November 12, 2004
Gates of Eden by Ethan Coen

Gates of Eden by Ethan Coen: a collection of short stories by the creator of such movies as Fargo, O Brother, Where Art Thou, Raising Arizona, and, one of my personal favorite movies of all time, The Big Lebowski.

Being a big fan of the all of the movie that the Coen brothers have done, I was very excited to see that Ethan Coen had written a book of short stories (anthologies have always been one of my favorite things to read). I figured that the strikingly strange characters that populate their movies would have no problem coming to life on the pages of a book.

Unfortunately, I could never get interested in either the people or their situations, with the exception of a few of the stories. These stories just never came to life for me the way that they have on the big screen.

The stories that I did enjoy were A Fever in the Blood (a private detective goes deaf after having his ear biten off by a by a deranged thug), I Killed Phil Shapario (a Jewish son kills his father, though I’m really not sure why), and Gates of Eden (a weights and measures man is seduced by a beautiful Japanese lady for nefarious reasons).

All in all, I was greatly disappointed iwith this anthology. The book did get good reviews over at Amazon.com however, so you might like it even if I didn’t.

November 07, 2004
Affinity by Sarah Waters

Affinity by Sarah Waters: a gothic story that’s part supernatural tale and part romance, but always interesting.

In late September of 1874, Margaret Prior becomes a Lady Visitor - a woman who visits the inmates giving them friendship and guidance in hope that when they are released they will better their lives and turn away from crime - to Millbank Prison in London.

The prison is, of course, a dark, sad place with two hundred and seventy women incarcerated (there are also men, but they don’t figure into the story). On her first visit she is captivated by the sight of a young woman holding a violet that she puts to her lips and breathes upon.

She becomes enthralled by this woman, a medium with the beautiful name of Selina Dawes and a face like that of an angel by the painter Crivelli, and an unlikely friendship which soon becomes fraught with much more.

I don’t want to say much more about the plot of the novel since half of its intrigue was in determining what had happened, not only to Selina but also to Miss Prior. Why is she watched so closely by her mother? What is the illness that she speaks of?

I enjoyed reading the book and trying to figure out where the story would go next. It was delightfully entertaining despite the somber tones of the novel. Highly recommended for those that like their stories enigmatic and a bit dark.