“John From Cincinnati”
Call this a leap of faith, but with “The Sopranos” now gone for good, HBO’s new series, ostensibly about a family of surfers, may possibly help soften the blow. HBO has lost “Six Feet Under,” “Deadwood,” and “The Sopranos” in the last two years, and desperately needs one of its new shows to fill the enormous void those great shows left behind. “John From Cincinnati” was created by David Milch, the mastermind behind “Deadwood,” as well as “NYPD Blue.” With “NYPD Blue,” he took the cop show into uncharted territory, scandalizing the network and causing some sponsors to fall away before the show ultimately emerged as a big hit. With “Deadwood,” he essentially redefined the western.
Now he seems to have created something we have never seen before, if the pilot episode is any indication—a show about surfers that seems both quirky and ominous, straightforward in one scene and surreal, even supernatural, in the next. Is this David Lynch directing “Point Break”? Who knows what Milch is up to? I don’t, but I will certainly be tuning in on Sundays trying to find out.
Cormac McCarthy, The Road
Cormac McCarthy is widely regarded as the best American writer since Faulkner, to whom he is frequently compared. After spending decades as a cult hero to a small but devoted band of academics and New York Times Book Review subscribers, McCarthy has finally broken through in the mainstream—not only did The Road win the Pulitzer Prize, it was recently chosen by Oprah as her “Book of the Month,” and McCarthy, a famous recluse who has granted exactly two interviews in 40 years, actually appeared on her show just a couple of weeks ago.
All of that said, McCarthy’s increased popularity is certainly not the result of any compromise in the overwhelming bleakness, nor are his recent books any easier to read. The Road, with its post-apocalyptic setting, focuses on the relationship between a father and a son as they struggle to stay alive in a world where there is little food or shelter, and danger lurks around every bend. The basic plot concerns their attempt to make it to the coast, where they hope to find ... something else, some spark of hope. But really, it is just an arbitrary goal, something to keep them moving, a reason to stay alive.
If all of this sounds unbearable, at times it nearly is, but the real spark of hope is the relationship itself, and there are many heartbreaking moments of tenderness that keep us going as well. Reading McCarthy is never easy, but it is an investment well worth making. The Road is austere, horrible, beautiful, and moving, all at the same time. How many books can you say that about?
The Apples In Stereo, New Magnetic Wonder
They have been around for nearly 10 years, but I had never happened upon their sunny, fuzzed up pop sound until I heard this album a couple of weeks ago, and now I can’t stop playing it. Imagine the Beatles crossed with Pavement, or the Beach Boys crossed with Yo La Tengo. Mostly, it is just a great collection of songs, perfect for summer. Seek this one out and be surprised by how good it makes you feel.
— By Chris Cox