Oh, the mighty mighty Ohi’. It runs from the Alleghen’ to the Mississip’, skirting the edge of West Virginny and good ol’ Ketuck’ along the way. No, I’m not wanting for vowels. This is how I speak when I speak of rivers. Conversely, when I speak of canals, such as my beloved hometown’s Erie Canal, I add vowels (the correct pronunciation is thus ee-rye-ee, my friends). Things have gotten folksy here and you’re just going to have to get used to it.
Where was I? Oh yes, the Ohio River. About halfway along it lies the city of Huntington, West Virginia. Huntington is a special place for me because it’s where my sister and her family have lived for more than a decade. And over that last decade, I have visited for summer idylls and autumn holidays and winter spelunking adventures. This spring, I return for a book festival. The delightful organizers of the Ohio River Festival of Books have been kind enough to invite me to speak at a couple of local middle schools, and to meet readers and sign books. Here are the details:
Easy Reading Damn Hard Writing (vaguely spoilerish): “Starmer’s really accomplished something here, and this book is definitely one of my favorites that I’ve read so far in 2012.” “Such a lovely book.” “A+”
The Allure of Books: “Seriously. The cleverness, originality and imagination of Aaron Starmer staggers me. The Only Ones might be odd. It might be hard to completely process it all. But it is an incredible story.”
Reed Reads Book Reviews: “A book for readers that love the unpredictable. A book for readers that constantly ask themselves questions and make predictions as the story turns and twists in a non-linear way. A book for readers that appreciate beautifully written and lyrical story telling.” “4.5/5”
Read Listen Love (includes giveaway!): “It intrigued me from the first page, constantly surprised me and had fantastic characters.”
IMCPL Kids Blog: “This is a tense, gripping novel, in the tradition of other child-centered societies like Lord of the Flies and Ender’s Game, flavored by a Stephen King-like eeriness, but with original characters and twists. Questions are answered by the end, but not in ways that readers will predict.”
I also stumbled upon a couple of discussions about the cover of The Only Ones, which was created by my longtime friend Lisa Ericson. I couldn’t be happier with the cover and dozens of people have told me how much it intrigues them. Similar feelings are shared here:
Uncovered Cover Art: “The best kinds of covers make you curious, and make you wonder what sort of story it’s trying to tell. Such is the case for The Only Ones’ cover art.”
The Windy Pages: “You know you want to know more about it. I don’t blame you.”
That’s it for now. If you’ve written or found a review of The Only Ones online, go ahead and send it my way. I’ll include it in the next roundup!
A couple of weeks ago I sat down and treated myself to an impromptu double-feature. I started with Take Shelter, the Jeff Nichol’s film starring Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain. It’s a brilliant little ode to paranoia. Not for everyone, but if you like your fare ambiguous, slow-burning and with a dash of doomsday prepping, then this one is for you. Since I figured my nightmares could benefit from a little more bleakness, I followed it up with John Hillcoat’s adaptation of The Road. Of course, the book is better. There’s no point in engaging in such arguments. But the film, I believe, was unjustly overlooked. Heartbreaking performances, impeccable art direction–a carefully realized and complete vision of Earth in its death throes. The pacing is a bit off. Some poetry is lost in the translation, but I can’t really complain. After all we live in a world where films starring Kevin James exist.
The double-feature was not really a calculated choice, but when it was over, it felt as though the two films belonged together. It was as if The Road was a spiritual sequel to Take Shelter. It didn’t follow connected characters necessarily, but it was a progression of the themes and time period. And it got me thinking…
What if I could create a grand list of movies that line up thematically and are arranged chronologically. When I say chronologically, I don’t mean by production date. I mean by the time in which they’re set. It is an ambitious task, I know, but I am a man of ambition. Need I remind you that I’ve read at least five Choose Your Own Adventure novels front to back?
I shall dub this fool’s errand The Great and Ridiculous Movie Timeline and I will make a pledge to revisit this project over the next few weeks or months until I have covered the entire scope of history, or until I have reached the limits of my interest. Let’s begin:
Sure, I could start with some dinosaur fare, some Land Before Time perhaps. I could even climb Malick’s Tree of Life or throw Kubrick’s 2001 apes a bone. But I’d prefer to kick things off with the beginnings of man and I’d prefer not to take in the entire history of the cosmos while I’m at it. Which leads me to The Missing Link. I saw this strange little film sometime in the early 90s. It’s the story of a lone hominid wandering the deserts and savannas of Africa. He’s not quite a monkey, not quite a man. That ain’t the tagline, but might as well be. Or better yet, let’s pretend the tagline is: “The only thing that’s missing is the future of his species!”
Because this guy is one of anthropology’s Last of the Mohicans. His species (paranthropus robustus) is being replaced by a smarter, more violent one. Namely our forefathers. And we are allowed to witness poor Link’s final days and homo-sapiens’ early ones. The film is done in a quasi-nature documentary style, much like the Walking With series that Discovery Channel cooked up over ten years after this film. The directors were a husband and wife team known for their nature documentaries and the wildlife footage is the film’s major strength. Or at least that’s how I remember it. Like I said, it’s been about 20 years since I’ve seen this. I can’t imagine it made any money back then and today’s audiences might have not much tolerance for its ponderous qualities. However, it is narrated by Michael Gambon (Dumbledore, kids, Dumbledore) and while you can’t get it on DVD, you can watch the entire film on Youtube (click on the video above). The picture quality is quite poor, and a fur-bikinied Raquel Welch is nowhere in sight, but you’d be hard pressed to find a better depiction of our world one million years ago.
Flash-forward about 920,000 years to the tail end of an ice-age. The world is still a savage place. A tribe of neanderthals bumbles through a series of trials and tribulations, all in the name of finding and maintaining their eternal flame. Again, this is a film that pits species against species: Neanderthals versus homo-sapiens. Homo-sapiens versus mammoths. Everyone versus cave bears and wolves and saber-toothed tigers and grammar. Still, there’s room left over for some inter-species romance and plenty of good old fashioned caveman noggin floggin’. It’s also been at least 20 years since I’ve seen this film and I’m sure it’s a bit loose with the facts and science, but I remember how it felt so much more authentic than the Clan of the Cave Bear books and movie that were all the rage in the 80s. Not to mention the fact that Quest for Fire had Ron Perlman and Evertt McGill (of Twin Peaks fame) in the cast, while Clan of the Cave Bear had Daryl Hannah and Curtis Armstrong (that’s right: Booger). Case closed.