With the The Dark Knight Rises now in theaters, Batman is, once again, nearly unescapable, whether via television promos, billboards, or movie tie-ins. Obviously, this also means that the brooding Christian Bale, this generation's Bruce Wayne, is just as present and may have many geeks out there wondering what it takes to portray Wayne, what Bale is like in person, and how he rose to the level where he was chosen to play one of the most iconic and recognized superheroes of all time. If you find yourself wondering about the Bale behind the Batman, I suggest you check out BenBella Books’ Christian Bale: The Inside Story of the Darkest Batman by Harrison Cheung and Nicola Pittam, which tells the story of Cheung’s exciting and disturbing adventure during the years he spent as Bale’s publicist, marketer, and personal assistant. While Cheung’s account may leave Bale fans (the proper term is “Baleheads” - thanks, Harrison!) unsure how they feel about their beloved movie star, I can assure you that this book will shock you, make you laugh out loud, and forever change the way you view Hollywood, celebrities, and Mr. Bale himself.
There are several Expanded Universe books available for reading, and I—being the rather large Star Wars fan that I am—enjoy reading many of them. I’m actually way behind in my book list, but I wanted to read Darth Plagueis (by James Luceno), an early 2012 release, because of its information concerning Bane’s Sith Order and the Rule of Two, and especially because of how it directly relates to the Sith most responsible for the galaxy’s woes and well-known to even the most casual of Star Wars fans: Darth Sidious, better known as Senator/Chancellor/Emperor Palpatine.
For those in Geekdom who are not familiar with Smart Pop Books, I want you to know that you’ve been missing out - big time! Fortunately, I’m here to save your geek cred! Smart Pop Books is the pop culture imprint of independent publisher BenBella Books and offers a variety of engaging and thought-provoking, non-fiction titles focused on the discussion and exploration of the best of pop culture TV, books, and film. I was introduced to Smart Pop Books years ago when they stepped into the Whedon world with two must-read titles: Seven Seasons of Buffy and Five Seasons of Angel.
I am conflicted. I want to tell you all about James Renner’s first fiction novel, The Man from Primrose Lane. I want you to understand how this book is so gripping and filled with tension in one moment, yet entirely tender in another. I want to convey the way in which the characters drag you into their lives so completely, that despite the utterly fantastic events described, I found myself investigating whether this was actually a story of fiction at all. I want to share with you the torrential love and hate and heartbreak you will feel as the mystery opens up and swallows you whole. I want to write my way out of the rabbit hole that is The Man from Primrose Lane and meet you on the surface with a map and a glow-stick for when you read it. But, really, what fun would that be for you?
"The Sith have existed in the galaxy for centuries, lurking, waiting for their chance to seize control. As various Sith Lords emerged and rose to power, they recorded their thoughts, exploits, and plots for Sith control of the galaxy. When they fell, their knowledge vanished with them forever. Or so it seemed..."
As Fyodor Dostoevsky brilliantly displayed throughout his novel, Crime and Punishment, money united the most saintly and sinister of characters, as their eventual moral degradation heavily depended on their possession of it or lack thereof. By highlighting the characters Rodya Raskolnikov and Arkady Svidrigailov, Dostoevsky illustrated that all people, when faced with extreme economic conditions, possessed the ability to become immoral, self-involved, and ultimately evil. To remedy these issues of self-centeredness, pride, and greed, the underlying motif of the novel, poverty, demonstrated the need for ideals of self-sacrifice and compassion. Accompanied by the theme of self-alienation, the author attempted to convince the reader that the battle against moral degradation would only be won by bonding together in times of poverty. In essence, while Dostoevsky clearly depicted that this moral demotion was prevalent in society, he was certain to explain that this occurrence was unacceptable and needed to be rectified.
Zorba the Greek, a novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, enlightened the Western world with an exotic interpretation of premodern Greece, illustrating the country’s old-fashioned ideologies and cruel forms of justice through their rough interpretations of the law and moral code. By focusing on the unforgiving, patriarchal hierarchies of the peasants, Kazantzakis examined the society’s ideologies, strict religious guidelines, and overall way of life. Through this study, one of the novel’s themes, the application of the spirit of the law versus the letter of the law, clearly presented itself in the novel’s horrifying death scene of the “widow.” While Kazantzakis’ novel was not written to justify these actions, his description of the people and ideals of Greece successfully managed to educate the reader of their reasoning behind taking matters into their own hands.
As portrayed in the novel, premodern Greek society was much like that of ancient Greece, where men ruled over the family with an iron fist, and women served no other purpose than that of domestic creature, catering to the every whim of their husband. The common view historically was that women were inferior, sexually dangerous, and vulnerable. When described by Plato, “...the morals of women were ill reputed throughout Greece” (Jaeger 243). In fact, women without husbands were viewed as worthless and shameful in the eyes of the entire community, including both men and women alike. As was the case in Zorba the Greek, a widow in the village refused to remarry and was then scorned by the men that wanted her and the women that wanted to be her. In describing the widow, a villager commented, “She’s as you might say, the mistress of the whole village: you put out the light and you imagine it’s not the wife you take in your arms, but the widow” (Kazantzakis 97).
In the political suspense novel, All the President’s Men, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein phenomenally depicted their Pulitzer-prize winning investigation of the Watergate scandal, which had implicated and exposed the corruption of President Richard Nixon and his administration to the American public.
Chronicling the leads, successes, and failures of their investigation, Woodward and Bernstein created a sensational and shocking political drama which kept the audience on its toes, despite their previous knowledge of the resulting historical consequences. Capturing the totality and frightening reality of such widespread corruption throughout the United States government, the novel’s thematic emphasis embodied the quintessential mood felt throughout the American public. Corresponding with their anti-war sentiment for the Vietnam War, the people of the 1970s were becoming shockingly more aware that the government was not infallible, and that its limitless power threatened the ideals and standards on which the country and Constitution were founded. Overall, All the President’s Men greatly benefited and impacted American society, as it commemorated the complexities of the Watergate scandal for those who lived through it and those who unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) missed the events.