Three Things I Like: Friday Night Lights, Ghost Story and Sotto Voce

Tis' the season for listing. Twelve goats a leaping, eleven zombies lurching, ten tentacles tweaking...yada, yada, yada.

We're no different here in this neck of the woods. I keep track of things. Lots of things. I'm not quite Rainman, but you could say I'm a dork and it won't hurt my feelings. Books. Movies. Stories I enjoyed. Trips. I write it all down in a journal that's making the long, hard trip back to pulp. I'll have some top-tens around here in the coming weeks. I know they can be tedious, but I've got to write them down, friends. One must justify the bookkeeping somehow, I suppose.

Here's a list of three things that I enjoy:

Friday Night Lights

I was as skeptical as the next person after this thing stunk. I loved Buzz Bissinger's book. It's on the shelf here in my office and it seems to fly away on loan quite a bit. The book is a journalistic jewel--an in-depth look at small-town, blue-collar life in West Texas. Buzz can write with the best of them. His work is fluid and lyrical, descriptive to fine point and clear.

I laughed at the premise of the show when I first heard it was coming to NBC. I thought, given the film's turdy appearance and shoddy adaptation, that it would stink it up.

But it surprised me from the first episode. The series is well played by its leads, and there are enough subplots to keep the thing going for years--a trouble spot for most high-school themed series. Rich with pathos, the writers seem to really understand why the show's small-but-devoted audience is looking for. They developed believable characters with depth and complexity.

Kyle Chandler has nailed his turn as Coach Eric Taylor. Chandler plays a kind-but-gruff smoldering volcano with perfect authenticity. Connie Britton is excellent as his wife, Tami, and the cast of "kids" is surprisingly likable and talented. Don't discount it. I'm just saying...

Ghost Story
Straub wrote this beauty when he was in his teens. It's a hell of a great yarn that features likable protagonists (older protagonists--conveyed convincingly by a young writer; it's a neat trick) and some great embedded ghost stories. Straub's writing is top shelf--smooth and descriptive and very addictive. This one keeps you up. About the book, Stephen King states: "The terror just keeps mounting and mounting."
The man knows his haunted stories, and this certainly qualifies. Put it on the Christmas list.
This magazine's impressive first issue was published just a few weeks ago. Publisher Emily Thorp has created a magazine with a network of editors who have crafted a solid market for fiction, poetry and art. The magazine showcases a new batch of work each quarter and allows for a voting system to select an end-of-the-year print anthology. I think this is one of the markets that will have some traction in the years to come.
And I'm proud to be a part of that beginning in January of 2009. My short story "The Dandy on the Doorstep" will appear in Sotto Voce's winter issue. It's a story I wrote a little while ago about the powers of temptation. I remember having recently read King's "The Man in the Black Suit" and Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" before I took a crack at my own take on that theme. I've always been fascinated by travelling salesmen, and I wanted to write a rural Oregon story. This was the result, and I think it was a pretty good one.
So there you have it. Three things I like, and the first list of the holiday season. I've got a committee meeting with a meatball hoagie, so I gotta run...

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