Friday, January 17, 2014


Wicked, by Gregory Maguire (1995), 406pp.

The entirety of this (too) long book can be summed up by Kermit the Frog's signature truism: It ain't easy being green.

At least, that's what Maguire is trying to convince us with his re imagining of the famous Wizard of Oz villain, the Wicked Witch of the West. From a theoretical standpoint, Maguire seems to have an admirable goal--to rewrite a canonical novel that reflects the perspective of a marginalized character (a la Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea) and incorporates postmodern observations about the instability of language. And admittedly, that sounds like a good premise.

From a literary standpoint, however, the execution of this novel is so shallow, gimmicky, and ultimately confused that I found it hard to finish. I persevered in the hope that something would happen to justify the massive popularity of this novel. It didn't.

The plot is a huge mess. It's overly elaborate and inadequately motivated. The things that happen seem to serve one of the two following purposes: 1) no purpose OR 2) the purpose of forcing in some element from the original Oz. Arguably, Wicked is at its worst when trying to merge its story with the events of The Wizard of Oz, and the last 100 or so pages feel like the  author's inelegant attempt to write himself out of a deteriorating plot line and into a predetermined ending. To make the premise of the novel work at all, though, Maguire needs to change the way the reader feels at the Witch's death. The only reason to reveal the end of a story beforehand is that you intend to show the reader something in the interim that will impact the way he/she feels about the end when it actually occurs. Wicked emphatically does not do this. In fact, the book's final scene is poorly conceived and pointless in comparison with the original ending. At least in the original it's clear why the Witch dies--she's evil. In Maguire's version, there are several possible reasons why she dies--she's stubborn and shortsighted; she's the butt of a cosmic joke in a world lacking meaning/order; the source material dictates that she has to. None of these, however, gives final significance to the plot as a whole.

The characterization is an equally bad problem. All else aside, the success of this book hinges on Maguire's ability to make the reader feel for, sympathize with, or even like his main character. He fails. Like the plot, Maguire's characterization of the Wicked Witch, Elphaba, is less complex and nuanced than it is confused and lacking intention. Even more, he turns his supposedly tough, gritty, and radical female lead into a psychological cliche. Consider the following set of circumstances, which characterize Elphaba's inner struggle:

1. The witch is ugly.
2. Because she's ugly, she's an outcast and an introvert.
3. Because she's ugly--naturally--she's an intellectual.
4. The witch's sister, on the other hand, is very pretty.
5. The witch's father loves the sister better.
6. But the witch doesn't need love; she's one tough bitch.
7. Then, one day, she falls in love!
8. But her love dies--and it's her fault.
9. She spends the rest of the book trying to atone for what was really just an accident.

Unfortunately, her guilt is self-aggrandizing rather than humane, and the last half of the novel feels like a practice in self-flagellation for both Elphaba and the reader.

Finally, I'd like to point out that calling a character the "Wicked Witch" when she is neither wicked nor a witch does not necessarily signify that you have investigated the nature of language or the nature of evil. More likely, this is a book that wants you to believe it discusses certain issues without really exploring them in meaningful way.

All in all, Wicked promises so much more than it delivers. I wouldn't recommend this read, unless you're just perversely interested to see how the train wreck plays out. Between multiple printings of the novel and the continued success of the Broadway show, I don't feel too bad for Gregory Maguire, though. He may not be an artist, but his shit sells.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Or, The Posts That Never Were.

Yes friends, it's that time again. That time when, before washing yourself in the Lethe of a few overpriced cocktails, you look back over the previous year and reflect on how very little you actually accomplished. Or specifically, in my case, you wonder how it came to pass that the number of dogs you own exceeds the number of blog posts you wrote in an entire calendar year. Not a leap year, thankfully, but nevertheless, still quite shameful.

So, as you probably guessed, I'm now going to round out the year with six shoddy, incomplete reviews of six books which, regardless of how I felt about them, deserve much better. In no particular order, these are the texts I failed to blog about this year:

1. The Poisonwood Bible, by Barabara Kingsolver (1998), 543 pp. Nominee, Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 1999.

Summary: Preacher Nathan Price moves his wife and four daughters from Georgia to the politically unstable Belgian Congo during the 1960s to pursue missionary work. Narration rotates among the women, showing how Africa and Price's zealotry shape their lives in profound and unexpected ways.

Review: Wowza. A novel of immense insight and scope, beautifully rendered emotions, and characters you can authentically love and hate. This one lingers.

2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2006), 550pp.

Summary: Liesel Meminger, an adolescent girl, finds a new home with foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann and her other neighbors on Himmel Street. However, the setting is Nazi Germany, and the narrator is Death, which is everything else you need to know.

Review: Interesting for its portrayal of Death as a tender and sympathetic figure, this was a highly emotional book that nevertheless failed to draw my sympathies. A novel that changed many people's lives, but not mine.

3. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer (2002), 276pp.

Summary: American writer Jonathan Safran Foer and his Ukrainian translator, Alex, attempt to track down a woman who allegedly saved Safran Foer's grandfather during Nazi campaigns in Ukraine. When they are joined by Alex's grandfather and dog, the plot turns madcap, but ultimately the story proves different than Jonathan expects, and the past resurges with lessons for all three men.

Review: Hilarious, imaginative, and penetrating--a marvel of a book. Safran Foer plays with the English language in ways you will still be thinking about when you go to manufacture Zs at night. Ignore the pretentious critics carping about historical inaccuracies (a book that is not a memoir but still has the author as a character is obviously taking liberties--as one can reasonably expect in a work of fiction); just find the book, read it, and love it.

4. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse (1922; translated to English in 1951), 156pp.

Summary: Siddhartha, a young many of high social rank, leaves his life of comfort in a quest to find spiritual clarity and reach Nirvana.

Review: A canonical favorite that came highly recommended, this book just didn't have the effect I was hoping for. A novel that changed many people's lives, but not mine.


5. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1951), 220pp.

Summary: Having been kicked out of yet another ritzy prep school, Holden Caulfield has two choices: return home early for Christmas vacation, which would alert his parents to his expulsion, or spend a few days wandering through New York City and expounding his general disgust for most of civilization. He chooses the latter.

Review: A book very much deserving of its status as a staple of American literature. As a portrait of growing up in the (post)modern age, the novel's investigation of identity and disillusionment are still extremely pertinent. Additional perks: it's funny! and you'll really get a bang out of Holden's mid-century slang.

6. Into the Wild by John Krakauer (1996), 224pp.

Summary: In September of 1992, the body of Chris McCandless, a 20-something from an affluent East coast home, was found in a bus in the Alaskan wilderness. John Krakauer wants to you understand how and--more importantly--why he ended up there.

Review: A really nicely executed work of nonfiction. I read this with a class of high school juniors, and we all enjoyed it quite a bit. Not only is it a page-turner but quite well-written and smartly structured, too. Highly recommend. (The film is also good if you can tolerate Emile Hirsch.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Great Gatsby (film)

The Great Gatsby, dir. Baz Luhrmann (May 2013), 143 mins. 
Bottom Line
Easily one of the most anticipated films of the summer, Luhrmann’s Gatsby is fairly evenly matched in terms of its successes and failures, leaving many audience members to regard it as a faithful adaptation yet a so-so film.

In my film as literature class, students break the analysis into three parts, so I’m going to practice what I teach and use the same categories below.

Narrative Elements
As far as book to film adaptations go, this is a very faithful one. In fact, I might argue that Luhrmann almost went too far in trying to make sure audiences knew he knew he was working with Fitzgerald’s material, leading to some questionable cinematic choices (see below). The one area where the film diverged significantly in terms of plot was the addition of a narrative frame depicting Nick in a sanatorium, where he is attempting to recover from his ordeal out East by writing about it. Despite forming a historically accurate link with Fitzgerald’s biography (his wife Zelda was in and out of institutions), I found this device little more than a hokey attempt to install Carraway as the narrator and justify his repeated narratorial interpolations. My questions here are: 1) how much justification does this really need, and 2) could there not have been a more elegant, less intrusive or obviously contrived way to go about it? (Morgan Freeman's Scrap in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby comes to mind as one of the best utilizations of the type of narration Luhrmann was shooting for.) 

Luhrmann is (perhaps?) a victim of coincidence here in that I could not watch Tobey Maguire at the typewriter without thinking of Ewan McGregor’s forlorn Christian in Moulin Rouge!, which used the same retrospective narration of a tragic death—in essence the same exact framing device. Also, the frame sequences recounting the conversations between Nick Carraway and his psychologist gave way too much information about how the audience was to view the characters in the story proper. The Gatsby mystique that persists through much of the novel is non-existent in the film because Nick instructs in the first few minutes that Gatsby is to be seen, specifically, as a figure of hope. Several times throughout the film, it seemed that information was given at the wrong time, making it that audiences were spoon-fed a “correct” understanding of the characters rather than being allowed to make their own decisions.

Cinematic Elements
The film’s direction has been an area of dissatisfaction with a number of people I’ve spoken to. Luhrmann has taken on high stakes literary adaptations before, but the stakes have risen even higher since and because of Romeo + Juliet. What I’ve gathered is that people have the expectation that Luhrmann’s films will show they something unexpected, essentially that he will take them places they didn’t even know they wanted to go. The problem is that Luhrmann has developed a highly specific and highly recognizable aesthetic, so when he employs that aesthetic a number of times, audiences get the feeling they’re seeing something that’s been “done.” I’m not saying this is fair, but I have to confess that at several points during Gatsby, I found myself being taken back to Moulin Rouge! via certain cinematic techniques. For example, the slow motion descent of Myrtle Wilson post-car-collision mirrors closely Satine’s fall from her aerial bar near the beginning of Moulin Rouge! The transition from extreme long shot to medium shot of a specific area via super-fast zoom is another device seen in both films (to clarify, this would be as if the Buchanans’ home were seen from across the bay, then the camera zoomed quickly to the butler at the front door, or if a shot of the Paris skyline zoomed to Satine inside her elephant). 

Now again, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with or inartistic about Luhrmann employing the same techniques across films. What I am saying, however, is that a slow motion fall or a super-fast zoom is the kind of dramatic editing technique that audiences are likely to remember. No one will ever complain about the frequency with which Spielberg uses eye-line matching because nobody even notices an eye-line match. Unfortunately, the audacity and innovation that first wooed Luhrmann fans might be the same that had them hoping for more from Gatsby. That said, the transposition of text onto the image at certain points in the film in order to remind audiences of the film’s textual beginnings is a choice I simply cannot get behind. Film adaptations shouldn’t bowdlerize source material, but neither should they try to become them. People interested in the text will read it, or—more likely—they already have.

Elements of the Misc-en-Scene
Actors/Acting: In my opinion, this was a well-put-together cast. Though I had some doubts when the castings were first announced, all the major players gave solid performances. In particular, I thought Carey Mulligan gave about as sympathetic a portrayal of Daisy Buchanan as possible. Given the fact that Daisy on the page is shallow and unsubstantial, Mulligan did a surprisingly good job of imbuing her with relatable human emotions and motivations. Leo DiCaprio’s Gatsby found the right mixture of cool detachment and irrational passion, Maguire embodied the Midwest with prudence but not prudishness, and Joel Edgerton, besides having the perfect voice and stature, appropriately captured Tom Buchanan’s banal greed and self-importance. Elizabeth Debicki was fine as Jordan Baker, though the screenwriters’ decision to reduce Jordan to a plot accessory in the film left Debicki without much meat to her character. [Recall that in the book Jordan’s comings and goings underscore the tension between Nick’s observation that she is “incurably dishonest” and Gatsby’s assertion that Miss Baker is “a great sportswoman” and therefore “wouldn’t do anything that isn’t all right,” a tension that dually confirms the dissolution of New York’s elite and Gatsby’s na├»ve denial of it.]

Cinematography/Costuming: Beautiful, lush, vibrant, decadent--what Baz does best. The shot of Gatsby with his soaking wet suit, red face, and blue eyes framed in Nick’s doorway was one of the best of the film.

Sound/Music: A lot was made of the soundtrack. For me personally, it was what it was, neither enhancing nor detracting from my experience of the film.

To conclude, I think Luhrmann took on a project perhaps more difficult than he even realized. Over the last century, The Great Gatsby has developed a symbolic meaning with almost as much force as (if not more than) its literal one. I can’t think of a harder task than trying to make a film about a man who is also the American Everyman trying and failing to restore a relationship with a woman who is also the Worthlessness and Unattainability of the American Dream. The bottom line is that the film isn’t the book, and no, it’s not even equally good in its own medium. But the book, to me (and I re-read it after seeing the film), is about disgust and decay, about a world that will only ever crudely approximate the one we’re looking for. The film doesn’t approach the profundity of the novel in this way, but it does, in my opinion, do a better job of illustrating the silly, frustrating, and often unwise longings of the human heart. Maybe there's room enough for both perspectives.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Snow Child

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (2012), 386pp. Nominee, Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 2013.

On Christmas Day of last year, I came home to find an unexpected package on my front porch. An unexpected book-shaped package. It was from a good friend I met in graduate school in North Carolina, with whom I sat many stifling summer afternoons on the unscreened patio of a bar and, as flies sipped leisurely from the condensate of our beers, pondered books and how we came so many miles to that spit of a town east of Raleigh.

On several occasions, my friend mentioned that a woman from his hometown of Palmer, Alaska had written a book I should read. As much as I trust this person’s taste in books, everyone who has ever heard, “my friend’s got a script,” “my friend’s got a band,” “my friend wrote a book,” etc, knows that these kinds of recommendations can raise red flags in all but the exceptionally un-cynical. So, it was with curiosity and at least the tiniest bit of skepticism that I opened the package to find Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child.

The Snow Child is about a middle-aged couple whose most fervent desire—to have a child—has eluded them, and so they move from Pennsylvania to Alaska to become homesteaders and escape the constant reminder of their disappointed dream. On the first snow of the year early in their stay, Jack and Mabel leave their cabin late at night to build a small snowperson, whom they outfit with a scarf, mittens, and berry-red lips. Soon afterwards, a young girl emerges from the woods, and Mabel remembers an old Russian fairytale in which a couple much like Jack and herself create from snow the child they have so longed for. From there the book walks a delicate tightrope between realism and fantasy in a way that proves both beautiful and wholly engaging.

Though it is set in the 1920s, The Snow Child gives almost no indication of this, at least not in terms of the cultural touchstones normally associated with the post-WWI era. Mention of flapper attire and Ford’s Model A truck sneak into the last chapters of the book, but The Snow Child is not as interested in history on a large scale as it is in the personal histories of its few but finely crafted characters. Ivey seems to have an incredible clarity of purpose in the way she depicts her characters—each is complexly motivated but totally honest. If there was a single line in this book that rang untrue, I can’t recall it.

For me, Ivey’s novel is evocative of Willa Cather, Robert Frost, and John Steinbeck. It’s a story about a people and a place, and the relationship between the two. Like Frost, my attitude toward nature is often ambivalent. I am not really the type of person who accepts the “circle of life” with much satisfaction, and so it can be easy for me to look at the way one life preys upon another as evidence that nature is indifferent, if not cruel. The Snow Child, however, finds balance in all things: fantasy and reality, artistry and pragmatism, concealment and revelation, presence and absence, life and death, nature and culture, self and others, desire and the fulfillment of desire. The story is told in a way that neither romanticizes nor convicts but seeks to understand and appreciate the world as it is.

In short, The Snow Child a marvelous book that I highly recommend and a prodigious debut from an author I hope to read more from. It seems like it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to enjoy a novel without having to think about the burdens of political relationships of one variety or another. And while I do also frequently enjoy this kind of thinking, politics shines a light on what divides us, when there are so many other elements of human experience that unite.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

All the Pretty Horses

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy (1992), 302 pp. Winner, National Book Award for Fiction, 1992.

Cormac McCarthy’s National Book Award-winning All the Pretty Horses is a novel which, frankly, deserves every bit of praise it’s received and possibly more. All the Pretty Horses tells the story of John Grady Cole, a sixteen-year-old who, in the wake of his grandfather’s death and parents’ divorce, leaves behind a crumbling life in San Angelo, Texas to ride—on horseback, yes—into Mexico with a friend named Lacey Rawlins. My younger brother, who recommended this book, put it to me roughly this way: “It all starts when a guy hides naked under a horse in a big storm.” (And really, who could resist a book with that synopsis?) The scene my brother described does not occur for nearly 100 pages, but it’s true that the course of John Grady and Rawlins’s trip does change significantly when they meet Blevins, a young boy of probably fourteen riding a horse of remarkable stature and dubious origins. And though I don’t think he’s completely naked, Blevins’s fear of lightening and attempt to take shelter beneath his horse does have profound and unforeseen consequences for the trio.

McCarthy is a novelist I’ve been both intrigued by and squeamish about for a while, since I know of his work mostly as renown for being extremely violent and/or depressing. The Road, which I had to repeatedly stop my boyfriend from attempting to read to me, strikes me as perhaps one of the most perfect marriages of content and novelistic style—in every way it is a bleak, bleak book. All the Pretty Horses is not without violence; in fact, it is at times a jarringly and unsettlingly brutal book. But on the whole, this novel gives the reader so much more than it takes out of her: it is beautiful and devastating and heartening and sometimes even funny all at once. McCarthy’s language, which I had to acclimate to at first, is both simple and grand; it has depth and lyricism and is somehow the type of language which in itself lends significance to whatever it says; it feels elemental, even—as one critic put it—mythic.

There is a film version of this book starring Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz that I tried but could not find anywhere, possibly because it is apparently not a very good film, as its TomatoMeter reading of 32% seems to suggest (that’s on, for the uninitiated). The movie was probably never going to measure up to the book, even if it had been well made, but regardless of the fact that I haven’t watched it I can still say that I object on principal to its casting. Not that I don’t like Matt Damon—in fact I think he would have been a perfect John Grady Cole had he not been THIRTY playing sixteen when the film came out. But it’s not just that the ages didn’t match up that makes me protest; rather, I protest because the sense that children are trying to act in a world which history has shaped and molded in ways they cannot possibly understand—which forms one of the book’s central tragedies—is lost if the characters are men instead of boys.

All the Pretty Horses is the first volume in McCarthy’s Border Trilogy, which I fully intend to read in its entirety, and—it should be clear by now—I would recommend it to pretty much anyone. It is a novel that grips while you’re reading it and lingers afterward, in that way only the best books can.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Yiddish Policemen's Union

The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon (2008), 464pp.

As the title suggests, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is a Jewish detective novel. It’s also a type of speculative fiction that takes its premise from an interesting and obscure footnote in American history: in 1938 Harold Ickes, FDR’s Secretary of the Interior, proposed a plan that would open up Alaska—still a territory at the time—to European Jews looking to escape Hitler’s path. This is actually true. It goes without saying that Ickes’s plan was never enacted, but TYPU speculates on what might have happened if it had been. Chabon’s story is set in the present day District of Sitka, a Jewish province on the verge of returning under the authority of the United States government in a process known as the “Great Reversion.” This prospect of the Reversion has unsettled the lives of Sitka’s Jewish residents, but none more than Meyer Landsman, a detective with the Sitka Police Department. And then adding to Landsman’s troubles—of course—is the dead body discovered in the hotel where he is living, with no clue to the victim’s or killer’s identities other than a half-played chess board on the side table.

A friend commented to me that he struggled with this book, his major complaint being that it was possibly “too Jewish.” While quickly adding that he did not intend this to be, shall we say, Anglo-centric, my friend hit on something important to understand about TYPU—this is a very Jewish book. The reader is given to understand that he or she must assume that all conversations are carried out in Yiddish, except in instances where characters are explicitly described as saying something “in American,” which in most cases is employed for the utilization of the a four letter word that rhymes with duck. Yiddish words are commonly used in the text, and the book comes replete with its own mini Yiddish dictionary in the back.

Even more than its vocabulary, the book is about the idea of home or a homeland—what, who, or where it might be and how it impacts individual and cultural identity. I heard a segment on NPR recently in which several Europeans discussed their perceptions of Americans. One comment that seems relevant here was the observation that Americans tend to be unaware of or disconnected from history, especially the historicity of their landscape. In TYPU, on the other hand, Jewish history—and geography as a way of documenting history—forms the backdrop for understanding how the characters might feel as they face the impending Reversion. The displacement of Chabon’s fictional Sitka Jews is just another movement in a diaspora that’s been ongoing for nearly three millennia.

I had previously expressed a difficulty getting started with TYPU (see here) that I now connect with the book’s tendency to start in the middle of things and work its way backward toward how they began. After a while I adjusted to and even enjoyed this technique; it added to the sense of events unraveling that the experience of reading detective fiction should be. While I did find the resolution of the mystery smart and satisfying, the end left me with perhaps the vague feeling that some minor details weren’t fully sorted out. On the whole, however, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union won me over with its earnest, likeably flawed characters, multi-layered plot, and skilled writing. I can say with candor it was all I could have hoped for from I book I bought for $2 because I thought it would look good in my bookcase. So while I might not recommend that anyone scratch off The Brothers Karamazov to put this book at the top of your list, I do think it was a fun read and one worth devoting the time to, if you have the inclination.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Neon Bible

The Neon Bible by John Kennedy Toole (1989 [written 1954]), 162 pp.

If you were to search for this book in Wikipedia, depending on exactly how you entered the title, you might end up at the disambiguation page. The Neon Bible is a book by John Kennedy Toole, written for a literary contest in 1954 by the then-16-year-old author and published posthumously for the first time in 1989; Neon Bible is a 2007 album by the kick-ass indie band Arcade Fire, as well as the title song from that album. The latter neither draws or borrows from or is based on the former—this is a great disappointment, because if it did that would raise both works to an unprecedented level of awesomeness. But as it is, the two are not related. I wanted to break that to you up front.

John Kennedy Toole has one of the more remarkable stories in recent literary history. Toole committed suicide in 1969 at the age of 31, leaving behind two manuscripts. Some years later, his mother Thelma, through a combination of chutzpah and probably no little bit of badgering, convinced writer Walker Percy to review Toole’s “masterpiece,” A Confederacy of Dunces; Percy aided in the publication of the novel, which subsequently earned the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981. A Confederacy of Dunces is, in my opinion, one of the most imaginative and entertaining books ever written. If you haven't read this book, don’t even bother finding out what it’s about, just open another tab in your web browser there and order it off Amazon. Do it now.

In style, subject matter, and pretty much any other point of comparison I can think of, The Neon Bible is nothing like A Confederacy of Dunces. If I didn’t already know, I would never guess they were written by the same author. Confederacy is a raucous satire populated with many off-the-wall characters, each with his or her own distinct voice. The Neon Bible is an elegant and elegiac bildungsroman told in the simple but insightful voice of the teenage narrator, David. Set in a small Mississippi town in the 1940s, the book is about loss, small-town politics, the bonds of family, war, the hypocrisy of religion, the plight of the impoverished South, and the influence these factors have in shaping one boy’s life.

Most comparisons I’ve seen have likened this book either to the works of great mid-century Southern writers like Eudora Welty and Flannery O’Connor or to Harper Lee’s classic bildungsroman, To Kill a Mockingbird. These may be apt comparisons, but they aren’t the ones that first come to my mind. For me, The Neon Bible evokes the style of Hemingway—an understated simplicity that belies great psychological and emotional depth—and the characterization of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. Also a story (more properly a “story cycle,” or set of related vignettes) about a small town, Winesburg is famous for its singular and slightly sad cast of characters. The Neon Bible has its own memorable and sometimes desperate figures: David’s father, who attempts against all logic to farm the inhospitable Mississippi clay of his backyard; Aunt Mae, an aging lounge singer who longs for the success she never found in her youth; a traveling evangelist eerily reminiscent of Paul Dano’s character in the film version of There Will Be Blood; and the preacher, who tries to control popular opinion from the Op/Ed page of the local newspaper. Winesburg also ends—as The Neon Bible does—on a train headed out of town.

The Neon Bible is a beautiful little story. Those who have read A Confederacy of Dunces will definitely want to check out Toole’s incredible range—it’s a tragedy that we don’t have more from this author. Win Butler of Arcade Fire should also consider taking a read; a Neon Bible II would always be welcome.

PS - Just for fun, Arcade Fire fans click here: