Friday, September 23, 2011

Book Review: High Midnight by Rob Mosca

Full Disclosure: I know the author and he is a friend.

The book is an excellent read and masterfully crafted. For being his first novel, Rob Mosca seems to have harnessed magic in words. He has an intuitive sense of pacing, and makes an image in your mind of exactly what is going on without it being bogged down by excessive details. In truth, if there was a literary opposite to the works of Faulkner, High Midnight is such a work. Not that Faulkner is excessive in his details, rather, High Midnight hits the 'sweet spot' in my personal spectrum.

The genre I would call this would be 'Stew' in honor of a Passage in the 6th Dark Tower novel, "The Song of Susanna" in which the characters fret about the restrictions of genre in literature. Of course, at that point in the Dark Tower series it has begun to enter the bizarrely (but cool) metaficitonal stage. High Midnight blurs many genres but it does not break the 4th wall.

To give you an idea of how much I like the book, I'm adding it to my permanent library. Something only gets on that shelf if is something that I am going to read more than once. And I assure you, I will be reading this again. Some books are page turners, that you only get a proper sense of the second or third time that you read them.

Theme wise, the phrase, "High Midnight" is an excellent choice, since the original western upon which the name is based, "High Noon" is a good mirroring point. Though the townsfolk of Unity, Texas are not quite as craven as those in Hadleyville, the pattern still remains the same. A lone sheriff, defending what is right and good against impossible and deadly odds, despite the fact that he has strong personal interests not to. There is a strong sense of Good and Evil, properly shadowed by postmodern shades of gray. Evil is evil, but it is not cartoon evil. Good is good, but it is a slovenly harrowed good. Well, OK that Cartoon evil is not entirely correct, but for the most part it is.

I speak, of course, of Mooseburger, who I feel is the true protagonist. Now most people would regard Sheriff Laredo as the true hero of the story, and while it is true that he is definitely a figure that would feel right at home in any western you care to name (sans Mexican wrestling mask perhaps), no literary critique would be complete without a complete mangling of the original intent of the author. This is why I feel that this is really Mooseburger's story. A large, misunderstood man-child, who possesses extraordinary strength and physical resilience, it is his choices that make the difference in the story. It is his decision not to pick up a gun that gives the mayor enough courage to take on the gang, stalling for enough time for the sheriff. It is Mooseburger who chooses the brawling tactics in the dramatic fight scene between the Sheriff and the gang of clowns that ultimately allows Good to triumph over evil. Mooseburger keeps his word, when other, unnamed characters do not.

For despite the surface of schlock in Saturday afternoon action movies upon which, by declaration of the author that the story is based (Zombies, Psychopathic Clowns, Western Crptids of a menacing variety, Anthropomorphic Simians etc) deeper and more interesting themes manage to creep in none the less. There is a consistency of imagery and setting that only someone who's soul has gone to dwell in the town a while or for days and weeks at a time can truly manifest. To me, from a literary perspective, the billboard of the laughing cowboy, rotting away in all its mocking glory is no different than that found in the Great Gatsby with its accusatory menacity. (Yes that's a word, I just made it up.) Magic, the appropriateness of oaths, love, what love is, the physicality therein, tragedy, loss, sacrifice, honor, betrayal, friendship, bravery and even humanity itself are covered within its pages.

But it is also popcorn munching fun.

Just read the damn thing. Better yet, buy it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

[Band] The Sexual Side Effects

There are three things that every band must have in my opinion to be successful: Music, Magic and Mojo. The music is either there or it isn't. They have to have at least one song, preferably more that stick in your head. For me, the litmus test for this is, "Do I want to pay money to own this song or not?" For I am a cheap bastard and do not own much a music collection. Magic is something that sets the band apart from other bands. There is something between the members of the band that makes them greater than the sum of their parts, and there is an interaction between the band and the audience that makes the live concert experience a living thing. Mojo is an image, that something that you can fit on a cereal box or in a 15 second sound bite on MTV or whatever randomly stupid entertainment reality TV show, but something about the band that is different and also memorable that makes them stand out.

The Sexual Side Effects have all three in spades.

I have only heard them once, and I want to own the CD. I don't do that that often. In the last year I've only bought three. And they had three of the songs that I really enjoyed. "Dancing to the Radio." And...I don't remember what the other two are. The truth is that I'm not exactly an expert on music, I just know what I like and I liked what I heard.

Magic was the only way to describe the interaction between the band members and also the band and the audience. Everyone enjoyed the music. There was electricity in the air and it worked. Its just something you have to be there to feel.

Mojo is...complicated, but I think the Sexual Side Effects have it. They each dress as a different icon of the 1970's or 1980's, which is also reflected in their music. There is something about their poster/image thingy that seems to work as well. And they are the 'it' band right now. I'm not exactly someone who has their thumb on the pulse of the Atlanta scene, but I know history and I know how to 'feel' society or a group very well, and you can see the band's trajectory going up, both in the gigs they're booking and their general attitude.

I think one reason the band has only recently begun to ascend, despite being around for about five years, is becaause Amber Taylor, the lead singer for the band has only recently completed a journey of her own, but it shows in everything she does. She practically drips sex appeal, and it echoes off the stage in waves. I am eagerly awaiting the purchase of the band's CD in December and seeing their next show on Oct 1.

Watch them. They're going places.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My review of Raiders of the Lost Ark

On ATL Retro.