about the sense of helplessness that can afflict women given too little to do. And she knew – she insisted – that a life spent maintaining a house and throwing parties was not necessarily, not categorically, a trivial life. She gave us to understand that even a modest, domestic life was still, for the person living it, an epic journey, however ordinary it might appear to an outside observer. She refused to dismiss lives that most other writers tended to ignore.

Taming Time Travel – Science News

Taming Time Travel – Science News:

Novelists and screenwriters know that time travel can be accomplished in all sorts of ways: a supercharged DeLorean, Hermione’s small watch and, most recently, a spacetime-bending hot tub have allowed fictional heroes to jump between past and future.

But physicists know that time travel is more than just a compelling plot device — it’s a serious prediction of Einstein’s general relativity equations. In a new study posted online July 15, researchers led by Seth Lloyd at MIT analyze how some of the quirks and peculiarities of real-life time travel might play out. This particular kind of time travel evades some of its most paradoxical predictions, Lloyd says.

Any theory of time travel has to confront the devastating ‘grandfather paradox,’ in which a traveler jumps back in time and kills his grandfather, which prevents his own existence, which then prevents the murder in the first place, and so on.


I certainly don’t have the physics background to understand the scientific concept of time travel, but I’ve always found the possibility to be a fascinating literary device. Here’s a bit of the scientific perspective.

A Novel? Padgett Powell’s Book Defies Genre

A Novel? Padgett Powell’s Book Defies Genre : NPR:

The question mark that accompanies the subtitle of author Padgett Powell’s new book, The Interrogative Mood: A Novel? might seem flippant. But Powell’s book earns that bit of punctuation. The Interrogative Mood is composed entirely of questions. Some of them are laugh out loud funny, some designed to provoke memories of long gone times, some leave you pondering the meaning of life. But is it really a novel?

Sherlock Holmes, Shapeshifter – Robert Downey Jr.’s Version

Books – Sherlock Holmes, Shapeshifter – Robert Downey Jr.’s Version – NYTimes.com:

Arthur Conan Doyle grew so to hate his greatest creation, Sherlock Holmes, that in 1893 he tried to kill him off, plunging him over the Reichenbach Falls. He called it ‘justifiable homicide,’ saying, ‘If I had not killed him, he would certainly have killed me.’ . . . As it was, Conan Doyle bowed to popular demand and the emptiness of his bank account, and in 1903, after the success of “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” reluctantly resurrected Holmes for 24 more years.

Charles McGrath discusses one of fiction’s most enduring characters in light of the latest movie version.

In ‘Bright Shiny Morning,’ James Frey Presents Little Pieces of Los Angeles in His Way

In ‘Bright Shiny Morning,’ James Frey Presents Little Pieces of Los Angeles in His Way – New York Times

New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin writes about James Frey’s new novel:

He got a second act. He got another chance. Look what he did with it. He stepped up to the plate and hit one out of the park. No more lying, no more melodrama, still run-on sentences still funny punctuation but so what. He became a furiously good storyteller this time.

He wrote a big book. He wrote about a city. Los Angeles. He made up a lot of characters, high low rich poor lucky not, every kind, the book threw them together. It was random but smart.

Yes, this is that James Frey, the one who published a memoir called A Million Little Pieces and was later vilified in the press and in front of millions of viewers on the Oprah show for making much of it up.

This time he’s made it all up and rightly called it fiction.