29 November 2013

Six great reasons to participate in Buy Nothing Day

Some may call it Black Friday, but Adbusters deemed the day after Thanksgiving "Buy Nothing Day" in response to the ever more rampant consumerization of this not-exactly-Hallmarkworthy occasion. It's one of the easiest days out there to mark: Enjoy what you have, cook at your house, entertain yourself for free. My own adherence to Buy Nothing Day has waxed and waned through the years, but this year I'm arming myself with these points:
  1. I have everything I need. I want for nothing. What do I have to have that won't wait for a day? 
  2. I can do my gift shopping throughout December, I don't have to do it all now. What's my hurry? (Hanukkah celebrants, this may not be as applicable.)
  3. My whole family (plus uncle and grandma) are together and none of us are at work today. Since we're now scattered across 4 states and the District of Columbia, this rarely happens; I'd rather spend the time connecting with them, as cheesy as that sounds, than thinking about them while bonding with my credit card. 
  4. Nearly half of Black Friday shoppers are out shopping for themselves. So much for the spirit of giving. I'm giving my present-buying family and friends a break by letting them give me something special, that they picked out just for me, not something I just bought for myself. 
  5. In most of the country the weather is terrible and the crowds are atrocious. Baby, it's cold outside, I have the day off and jockeying for a parking space at a mall is not going to be relaxing. It may not even be that safe if we get the kind of blizzards we got 3 years ago (Idaho, hurrah). 
  6. Let's be honest, Thanksgiving retail creep is already deplorable and getting worse. Even vowing not to cross the Turkey Day line invites retailers to call in their staff on what, regardless of its origins, could be a national day of togetherness and celebration now being moth-eaten by the desire to buy more stuff. What if we all voted with our dollars and indicated that this was not okay? What would it cost me to not shop? 

28 November 2013

Grateful feels good

This year I am continually thankful for the power of books to take me out of myself

This year has held some low moments for me and times when the desire to shrink away from the all of rotten existence was very strong. Just like when I was 13, books gave me a free (or very cheap) escape hatch from all that, the kind of portal that seems to go on forever and then suddenly shoots you back altered. Sometimes when I felt too depressed even to write, I would read and float on that current of words for eternities. I remembered anew that I was more than the place I lived and the job I did and the people I spoke to every day.

The Internet is all about do and don't just read this blog post, get out there and make a change! But hopefully if you're reading this today, you know that sometimes contemplation is the most important first step you can take toward anything. When you're reaching up toward the sunlight, it's helpful to know where the sun is first.

27 November 2013

Filmbook: "Catching Fire" (2013)

I went to see "Catching Fire" out of duty and left catching my breath.

The second adaptation of Suzanne Collins' blockbuster YA series, featuring teenagers fighting to the death in a televised spectacle in a totalitarian country, had a lot riding on it, including a not so stellar opening entry. While "The Hunger Games" plodded, new director Francis Lawrence, who you surely know as the director of the "Bad Romance" music video, pushes the tempo on "Catching Fire" such that even its quiet, still moments remind us of the pressures Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a former champion of the Games, is forced to live under every second.

Looking back on my spoilerrific review of the series, I think CATCHING FIRE ended up as my favorite book, because of the combination of the conceit of the first book (teenagers fighting to the death) with the gradual awakening of Katniss, and others in the Games, to the extent to which they are political pawns. At first, it was only about each of them staying alive; now, with the Quarter Quell (an Extra-Special Anniversary Hunger Games), Katniss goes in to fight not only to keep herself alive but to make sure, as the country's President (an excellent Donald Sutherland) has threatened, that she won't face retaliation upon her return.

Another great thing about CATCHING FIRE, and Collins' series as a whole, is how it reflects the ambient culture without sinking to catchphrases or specific references. The reality-show style presentation of the contestants and their treatment outside of the arena was very evocative for me, and hopefully won't look too dated. A lot of great actors in small part stuff the pre-Games scenes with meaning (my standouts were Philip Seymour Hoffman, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, and surprisingly Lenny Kravitz) and the first few minutes of the Quell have a stark loneliness to them. Then the action starts. Gone is the shakycam pursuit of the previous movie; now we get shots that would be gorgeous if they weren't so terrifying, of fog and lightning and crashing waves.

More than ever in this installment I noticed how Jennifer Lawrence, as Katniss, has to tamp down her natural likeability and charm to play a character who is naturally guarded, and now suspicious about letting anyone see her real emotions. I don't know that the performance itself was different from her in "The Hunger Games," but now Lawrence is a star, with an appropriately-sized paycheck and an Oscar*. It's strange that a sub-theme of this movie is how Katniss struggles to keep up with her Capitol PR-related activities, when Lawrence has been charming the pants off the world this week on talk shows and in interviews -- always smiling, revealing just a little to humanize her. She's not just cashing it here, though; there's a tight shot on her face where we see Lawrence go through several emotions all in the space of a few seconds, and she pulls it off expertly.

Can you get into this series if you aren't a traditional YA fan? Yes, and I think you should, because this is one of the year's best action movies and the kind of heart-pounder that doesn't get distracted from its business of horrifying you. (One effect in particular visited upon Lawrence and some of her fellow competitors was so gruesome I'm going to have to pause this blog post to get up and wash my hands again.) It maddens me a little that coverage of this movie has been framed as "OMG, who will Katniss end up with, Gale or Peeta?" when there's only the skeleton of a love triangle happening. (Plus, for a movie in which many people run around in wetsuits, the framing of this movie is meticulously chaste.) This isn't Forks, Washington where you have time to moon over a vampire and a werewolf. Love is a luxury Katniss does not permit herself

Filmbook verdict: Read the book first. Then see "The Hunger Games" and this movie, and feel superior to the bozos in the audience who were shocked at its ending.

*For a role and a movie I think were overrated, although she was just fine in them! Sic semper Hollywoodis.

26 November 2013

Dad is glad: My wholly unnecessary complaints about Jim Gaffigan's DAD IS FAT

I really liked this book and sometimes when I read things, I find myself whining instead of making concrete points. This book is great, I was thoroughly absorbed -- and now I'm going to make you all forget it with this list of grievances:

  • I really wish I had tried to check out an audio version of this book rather than consuming it in print, because while Jim Gaffigan is funny on paper he is even more terrific with the full power of his voice. I've seen him onstage three times and his physical presence, his voice and gesture and look, come through very clearly in this book. Yet I still want an audiobook to do part of that work for me.
  • I went to see Gaffigan and his wife Jeannie (a major character in this book) speak about DAD IS FAT in May, which is where I learned that Jeannie cowrites and produces all of her husband's work. This is fascinating to me (maybe more so than the chicken-fox-sack-of-grain diagrams illustrating how the Gaffigans put all their kids to bed in a 2-bedroom apartment). I would love to know more about how that relationship works. 
  • In the same vein, while I respect that DAD IS FAT is a book largely about parenting, I grew more and more curious about young, free Jimmy Gaffigan before he became (one of) the world's greatest dad(s). Sequel potential?
  • Finally, why isn't it longer? When I forcibly take over the publishing industry I am going to force all your favorite comedians to put their noses to the grindstone and spin out at least 300 pages. No more 180-page cheaters. 
Please go back and re-read the first paragraph of this post. Thank you. 

Image source: Emirates Central

25 November 2013

Overheard in the elevator

COWORKER 1: I wrote 45 pages this weekend.
COWORKER 2: Great! We bought a table.

22 November 2013

Out of the garden and into the fire

Wrong man, wrong era, wrong predictions... wrong subjects?

I've been sitting on my paperback copy of Erik Larson's IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS for a while. I thought I would take it on a vacation but the timing was never right. I liked this book, but it also didn't sit well with me. I didn't feel satisfied that any kind of justice had been done. Maybe my expectations were too high?

The book follows the work life of one William Dodd, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Germany from 1933-37. Far from a politico, Dodd was a history professor at the University of Chicago prior to his appointment who thought a government position would allow him more time than teaching to work on his history of the Old South. For a lot of reasons, he didn't know what he was getting into, but perhaps no one could have prepared him for conducting diplomatic relations with an ailing President Hindenberg and the nascent, ever more aggressive Nazi party. While most Americans felt that the threat of Germany regaining military power was grossly exaggerated -- some even admiring Hitler for getting the mighty machine going again -- Nazis were beating and jailing visiting tourists for not heiling correctly.

Just like Larson's breakout THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY, the author runs Dodd's story in parallel with another's at the same time, this one his daughter Martha (who I will refer to by first name from here on out to avoid confusion). A 29-year-old divorcee who ran in literary circles in Chicago, Martha kept a very detailed diary of her impressions of Nazi Germany and the men she was seeing, some of them high-ranking Nazis.

Both of these characters are uniquely frustrating. Dodd may not have been the most powerful man in US-German relations, in part due to internal politics (particularly the "Pretty Good Club" culture of rich diplomats who spend all their time schmoozing, who hated him), but his timid protestations to the Nazi regime and even Hitler that his practices were extreme seem spineless. He displayed a fair amount of what we would now call anti-Semitism*, and seemingly could have done more to help Jews in Berlin get safe passage out (or to encourage the U.S. to change its immigration policies). I didn't realize how strongly I felt about Dodd until I read a section on how historians of his day regarded him -- not as a bystander, but as a Cassandra figure, a peacemaker. Out of a little rebellion and a little young lust, Martha finds the Nazis fascinating and for a time even defends them to her parents; at her best she just seems like a lovesick twit who had no idea how serious the situation in Germany was.

Hokey book-group reading guides at the backs of books often provide questions to readers like "What would you do in this situation?" (Also a question often asked of young readers.) That question would be absurd when it comes to IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS, whose context is so unique and specific it's impossible to know how any other person might act. Yet, here I am judging Mr. Dodd for his inaction at a time when history has mostly forgotten him. Maybe there's no happy ending possible when a book ends fundamentally at the start of World War II. Knowing what I know, I can't pretend not to know the terrible things that are about to happen, and it's just a short hop from there to asking: why didn't somebody do something? 

*My other major take-away from this book is how prevalent and toothy anti-Semitism was in this era, particularly in the U.S. I knew, I suppose, but the specifics are just shocking all over again. That this went on as recently as my grandparents' generation... well, it was definitely a wake-up call.

21 November 2013

Morrison parties, Doctorow stumbles at National Book Awards

Congratulations to the winners of the National Book Awards which were held last night at Cipriani. James McBride was a surprise speech-unprepared winner for his novel THE GOOD LORD BIRD and the New Yorker's George Packer got the nod for his recession-minded book THE UNWINDING. Mary Szybist and Cynthia Kadohata took home the prizes in poetry and YA fiction, respectively.

The most-mentioned moment of the night according to my Twitter analysis was Toni Morrison giving Maya Angelou an award (and a glowing speech to go with), a nod to two venerable female writers who show no signs of slowing down. Then, RAGTIME author E.L. Doctorow accepted a "Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters" and in his speech he predictably went after the threat of technology to the sacred practice of reading and how e-books aren't real books. The usual my lawn, get off it stuff. At the end he apparently turned it to a defense of free speech (this is from Ron Charles' account in the Washington Post, since I found his tweets the most useful to follow during the live event), but not without making reference to the potential future of books laying in the "Chinese darkness." That could be pretty troubling, depending on what he meant.

20 November 2013

Filmbook: "Salinger" (2013)

Even though it's not an adaptation I decided to watch about "Salinger" (and blog about it, frankly) because it caused a bit of a stir when it premiered at Sundance and its buyers, the Weinstein brothers, with whom I am obsessed, seemed to indicate it would be one of their major Oscar projects for this fall. That's pretty rare for a documentary, and for an author biopic.

From knowing almost nothing about Salinger's early life, I learned a good deal from this documentary, and what I learned surprised me. From a fairly cushy background, Salinger was a mediocre student with a love for writing and dating debutantes (the movie lingers on this point, somewhat creepily, but interviews with his old flames are entertaining). Being drafted in 1942 changed all that: Salinger worked on THE CATCHER IN THE RYE while he was marching through Europe and was able to wrangle a meeting with Hemingway while there, but likely suffered from what today we would call PTSD. Coming back to New York, his fervor to be published (particularly in that great white whale the New Yorker) increased, but his tolerance for appearing in the high society whose company he once enjoyed plummeted. The publishing of CATCHER gave him the literary reputation he craved and the funds to sock his family away in New Hampshire (a decision it seems he did not run by Mrs Salinger, as she later filed for divorce). From there he got weirder and more reclusive, though to the townspeople he was just a nice old man who deserved to be left alone.

The final nails in that coffin, according to this documentary, were the Reagan assassination attempt and the Lennon assassination, both of which were associated with CATCHER through the later testimony of the killers. Filmmaker Shane Salerno (a sort of boy wonder who made his first documentary in high school and cowrote "Armageddon" at 24) suggests that for a former soldier, it was too painful for Salinger to be closely associated with these violent deaths through his work, and he decided to maintain a media silence.

As a filmed work, "Salinger" isn't a very impressive piece -- more like a TV documentary than something to be viewed on the big screen. (And as I was viewing it on my small-TV-sized laptop screen, I still couldn't put that out of my head.) As this Wire piece describes, many scenes consist of still photographs or voiceovers layered with scenes of a tall dark-haired man at a desk (a Salinger stand-in figure). They might as well have input fake nature-y backgrounds a la Kanye West's "Bound 2." But I can forgive a certain amount of filmed hackery and filler pieces, like testimony from famous actors on how great CATCHER IN THE RYE is.

The film's approach to Salinger's later life is what really bothered me about this documentary. It opens with POV shots from the perspective of a fan (I would say a stalkery fan) who has decided to find Salinger at his home in New Hampshire, and continues to interweave firsthand accounts of approaching Salinger during his final years. There are photographs and videos of a very old J.D. Salinger, strikingly similar to the body double used in the man-at-typewriter scenes, but that serve really no purpose in advancing the story of his life. (Interviews with Joyce Maynard, who was invited to Salinger's house and became his lover, are problematic too, but for other reasons.) I get it, you were moved by his work (as many were) and you were curious (as I am). That doesn't give you the right to have a conversation with Salinger, whether he lives in Cornish, New Hampshire or in the Time Warner Center in New York City, whether you named all your children after members of the Glass family (please don't) or have read CATCHER till your copy disintegrated.

It can be fun and informative for documentarians to show the lengths they are prepared to go to in order to get their subjects' side of the story. I'm thinking in particular of the great Kirby Dick doc "This Film Is Not Yet Rated," about the shadowy (sometimes literally) members of the MPAA whose movie ratings can control how and whether major motion pictures get distribution, but a fair number of filmmakers have incorporated their unsuccessful interviews into their work. But in "Salinger" it feels invasive and largely unnecessary to arrive at the film's great conclusion, which is (spoiler alert) that Salinger continued to write long into his seclusion and intends some of those works to be published in the next few years. To pull off that big reveal, you don't have to badger an old man. Go find his publisher or agent to make an on-camera denial, or distort your original source's voice and face ("60 Minutes" style) and have him relate it. I'm surprised to find that I feel as strongly about this authorial right to privacy as Hollywood stars feel about the paparazzi: In the end, no matter how fundamental his work to American literature, Salinger exercised the right not to publish for the latter half of his life. And that choice was his. It feels greasy and sickening to assert otherwise.

Filmbook verdict: Sure, watch it on Netflix if you're interested in the author, but go in skeptical. (This review heavily shaded by my own

What happened to Susan?

Jeremy Lott of Real Clear Politics is calling all of you Narnia fans to expand C.S. Lewis' universe and write about the life of Susan Pevensie, the fourth sibling of the wardrobe absent from THE LAST BATTLE and "no longer a friend to Narnia." I feel comforted that I am not alone in feeling that she had been unnecessarily dismissed.

18 November 2013

Spill some ink with Rob Delaney

On Thursday I went to see Rob Delaney read from his new book ROB DELANEY: MOTHER. WIFE. SISTER. HUMAN. WARRIOR. FALCON. YARDSTICK. TURBAN. CABBAGE. (Don't think I didn't have the Amazon window open the whole time so I could type all that out in the correct order.)

Delaney, for those of you just tuning in, is a stand-up comedian who broke out hugely on Twitter in the past few years thanks to his mix of weird lewdness, merciless ribbing of top brands (Charmin, Wal-Mart) and leftist political humor. Here are a few of my recent favorites of his:
  • "'Getting health insurance will never be like buying a song on iTunes, but it can be like using Limewire via dial-up in 2002.' - Obama”
  • "My wife claims to 'love' me. But does she diaper-astronaut love me? Not even close."
  • "Leviathan, awaken. It is time to punish. RT @muscle_fitness What's your mantra when it comes to working out?"
 His new book contains a bunch of those tweets, as well as sentences that make the same careening turns at the corner of reason and nonsense, but also honestly addresses topics that came up in his columns for Vice magazine, including his dissolute youth and journey from sitting in rehab with 2 broken arms to facing the sheer terror of being onstage sober. Equally at home in the silly and the serious, MOTHER. WIFE. SISTER. HUMAN... (itself a joke on ponderous Twitter profiles, like mine) was short enough to give me hope that Delaney will continue writing pieces longer than 140 characters, and long enough to keep me laughing out loud on the CTA like a hyena.

This event was Delaney at his least guarded and frankest, and I think some may have expected more tears-rolling-down-your-cheeks laughs, but it was fine by me. While writing a book was a huge privilege, Delaney said he found it incredibly hard because of the lack of instant feedback (unlike in comedy); this book tour has sort of been his victory lap, and he read two excerpts from it, including how he jumped off the Manhattan Bridge, and then took questions about his writing. I was especially surprised to learn that he publishes tweets as he finishes them, rather than (I always assumed) writing and then scheduling them. (Pretty impressed at how prolific he is, in that light!) Can we get this guy a movie next? Internet, I know we can.

Seattle, Portland (OR) and Irvine can see Rob Delaney perform near them soon

No need to pack a book

The Country Inn and Suites is the first major hotel chain to stock books in all their US hotels (through a partnership with Random House). Because you can't stay at the Trump SoHo or W London Leicester Square every weekend -- if only.

14 November 2013

"Sometimes he transforms himself into a woman as part of a strange vision quest, aided by drugs or alcohol, to mind-meld with a female character in a book he’s writing."

Sure, that's just what it's like! Uberhighbrow uberprolific author William T. Vollmann has come out as a person who likes to cross-dress, sometimes in the middle of the night in his Sacramento writing bunker (not made up). I have not yet been able to catch up with him and his voluminous output, but I am going to need a Kickstarter to get him and Buzz Bissinger to collaborate on a fashion project.

13 November 2013

Filmbook: "C.O.G."

Debuting at Sundance this year, "C.O.G." bears the distinction of being the first full-length screen adaptation of a David Sedaris work (based on an essay of the same name from NAKED). That gives this small-scale, immediate drama a lot to live up to. Perhaps they should have started with "The Santaland Diaries."

"C.O.G." finds Sedaris as a young, idealistic college graduate, here called "Samuel," leaving his cushy life to pick apples on a farm in Oregon. His dream of Thoreau-ishly reading among the trees is rudely interrupted almost immediately, as he fails to get along with the migrant workers who constitute the farm's labor force, suffers from the hard work and, shockingly, is punished for reading when he should be picking. While he waits for the expected moment of mental clarity, Samuel stubbornly resists rescue and tries to face his problems on his own. 

As a film project, this is a charming and disturbing little movie, the kind that Sundance grows like a crop. Director Kyle Patrick Alvarez (this is his second movie) lets Samuel's story lag somewhat in the middle of the movie but has a fine eye for framing and catching moments. Lead Jonathan Groff, of "Glee" and Broadway fame (Marjorie!), is terrific and very subtle here. Corey Stoll and Denis O'Hare are terrifying in smaller roles as people Samuel encounters along the way.

What I found most disconcerting about this movie -- in a good, interesting way -- was the reminder that the Sedaris character in this movie is not the middle-aged, finicky, set-in-his-ways curmudgeon character under whose cover he travels now, but an open-minded, over-bold, risk-taking ingenue. (I mean, just look at that poster. He really wears that sweater to the orchard, to pick apples in.) Sedaris, the character, seems never to waver in what he knows he wants; Samuel, on the other hand, is one coast-to-coast waver, a man still trying to figure out who he is. It's a useful reminder of how Sedaris, as an essayist, has been able to keep his audience over several life changes (and books) -- and how much authorial confidence plays into all of that.

The verdict: Read NAKED, because everyone should, then see "C.O.G." -- in theatres if you're a Sedaris completist, on DVD if you are not.

12 November 2013

26. Henry James, THE WINGS OF THE DOVE

Kate Croy and Merton Densher want to get married but they are broke. Nobody blames Kate for this, because her father has been Ruined in his Business Dealings and will now live out the rest of his life dependent on others. The London society in which they move largely places the blame on Merton, who works for a newspaper (the more things change) and has no family fortune.

If this were a Jane Austen novel, here's where a convenient older relative would die and leave somebody investments... but we're in Jamesville now, so the way the lovers determine to solve their problem is colder and less coincidental. On a business trip to America, Merton befriended an American heiress named Milly Theale, who later arrives in London and becomes Kate's best closest friend. Everyone knows Milly is very rich, almost nobody knows she is also very ill. So Kate says to Merton, what if you and Milly were to get married, knowing that she might leave you, the bereaved husband, with enormous stacks of cash? Wouldn't that be tragic. Wouldn't you be so, so sad and console yourself with the deceased's best friend, remembering the happiness they had shared?

Since this is also not an Agatha Christie novel, they all swan off to Venice -- Milly for her health, Kate because she has a rich aunt to sponsor her and nothing else to do but be wooed by Rich Aunt's favorite suitor for her, Merton to put Kate's plan into action and possibly woo her in secret, Rich Aunt's Favorite Suitor because he is rich (I suppose?)

Surprisingly, I loved this book. I didn't appreciate the density of this book at first, because it took me about 150 pages to get into its rhythms, but when I did I was able to pause at the end of each section and reflect on what had happened and may happen as a result. Thus my enjoyment of THE WINGS OF THE DOVE was stretched out for weeks, when I felt very, very close to the action. This isn't the James I remember from DAISY MILLER; the ponderousness really adds up to something. I dwelt in the world of this book as if it were science fiction.

After I finished this book, faced with the amount of ambiguity James had baked into this bizarre love triangle, I read a fair amount of criticism and analysis around THE WINGS OF THE DOVE. What actually happened is quite clear, but a lot of its impact is up for interpretation: What is Milly Theale's real diagnosis, and how was her health affected by the stir around her? How much weight does Kate actually give her family's input into her marriage, despite how she may act? How affected, or unaffected, is Merton by his errand? From reading I learned that many people see the character of Milly as relatively flat, without the complexity of her companions; to them, her illness wipes her out, making her seem too saintly. (Also, a lot of people apparently saw the '90s movie starring Helena Bonham Carter as Kate, and then were surprised that the book doesn't have any sexy scenes in it. Well, I never.)

But it was Kate whom I sought and failed to understand. I couldn't figure her out, couldn't put the clues together, and since she's the linchpin of everything that happens in THE WINGS OF THE DOVE,
I definitely couldn't, however, see her as pure villain, and I don't think James did either. (And not because of King Ambiguity.) I felt that the author had an unusual sympathy for Kate's predicament -- constrained by forces beyond her control, trying to scrape up the smallest amount of autonomy over her situation. In a way, she is the most powerless person in the whole novel, even though she can't be forced into marrying Rich Aunt's choice of men. The breaking of her will against the facts of her life is terrible to watch.

Ellen vs. ML: 59 read, 41 unread
Next up: I have a few more to recap from when I was wandering in the wilderness! Which do you like on deck, THE GRAPES OF WRATH or THE WAY OF ALL FLESH? 

11 November 2013

October Unbookening: "I still have a blog?" edition

Books bought: 3
Checked out of the library: 8
Received to review: 1
Returned from my mom: 1
Passed along from my mom: 1
14 in

Returned 8 e-books to the e-library
Donated 2
10 out

Books read in October
Laura Lippmann, NO GOOD DEEDS (mentioned briefly here)
Pamela Erens, THE VIRGINS
Elin Hilderbrand, BEAUTIFUL DAY
Lionel Shriver, THE NEW REPUBLIC
Laura Vanderkam, 168 HOURS
Jim Gaffigan, DAD IS FAT

06 November 2013

Democracy inaction

Know what I'd like to see? When you vote for the Goodreads Choice Awards, a pop-up reminds you that you have the book you just voted for on your "to read" list but haven't actually gotten around to reading it. (A less agreeable individual might restrict the voting by books one has actually read...) 

01 November 2013

Reading on the Road

Top 5 bookstores to visit in New York City this weekend
Greenlight in Fort Greene
The Strand
McNally Jackson
Book Court
The souvenir stand at "Matilda: The Musical" to verify that they have a copy of Roald Dahl's classic on sale, and if not, tear the whole thing down