Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Book: City of the Sun, by David Levien (2008)

Another day, another screenwriter’s novel. And as it happens, another good one.

With Brian Koppelman, David Levien has written several entertaining movies, among them Rounders and Ocean’s 13. His first foray into crime fiction ventures into some truly dark territory.

In suburban Indianapolis, 12-year-old Jamie Gabriel disappears while on his paper route. Over a year later, the police are no closer to finding him and the marriage of his parents Paul and Carol is on the verge of collapse. Out of desperation and resignation the Gabriels hire Frank Behr, a brooding ex-cop with a tragic past. Behr’s investigation will yield reasons for them to hope – and to despair.

There are a few plot developments that strain credibility, and the ending is a lot to swallow. But I went along with it, because Levien knows how to power through a story. He also peoples it with a strong gallery of characters. Not just Behr and the Gabriels but the range of criminals responsible for Jamie’s abduction, all of whom are given some shred of humanity.

In a recent essay, ESPN’s Bill Simmons names Rounders as one of the only classic sports films of the past decade. Which raises the question: is Rounders a sports movie? Feel free to respond in the comments.

A few years ago, Simmons did a two part Q&A with Koppelman and Levien. Glad to hear that my reaction to Rounders is fairly typical. First time around you can take it or leave it, mainly because the poker scenes leave you in the dust. But for some reason you’re compelled to watch it again, and the lingo makes more sense. By the third viewing, you’re completely on board. And that ending is still ballsy.

Music: Brad Mehldau Trio: Live

I have reached some kind of jazzbo milestone. The new album from the trio – Mehldau on piano, Larry Grenadier on bass, Jeff Ballard on drums – was recorded during an October 2006 run at New York’s Village Vanguard. Rosemarie and I were at one of those shows. Which means that could be us you hear applauding. Only I didn’t applaud. I snapped my fingers beatnik-style and then requested “Freebird.”

Listen to the album. You won’t be disappointed.

Miscellaneous: Folding Links

The New York Times profiles Mad Magazine’s Al Jaffee, complete with interactive gallery of his fold-ins.