Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

The Trouble With Harry’s Ending

June 26, 2007

There was a vicious e-mail circulating last week that J.K. Rowling had ended the 7-book Harry Potter series by fading the last sentence to black. Something along the line of “And then Harry…”

But since David Chase apparently stole that ending, she’s been working round the clock to think of a new one.

We jest of course but if you think you know how the Harry Potter series will end, the New York Times wants to know. The site’s  Reader’s Comments blog is devoted to speculation about the impending Wizard’s  finale. Only24 days away we are told.

JC

Tracking Down Some Summer Reading

June 25, 2007

Reading lists seem to be one of the better ways bloggers can fill all there empty white space during the summer months. Hey, we’re going to have to stop writing about the Sopranos at some point.

Jerseycool dropped it’s summer reading list a few weeks ago and at least one reader (the beloved C) took up one of our recommendations  and is plowing through Stephen King’s The Stand with an avarice bordering on crack addiction.

Anyway, NJ.com’s Transit Blog checks in today with a list for train commuters about train commuters. Anthony Buccino is featuring several titles detailing the various railroads and train systems in the Garden State. Interesting take on a standard column filler, we think.

JC

JerseyCool.com’s Summer Reading List

June 1, 2007

It’s still officially not summer but we figured we’d take a break from our excitables and devote this post to our recommended summer reading. There’s is little in life more enjoyable than a good summer read and though much is a matter of taste there are some common elements.

  • Summer reads are fun.
  • They don’t require a lot of hard work. No Thomas Wolfe here.
  • They travel well (that’s why you won’t see anything here that is only in hardcover)

There’s a little bit for everyone here so pick and choose. Some of it is Jersey centric and some of it isn’t but when you’re reading it on the beach does it really matter.

The Stand, Stephen King – Next to Halloween, the summer is the best time to read anything by America’s leading man of letters, well, at least horror letters. We polished off the Cell a few months back and give it a thumbs up, but truly if you have not read the Stand there’s no better time to do so than during the warm months. Bonus if you pick up the unabridged version, which tops out over 1,000 pages and should take the whole summer to read. Three months of entertainment for less than $10. How do you beat that? The Stand is also one of the few King novels with a Garden State local. The scene where survivors crawl through a victim filled Holland Tunnel from New York to New Jersey is one King’s most harrowing and best written.

The Plot Against America, Philip Roth – JerseyCool is not a particularly big fan of what if novels, but Roth’s speculation about life in 1930s Newark under a President Lindberg is perhaps the Jersey writers finest work in years. The ending will be take it or leave it for some but there’s always the literary cache of toting around a Philip Roth book all summer long.

Water Music, TC Boyle — More than 30 years old, Boyle first novel is probably his best and filled with the mischievous, no holds barred  linguistics that Boyle has become famous for. If you’ve never heard of Mungo Park or Ned Rise, this summer is a good time to get acquainted with them.

October 1964, David Halberstam – The passing of David Halberstam a few weeks ago was one of the most tragic in literature this year. The journalist who died in a car crash could work effortlessly in sports and history. Best known for his rumination on the Kennedy years in the Best and the Brightest, October 1964 chronicled the World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Yankees. It was the end of a dynasty for the Mickey Mantle led Yankees whose old school ways were being eclipsed by teams like the Cardinals with a plethora of young, African-American talent like Bob Gibson and Lou Brock. For Yankee fans this could be a bitter sweat read as it looks like the team’s latest era of dominance may be coming to a close.

Max Perkins, Editor of Genius, Scott Berg – Princeton grad Berg has made a nice living chronically the movers and shakers of the 1930s namely Charles Lindberg, Samuel Goldwyn and Kate Hepburn but his first work, which was an extension of his graduate thesis at Princeton may be his best. Perking was the editor of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe and Earnest Hemingway at a time when the three literary heavyweights dominated the country’s social landscape. It was the end of an era as publishing gave way to new media but Berg paints a complex and fascinating portrait of the man behind the men.

A Long Way Down, Nick Hornby —  Only the incomparable Mr. Hornby could make a book about suicide so much fun. Four people with nothing in common meet on a rooftop one New Years Eve to put an end to it all. Hilarity ensues.

John Adams, David McCullough — HBO is planning a miniseries of this historical biography that many feel is one of the best ever written. Adams, the second president of the United States, takes the center stage for the first time in this book, and McCullough reveals exactly how important and fascinating this man’s life really was. There are actually several key events that take place in New Jersey, namely the Adams-Ben Franklin peace delegation to the British in Perth Amboy, which established the uneasy relationship the two founding fathers had for most of their lives. The worst part of this book is that when it’s over, you’ll miss Adams.

Happy reading folks and feel free to suggest your own summer books below,

JC

Excitables for the Weekend of March 30-April 1

March 30, 2007

Its the time of year when Spring is in the air and the sports world begins to shake off the snow that’s been building on its shoulders. By Monday we’ll know who the NCAA basketball champion is, Jerseycool’s uneducated guess is Ohio State and, perhaps more importantly, baseball season begins.

The locals are in action early as the Mets kick off the season on Sunday night against the world champion Cardinals. 8 p.m. on ESPN2. The Yankees follow April 2 as they open the season at home against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 1:05 p.m. Bosses get ready to field the sick day calls.

Skate Away — There’s sports galore in the theaters as well. Wil Ferrel continueBlades of Glorys his lifelong pursuit to mock every sport and sports figure in the country in Blades of Glory. As the appropriately named Chaz Michael Michaels Ferrel teams with Jon Heder of Napolean Dynamite fame as the first male-male figure skating team. Presumably Hilarity ensues. the movie is getting decent reviews, but oh does it really matter.

Noir Weekend — Classic movie fans can catch three film noir classics at the Lowe’s Theater in Jersey City this weekend. Double Indemnity plays tonight at 8 p.m., Out of the Past is at 4 p.m. Saturday and the weekend wraps with Sunset Boulevard 8 p.m. on Saturday.

Nothing on the tube — After your done watching basketball the most interesting thing on TV this weekend is “Jerry Seinfeld: The Comedian Award.” It’s describes as a roundtable hosted by Anderson Cooper including Jerry and comedy friends Chris Rock, Gary Shandling and Robert Klein. Despite the title this sounds funny. HBO, 9 p.m.

Staying Home — The weekend promises to be a nice one so we don’t recommend staying home. Buuut if you have a broken leg or something we recommend catching up with the latest Bond movie, the remake of Casino Royale.

Looking for a good book to read? We’re in the middle of Charles C. Mann’s 1491, an account of North and South American Indian culture and history before Columbus. You guessed it. Everything your history teacher taught you in high school was wrong.

Have a good weekend everyone,

JC

Excitables for Feb. 16-19

February 16, 2007

There’s an extra day added to this weekend’s exictables and for good reason. It’s President’s Day weekend, that convergence of Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays that allow us to pause and remember the great men who have led our county. People like Millard Filmore, James Tyler and Rutherford B. Hayes. Yep, not every president is a keeper, which is why this weekend is perhaps better known for buying cars than celebrating those 43 white dudes who ran things or tried to run things.

Anyway, if you’re truly in the spirit. Try these things.

Ken Burns, Civil War — It just recently aired on PBS and there’s a new digitally enhanced box set available on DVD. If you don’t want to spend the $100+ on the discs they are all available on Netflix or wherever you rent your discs. The 13-hour sprawling masterpiece focuses much of it’s attention on Abraham Lincoln but there’s also quite about Ulysses S. Grant as well. The documentary is beautifully narrated by historian David McCullough, which brings us to….

John Adams, David McCullough — There may be no better loved biography in recent years and this about one of the more forgetable presidents. Not just one of the best historical books JC has read but also one of the best books period.

If you liked John Adams you may also want to check out 1776. McCullough’s account of the first year of the revolutionary war has lots of then General George Washington and a lot of detail on New Jersey’s role during the early days of fighting including of course the Battle of Trenton.Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland Birth Place, 207 Bloomfield Avenue, Caldwell, NJ (973) 226-0001 — You’ve probably passed by it a half dozen times on Bloomfield Avenue so maybe this weekend is the time to take the kids over to the The Grover Cleveland Birth Place. The ancestral home of the only president who was so nice they elected him twice, and the only president named after a muppet. The museum houses artifacts such as the President’s cradle, his chair from the White House and his fishing gear. Call ahead for hours before heading over.

If dead presidents aren’t your thing. Here are a couple of other alternatives to pass away the time:

Fat Tuesday Cometh Oddfellows in Hoboken is celebrating Mardi Gras beginning tonight and lasting through Fat Tuesday, Feb. 20. We hear there will be drinking and food there.

Get Your Motor Running — In the cinemas this week. Jersey movie lovers have three pretty credible choices. Breach, the spy drama staring Ryan Phillippe and the always good Chris Cooper; Ghost Rider, the Nic Cage comic book caper and Bridge to Terabithia. So far it looks like Breach is getting most of the critical reviews but we’re gonna place our bets on Terabithia’s ad campaign, which probably showed enough to interest parents and children alike. As for Ghost Rider, the comic has its fan base, but, as with horror flicks, comic book movies that get rescheduled from the summer to a winter release are usualy clunkers. Daredevil, anyone?

Music and Lyrics, the Drew Barrymore/Hugh Grant Valentines Day vehicle, which opened on Wednesday, is also in wide release and should do well despite uniformly crappy reviews. I’ll make the producers a deal. I’ll suffer through it if they promise to take that commercial off the air, that stupid song they sing sticks in your head like glue.

Did we miss something? Leave us your comments below or drop us a line by clicking here.

Have a happy weekend everyone.

JC

What Kind of Empire Is This?

January 24, 2007

EmpireEmpire
Orson Scott Card
TOR Books

About halfway through Orson Scott Card’s Empire I had that sinking feeling. You know the kind where you’re plowing through a book that’s just a great concept but you know it’s juuuuuusst not gonna make it there. It wasn’t the slight heaved at the great state of New Jersey (more on that in a moment) that turned me off the sci-fi thriller, no, it was reading an author trying to walk too much of a tightrope and not trying to offend anyone in out there in the audience.

Let’s geta few things straight. Empire is a great concept. It’s a great what if book. What if there was a second civil war? What if tension between red and blue states finally came to blows? Not really a far-fetched concepts. In fact if you’re fond of the Sunday talk shows and Fox News there’s been a war of words going on for several years now.

The plot is intriguing. The president is assassinated in a brazen attack on the White House. It’s the exact same attack predicted in a research paper by the novel’s hero, Captain Malich , a special forces ace whose politics lean conservative. He then has to go on the run with his wife, whose politics lean liberal (eh, see where this is going?), along with his aide to West Windsor, NJ, — where everyone goes to hideout.

The story really kicks up a notch when giant mechanized robots take over the streets of New York as liberals, fearing a conservative takeover of the government, strike. It all sounds a little silly but Card makes it work, despite the fact that as you read along you get the feeling that the robots are there for the tie-in video game and movie, which are apparently already in production.

Honestly, the robots aren’t needed and the book would probably be more powerful without them. However, the worst part about Empire is it’s unwillingness to take sides. Neither the right or left are wrong in this conflict. It’s kind of hooey and walks too-fine a line to ever be a great tale about our current political situation. It’s a bit like saying, “You know the south did have a point about that slavery thing.”

Anyway, the book does have its moments and, as a diversion, it’s fun . Still I couldn’t help but think while reading it could have been much more and when finished it felt a lot like a missed opportunity.

We’d be remiss for not taking Card behind the woodshed for his slight to our fair state on pg. 135. As one of the characters drives from Washington to New York for an appearance on the Bill O’Reilly show we are treated to this piece of descriptive candy from Mr. Card:

Yet he kept driving north, up I-95 to Delaware and then across the river into New Jersey and its ugly toll road that funneled you to New York City as if you were being flushed down a toilet.

Ahhhh, what creativity there. Never heard the Jersey-toilet connection before. I don’t want to get off on a tangent here but you know in the Garden State we understand the NJ Turnpike isn’t the most attractive of roads. Certainly not as attractive as all those other interstates running through places like, say, Cleveland or Detroit or North Carolina, where Card hails from, but perhaps just a bit more work on this description could have been done. I mean equating the NJ turnpike with a toilet is done almost nightly on TV talk shows. Hmmmm, who might we quote for a little creativity. Ah, I know something from master Springsteen perhaps.

Early north Jersey industrial skyline I’m a all-set cobra jet creepin’ through the nighttime
Gotta find a gas station, gotta find a payphone this turnpike sure is spooky at night when you’re all alone
Gotta hit the gas, baby. I’m running late, this New Jersey in the mornin’ like a lunar landscape

Bruce Springsteen, Open All Night

Let’s see toilet, lunar landscape. Jerseyans what paints the picture here?

JC

Excitables For the Week of Jan. 20-21

January 19, 2007

What are we gonna do when football goes away in a few weeks, sigh. What the heck are we gonna write about? I know, spring training is not that far off. Anyway, here are the things we’re looking forward to this weekend.

NFL playoffs (New Orleans at Chicago, Sunday, 3:30 on Fox; New England at Indianapolis, Sunday, 8 pm., CBS) — Only two more games before the Superbowl and while the New Orleans Saints have become everyone’s favorite home team, I’m actually looking forward to the late game on Sunday where Peyton Manning will try to exercise the ghosts of Tom Brady and the Patriots. For those of you not familiar with the history, it’s a lot like Charlie Brown trying to kick that football Lucy’s holding. Yeah, it’s been that kind of frustrating for Peyton.

Our Superbowl pick for what it’s worth is New Orleans vs. Indianapolis. Not so much for the Saints but because we’re looking forward to all the interviews with Archie Manning (Peyton’s father and New Orleans former quarterback) asking him who he’s rooting for. Should be interesting. See NFL.com for coverage.

NY Giants SuperBowl XXI (Friday, 8 p.m., NFL Network)— While we’re on the subject of football. It’s been a rough few weeks for Giants fans but the NFL Network is airing a documentary on the NY Giants Superbowl XXI team tonight at 8 p.m. The special is part of the America’s Game series, which is a countdown of the best SuperBowl teams of all time.

Rome, (Sunday night, 9 p.m., HBO ) — The bloom is a bit off the rose for this series as HBO has already announced that it’s the second and last go-around for Rome. The show with its large cast and expensive sets is simply too expensive to produce. Still, history buffs will marvel at the detail and atmosphere of the show. This is not a marble-white, Hollywood version of Rome but rather a dirty, violent and crime infested city. Most likely the bloodiest series on television.

The Plot Against America, Philip Roth — We’re behind on book reviews and we promise to catch up next week but we just started reading this book by Newark’s Roth and we’re hooked. Don’t be put off by the literary pedigree here. This is a fascinating, easy read and for New Jerseyans it’s probably just as entertaining to read about 1940s Newark as it is the book’s main hook: What would the country be like if Charles Lindbergh won the 1940 presidential election and the country never entered WWII.

The Hitcher— The only new movie opening this weekend (when was the last time that happened) is a remake of The Hitcherthe Rutger Hauer, C. Thomas Howell 80s flick. There’s nary a review available on the Web, which is usally not a good sign, but perhaps the best thing this film has done is remind us of how good the original really was. If you’ve never seen it and have the time it’s worth checking out on DVD.

Happy weekend everyone.

JC

JerseyCool New Year’s Eve Excitables

December 29, 2006

There’s only one thing to get excited about this year and that’s saying goodbye to 2006 on Sunday night and shaking hands with 2007 Monday morning. JerseyCool will be in Times Square blogging live…..OK, we won’t be anywhere near the Big Apple but we have a couple of parties to attend, which will be fun but not crazy. If you’re still looking for something to do NJ.com has some ideas on its site today.

Other things we’re looking forward to:

1) DVDs. Lots of DVDs landed under the tree for Christmas and this weekend we finally have some time to take a look at them, including the second season of Lost, the fourth season of the Sopranos and Rocky, the original.

2) Not to be outdone, we’re in the middle of Manhunt, James L. Swanson’s superb retelling of the Lincoln assassination and the hunt for his killer.

3) Best of Lists: It’s that time of year when reporters have nothing to do but reflect upon the year that was. Lists are popping up all over the place and personally we’re interested in movies, books and music. Gonna go out on a limb and say that Britney Spears will make a few of these and it won’t be for best music or anything like that. Just kidding. We love you Britney, life wouldn’t be the same without you.

4) College Bowl games — Now, that Rutgers won it’s first bowl game last night. It only took 150 years. It’s on to the rest of them. Chances are if you’re a college football fan you can watch a game at almost any hour this weekend. We’re not kidding. With 32 bowl games there’s a lot of teams in action this weekend. The championship game is Jan. 8 but there’s still some great match-ups this weekend with the best probably being USC-Michigan on New Year’s Day.

JC

Food Fit For a King, A Canine King

December 20, 2006

JerseyCool gets e-mail from time to time and coming across the tangled world wide web last week was an alert about a new cookbook from Maplewood author Linda Eckhardt. JC usually doesn’t get too jazzed up about cookbooks. Yeah, we have them at home. In fact there’s a whole shelf of them and favorite recipes are marked off, but we don’t sit around read ing them

What caught our eye last week was the title of said cookbook: “The Dog Ate It: Cooking for Yourself and Your Four-Legged Friends.” Yep, it’s a cookbook for you and your four legged friends.

Jerseycool has not read this book so we can’t comment on its virtues or vices but the fact it exists just adds another level to the wacky relationship Americans have with their dogs. Now, there are legitimate reasons to cook for your pet. Eckhardt apparently was concerned about diseases in the industrial animal food chain and decided she wouldn’t feed her pet commercial dog food anymore.

Some examples:

  • Bowser’s Birthday Pawty Cake
  • Party Pup Cakes with Apple and Cheddar
  • Profiteroles sprinkled with powdered sugar, and authentically caramelized Tarte Tatin
  • Simple Sushi Hand Rolls

In terms of dog pampering this isn’t the worst JC has seen. Personally, we get a little miffed whenever we see people stepping over the homeless on their way to doggie daycare or to the pet groomer. JC worked in Soho for a number of years so we saw this quite a bit.

Faithful reader, lest you think we are not fans of the canine, we are. My mother in fact often cooked for Barney, our family dog. Barney didn’t get Sushi. He had to settle for hot dogs, meatballs and pasta for most of his 16 years and he seemed to be pretty happy about that.

The point here is that we don’t treat dogs as dogs anymore. This came up during a recent dinner conversation when a friend pointed out that you don’t see dogs named King, Rex or even Spike anymore. People choose more human names now. Top five puppy names for male dogs: Max, Jake, Buddy, Bailey and Sam. Girls: Maggie, Molly, Lady, Sadie and Lucy.

I suppose if you’re going to start humanizing dogs why not cook a meal for them and why not have a book about it as well.

JC

NY Times Book Review Editor

December 15, 2006

Who knew Jerseycool fans were such book hogs?

One of our more popular pages here has been our link to the NY Times Best Books for 2006, so to keep our user friendly service in order, we now point you to  a Q&A with Times Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus.

If you ever wondered how they go about picking the books they review each week and what a huge undertaking it actually is, well, read on.

JC