ATOMIZED by Michel Houellebecq,
Vintage Books, 2001, $17.75.
Houellebecq’s first novel published in France in 1998 put him on the map as one of the most original writers of the 20th century. The book’s telluric plot line is about two half-brothers linked by fate. One brother is a molecular biologist with little regard for emotions, while the other is a sexual miscreant who looks for love in all the wrong places. On a rather unholy grail search for the meaning of life, they stumble along the path to fulfillment and a chance at happiness by way of the love of a good woman.
One wonders why Houellebecq is so controversial when his novels are essentially about the kind of dark thoughts we have when we lie awake in bed in the wee hours of the morning. Thrown in for good measure are rants and riffs on the plight of the modern human condition — a time in which, the author believes, materialism has killed off religion. As counterpoint, there’s a lot of humor and sex thrown in.
Often pornographic, philosophical, and idiosyncratic with multi-page riffs on everything from the genius of Aldous Huxley to swinger clubs in Paris, Atomized is ultimately bedazzling.
– Helen Mitsios
MOONFLOWERS By David Gray
Ellysian Press, $16
What can be said about David Gray that hasn’t already been written? A lot, apparently, as not that much has been written about one of the great creatives of the 21st century. Gray, who is from Scotland, is more than a triple threat: He’s a creative director, journalist, photographer, and, from what I hear, looks great in a kilt. And now he’s a novelist. His first book, Moonflowers, is a sci-fi/fantasy with lots of humor. If you’re into books about a dystopian New York City post-Armageddon with a main character who is odd and has superpowers (so considered a freak) that has to go up against demons, then Moonflowers is for you.
– Jason Stahl
WILD AND CRAZY GUYS: How the Comedy Mavericks of the ’80s Changed Hollywood Forever By Nick de Semlyen
Crown Archetype, $27
The 1980s may be considered the greatest decade for comedy movies. And nearly every single comedy was made by the same group of funnymen, who all worked together, whether they liked each other or not. Who might I be talking about? Well, try these names on for size: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Eddie Murphy, Harold Ramis, Martin Short, Rick Moranis (yes, even him!).
Wild and Crazy Guys tells the behind-the-scenes stories of how the stars of Saturday Night Live and SCTV (Canada’s SNL) and their friends made such iconic films as Ghostbusters, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Stripes, Fletch, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Caddyshack [LINK TO MY CADDYSHACK REVIEW], 48 Hours, The Jerk, Beverly Hills Cop, Uncle Buck, Spies Like us – as well their much-panned sequels to many of these classic films.
This group of comedians owned Hollywood. Some still do (Murray), while others left the industry entirely (Moranis) or died too soon (Candy). Despite all the infighting and movie politics, these actors shined on camera to create films that, despite numerous efforts, cannot – and should not be replicated – and left a lasting impression on pop culture. If you don’t believe me, then you’re definitely someone who will fall for a banana in your tailpipe…
– Jason Stahl