Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Bride of Brief Thoughts

Yup. We're doing this again.

Sick City by Tony O'Neill

Now this was a fun read. In this neo-noir thriller, a junkie named Jeffrey comes into possession of a sex tape featuring Sharon Tate after his lover dies. Knowing that this tape could be worth millions, he sets about to get himself clean so he can cash in. While in rehab, he meets Randal, another junkie from a rich family with connections in Hollywood. They team up to find a buyer for the tape. All the while being trailed by someone who has it out for Jeffrey.

This book is a fun page-turner, and even throws some entertaining barbs at the Hollywood system and the rehab industry. Easy targets, I'll admit. But some things you never get tired of seeing beat up on. If you're a fan of thrillers or neo-noir in general this is definitely worth a read.

Buy Sick City by Tony O'Neill here.

The Kid by Sapphire

The Kid is the sequel to Sapphire's first novel Push, which is probably better known by the movie Precious.

I think Push showed that Sapphire is a talented writer. However, she has a tendency to pile it on a little too thick. I can take a retarded baby conceived through incestuous rape seriously, but when you name it "Mongo", you start to lose me.

Sapphire works in a similar vein as Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines, in that she paints a nasty and vivid picture of the life of poor urban blacks. Unlike Slim and like Goines, she has the unfortunate tendency to engage in a certain degree of preaching. She ended Push on a "hopeful" note, with Precious learning how to read and her second child, Abdul, being born healthy. Reading the reviews of The Kid was interesting, because that hope is shattered at the beginning of this book when Precious succumbs to complications from AIDS. This upset a lot of people.

Another thing that bothered a lot of people is the stream of consciousness style the book is written in. This book is about Precious's son Abdul and his life from childhood to young adulthood. Unlike his mother, Abdul is intelligent but also plagued by a lot of mental problems. This results in him doing things like blurring the line between his dreams and what actually happens, engaging in mantras to keep himself steady, and jumping between his memories and the present. Especially in the final chapter, it begins to border on Faulkner levels of confusing. That said, it makes for a highly visceral read.

Like Push, Sapphire piles it on way too thick. I'm beginning to wonder if she's capable of writing a character who hasn't experienced childhood sexual abuse. The scene where Abdul is attacked by an older boy is disturbing, but loses it's impact from the boy attacking him being called "Batty Boy". Seriously.

The fact Sapphire tries to cover so much results in things going nowhere. For example, there is a scene where one of Abdul's friends comes out as transgender to him. You think this will lead to something. It doesn't.

In the end, if you liked Push, then The Kid is worth a read. If not, skip it. Personally, I think Sapphire's command of language is strong enough that I'll probably check out her poetry at some point.

Buy The Kid by Sapphire here.

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