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Review: The Little Girl and the Cigarette, Benot Duteurtret

May 4, 2011

I have been stuck reading a fairly beefy book. so i have nothing new for you.
Reposting a review from my personal website written mid 2008
hope no one minds


The Little Girl and the Cigarette

Caution: There are spoilers to a certain degree in this post.

The majority is described in the first two chapters or the back of the book, so don’t feel like reading this should deter you from picking up the book anytime soon. it doesn’t spoil more than a few points.

i really enjoyed this book. this is mostly rambling about the plot line and how awesome it was.

This book was originally written by French author Benot Duteurtre. Translated to English some time in the last couple years by Charlotte Mandell.

In the not to distant future, the world is not too different than it is now. People still work their jobs, there is no massive shift in the polar ice caps causing destruction. The human race is not nearing extinction, nor is it being harassed by aliens. Now you may be saying to yourself “Wait a second.. Jason.. what are you reading? you always have something a little bit bizarre in hand. and this is sounding a little tame.” Well, this is no exception.

In Powells books one day, Jenn picked up a bright pink book with a thick laminate cover. it was soft and a little unnerving in hand, somehow, too smooth to the touch, slightly velvet in that overproduced plastic sheeting kind of way. The binding on the book read “The Little Girl and the Cigarette”. The front and back covers are basic in structure showing the typical bar code, but also the above image. Jenn bought it and read me the synopsis. It rapidly became a “must read” and was catapulted to the top of my reading list.

The book opens in a world that is far too PC, too careful, too “nice”. People accused of a crime are put into a common court system which is televised and broadcast to the public. Generally, the public has formulated their own opinions a long time before the hearings begin, due to mass media saturation. Not too much difference from today right?

Slight spoilers follow, but i attempt to be careful with presentation..

Plot line one: The author is a bit heavy handed at times, as in the case of the first main character introduced, Desire (Desir’ee) Johnson. Desire is aptly named, though seemingly mispronounced in it’s use as a name instead of a feeling/want. Desire is in prison for a murder he claims he did not commit. He is in prison, not because there was evidence that he killed a police officer, but instead, because he stated in court that if he was to kill a man, he would want it to be a bastard such as the one he was accused of killing. This was enough for the court. Desire is now rotting in prison and awaiting his own execution.

Desire (not the name) is exactly what saves him from death. On the day of execution, his final request is to have one final cigarette. The difficulty is that there is a general ban on smoking in all public buildings, including the prison. Will his last wish be fulfilled as the antiquated law books advise it should? Should the law upholding the rights of all the other citizens in the building be upheld instead, and his last cigarette be denied in defense of the lungs that might be affected?

This is an obvious conundrum for anyone trying to climb the career ladder. They don’t want the wrong decision hanging over their head. It would haunt one into unemployment.


Queue plot line two: A man is indifferent to children. They stay out of his way, and he is generally happy with that. Our culture has come full swing to the position where children are a blessing. They are pure and clean and can do nothing wrong. Our secondary protagonist works for the city, and in the main city hall offices, he spends every day tortured.

The mayor of the city has performed cutbacks that laid a great deal of people off. in order to offset the stigma associated with layoffs and cutbacks, he has converted all of the newly opened space in the governmental buildings. The newly freed space becomes a full time daycare facility for anyone who needs it. Children run rampant across the building, and people are advised not to disturb them from their processes. anyone who continually causes issues or bitches gets flagged as a “hater of children” and people treat them differently.

our protagonist is a smoker. the general smoking ban has extended itself into the private sector, causing individuals to be unable to smoke in their own homes. he starts feeling a rebellious urge.

taking 6 months, he slowly creates a smoking area in a disused bathroom in his office building, someplace he can creep away to and not be caught by any of the building wide sensors, checking for elements that might harm others, especially the children.

One day he gets caught by a young girl while smoking. His butt goes out the window, he yells at the girl. In retaliation, she tells the world that he was lewd toward her in the bathroom. As a smoker, a known “hater of Children”, and an adult male, he it put in jail nearly instantly.

They ask, why would a child lie about something like that and the answer is, they would not. Everyone convicted of Crimes Against Children always state they are innocent.. these two factors combined make him a losing case, fucked by the system and officially ruined for life.

oh yeah, and a woman was hit by his cigarette butt and is suing.

– Jason

The little girl and the cigarette by Benot Duteurtre

  • Paperback: 187 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House (March 1, 2007)

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

April 28, 2011

Hey! This is the first time I’ve not recycled a review from my blog. Yay new reviews!

I am late to the party, having just read On the Road by Jack Kerouac. I wonder if it is my age (a really old 27) that caused me to be more irritated than enthralled by this book, or that my student loan payments force me to stay responsible. There’s no dropping everything and running away for this girl.

On the Road is a landmark American novel, as it helped define the “Beat generation” and explored this diverse country of ours. It is written in a palatable sort of stream-of-consciousness; it is much easier to follow than, say, Mrs. Dalloway. It has that “THIS IS HAPPENING NOW” vibe, which is remarkable given it’s fifty years old. Check this out: “As the cabby drove us up the infinitely dark Alameda Boulevard along which I had walked many and many a lost night the previous months of the summer, singing and moaning and eating the stars and dropping the juices of my heart drop by drop on the hot tar…” (222). Obviously, Keruoac did an amazing job writing the thing: why does it irritate me?

The back cover (Fifteenth printing 1971) reads “The book is ultimately a celebration of life itself…” I believe that to be true, if you are a selfish jerkwad. This novel chronicles the cross-country adventures of our narrator Sal Paradise, a writer, and his many friends. The primary influence on his life is Dean Moriarty, who falls into jerkwad territory. In the aughts we call guys like this “douchebag,” but that may be too soft a term for ol’ Dean. So, Kristina, what is so irritating about this?
Dean is based on real life Beat groupie Neal Cassaday. Jack writes=Sal writes. Neal clowns around=Dean clowns around.

I am not going to belittle the accomplishments of the Beats. That’s not why I am here. The Beats helped America get less prude and do away with stupid obscenity laws. They were a necessary movement for both literature and society as a whole. They inspired the hippies, man. Can you dig? Yes!

No, instead, I am going to say that I give this book three point five out of five stars because Dean Moriarty is such a jackass. It’s a damn shame he’s based on a real person; it reminds me that far too many people like this exist. Sure, Dean could be a sweet guy and care about his friends…but he is also a low-life who couldn’t support his brood of children by several baby-mamas. I’m sorry you had a tough life, Dean, but please, use a condom. Hedonism=yay! Not taking responsibility for things=boooo. Dean is Chaotic Evil.

Dean is a necessity to this book because he inspires so much of Sal’s action. He’s a deadbeat muse. Sal, on the other hand, seems pretty tame. It’s never his idea to steal cars or destroy things. But he goes along with it, because, hey, it’s fun. So how, exactly, are we celebrating life? By behaving like complete jackasses with utter disregard for others! YAY FUN CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES COME ON. Obviously I am embittered by this.

Aside from the characters’ moral shortcomings (which doesn’t make a book bad; it’s just hard to swallow when this book is sold as a “celebration of life”), this book is pretty great. Keruoac’s prose makes you feel there. It’s not just because they are based on real people, but because he finds those minute details that make a character feel real. Check out this description of the hyperkinetic Dean (114):

Furiously he hustled into the railroad station; we followed sheepishly. He bought cigarettes. He had become absolutely mad in his movements; he seemed to be doing everything at the same time. It was a shaking of the head, up and down, sideways; jerky, vigorous hands; quick walking, sitting, crossing the legs, uncrossing, getting up, rubbing the hands, rubbing his fly, hitching his pants, looking up and saying, “Am,” and sudden slitting of the eyes to see everywhere; and all the time he was grabbing me by the ribs and talking, talking.

I felt there: Colorado, Texas, Mexico, New York, et al. Keruoac does wonders for the reader. But is imagery enough? No, it’s not. Luckily, we get a lil’ bit of philosophizing in, too. At times this is just pretentious conversations dropping Schopenhauer‘s name, but at others, it gets good—sweeter, even.

In driving past indigenous Mexicans, Dean was bewildered by the simple lives they lead and their isolation from modernity (197):

Notice the beads of sweat on her brow,” Dean pointed out with a grimace of pain. “It’s not the kind of seat we have, it’s oily and it’s always there because it’s always hot the year round and she knows nothing of non-sweat, she was born with sweat and dies with sweat.” The sweat on her brow was heavy, sluggish; it didn’t run; it just stood there and gleamed like a fine olive oil. “What that must do to their souls! How different they must be in their private concerns and evaluations and wishes!” Dean drove on with with mouth hanging in awe, ten miles an hour, desirous to see every possible human being on the road.

So I guess I don’t hate Dean completely, given his hunger for new experiences and appreciation for the little things. Everyone should definitely read this book, but keep in mind that it’s not all romantic as we tend to think of the Beat generation. It’s often sad.


Review: Secrets of a Fire King, Kim Edwards

April 20, 2011

I am not one who normally invests time in short stories. It is not that I dislike them, more that I find them unsatisfying. I get involved and dedicated to an idea and find it cut short. This is expected as it is the intent of the medium.

A result of this is that I either avoid them completely, or read them, and feel that my opinion is not a fair reflection of the work. So I rarely write reviews of collections like this.

This stated, Kim Edwards’ collection of shorts ‘The Secrets of a Fire King’ was excellent.

Thirteen vignettes are carried here, and for the most part, each was impressive. They are almost elusive amorphous fables, each having a lesson to learn from, but requiring interpretation. Most center around personal evolution, both emotional and spiritual, but none are heavy handed enough to just say “this novel is about XX”.

Folks who read this should be made aware that much of the work is darker than her other writings. Many of the tales have an undercurrent of tragic humanity that is gripping. This is no “Memory Keeper’s Daughter”.

One of the stories here stands out every time I think about it. The third story, ‘A Gleaming in the Darkness’ is my favorite. The story centers around a cleaning woman in a scientific laboratory. She is uneducated and obsessively idolizes the woman who runs the lab, Marie Curie. She wanders the lab and fiddles with jars and ampoules that glow beautifully in the darkness of the lab.

The second favorite was the title story ‘Secrets of a Fire King’. With out going into too much detail, it was fairly amazing. It details the love triangle between a man, woman, and boy who are in a traveling side show.

This collection is well worth picking up. Surprisingly, it is commonly found in stacks of discount books at Borders and other stores, so you may be able to get it very cheap. This is not a reflection of the authors work, instead Penguin Publishing’s failure to properly market this remarkable book. I do not know what they put into play during the marketing of this, but it obviously was not enough or was completely approached wrong.

  • Pages: 272
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics) (2007)
  • ISBN-10: 9780143112303
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143112303

Jason –

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

April 14, 2011

Last time I posted, I promised a new review this week, not a previously published one. Well, guess what, I’m a liar. Err, it was #NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement. My excuses are as follows: party planning, party having, another party planning, crafting for parties, subbing a lot, working at my other job some, pretending you care, etc. Anyway, I did finish reading On the Road, but I haven’t crafted a review yet. I can tell you one thing: Dean Moriarty is stupid.

Today’s review is prompted by the news that Paramount picked up the videocassette rights to Ray Bradbury’s collection The Martian Chronicles. I never watched the TV version, but that’s because I heard it wasn’t worth it. Of course, people say The Ice Cream Man isn’t a good movie, but I say Clint Howard deserves an Oscar for that role. Back to the point: The Martian Chronicles could potentially inspire an epic film. It could also inspire a disappointment: I frakkin’ love Bradbury and this collection. Anyway, here is my review, originally posted two years ago.

P.S. One of the search engine terms that drove a visitor to my blog yesterday was “Kristina Martian.” COOL HUH?

KK’s review is thus: The Martian Chronicles is badass. Read it.

Now it’s time for some ruminations. Why did I enjoy The Martian Chronicles so much? Sure, it’s speculative, but it’s realistic also. It’s definitely a parable for what we do to each other and our planet. The novel traces Mankind’s conquering of Mars:
1. We explored Mars, surprised to find a sophisticated civilization
2. We inadvertently killed the native population with a common illness
3. We destroyed what the Martians had so carefully crafted: their strong buildings, their logical faith, and their unique knowledge
4. We covered Mars with ill-fabricated edifices and urban sprawl as we colonized there
5. We fled Mars when we thought Earth needed us
6. Then we blew up Earth in a nuclear war, leaving two battered planets to waste, save for a slice of our population

So #5 and 6 haven’t yet happened, but they’re entirely likely—or something like them. Look at what I’ve outlined above: this is history repeating itself. It’s manifest destiny, Mars-style (hmm, that’d be a good TV show—or US policy).

That is why I think this book is so badass. Bradbury moves humans to a new planet, and we fuck it up. It seems realistic to me!

The novel is really a series of short stories, taking place from January 1999 to October 2026. Of course they’re connected; we see some characters recur throughout. But taken separately, each story makes its own point. All together, it sums up man’s folly.
There’s plenty of futurist speculation and pointed social satire. I think I’ve said enough to bait you into reading it, so I won’t go into the specifics about each story, or about the character. I leave you with this tantalizing tidbit (64):

“… Well, these Martians have art and religion and everything.”
“You think that they knew it was all about, do you?”
“For my money.”
“And for that reason you started shooting people.”
“When I was a kid my folks took me to visit Mexico City. I’ll always remember the way my father acted—loud and big. And my mother didn’t like the people because they were dark and didn’t wash enough. And my sister wouldn’t talk to most of them. I was the only one that really liked it. And I can see my mother and father coming to Mars and acting the same way here.”

Spender, the shooter of five crewmates while on Mars, was disturbed by the others’ treatment of Martian artifacts; he compares their actions to his parents’ (and Americans in general) while in a foreign locale. Spender, in his exploration of Mars, realizes the Martians had discovered the meaning of life (67):

“Man had become too much man and not enough animal on Mars too. And the men of Mars realized that in order to survive they would have to forgo asking that one question any longer: Why live? Life was its own answer. Life was the propogation of more life and the living of as good a life as possible…”


P.S. I see that is was made into a series. BETTER WATCH! Thanks, YouTube.

Review: Pr0n 5tars

April 6, 2011

Review: Pr0n 5tars-

Pr0n 5tars is a world wide retailer of “Classy” online pornography. This was all they were until Human alien hybrids began quietly infiltrating their corporate offices. Their initial steps into the company went unnoticed, beginning with an HR rep who moved in with out anyone remembering who hired her. Soon after, a long term hiring freeze was lifted and a bevvy of slick haired young recruits make their way in. All of the recruits are geared towards a single task. The company will be the first to send live porn feeds to space.

The world doesnt get it. Why would you send Porn into space? There is no one there to watch it. Humans are on the planet surface. This is a waste of good porn. “Put it on the internet where it belongs”, they say. “give it away on the streets with free money and pizza”, others say.

Pr0n 5tars rebukes them. There are humans in space who need this porn, their porn. They claim that the cosmonauts on the space station cannot be with out. The world allows them to send pon into space for the cosmonauts sake, afterall, everyone knows they are just procrasterbating till they can return home. they need all the distractions they can get.

Frank Tanner is a mail room clerk at Pr0n 5tars. He has seen the influx of intra-office mail and knows that something big is about to happen at the corporate headquarters. It doesnt take a genius to notate that an increase in physical mail can be directly attributed to a decrease in digital. This meant secrets. Franks searches the mail, desperately looking for info. Why is Pr0n 5tars sending badly acted softcore/hardcore into space? Could it really be for the sake of lonely math geeks in zero G? Or is it more closely tied to the encoded messages in the porn that the grassroots news community claims they can prove the existence of?

Franks has a hunch that they are sending the porn further than the space station, past our solar system and into the stars beyond. Now all he needs is proof.


ok, so this is less of a review and more of a “what’s in it?’ blurb.. but that’s okay because i made this book up.
i would read it though… 🙂

so…. how are you doing today?

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

March 30, 2011

Today is the day I post the review for the final chapter in the Hunger Games trilogy. Now I bet you’re really interested in reading it, seeing how the first adaptation will begin filming later this year. Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence has been cast as my beloved Katniss. (Reminds me: I need to see Winter’s Bone.) Anyway, here we go. Next review will be On the Road, which I’m almost done with. Man, Dean Moriarty is such a jackass.

With Mockingjay, I finished the trilogy! I am so joyous because I feel like I’ve overcome something major. Once I started Hunger Games, this series was constantly on my brain. It’s so addicting; well-written young adult lit is like high-fructose corn syrup. You know there are things better for you, but it is just so sweet and immediately satisfying.

Mockingjay begins with Katniss visiting the ruins of her former home in District 12, struggling to determine reality. In Catching Fire she was sent into the Hunger Games again, and as this is the third book, you know she survived. But it wasn’t due to her ingenuity or the assistance of a loved one; she was set up to win—or at least escape—and has now become a cog in a much-larger machine, the rebellion. Now, this is something the reader has been cheering for all along, as the Capitol’s oppression was disheartening, to say the least. (Routine starvation, strict discipline, torture, meaninglessness.) However, now that the rebels have banded and are seizing control of the districts en route to the President’s manse, we readers hope for a brighter future for everyone. Katniss has accepted her role as the symbol of the rebellion: the Mockingjay did its job to ignite.

But it would be too easy to end the book with such a swift happily-ever-after. (Yay, Katniss is out of the Games and the Capitol is going down! The end.) Katniss has never taken direction well, and even though her team shares her intentions, she isn’t going to be used. Even though she suffers from PTSD like the rest of the Games alumni, Soldier Everdeen still manages to train in anticipation of seeing battle. She is disappointed to find, however, that her training was only to create more believable “propos,” or propaganda pieces. She’s still a pawn.

Katniss & crew end up in the midst of battle, though. Collins continues the motif of having a Game in each novel, as the Capitol is laid out with traps (pods) much like the arena. Luck, wit, and selflessness combine so that Katniss survives the trip through the city (unlike most of her platoon). But right as she sets sight on the President’s mansion, tragedy strikes: the worst thing that could happen, does. (I’m not spoiling it!)

However, this übertragedy, as predictable as it may have been, is necessary. As a result of it Katniss fully realizes her role as pawn for the rebellion, and that they use tactics common with the evil Capitol. It’s all very disheartening and disillusioning. But is anything ever positive in war? I was taken back to an essay question I had to answer on the AP US History test in 11th grade. It was something like: “Why did the U.S. drop atomic bombs on Japan? Was this the right decision?” I recall writing in my essay that, yes, it was the correct decision, because although we nuked 200k Japanese innocents, we prevented deaths of potentially millions of people. Now, of course, I recognize I was brainwashed by my history books—the ones written by the victors. Katniss faces this struggle in Mockingjay: she is currently on the winning side, but is it right?

The themes are more subtle in Mockingjay than the first two books in the trilogy, but I move just as valuable, but perhaps as not easily relatable. Therefore, I recommend Mockingjay and will recommend you read the trilogy as a whole. Each novel is a quick read, and although it’s young adult fiction, there are themes everyone can relate too. You lie if you say you are immune to romance, kicking ass, and heart-wrenching tragedy.


PS I don’t have any earth-shaking quotes to share from this book…I returned it to the owner, thinking, “meh, there’s nothing that really stands out as a blindingly amazing tidbit worth drop-quoting.” But on my notecard, I wrote “[page]377—being human.” I wonder what that means. If you read it, try to figure it out.

Review: The Host, Stephanie Meyer

March 23, 2011

My apologies in advance, but I am going to be a little bit negative for a few minutes. Not entirely negative though 🙂 just a little bit.

‘The Host’ by Twilight series author Stephanie Meyer was a sham, an enjoyable sham, but a sham all the same. Touted as her first “Adult Novel” (meaning not young-adult), readers will be left a wanting… wanting the adult aspect that is referenced in all the marketing material.

This was an adult novel only in the fact that it did not have teenage vampires and Werewolves in it. The writing style was juvenile and repetitive, it was completely lacking in difficulty. At most points, it felt like i was reading a really large 7th grade reader. But that aside, I have read a number of YA novels I have enjoyed, having even gone back and reread novels from when I was a kid.

Essentially, the book is about the human race, enslaved by a parasitic force that enters the body and controls the brain. The body lives on, slaved to the parasite until death. Most of humanity is inundated by these creatures, but a few “Wild” humans survive.

Protagonist Melanie, is infected, and the secondary entity is having trouble keeping the human personality caged. Melanie fights for control and escapes to the wild to search out uninfected humans.

blah blah blah, The Puppetmasters, blah blah blah, The Faculty, blah blah blah, Red Dawn… Invasion of the Body Snatchers, V- the TV series… The Diary of Anne Frank (yup).

From an adult perspective, she managed to do what everyone else in Hollywood does, she ripped of a crap ton of ideas from other people, smashed them all together, polished the turd, and called it shiny and new. But people like this approach in their media, often referred to as “Crappy good”. As a result, this blatant translucent storytelling cannot be viewed as a fault, only a symptom of our current culture.

With that said.. I enjoyed it.. A lot.
Its not for everyone, and it is trash fiction, but so long as you do not expect more than a shallow afternoon distraction, you may enjoy it too.


Side notes

Am I the only one that thinks the book cover looks like an eyeball coming out of some chicks armpit? Yeah yeah, I know, it is a nose, a really big, out of focus, overly airbrushed nose.. But it looks like an armpit to me. a giant vitreous fluid filled slightly hairy armpit.

Also, the Korean movie ‘The Host” is awesome. not related to this book in the slightest, and something that you should go watch. This was a great monster movie, not in the “rawr rawr scary” sense, but in the evolution of characters and fantastic cinematography sense.

— Jason

Click the movie poster below for the wikipedia page.