Archive - Book Review

Shaking the Money Tree: How to Get Grants and Donations for Film and Video

Shaking the Money Tree: How to Get Grants and Donations for Film and Video

author: Morrie Warshawski

name: Steev

average rating: 3.43

book published: 1994

rating: 4

read at: 2009/04/03

date added: 2013/12/13

shelves: filmmaking

review:
I sort of skimmed this, I must admit, since I'm trying to quickly raise just A LITTLE more money so I can finish a film. A lot of the book is about organizing your filmmaking career in the process of trying to raise funds for a new socially-conscious film. I'm actually toward the end of making a documentary, and just need a few grand to finish editing.

In fact, if you want to help support the film, which is about war and taxes, please see http://deathandtaxes.detritus.net

Little Brother

Little Brother

author: Cory Doctorow

name: Steev

average rating: 3.94

book published: 2008

rating: 4

read at: 2013/12/24

date added: 2013/12/25

shelves: fun, novels, own-it, politics

review:
This is not great literature, but it is great inspirational storytelling for kids who might be geeks or are leaning toward becoming geeks, interested in computers, hacking, cryptography, and civil liberties. Basically the book is a piece of not-so-subtle propaganda - a word I use simply as description, not as value judgement. Doctorow is trying to spread and instill a way of thinking about politics, the "War on Terror," the Security State, and related issues. He does so with writing that is pretty basic, though it is competent storytelling that kept me turning the pages and wondering what would happen. There was a lot of (to me) over-obvious, breaking-the-fourth-wall explanation, mostly of stuff I already knew, on topics ranging from ciphers to DNS to San Francisco Mission District burritos. Some of that was fun to recognize and skim over, while other instances of that made me wonder if young readers would get bored or angry with such bald instructional passages and just set the book down. The potential problem is that when you cross over the line from political literature into expository how-to manual thinly disguised as fiction, you run a risk, and you also waste an opportunity to make truly great art. I could argue that David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest" occupies the other end of the spectrum, in that it covers a lot of the same ground, politically, that "Little Brother" does, but it does so while also being an amazing work of avant-garde literature that is at many times formally brilliant and challenging, something that "Little Brother" definitely never is. But of course I would be clueless and stupid to think that the average 14-year-old computer nerd might get the same kind of call-to-arms buzz from DFW's mammoth opus as from Doctorow's book, or even finish it. I just think that some middle ground might be the better way to go, because any kid smart and dorky enough to care about jamming arphids or installing linux on Xboxes will most likely also be smart enough to smell literary hamfistedness and benefit from the pleasure of reading a piece of writing that is not just good, but great. Doctorow's book is good-not-great writing, but it is admittedly very good popular education.

Eat the Document

Eat the Document

author: Dana Spiotta

name: Steev

average rating: 3.60

book published: 2006

rating: 5

read at: 2012/06/28

date added: 2013/12/03

shelves: novels, fun, politics

review:
This novel is really fun and enjoyable to read, but also quite moving and full of important questions of our time about society, rebellion, identity, commodification of subcultures, and more. I think Dana Spiotta should be considered right up there amongst the pantheon that includes such notables as Franzen, Lethem, Lipsyte, Foer, etc. You know, those dudes. Maybe it's because she's not a dude that she's not considered up there. At any rate every time I read something by those dudes, and many other dude novels, I don't really trust them when they try to portray female characters in first-person. So it's really nice to read something that sort of covers some of the same contemporary existential and emotional ground, from multiple female (and male) viewpoints, written by a female. Plus, the fact that this book is tackling very serious, relevant stuff about "radicalism" and social change makes it super compelling. If you're a progressive activist, or somebody that hangs around in anarchist bookstores and coffeehouses, or have ever lived in a commune, or are music-obsessed hipster, this might be something you'd really like. Or it might really disturb you and piss you off, depending on how seriously you take yourself.

Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way

Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way

author: Jon Krakauer

name: Steev

average rating: 3.66

book published: 2011

rating: 5

read at: 2013/12/27

date added: 2013/12/27

shelves: crime, own-it

review:
Krakauer is always a good muckraker. In this slim volume he turns his skills to bear on someone who he once trusted, Greg Mortenson, whose charity organization Krakauer had donated lots of money too, only to start doubting Mortenson's work and honesty. My cynical, pessimist side wishes there were a book like this for every feel-good heartwarming pop-memoir of miraculous altruism and supposed world-changing vision, because I'm sure way more of this goes on all the time than we ever see or suspect. This book just methodically rips to shreds all the smoke and mirrors that Mortenson employed over years of pretending to do good. It's pretty satisfying, though saddening too.

Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littín

Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littín

author: Gabriel García Márquez

name: Steev

average rating: 3.81

book published: 1986

rating: 4

read at: 2009/10/25

date added: 2014/07/28

shelves: politics, filmmaking, fun, own-it

review:
This is a short but fascinating true story of a film director from Chile, exiled after the Pinochet coup, who sneaks back into the country after 12 years in order to do a documentary about the state of the nation. Despite its factual nature, Garcia Marquez narrates the book in a dramatic first person style and it is a distillation of an 18-hour interview he did with the filmmaker.

Oddly, nowhere in the book is there mention of the name of the film that Littin produced from the 105 thousand feet of footage he and his 5 crews shot in Chile over the course of a month or so. I looked it up on IMDB though and it's called "Acta General de Chile" - it doesn't look like there's an english version, unfortunately. But, it can be seen on Google Video here: http://video.google.com/videoplay?doc...#

At any rate, the book is a great snapshot at what Pinochet's regime did to Chile after just 12 years, and an empathetic look at the effect of exile on a creative and patriotic artist.

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again:  Essays and Arguments

author: David Foster Wallace

name: Steev

average rating: 4.29

book published: 1996

rating: 5

read at: 2014/07/25

date added: 2014/07/28

shelves: fun, own-it, spirit-self

review:
Like all the DFW works I've read, this is, overall, excellent. Some of the pieces in this collection are better than others, but they're all worth reading. Of course the real standout is the title essay, about his week on a cruise ship, which comes at the end of the book and which is probably the most well-known and talked-about piece of non-fiction Wallace ever wrote, and for good reason. It's pure genius and also pure vulnerable and personal truth-telling, in the Herzogian, ecstatic truth sense of truth-telling - because I don't care if he made up parts of the essay or fudged some facts, as some have attested. The point is that it is a porthole (ahem) into how David Foster Wallace thought and lived, how his brain worked and the intricate inner gears of a very smart but disturbed and depressed writer. Furthermore, it's a valuable commentary on the state of the American psyche and how the American psyche deals with need, desire, luxury, consumerism, and marketing. It was written at, I think, about the same time he was finishing up his masterpiece novel Infinite Jest, which deals in a fanciful, fictional, and more extended way with many of these same issues. In short, they both ask the questions: Is constant, in-the-moment pleasure the pursuit that life is about? And what if we supposedly found that, then what? It's also interesting to see that this essay shows DFW using the phrasal tics like "And so but" and the generous use of footnotes and footnotes-within-footnotes that are so integral to the style and feel of Infinite Jest. He had arrived at a formal structure that fit perfectly the way his chattering grey matter operated.

Other stand-out essays in the volume for me are "Getting Away From Already Being Pretty Much Away From It All," about visiting the Illinois State Fair, and his brilliant examination of a great filmmaker, "David Lynch Keeps His Head."

Media Semiotics: An Introduction

Media Semiotics: An Introduction

author: Jonathan Bignell

name: Steev

average rating: 3.67

book published: 1997

rating: 4

read at:

date added: 2014/06/26

shelves:

review:

The Baffler No. 24

The Baffler No. 24

author: John Summers

name: Steev

average rating: 4.00

book published: 2014

rating: 5

read at: 2014/06/07

date added: 2014/06/08

shelves: politics, fun, own-it

review:
Took me awhile this time, but the issue does not disappoint. Highlights are the piece by David Graeber about play, the Susan Faludi article on feminism, and the excellent take-down of Vice magazine.

To Kill a Mockingbird (To Kill A Mockingbird #1)

To Kill a Mockingbird (To Kill A Mockingbird #1)

author: Harper Lee

name: Steev

average rating: 4.29

book published: 1960

rating: 5

read at: 2011/06/22

date added: 2014/05/16

shelves: novels, politics

review:
Absolutely totally deserving all the praise and sales that it has received. One of the best novels ever, hands down.

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer

author: Novella Carpenter

name: Steev

average rating: 3.98

book published: 2009

rating: 3

read at: 2014/03/22

date added: 2014/03/26

shelves: after-the-fall, food, fun, homesteading, own-it

review:
Yet another case of a journalist not really able to make the jump to quality long-form writing. This book is interesting content, but it just never really clicked. The author tried to go for the deep personal angle, but never really arrived at a tone that made me give much of a damn about her or her neighbors or friends.