Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dark Carnival Books

3086 Claremont Ave, Berkeley, CA, 94706.

Go there, for stacks and stacks of the most eccentric, awesome, obscure, culty, random collection of titles ever. The books are literally falling off the walls, in something that resembles alphabetical order, and it's literally my favorite place to waste hours and money. There are plenty of books that I could write down the titles of and order through my store (and plenty used or UK editions that I could not) but I buy them there. Why? Because it's the only place I know that would stock everything that they stock and so they deserve the sale.

Recently purchased there:

The Wizard in the Tree by Lloyd Alexander,

and 3 Bellairs middle-grade horror/mysteries, including one recommended on the Dark Carnival website, The Chessmen of Doom.

Thanks for being awesome, Dark Carnival.


Holes by Louis Sachar

It's amazing that I managed to be thirteen around the time this book came out, and yet was never inclined to read it. I remember hearing about it, or at least being aware of it, but I never even picked it up. In fact, I had some half-baked notion that it was a novel about a summer camp where enormous holes start popping up, magically.
This however, was not the case.
When I picked Holes up to read it as part of my Newbery Challenge deal, I promised my coworker Robyn (hi Robyn!) I would read the book and watch the movie, then compare. Which I did. But I'll start with the book.
Which I loved. There are so many layers to the plot of this intricately woven tale of transgression and atonement, yet it remains incredibly accessible. Debts are repaid. Friends are made. Character is built. Adventures are had. However, all of this is pushed against the violent history shared by black and white people in America, giving the story more resonance than one might have imagined a story that features a kid called "Armpit" might have.
The unlikely hero of this story is Stanley Yelnats, an over-weight, well-meaning pushover with an incredibly sturdy moral compass. When he is sent to Camp Green Lake (for a crime he did not commit), a desert wasteland juvenile detention camp, to dig 5 foot holes on a daily basis as means of penance, he befriends a boy called Zero (short for Hector Zeroni) who is written off by all the other campers and camp authority figures as a failure. He teaches Zero to read, and when Zero runs away from the camp into the foreboding desert, Stanley follows him with intent to rescue.
What made Stanley so likable to me was his lack of cool. He's not a smart-talking, slick guy at heart, even if he manages to come across that way. And that to me, was one of the first things I did not much care for in the movie. Shia Lawhateverhisnameis is just too cool to be Stanley. That next to the fact that the warden (played by Sigourney Weaver) is way more attractive than she is described in the book, the man called Mom is a more bumbling idiot than calculating coward and Zero is far more adorable... well, you get the idea. It seems like in translation the characters became too smooth around the edges for my liking.
So read the book. But don't necessarily see the movie. Unless you like a LOT of meaningful musical interludes, of which there are plenty.