This week has been a battle between my mind and my body. I have been trying to become more active in my day-to-day activities but have paid little attention to the need to stretch and keep myself limber, and I wake up in the morning feeling like an 80-year-old man with an attack of severe rheumatism. I have been taking extra time to stretch in the past few days, and not just my sore joints — I’ve tried to get back to my roots and sample a little of everything, from film to music to novels and of course, comics. Today I present for your approval the three best mind-extending offerings of the week.
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Comics: I know I’m late to the party so I’ll try to keep this brief, but goodness, isn’t She-Hulk Volume 1: Law and Disorder a fun and clever little book? Charles Soule gives the character a solid motivation and a very clear voice, and surrounds her with a very effective supporting cast (including Patsy Walker, Hellcat, as a special investigator). The balance between superheroing and lawyering is also very effective, with She-Hulk’s primary motivation being her legal career, but dang it if supervillains and mysterious demons don’t keep showing up to keep things interesting. The first four issues are illustrated by Javier Pulido, who is wildly creative with page layouts and has a great eye for facial expression and physical moments, and has already received wide acclaim for his work on this title. The art shifts dramatically when Ron Wimberly takes over in the collection’s final two issues, and while I can’t say I loved his work, there were a number of moments when I felt like I was looking at something really special that I couldn’t fully wrap my mind around. I’ll have to re-read them to try to figure that out, which is a happy prospect because these stories are a real treat.
Books: I sometimes find that when I approach a classic work in any field, it’s only worth the time and effort because it’s an artifact of the times, or influential but ultimately a little unsatisfying. This is decidedly not the case for In Cold Blood, the pioneering non-fiction novel about the real-life murder of a wealthy farmer, his wife, and two children, on their farmstead just outside of Holcomb, Kansas, in November 1959. The book also explores the relationship between the two killers, the effect of the crime on the townspeople who knew the family, and the investigation of the crime by the members of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. It’s a tremendous book. Truman Capote is a master writer; he writes like he’s memorized the thesaurus and he chooses his words with great care. He writes so stylishly and seductively that I often found myself forgetting that Capote was inventing large passages of the book. A careful reading of the book from a purely factual, journalistic perspective would be incredibly painful; Capote plays loose with the facts and (re-)creates scenes with an attention to detail and ear for dialogue that would be impossible unless he was actually there when the events were happening. Capote billed the book as being entirely factual, which can and has been disproved, but whether it’s historically accurate is, for me at least, beside the point. It’s a powerful book and trying to argue the proportion of fact to fantasy serves only to distract readers from a towering work of storytelling. As a historical document, In Cold Blood is riddled with inaccuracies, but as a book it’s sweeping, intelligent, and captivating.
Movies: The 1940 romantic comedy Lucky Partners is a strange little movie, but I like it. An adaptation of a 1936 French film, it stars Ginger Rogers as a young woman who believes a man she just met, played by Ronald Colman, is her good luck charm when she stumbles across a $300 dress after he says good morning to her. She tries to convince him to go in on a sweepstakes ticket with her, thinking that she can’t lose with the two of them together. When he asks her what she wants to use the money for, at first she says for her honeymoon, but it’s quickly revealed that she doesn’t really care much for her fiancé and wants to have the money for her own security in case it doesn’t work out. He eventually agrees to go in on the ticket with her, on the condition that if they win he will be allowed to plan her honeymoon for her — and be the man to accompany her on the trip. It’s a light, airy comedy, full of quirky supporting characters and some ridiculously sublime set pieces, and Colman and Rogers are fantastic together. Colman is suave and intelligent, and hits each of his great lines right out of the park. (I must have listened to him say “A honeymoon isn’t something you can put away in cold storage like a mink coat” four or five times before I continued watching the movie.) And Ginger Rogers is just such a gifted performer. She’s almost as good with dialogue as Colman, and physically she’s a delight, lending a dancer’s touch to a bit of physical business and using her expressive face to brilliant effect. It’s so much fun to watch her that when the movie starts turning a little sour she makes it worth it to watch it to the end. Lucky Partners is a light confection that is strangely adorable when it goes all in with the strangeness. It’s not going to change anyone’s life, but I am so very happy that I watched it.
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That’s it for me this week, gentle readers. Until next time, make sure you keep both your body and your mind flexible. I’ll see you in seven days.