19 December 2008

Holiday Gift Guide, Part 2: For The Pop Culture Junkie

I'm writing this post from the floor in Terminal B at LaGuardia, because the only outlet I could find was at a Samsung charging station with no seats remotely near it. On my way there, I tripped over a power cord belonging to a guy using the same bank of outlets. He scowled at me and shouted, "You BROKE my computer." This isn't likely, right? Because I'm thinking he was just a grade-A asshole.

Oh right. Merriment! Good will toward men! These are picks for your music or movie lover in the house -- some I've read, some I've been dying to read. (If you have read them, why not let me know where they're any good in the comments?) The overarching theme for these books is not, "I'm a huge fan of X," but "I'd love to know more about X." And if you're heading to a place where you can't get cable, good radio stations or high-profile December releases, a book might be your best chance to do that:
Tyler Gray, THE HIT CHARADE. I just reviewed this book for the A.V. Club so I must needs be brief, but this is a fantastic biography of Lou Pearlman, creator of the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC, from seemingly meteoric rise to epic fall. And to go along with yesterday's books on the economy, this has a great explanation of what a Ponzi scheme is, in case you've been hearing that term in the news lately.

Christopher Sandford, POLANSKI: A BIOGRAPHY/ Stefan Kanfer, SOMEBODY: THE RECKLESS LIFE AND REMARKABLE CAREER OF MARLON BRANDO. A bunch of really big biographies hit stores this year, like DARK VICTORY about Bette Davis and NOT THE GIRL NEXT DOOR about Joan Crawford. But I'm singling these two out -- the Sandford I've read, Kanfer I haven't -- as two men whose popular image is pretty divergent from their actual bodies of work. Both of these would go great with, say, a Netflix gift certificate to compare the discussion of works with the works themselves. Maybe I'll be spending some time with Brando in '09. 

Tara Ariano, HEY! IT'S THAT GUY! If your local pop culture geek doesn't own this guide to character actors and the celebration of small parts, she or he is simply missing out. A miniature desk reference with jokes, this book takes actors like J.K. Simmons and Margo Martindale (look them up!) and celebrates their memorable, if brief, turns in movies or on TV. You could just read all the profiles on Fametracker from whence they came, but then you wouldn't be able to take the book to Sundance next year to settle a bet between friends, now would you? 

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, WATCHMEN. With the director of "300" on board, a huge ensemble cast including Patrick Wilson and Billy Crudup and a splashy trailer that played before "The Dark Knight" last summer (you know, the one with the glowing blue dudes!), "Watchmen" is one of the most anticipated releases of 2009. Enjoy the superiority of saying, "The original was better," with a paperback or hardcover collection of the original comic, about an alternate-history Cold War. I just checked this out from the library and look forward to reading it by the light of the Christmas tree.


Elizabeth said...

What a jerk. He shouldn't have had his powercord where people are walking. Falls can be quite dangerous.

Next time, you can try responding, "You broke my ANKLE," for which a lawsuit is, I am quite sure, more expensive than a laptop with all its accoutrements.

Or maybe you could try to persuade him that Cindy Lou Who taught us all that Christmas can continue even without laptops.

Wade Garrett said...

Watchmen is fantastic. I've read few comic books since I finished elementary schools, but Watchmen is literature, I think.

Speaking of comic books, Neil Gaiman is a wonderful fiction writer who got his start in the genre - have you ever read any of his stuff?

Ellen said...

I have read a little Gaiman, specifically one of the Sandman volumes and AMERICAN GODS. He's definitely an example of a writer for whom I feel like I have to really immerse myself in all his stuff to get into him, which hasn't happened yet -- but I could be wrong.

Elizabeth, I actually think it was my bad/ semi-recently injured ankle that did it, so I could have faked a limp at least.

Wade Garrett said...

Sandman is definitely that way. American Gods stands on its own, but he does have a unique voice that takes a while to get used to. The Onion A.V. Club seems to really like him.