Monthly Archives: June 2012

Book Review: Jimmy Plush, Teddy Bear Detective

Jimmy Plush, Teddy Bear Detective Jimmy Plush, Teddy Bear Detective by Garrett Cook
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Garrett Cook takes on the hard-boiled detective noir serial genre, but with teddy bears, in Jimmy Plush: Teddy Bear Detective. It’s told as a series of stories which tie together as Charles Hatbox, whose mind has been placed in the body of Jimmy Plush to pay off his gambling debts, tries to solve a series of loosely related cases in a city rife with prostitute furries and stereotypical crime bosses. But what happened to the real Jimmy Plush?

This one is genuinely hard to review, mostly because I’m not sure how I really feel about it. It’s got some good elements and an authentic feel to it. Cook captures the feel and writing style of the old noir serials, racism and all. At the same time, he breaks from this in ways that feel…I don’t know. Inappropriate isn’t the right word. I’m probably looking for a word that’s a little closer to predictable, in that he resorts to memes that seem to show up in a lot of bizarro novels, and a lot of those seem like they’re tacked on just to make it a little more bizarro. At the same time, it’s kind of hard to see where else Cook could have actually gone with it.

If I wanted to get philosophical, at its heart, Jimmy Plush comes down to being a novel of identity. You see, Jimmy Plush existed before Hatbox swapped bodies. And the original Jimmy Plush had a bad reputation. At first, Hatbox tries to be Jimmy Plush and act in the way people expect him to. But later, as Hatbox begins to realize who Jimmy Plush is/was, he begins to assert his own identity. It becomes a story of doing what’s expected of you and who people want you to be versus being your own person. Or maybe I’m reading too much in this. It is supposed be a pulp tribute, afterall.

It’s a solid novel, but it trips over itself a few times. The quality of the prose generally good and for the most part flows very easily. At the same time, the author occasionally trips a little on the flow. Hatbox is not a very likeable character, but at the same time does generate sympathy. He’s kind of weird that way. The other villains, however, are generally stereotypical. Admittedly, that might be part of the point, but then again, there was a lot of unrealized potential for more interesting villains or secondary characters, which was disappointing. Ultimately, Jimmy Plush is okay, but it just didn’t do much for this reviewer.

Jimmy Plush: Teddy Bear Detective by Garrett Cook earns 3 giant beef jerky sticks out of 5.

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What is Love?

EngagementNo, I’m not quoting Haddaway, but feel free to bop your head to the side while reading if the mood strikes you.

This is actually a serious question that comes up in everyone’s life at some point. There are different perspectives on exactly what love is. Some follow a purely science-based and rational explanation and say that love is a biochemical reaction to promote the mating cycle and the continuation of our genes. As much as I love science, this is a little too fatalistic to me, since the way the brain works makes me at least want to believe that humans are more than just the sum of our parts.

Philosophers have asked this question, as well. Some say it’s the driving force of human nature. Some say it makes the world go round. Some distinguish between types of love, such as brotherly love, erotic love, etc.

When I say that I love Olivia, it is not without pause. This is not because I don’t love her. It’s because the word itself falls far short of expressing my true feelings for her. You see, like many people, I’ve thrown the word “love” around when describing a lot of things in the past. I’ve said that I love pizza, or that I love Star Wars (original trilogy, just to be clear). Obviously, my feelings for Olivia go far, far beyond my fondness for any of these mundane things.

But even when you strip away these casual remarks, the word “love” still feels insufficient. My feelings for her dwarf what anyone has ever described love to be. It’s a feeling that cannot be expressed properly in words. To my knowledge, no word has been invented that can adequately describe how I feel about her, and with emotions this strong, I am ill-equipped to invent such a word myself. She is my light. She is my inspiration. She makes me a better man. And I tell her I love her because, as poor a description for my feelings as that word is, it is the only word available to me.

We’ve had a storied history. We originally met all the way back in middle school, but mostly knew of each other without really getting to know each other. Still, something about her stood out to me.

A few years ago, we met up at our ten year high school reunion (Go Conquistadors!), but lost contact again shortly after that. About two and a half years ago, we reconnected once again through Facebook and have never looked back. So I’ll always have a bit of a soft spot for Facebook because it ultimately brought us back together in the best way possible.

Since then, there has never been a day when we haven’t at least talked on the phone, if not seen each other. Even today, this far along into our relationship, every time I see her name come up on my phone, my heart skips a beat. Every time we hold hands, I still feel that spark. Every time she smiles, it lights up my day. And every time she laughs, it fills my own heart with joy.

Last week, I took Olivia out for her birthday. We were going to Cirque Du Soleil: Iris at the recently renamed Dolby Theater (formerly known as the Kodak Theater) in Hollywood, but before then we needed to kill some time. So we went to the Glendale Galleria, where she wanted to look for some home furnishings for her sister. While she was shopping, I excused myself to use the restroom, but I really ran downstairs to get a little sterling silver ring. I had ordered a real ring custom-made, but it wasn’t ready yet.

We moved from the Galleria to the Americana across the street and went for an early birthday dinner at the Cheesecake Factory (if you don’t live in Los Angeles but watch “The Big Bang Theory,” you’ll get these references). After dinner, they brought her a little birthday desert, and I asked the waiter to take a picture of us together. But this was a bit of a ruse, as my real purpose was to get next to her in the booth so she could hear me. I gave a little speech I had prepared, but only about half of it because I was so nervous that I forgot the other half.

Then I slid out of the edge of the booth, took her hand, got down on my knee in the middle of the restaurant, and asked her to marry me, using the little sterling silver band as a stand-in until the real ring was ready.

Later last week, I got the real ring, but the jeweler who made it couldn’t find a ring box, so he gave me a very nice little pewter and crystal pig with an enameled interior, wrapped the ring in tissue paper, and put it inside. I took Olivia to a casual dinner at Topanga Plaza, then we walked around the mall and sat down on some cushioned and surprisingly low seats in the middle of the mall. There, I got down on my knee once more, skipped the speech, and asked her to marry me again, but this time with the proper equipment, and with the encouragement of the little engagement pig.

Oh, yeah, and by the way:

She said “yes”! (both times)

Our first picture as an engaged couple (at my cousin's Bat Mitzvah reception)

Book Review: Bucket of Face

Bucket of Face Bucket of Face by Eric Hendrixson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When a book starts with a charging acorn yelling “Leroy Jenkins!,” you know that you’re in for the weird.

Charles is a doughnut shop worker with a kiwi fruit girlfriend. Huh? Well, many years back, a mysterious silver pollen appeared and began spreading, which turned fruit sentient. Since then, society has generally integrated these fruit. But when the fruit mafia has a shootout in the doughnut shop. Charles covers it up, making the dead fruits into pastries and taking a briefcase full of Zimbabwe dollars and a specimen bucket full of human faces, hence the title. A hit-tomato who is searching for respect because many don’t consider him a real fruit, sets out to recover the stolen goods. Think of it as No Country for Old Men, just with talking fruit. That gives you Bucket of Face in a nutshell.

This is one of those books that’s genuinely difficult to talk about, even in generalities, for fear of giving too much away, because there is a surprising amount to discover. This book obviously has a bizarre humor which is sometimes dark and…well, I don’t know if fruit murder is considered dark or not. A common complaint that I have with a lot of bizarro books is that they are too short and I want more. But with Bucket of Face, the length is actually quite perfect. And, interestingly, Hendrixson seems to have put in a lot of thought into the nature and biology of sentient fruit. An almost creepy amount of thought. Anyone check his greenhouse lately?

One breakout bit for me that is not mentioned in any of the promotions or on the cover are the two cops, Mortimer and Mayflower. These cops are actually quite aristocratic, but they put on the face of the low-brow sarcastic beat cop because, simply, that’s what people expected. Those two had me laughing out loud. I would really love to see more of those two show up later.

A complaint that I do have is that there are some editing problems. I know this seems like it shouldn’t be a significant issue, but for me it is and it breaks the flow of some otherwise sublime prose. It may be the teacher in me talking.

I’m looking forward to more of Hendrixson’s work, especially if it involves Mortimer and Mayflower in some way. I’d really like to see where this author goes and what else he’s got up his sleeve, since Bucket of Face, while having a relatively typical crime story, has such an interesting motif that it gives this typical story a fresh twist.

Bucket of Face by Eric Hendrixson earns 4 apple fritters out of 5.

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