On the Road Again: Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Mosquito

Mary Iris Malone, her self-described heroine of David Arnold’s novel Mosquitoland, is having, in the words of Beth Henley, “a real bad day.” Her cherished mother has moved out of the family home after announcing she and Mim’s father are divorcing, Mim’s dad has married Kathy Sharone Malone and the new rhyming couplet have moved the family 933 miles away from their Ohio home to the “wastelands of Mississippi. Now, on the day Mim gets sent to the principal’s office for yet another violation of her high school’s code, she overhears her Dad and Kathy say that her mom has a disease.

greyhoundIt is time for the 16-year-old Mim to hit the road on her own. She leaves   Mosquitoland with only about $800 in stolen cash, a tube of her mother’s favorite lipstick and a bag of chips. She buys a ticket to ride on a Greyhound and before even setting foot on board, begins a series of life-defining adventures that allude to everything from The Odyssey to Alice in Wonderland to Moby Dick.

USA Today called MosquitolandFerris Bueller’s Day Off if done by John Hughes with Jack Kerouac.” http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2015/03/11/mosquitoland-book-review/24669245/ I can see the point, but Mim with her own anomalous collection of oddities has the intense self-centered reflection of the Millennial Generation without the lightness of a Ferris Bueller. She’s Andie from Pretty in Pink confronting the Scylla and Charybdis of current America with a couple of other travelers she encounters on the way.

Closing his eyes again, Beck repositions his head on the back of his seat, and in one sure movement, reaches over and grabs my hand. Even with his eyes closed, he knew where to find me. I want to cry for a thousand reasons, laugh for a thousand others; this is my anomalous balance, the place where Beck and I can let the ridiculousness of our collective sentences marinate, and other things, too. It’s a singular moment of clarity between two people, and rare or not, I’m not about to let go.
I’m done roaming hillsides.
I’ve scoured the corners of the earth.
And I’ve found my people.
God, I’m almost jealous of myself.
Holding Beck’s hand in my lap, I find a courage I never knew I had and drop my head on his shoulder.

Author Arnold, a guy (!), writes Mosquitoland in Mim’s, a girl (!), first person voice. And

Mean-Girls-Senior-Year

Mean Girls from AdWeek

does a swell job of it. If I had any quibble at all, it was the dialogue sometimes got too cutesy, sometimes too sophisticated, and sometimes too — I don’t know — dare I say “Male” for a 16 year old girl? Teenage girls in John Greene and David Arnold novels often launch into Tina Fey-Amy Schumer-Amy Poehler-Sisters-Trainwreck speech which seems too movie-fied. But as I don’t have a 16 year old daughter myself, THANK THE GOOD LORD, I can’t be sure.

“I have a license,” says a voice behind us. I turn to find 17C scrolling through pictures on his camera, standing in the front yard like a deep-rooted tree, like he’s been there for years. Somehow, that black eye only makes him more desirable. “And you are . . . ?” asks Moses. A) Perfect B) The god of Devastating Attractiveness C) A flawless specimen, created in a lab by mad scientists in an effort to toy with the heart of Mary Iris Malone D) All of the above I circle D. Final effing answer.

I think Mosquitoland would be a great choice for my own book club. Most of my clubbers have daughters who either are, were or will be teenagers and perhaps this offers some insight into what teenage girls are thinking about (hint: boys, themselves) and why. It’s funny, sweet, but has moments of biting pathos as well. And since a good bit of it takes place in Kentucky and David Arnold lives in my old Kentucky hometown of Lexington, you really cannot go wrong!

According to David’s website, http://www.davidarnoldbooks.com, his second book Kids of Appetite will be released on September 20, 2016. You can also find him on twitter: @roofbeam. (Incidentally, I’m on twitter too! @daeandwrite)

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Food and drink abound in Mosquitoland, and David was kind enough to share with me via twitter a recipe for “Medieval burgers” mentioned in the novel.

Chips

Carnitas

Medieval Burgers and Fries. According to David, medieval burgers require jack cheese to be placed inside the burger before grilling. Voila! Medieval.

Kung Pao Chicken — tip, avoid msg

Pie and Ice Cream

Daiquiris

MUSIC

So here’s another great reason to read Mosquitoland! The music mentioned in tMosquitolandhe novel is awesome AND David, a freelance musician/producer, has written his own music to accompany the book that you can download!

So the music mentioned includes:

Elvis

Johnny Cash

The Doors, Break on Through
(and something I can’t read because I wrote it while driving and listening to the audiobook)
David Arnold’s music: http://cinemacycle.bandcamp.com

MOVIE CASTING

Mim: A Young Ellen Page, obviously. Or Chloe Grace Moretz

Beck: Alex Pettyfer

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

The Great Train Robbery, Michael Crichton

steam-train-502120_640

    Victorian “gentleman” Edward Pierce is a sharp dresser, a ladies’ favorite and a criminal mastermind in Michael Crichton’s 1975 best-seller The Great Train Robbery.  He’s a compelling anti-hero who puts together a collection including a screwman (locksmith), a snakesman (burglar), a lady of the night, a bank employee, a train guard and a corpse.  Crichton loaded The Great Train Robbery chockfull of Victoriana, from fashion, to prisons, gentlemen’s clubs, politics, and of course, steam locomotives in telling the story of the real 1855 robbery of 200 pounds of gold, on its way to pay the British soldiers fighting in the Crimean War.

victorian_mens_fashion_17  Image found in the Gazette of Fashion and Cutting-Room Companion

     The novel is one of process rather than character.  In fact, Pierce, if that is his real name, remains mostly a brilliant mystery.  He collects the crew, creates the process, conquers all setbacks thrown into his path and ultimately pulls off what was considered the greatest crime of his century.  Pierce is a man who easily travels between the highs and the lows of Victorian society, from ratter contests and the tops of steam engines to wooing.  “This singular gentleman was Edward Pierce, and for a man destined to become so notorious that Queen Victoria herself expressed a desire to meet him – or, barring that, to attend his hanging – he remain an oddly mysterious figure.”  Is it any wonder that Sean Connery was cast to play Pierce in the 1979 movie based on the book?

Connery

     Michael Crichton’s notes from the film include the following anecdote, which is frankly, just how I always imagined (hoped!) Sean Connery would be:

Finally we are shooting along take where Sean comes running up the length of the train, jumping from car to car. Because we are shooting in all directions, the camera operator and I are hanging out on a side platform, and everyone else is inside the train. I am trying to watch the scene and also to remember to duck down at the right time so the camera lens can swing over my head.
Filming begins. Sean runs up the length of the train. I smell a harsh acrid odor. I feel a sharp pain on top of my scalp. I realize that my hair has been set on fire by the cinders from the locomotive. I am frantically brushing at my hair, trying to put the fire out, because I don’t want smoke coming from my head when the camera swings over me.
While I am doing that, Sean jumps to the nearest car, stumbles and falls. I think, Jeez, Sean, don’t overdo making it look dangerous. He is carrying a bundle of clothes, a story point. He drops the clothes as he falls and I realize Sean would never do that, that he must have really fallen. Meanwhile, I am still trying to put the fire out on my head. Sean scrambles to his feet, retrieves the clothes, and moves on, wincing in genuine pain. I get the cinders out of my head as the camera swings over. We make the shot.
Afterward we stop the train; everybody gets off. He has a bad cut on his shin that is being attended to.
“Are you all right, Sean?”
He looks at me. “Did you know,” he says, “that your hair was on fire? You ought to be more careful up there.”
And he laughs.

     I really enjoyed the book.  Pierce was a genius, and much like many of my own criminal clients, probably had the ability to earn a fortune in a legitimate way but chose to work outside the lines because he found it more fun, or challenging.  Some things never change.

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   There wasn’t a whole lot of good food in the book, so I think my book club menu would include:

Steamers (soft shell clams):  Recipe from Epicurious.com

http://www.epicurious.com//recipes/food/views/Steamers-in-Beer-102041

Wild Rice

Steamed Sugar Snap Peas

Yellow Cake with buttercream icing — to represent the gold

MUSIC

Blues in the Night, Ella Fitzgerald

Folsom Prison Blues, Johnny Cash

John Henry, Hugh Laurie’s version (because he’s British)

Chattanooga Choo Choo, Harry Connick, Jr.

Hobo Blues, John Lee Hooker

MOVIE CASTING

I can’t do any better than Sean Connery.  Unless it’s Benedict Cumberbatch.  And actually, I think a remake of this would be excellent.  Very exciting.

Dear John

grisham_john

Dear John:

Those piercing blue eyes of yours.  That confident, but low-key grin.  The dazzling intellect as not only a trial lawyer but a novelist. Yes, you are a catch.

But John:  what’s with the level of dissing going on in The Litigators?  The bad guy law firm, filled with uptight maniacs; the hot, talented, deadly litigator lady whose only concern is monetary; the “good guy” law firm filled with alcoholics and sleazy grumps?  AND a dog named “AC,” short for ambulance chaser?  Is that really necessary?

ambulance chaser

 

Or course, the story is good.  The focus on the overwrought panting that comes with a new Multi-District Litigation over a “bad drug” before the scientific work is done.  That’s on target, and I know some of those guys you are writing about and you are downright accurate on the legion of private jet plaintiff’s attorneys more impressed with their stuff than with their client’s stuff.  And unfortunately, alcoholism is a persistent and growing problem in the professional field of law.  The American Bar Association’s statistics offer that as many as 20 percent, one in five lawyers in the U.S., suffer from some form of alcohol abuse or dependence.  http://www.americanbar.org/groups/lawyer_assistance/resources/alcohol_abuse_dependence.html. It’s definitely worth mentioning and focusing some attention on.  

The writing is engaging.  Actually, kudos.  Because I thought The Litigators had more character development than any of your legal novels in recent years.  And as the Washington Post said, all without any character who could possibly be played by Tom Cruise.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/book-review-john-grishams-the-litigators-a-swerving-stirring-retort/2011/10/19/gIQAEUD81L_story.html

Although, I think Tom could play Wally Figg if he wanted to.  (Have you seen Tropic Thunder?)

The Litigators is good.  Lots of legal vocab, behind-the-scenes insighty stuff.  But John, where’s the love?  I need the love.  Show me the love.  And I’ll come back to you again.

XXX,

Pamela Dae

Chicago-Skyline

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In honor of The Litigators’ setting, Chicago, and one of its’ main characters, I would serve Pizza with Fig & Prosciutto

ingredients

  • Cornmeal
  • 1 1-pound package purchased pizza dough
  • 2 cups (generous) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 6 small fresh figs, cut into 1/4- to 1/3-inch-thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons fig balsamic vinegar, divided
  • 8 thin slices prosciutto (from two 3-ounce packages)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 cups arugula

preparation

Preheat oven to 450°F. Sprinkle large rimless baking sheet generously with cornmeal. Roll out dough on floured work surface to 12×10-inch rectangle; transfer to prepared sheet. Sprinkle Gorgonzola over dough. Sprinkle with pepper. Place figs in medium bowl; drizzle 1 tablespoon vinegar over. Set aside.

Bake pizza until crust is golden brown on bottom, 15 to 20 minutes. Immediately drape prosciutto slices over, covering pizza completely. Arrange fig slices atop prosciutto. Bake until figs are just heated through, about 1 minute. Transfer pizza to cutting board. Whisk remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar and oil in large bowl; add arugula. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Mound salad atop pizza. Cut into pieces and serve.

And you couldn’t have a book club discussion about this book without having at least one Pearl Harbor each.

  • 1 1/2 oz. Vodka
  • 3/4 oz. Midori
  • Top with Pineapple Juice

Pour over ice in a tall glass.  Here’s a video demonstration of making a Pearl Harbor, which is essentially pouring the ingredients over ice, but if you have five minutes:  http://everydaydrinkers.com/2012/06/how-to-make-the-pearl-harbor-cocktail/

MUSIC

Lawyers in Love, Jackson Browne

Lawyers, Guns & Money, Warren Zevon

Legal Man, Johnny Cash

I Fought the Law, The Clash

This Side of the Law, Johnny Cash

Chicago, Frank Sinatra

MOVIE CASTING

Oscar Finley — Brian Dennehy

Wally Figg — Donel Logue

David Zinc — Luke Wilson

Jerry Alisandros — Don Johnson

Nadine Gibson – Cameron Diaz

Happy Reading!