Birthday books for Malachi (What do you get for the guy who knows everything?)
My son Malachi turned 22 last week. He celebrated a super cool birthday (starting with the fact that it was 07/08/09) in Israel with his sister. So yeah, I did the mom thing and sent him cash and clothes for the trip, but I wanted to give him something that showed him how much I love and respect the way his brain works.
The two books I ordered have the right balance of testosterone, hippitude, art, and politics:
The Mad Ones: Crazy Joe Gallo and the Revolution at the Edge of the Underworld
In a style that's been called "part Puzo, part Kerouac," author Tom Folsom tells the story of the lovable thug immortalized in a Bob Dylan ballad, "a charismatic beatnik gangster whose forays into Greenwich Village in the 1960s inspired his bloody revolution against the Mafia establishment." I ordered it the day it came out, and I wish I'd had time to read it before sending it off in the birthday box. (Click here to watch the cool trailer.)
I was powerless to resist the starred review in Publisher's Weekly that starts: "For decades, Mazzucchelli has been a master without a masterpiece. Now he has one." Asterios Polyp is a celebrated architect who's never actually built anything. Way too smart for his own comfort (one of the reasons I thought of my son), he's in the grip of a spiritual crisis. Philosophy, satire, thinky thoughts, arty art. Think Fountainhead meets Sin City.
Mazzecchelli is an American comic book artist who's also done covers and interior work for The New Yorker. The PW review goes on to call his much anticipated graphic novel "a huge, knotty marvel." (The reviewer also calls the book "the comics equivalent of a Pynchon or Gaddis novel," but I'm not holding that against it.)
I also sent the freshly released DVD, Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth, a slightly suck-up but tremendously entertaining documentary about one of my favorite writers. You've seen his infamous "Pay the Writer Rant" in this space, and that's a pretty good taste of what you get in the rest of the show. Tons of excellent writing advice, huge laughs, and lots of in your face Ellison wisdom. ("The trick isn't becoming a writer; the trick is staying a writer.")
Take a look at the trailer: