Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Speed Reader

By Devin D. O'Leary, Michael Henningsen and todd Gibson

JUNE 1, 1998: 

The Official Godzilla Compendium
by J.D. Lees and Marc Cerasini (Random House, paper, $16)

Toho Studios recently cracked down on a few folks who were publishing "unauthorized" Godzilla books. Now comes a 100-percent officially licensed tome. Fortunately, Toho has turned to a couple of clever fanboys to write this one up. Cerasini is the longtime publisher of the Godzilla worship 'zine G-Fan. Cerasini, meanwhile, has written a number of young adult books about Big G. The result of their collaboration is a cursory but entertaining look at Godzilla's movie history. Short reviews of each film are peppered with plenty of great pictures. The reviews, of course, are far too slavish. (They actually praise King Kong vs. Godzilla, saying special effects were done by "Eiji Tsuburaya, who had reached the zenith of his craft"--sorry guys, but Kong looks rattier than my bathroom carpet!) And you won't find as much behind-the-scenes info as in David Kalat's A Critical History and Filmography of Toho's Godzilla Series. Still, the monster profiles in the back are indispensable. A guest article by Kenneth Carpenter, Ph. D., on the paleontological view of Godzilla is intriguing, and a chapter by a child psychologist on "Godzilla as a Parenting Tool" brought a tear to my eye. A must for fans. (DO'L)

Somewhere in the Night: Film Noir and the American City
by Nicholas Christopher (Owl Books, paper, $13.95)

Along with jazz, film noir is one of the true American art forms. As with jazz, it was a bunch of snotty French who first popularized (and subsequently overintellectualized) the genre. Stripping away the accreted layers of academia and cutting to the emotional heart of the matter, poet and occasional novelist Nicholas Christopher unveils his theory about the dark, crime-laden genre and its particular shaping by the architecture and mood of the American metropolis. Christopher examines the characters, sexual roles and cinematography styles from numerous noir classics like Kiss Me Deadly, Out of the Past and Double Indemnity. His greatest concentration, though, is on the image of city as labyrinth, the city as battlefield, the city as Purgatory. In Christopher's mind, the city is a world "composed in shifting parts of blood and cement, nightmares and iron." This is not some cold intellectualizing of an art form. This is a poetically written homage to the broken-down detectives, corrupt cops and emasculating femme fatales who populate the claustrophobic urban worlds of post-war cinema. (DO'L)

by Ben Watt (Grove, cloth, $21)

While all of us, at one time or another, require the kind of medical care and attention available only in a hospital setting, relatively few of us find ourselves there in life-and-death situations prior to middle age. An extended stay in the hospital triggers any number of both physical and psychological responses in patients, responses that resonate long after one has been released. But for Ben Watt, one half of musical group Everything but the Girl, such responses have translated into a book that is at once a detailed layman's account of extended illness and a harrowing biography of a life changed by it. Patient is the rare sort of book that allows you to feel with the author--from fear to helplessness and ultimately acceptance and triumph. (MH)

Sacred Journeys in a Modern World
by Roger Housden (Simon & Schuster, cloth, $25)

Sick of the crappy, oversized and over-priced travel books proliferating at bookstores around the country? Then follow in my steps and allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised by Sacred Journeys in a Modern World. Roger Housden, a writer with a supreme wanderlust, shares some of his journeys with us with a sensitive and articulate voice. Housden views travel not as a means to an end or as a checklist of sights to be seen but as a way of shaking the soul out of its everyday doldrums and "sensitizing the world around him." Heady stuff, but he backs it up, making Big Sur, the Sahara desert, the Ganges river and even New York City swim with life and color through his intimate, emotional prose. And although the book occasionally verges dangerously close to New Age sentimentality, Housden on the whole reads like a beat poet who sobered up and settled down as a small town librarian. He supports his text with photographs that aren't so powerful in and of themselves but still serve to pull you deeper into his world. It is a tenderly enjoyable book that will inspire the traveler inside of you. (TG)

--Devin O'Leary, Michael Henningsen and Todd Gibson

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