Monday, January 18, 2021

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 1/16/21

This week I have two books to mention: one that came in the traditional way (in the mail, from the company that published it), and one that I got in a completely new way.

In a park near my house is a Little Library -- a box with a glass door on a post with a bunch of books jammed into it. The idea is to take books or leave them, as you can. It's maintained by the local Girl Scouts, or at least was built and installed by them -- I'm not sure how much maintenance is necessary. I've dropped books off there a few times: mostly YA graphic novels and similarly inoffensive stuff, since it's in a public park very near the play equipment.

On a way last weekend, I dropped off three books -- it was tough to fit them in; the box was pretty full -- and something caught my eye. So I ended up, for the first time, taking something away.

But first, the publicity book!

Clifford the Big Red Dog: The Movie Graphic Novel is exactly what it says it is: a comics adaptation of the mostly-live-action movie about the gigantic red dog beloved from the series of books by Norman Bridwell and (probably much more, these days) the animated series adapted from those books. The movie had a screenplay by Jay Scherick, David Ronn and Blaise Hemingway, from a story by Justin Malen and Ellen Rapoport, and Georgia Ball adapted that into comics for Chi Ngo to draw. Seven writers (counting Bridwell, which I definitely do) is an awful lot for a story about a big lovable dog, but that's Hollywood for you.

Apparently, Clifford's growth spurt this time is "magical" and the source of hang-wringing villainy, because this is a movie and they can't just rely on Bridwell's original "well, he's just a really big dog, OK?" premise. But the kid is still named Emily Elizabeth, she still loves her dog, and Clifford looks to still have the same personality as ever, so I think I can allow that.

My kids are well past the Clifford years, but I read the Bridwell books as a kid and read them to my sons early this century, so I do have plenty of affection for the character. So I might just have to see what Scherick and Ronn and Hemingway and Malen and Rapoport have done to him, and if Ball was able to get that back to a decent story. (My sympathies are always on the side of the ink-slingers on paper, not the screenwriters.)

This book went on sale September 7th; I have no idea why I got it so late...or, indeed, why I got it at all. But, hey, free books! I am definitely not complaining.

And the book I plucked from a Little Library in bucolic Hirschfield Park in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey was a UK edition of Ray Davies' book of short stories, Waterloo Sunset. Davies is of course the singer and frontman of the Kinks -- or was, when the Kinks were an active band, which they don't seem to be these days -- and "Waterloo Sunset" is one of the Kinks' most famous songs. This book seems to be a linked collection, with some or all of the stories based (loosely? directly?) on Davies' songs -- titles include "Art Lover," "Celluloid Heroes," Mr Pleasant," "Afternoon Tea," and "Rock and Roll Fantasy."

I say "linked" since there seems to be a Davies-esque character, the aging popstar Les Mulligan, threaded throughout the book, though I'm not sure if he's telling the stories or experiencing them. I guess I'll find out when I read it, huh?

This was not Davies' first foray into long-form prose (and of course he wrote a hell of a lot of really good songs for thirty-plus years) -- he wrote a weird, baroque memoir called X-Ray in the mid-90s, a few years before this collection, and a second (seemingly more straightforward) memoir called Americana a few years later. I've read X-Ray and haven't gotten to Americana yet.

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