CONSUMED AT THE END OF JANUARY AND BEGINNING OF FEBRUARY: A PARTIAL LIST.
every love story is a ghost story: a life of david foster wallace (book). a number of people have said that this biography made them like DFW a bit less.* i was afraid i would be one of those people, and it is hard to read about how, say, he wanted to kill mary karr's husband. i made it to the other side, though, and while it's entirely possible that he and i would not have enjoyed each other's company, i think he was at least as hard on himself as he was on everyone else. max does a fine job of mapping the philosophical territory DFW loved so well, and he offers meaty background notes on characters and plot points in his fiction and essays. i think i wanted every love story to be more of what i got from david lipsky's companionable although of course you end up becoming yourself (THUNDERTOMED here), but i've read plenty of folks' accounts of what it was like to sit across from him at a diner. it's time, alas, for me to get serious about wittgenstein and friends. somewhere in queens my philosophy-major husband just felt a sweet frisson of schadenfreude and has no idea why.
the flame alphabet (book, ongoing). i thought it was fate when a hardcover copy of the flame alphabet materialized at our local housing works thrift store after i pinned it to my "media needs" board (suck it, folks who argue that pinterest is a graveyard of the unrealized; i use the recipes and DIYs i post as well). children's speech becomes lethal to adults: what a weird, promising premise! i'm now about a hundred pages in, and i'm bored and sad. i will finish it, by gum, but as j. robert lennon noted in the times, the novel "doesn’t fulfill its own promise as a hybrid of the traditional and experimental, [and readers hoping for a ripping good yarn] may find it vexing; it’s a strange and impressive work, but in the end, it’s mostly sermon."
flight (film). i am tempted to call flight the most ham-handed deployment of a soundtrack (and the most misguided use of "gimme shelter") i've ever seen, but forrest gump (and mick and lady gaga's execrable work in december) stay my hand. "that was a movie-length AA speech," joe noted. denzel washington's character has zero interiority. i wish i could unwatch him and see jeff bridges in crazy heart again instead.
lincoln (film). daniel day-lewis does such fine work that one almost doesn't mind spielberg's treacly, lord-of-the-rings-style quintuple ending (the movie should wrap about five minutes before it does, on a lovely shot of lincoln descending the white house stairs on the way to ford's theater). tony kushner's language is outstanding as well - i am a weird, rabid new kushner fan after his recent paris review interview - and i hope he takes the oscar for his adaptation of doris kearns goodwin's material. i also hope someone decides to make a gentleman-rogues buddy movie with christoph waltz and james spader, for it would be goddamn delightful.
the master (film). as joe noted, p.t. anderson has a way of dropping the mic at the end of his best movies (magnolia, there will be blood, &c), and the master is no exception; it's ambiguous, shocking, weirdly beautiful. while joaquin phoenix and philip seymour hoffman as unhinged disciple and charismatic, l.-ron-hubbard-ish cult leader are both in danger of Acting rather than acting, the bizarre dynamic that develops between them (based in part on the hooch phoenix makes out of things like jet fuel) is actually pretty affecting. on bizarre, i still don't know what to make of the possibly-hallucinated scene in which all of the women in a house full of hoffman's rapt acolytes are suddenly, inexplicably naked, but it raised more interesting questions than any of the T&A i've endured on girls and game of thrones thus far (we have free HBO for the next few months and are marathoning accordingly; more on that later). it's a shame the best supporting actress field is packed with battle beasts this year; in different circumstances, amy adams would have an easy oscar for her work here.
thayers tangerine slippery elm lozenges (beelzebub's fewmets). there was a little marie antoinette of a neighbor-kid on our street when i was growing up who, when she decided she was no longer interested in whatever she was chewing, would simply open her mouth and let it fall out. barbarism, i thought, but man did i want to be rid of my first and last thayers tangerine slippery elm lozenge as i waited on the platform for my train when i had walking pneumonia a few weeks ago (i did not spit it out; the rats on the tracks deserved better than that). i don't want to talk about what it tasted like. never, ever eat a slippery elm lozenge, and i say that as someone who once ate a pigeon feather.
*aside: that times reviewer asserts in the course of her otherwise not only plausible but often quite incisive wallace-chatter that his "best work, perhaps by far, is 'The Pale King,'" which (though i enjoyed several things about the pale king) is crazy talk.