ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Golden, Christopher (Also, Stephen R. Bissette and Thomas E. Sniegoski)

cvr-buffyBuffy the Vampire Slayer: The Monster Book
Arts & Entertainment

Pocket Books Paperback
2000

When I received it I thought to myself, “This is a nice book.” I then put it aside thinking that it was going to be a chore to get into. I tried to find episodes of Buffy on TV and set reminders but, since I rarely turn the TV on, I missed them. After finally watching the movie again, I finally got around to looking at the book.

This book is a keeper. Even if you don’t care a fig about Buffy, if you are interested in demons, vampires, werewolves, witches, and bogeymen, you’ll love this book!

Incarnations of Evil

Besides the interviews with the show’s creator, the pictures of the cast (including the monsters), and the episode summaries, this book is full of great information about demons, witches, vampires, and more, in art, in literature, in comic books, and on film. For example, the book contains information about the myth of vampires that I had never heard of before, such as that in Greek folklore, vampires were usually family members who returned from the dead to attend to some sort of unfinished business, generally benign in nature. Vampire-like legends apparently grew up simultaneously in many different cultures.

The book follows the development of and changes in the Vampire legend through early books all the way through Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”, Anne Rice’s vampires, and finally, the vampires fought by Buffy. Did you know the first film adaptations of Bram Stoker’s book were in the 1920s in Russia and Hungary? Unfortunately, there are no known copies of these films.

There are references to vampire tales written by Dumas, Bierce, Hawthorne, de Maupassant, and Baudelaire that I’ve never heard of.

In the 1950s, horror comics were thought to have provoked an increase in juvenile delinquency and a group of comic book publishers agreed to stop publishing them in order to avoid government oversight. In the early sixties, a few publishers who hadn’t signed the agreement jumped into the void and began providing horror comics once again. During this period, the public’s thirst for eerie tales had to be sated by magazines, movies, and television.

This is just a small taste of what’s in this section. Another fascinating section was the one on “demons”, which included a history of demons in films and kinds of literature, such as “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Damien”. There are many movies and books listed which I have missed and will look for now.

Each section is accompanied by a listing of the “Buffy” episodes featuring the particular kind of monster being defined, and how they act either in accordance with or different from those of legend, and how they have been portrayed in popular culture over time. Other sections are “Ghosts”, “Magic Users”, “Primals” (werewolves and shapeshifters, for example), “The Walking Dead”, and “Bogeymen” (Freddy Krueger, for example).

For Buffy Fans

From the perspective of a “Buffy” fan, a great feature of this book is that it demonstrates the depth of interest on the part of the show’s creators in presenting something that is not only entertaining and imaginative but fits into a widely known and documented mythological structure.

Fans of the show will like having this as a reference, but it is lacking in some respects as a “companion” book to the show. There is no chronological episode listing. Since the episode descriptions are grouped together depending on whether the monsters in them are invisible people, witches, vampires, or others, it takes a fair amount of browsing around to find related information on the show.

The authors here do not seem to like lists of any kind and all the references are given in narrative form in which the cited films, publications or myths are related to each other, compared and contrasted. This makes it a great book to read, but not necessarily a good reference, because it is difficult to go back and find anything you remember reading about. (There are a few times when it seems the film references are coming at you so swiftly you just have to put the book down for a bit but, for the most part, it’s very good reading.) There isn’t even an index.

On the plus side, though, there are two color picture sections from the show, and numerous black and white photos accompany the show highlights and narrative sections. The episode summaries, analyses, and quotes presented will doubtless give hours of pleasure to the “Buffy” enthusiast, and show a little bit of the sense of humor of the show:

“Looks dead. Smells dead. But moving around. Interesting.” (Oz, in Dead Man’s Party, used on the first page of the chapter “Walking Dead”.

I think I’m going to have to start watching this!

Conclusion

Despite the fact that I’ve only seen part of one episode of the TV series, I really liked this book a lot. I think that anyone who has been entertained by the film “Buffy”, the movies “Ghost”, “Dracula”, “Frankenstein”, “Reanimator”, “Sixth Sense” or those made from some of the books by Stephen King, or who has even passing interest in the history of the portrayal of Good vs. Evil in literature and film, will find at least a section or two of this book well worth reading, if not all of it. It’s a wealth of material which is very well presented.

The “Buffy” information is just an added bonus for those who follow the show.


J. Hoberman, Jonathan Rosenbaum (Contributor),

cvr-midnight_moviesMidnight Movies
1991
Da Capo Press Paperback

This is a great book for people who like the films of George Romero, John Waters, and David Lynch. If you would like to know more about films like “Eraserhead”, “The Night of the Living Dead”, and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, as well as the people in them and who made them, plus other movies of this ilk, you’ll get a kick out of reading through it. Why were so many low budget films so successful? Why did the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” attract such a strong cult following that some people want to see it over 100 times?

Read about John Waters’ first film, “Hag in a Black Leather Jacket” (1964), the history of the movie “Reefer Madness”, and about, even more, movies which were considered risque in their day but that we can now watch on TV!

Originally published in 1983, the book only covers the history of these movies to that date but is nonetheless a good resource.

 


Mast, Gerald

cvr-short_historyA Short History of the Movies
1999
Allyn & Bacon Paperback

This is the seventh edition of this book (I have the 2nd) originally printed in 1976. It offers a sweeping view of the history of the cinema and has been updated in this edition to include more recent movies and trends, and revised analysis where appropriate.

Filled with pictures from various films and jam-packed with information, this would make a great gift to yourself or another film lover in your family even though it is aimed at the film student. Granted, we now have the IMDB and other film resources available online but for analysis and history, this is the acknowledged leader in film books.

 


Richmond, Clint

cvr-behind_the_musicWillie Nelson: Behind the Music
2000
Pocket Books Paperback

This is–no surprise–a biography of Willie Nelson. It gets off to a slow start, seeming more than anything like a press release or some sort of advertising copy, and parts were repetitive. After the first couple of chapters, though, the book finds its voice and continues in a straightforward manner, giving a more or less chronological history of the subject.

Willie’s fans will like the photos, although some are presented poorly as if stretched along one axis to fit a spot that needed to be filled.

The book is short. It’s padded with full-page quotes done up in the print style of old-time wanted posters. I read it in one afternoon.

It is a fable, complete with moral. It’s a feel-good story of a man whose life reflects some of the great things about our country that, while perhaps clich√©, deserve attention. While there may be greedy celebrities, Willie Nelson stands out here as an icon of American generosity.

Looking back on this book, it still has the overall flavor of a press release. In an age when the press often feels it necessary to hand out for public display every black mark in a subject’s life, I suppose I could say this was refreshingly upbeat. I can’t help but feel, though, that the story lacked some depth or texture that would have made me relate a little bit better to the man.

Another book, out this month (October 2000) may fill in some of those gaps. It’s called Willie, and Willie Nelson, Edwin Shrake, and Bud Shrake are listed as the authors. Perhaps Mr. Nelson’s voice will add a bit of life to his story in this one.


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MOTORCYCLING

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Ferrar, Ann

Hear Me Roar: Women, Motorcycles and the Rapture of the Road

An illustrated history of women and motorcycling from the beginning of this century to the present. When I was about 30 I got it into my head that I had to race motorcycles. As a woman, I was sure I’d be one of the first. I found out from this book that I was about 90 years too late to earn that distinction! Women were riding in races almost as soon as motorcycles were invented. This book would make a great gift for the motorcycling woman in your life.


Code, Keith

The Soft Science of Road Racing Motorcycles

A Twist of the Wrist

You can be a better rider if learn to think about riding in the ways presented in these books. Although aimed at good racing, the basic principles also translate well to better riding for those who have never had the desire to race a motorcycle. “The more you know, the better it gets,” as the representatives of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation said.