Die Hard has been one of my favorite movies since on first saw it on TV as a child; it sparked my love affair with Bruce Willis and with antiheroes in general. When, only a few years later, I stood in a used book store in Fremont, Nebraska, and read the back cover of a old book called Nothing Lasts Forever and thought “Hunh, this sounds familiar” before putting it back on the shelf, I had no idea that Roderick Thorp’s 1979 novel was, in fact, the inspiration for Willis’ break-out movie.
What is one to make of a book entitled The Shadow of the Torturer? This famous 1980 novel by Gene Wolf, the first of a four-part series, is paired with part two, The Claw of the Conciliator, to form Shadow & Claw.
The title is not sensationalistic in the manner of some recent books, but genuinely reflects the topic of the book. The “hero”, Severian, is in fact a member of the “torturer’s guild”, and does in fact torture and execute a number of people. That he commits a grievous offense against his order/build—by allowing one of his charges to commit suicide—is the most we can say about Severian as a human being; there is not much otherwise to recommend him as a protagonist.
¶ The Yugo
- The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History
- Publisher: Hill and Wang
- Year: 2011
- Pages: 272
The first time I physically remember hearing the Yugo referenced in pop culture was seeing Die Hard with a Vengeance on TV (this must have been 1997 or so, when I was 12 or 13), though I must have known about it before because I laughed: Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson drive a commandeered Yugo down a busy freeway, and when Bruce (John) complains about their pokey pace, Samuel (Zeus) replies “It’s a Yugo; it’s built for economy, not for speed!”
I somehow realized or knew, though I don’t remember how or when I would have learned it, that the word “Yugo” was a punchline for a car only a few steps better than a pennyracer. Jason Vuic’s The Yugo is the story of how the hapless automobile came to be the butt of so many jokes, but also how it ever-so-briefly was a commercial success, and how one enigmatic business was behind it all.
Christopher Hitchens’ recent diagnosis of cancer is bad news for all the readers who appreciate his profound and prolific output as a writer of political journalism, social commentary, and literary review (this latter, naturally, encompassing both the former). A man who “writes faster than most people talk” naturally generates no small œuvre. Hitchen’s last book of collected writings was Love, Poverty, and War in 2003, and it’s no surprise that Arguably, his latest compendium—and morbidly, the last which will not be posthumous—is a hefty eight-hundred pages of essays hand-picked from Hitchens’ various media—Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, Slate, and no few introductions to reissued classics—without likely exhausting the pool.
There’s no denying that Alan Moore is a force to be reckoned with in comic books; his work has produced a number of very famous books (Watchmen and V for Vendetta being two notable examples that have also been turned into major films) and popularized the “graphic novel” format. At the same time, one can’t help but find, eventually, that Moore’s strangeness, preponderance of imagined dystopias, and penchant for oddity, to be somewhat laborious.