Tuesday, July 14, 2009

42, 41

Two this week.

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee: Dee Brown -I got the suggestion to read this one from musician Steve Earle, who was told to read it by Townes Van Zant.

I'm not a hundred percent sure how I feel about the book. On the one hand, I do believe much of what Brown writes and "chronicles" about the plains Indians, their contact and subsequent mistreatment by the American government and white people in general. Based on other readings, initial contacts with the Cheyenne, the Apache and the Arapaho were probably reasonably peaceful. For instance, the tribes tended to be very nice to the Spanish explorers who visited (largely, I think, because they were frightened of them, their horses and their guns. They weren't so nice to the Spaniards who wound up away from the pack), but I have a hard time swallowing the always innocent Indian routine.

However, they got screwed and the book at least points out it wasn't their fault.

One of the positive sides, is it gives an insight to how the government and business is still playing the same zero sum game of fucking over the weak or disorganized in favor of the wealthy and motivated. It might be the Indians of today are the hillbillies of rural America who get shafted with Mountain Top removal, toxic dump sites and medical waste disposal areas.

Shutter Island: Dennis Lehane -I don't read as much fiction as I used to. Partly, this has to do with discovery process of finding new authors to read. As much as I read, I toss quite a few back as annoying or uninteresting.

I picked this one up because I saw the trailer for the upcoming film and because I read Mystic River. The trailer was spooky and the book is every bit as creepy, dark and even heart breaking.

In 1954, U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels goes to Shutter Island, a facility for the criminally insane, to search for a patient who has mysteriously vanished. Shutter Island houses the worst of the worst: violent and delusional people who've murdered, maimed and raped. Daniels comes to the island with an agenda, to find the man he believes is responsible for the death of his wife and to get the goods on the facility which may or may not be practicing illegal medical experiments on some of the patients.

It's a full-blown page turner, though not "high art" by any means. The writing is so-so. The dialogue tends toward the average noir, but it's got a hell of a plot. I burned through it in two sittings. While I sort of figured out the disposition of the ending about halfway through, the book managed to keep up enough ambiguity to make me wonder if I really had it all the way to the end. And truly, the ending was agony.

I can't give any comparisons for fear of spoiling what could be a pretty decent film. The movie will be out soon. Martin Scorcese directs and Leo DiCaprio stars. And naturally, it's a great summer read.

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