No Country for Old Men is the best movie I’ve seen from the Coen Brothers. Naturally, it’s about a psychotic killer with a high-pressure air gun looking for stolen money, and another guy who stole the money running from the guy with the air gun.
I normally don’t care much for the way the Coen Brothers use lethal violence in their movies, but in this case it’s fascinating and compelling because it’s so cinematic. It’s a pleasure to watch the craftsmanship that goes into it. And it’s not all for show. The images and the subtle details work together to create a story and a weird reality that takes you for a ride and leaves you thinking, “What the hell was that?” It’s a crime drama, a thriller, a comedy and a morality tale, and it’s entertaining. (A detailed analysis and discussion of the film on Jim Emerson’s Blog.)
I don’t often read books because they make my brain hurt. Here are 3 books I’ve read recently that didn’t hurt my brain too much.
The Music of Chance by Paul Auster (8/10) — Another hypnotic and fantastic narrative by Paul Auster. If I told you the story you might ask, “How is that a story?” But it’s the intimacy of the writing that pulls it along, the journey, not the destination. I put this one up there with The Book of Illusions and Moon Palace. (I read The Music of Chance in Volume 2 of Auster’s Collected Novels.)
Proust Was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer (8/10) — Lehrer examines the works of various artists — Walt Whitman, Proust, Cezanne, Stravinsky, Gertrude Stein, etc. — to say, “Hey, all these people had insights that were later confirmed through neuroscience! Check it out!” Apparently filled with too many inaccuracies to be taken seriously by true intellectuals, it’s still a pretty damn interesting book to me. I enjoy writers who examine ideas simply for the joy of the exploration. Even if their arguments fall apart under scrutiny, they serve the purpose of inspiring people to begin thinking about the subjects. A well-written, enthusiastic and enlightening little book. It’s fun.
Musicophilia: Tales of Music and The Brain by Oliver Sacks (6/10) — Although it contains some interesting stories about people whose experience of music is changed by various forms of brain damage or disease (some of it reads like science fiction, it’s so strange), it’s a chore getting through most of the book because it’s just too long. Sacks makes a few points, and illustrates them with case studies, and then repeats himself so many times it becomes tedious. It’s like reading the same short book 5 times over. He really needs an editor who has the courage to edit his writing and help organize into a more cohesive narrative. It would have been a better book at 100 pages instead 450.