Tuesday, May 26, 2009

You Oughta #1

If people didn't recommend things for me to read, watch, and listen to I would probably never discover anything new. There's just too much stuff out there, and choosing from all of it gives me a headache. So I mostly rely on people whose judgment I trust to suggest things to try. Because I care deeply about your cultural enrichment, I am hereby returning the favor and starting a handy new feature to the blog, called You Oughta. These are books, films, and albums I love, and I know you will too. Some are new, but some are old favorites. If you don't like them, don't tell me about it, because it will make me think less of you.

Oughta Read: City of Thieves by David Benioff
I freely admit that I first picked this up because I loved the cover (yes, I'm shallow, but look at it). And I'm so happy I did, because this is one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. It's the story of two boys who during the siege of Leningrad in World War II are sent on a quest to find a dozen eggs to make a wedding cake for a colonel's daughter. By turns absurd, tragic, and funny, it reads like the best Russian and Yiddish tales, filled with insight into the determination of people to survive and find love and friendship amidst the most horrible of circumstances. I haven't read anything so special in a very long time. Trust me--pick it up.

Oughta Watch: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
This film is not for everyone. It's slow. It's long. Not much happens in the way of action. But there's sure a lot going on in the mind of Casey Affleck's Robert Ford, who wants so badly to have the notoriety of his idol Jesse James that he first tries to become him and then destroys him in an attempt at replacing him in the mind of the world. The languid pace of the film--which is brilliantly shot by Roger Deakins--perfectly captures Ford's ever-growing obsession with James. The effect is to gradually increase your anxiety as you wait for the inevitable moment, while simultaneously making you wish the outcome could be otherwise. For those with the patience to let it unfold this film's rewards are many. Haunting, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking, it's a rare experience in American cinema.

Oughta Hear: Bachelor No. 2 by Aimee Mann
It's not her latest (that would be @#%&*! Smilers ) but it's my favorite of Mann's eight solo albums. Whenever I'm trying to find something to listen to, this is my default, not because it's inoffensive background music but because it never fails to inspire. Mann is, hands down, the smartest lyricist writing today, and the musicianship on this album perfectly showcases her words. Every listen reveals new surprises (well to me, but maybe I'm just slow) and there's not a single track I skip. Also take a look at her website when you get a chance. Like Mann's album packaging, it's beautifully designed and filled with her quirky humor.

One final note: My novel What We Remember is released today. I didn't make it my Oughta Read because, you know, that would be totally wrong. But really, you oughta read it. So pick it up at Powell's, (a great online independent store), Amazon, or your favorite local independent bookstore.

PS: For those of you in the Bay Area, I'll be reading from What We Remember at A Different Light bookstore in the Castro on Wednesday, June 03, at 7:30. Come on by and say hello.


Jonathan Pizarro said...

I wish I could see you read at the Castro! I have loved you ever since I randomly picked up My Big Fat Queer Life in a bookshop in Dublin, and devoured it on the plane back to London.
Where it promptly made it's way around my staff, who all adored it. I look forward to reading your new book.

Michael Thomas Ford said...

A London signing would be excellent. I don't know what kind of crowd we would get, though. I don't think the books are as well known there. Still, it would be fun.

zif said...


Is your reading in SF on Monday, June 1st or on Wednesday, June 3rd?

Michael Thomas Ford said...

Aw, crap. It's WEDNESDAY, June 03.

zif said...

Damn. And I was so looking forward to heckling you. Have to make it another time. Enjoy.

Queer of Steel® said...

Shit! I need to hit B&N and get your new one. *slapping hand* Bad fan!

Sandra said...

I'd love to see you read. Do you ever get a chance to come to New England? I mean the *real* New England....with moose and flannel.

I guess for now I'll have to content myself with fond memories of Kathy shitting in that pumpkin. Do you still write letters for foreign students looking for visas?

OMG The soap's wood!

Michael Thomas Ford said...

Sandra Taylor you e-mail me this instant! Your Blogger profile isn't live, so I can't mail you.