[Book Review] The Girl On The Train

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This has been compared again and again to Gone Girl, a book which, in my opinion, is cheesy as hell, but about as thrilling as it gets.

It is, however, no Gone Girl. The Girl On The Train (Paula Hawkins, 2015, 325 pages, Riverhead Books) starts with the same premise: nothing is what it seems, people are deceiving, a crime that gets weirder and weirder. Unlike Gone Girl, though, there isn’t a single charismatic bone in any of the character’s bodies: everyone is about as unlikable as it gets, including the main narrator, Rachel. People don’t even act like normal people, doing things just for the sake of the plot, making it difficult for the reader to truly immerse themselves into the story.

It also alternates chapters between characters, which is a great way to keep a thriller’s pacing frenetic, as we’ve been shown again and again by Dan Brown, for example. A technique that is basically incapable of not working in a crime book fails to work here, for the very simple reason that the author doesn’t understand that, in order for a reader to actually crave that narrator’s next chapter, you pretty much need a cliffhanger by the end of every single one. Just read any Brian K. Vaughan comic book and you’ll see how effective that can be.

And the ending, oh, the ending. You can see it coming from about a third into the book, which means everything that comes afterwards should be a balls to the walls collection of crazy events, something that Gone Girl does very effectively. Yet the same patterns are repeated, characters keep doing stupid things just so they can come back to bite them in the ass and deliver a dozen more pages, everyone involved is completely oblivious to basically everything you’ll have picked up a hundred pages before.

As if the predictability weren’t frustrating enough, by the time the book reaches its climax it goes on and on and on, repeating things again and again, in such an annoying way that it is an actual relief to get to the end of it. If the reader already knows who did it, you might as well give them something really crazy, thrilling and unexpected to hang on to later. The comparison keeps showing up, but isn’t that what Gone Girl does most effectively?

Of course, it still is good enough to keep you going until the end. But let’s face it: if you have limited hours of reading in your life, you should probably be spending them on something that is better than a “good enough” book.

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[Book Review] The Disaster Artist

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Imagine the worst movie ever made. No, seriously, THE WORST. Now multiply it by 100. That might give you an idea of what it’s like to watch the absolutely hilarious, confusing, nonsensical The Room, a 2003 movie written, produced, directed and starred (YES IT’S THAT BAD) by a very strange person named Tommy Wiseau.

The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made (2013, Simon and Schuster, 270 pages) is lead actor Greg Sestero’s account on how the movie got made and how the hell he ended up in it. It alternates chapters following his getting to know Tommy Wiseau and the making of the movie itself, revealing that this absolute masterpiece could have turned out to be much, much worse.

Sestero is as charming a storyteller as it gets: by the end, the reader feels like part of the cast, exhausted by Tommy’s tantrums and relieved to see the filming process get wrapped. All of this is made an incredibly fast and enjoyable read thanks to Sestero’s comic insights into Wiseau’s mind and that of everyone involved in making the movie.

What makes this such a great book, however, is that it never resents the craziness; in fact, it embraces it and redeems it. I honestly don’t think it’s possible to come out of reading this without warming up to Tommy and his determination to make it in Hollywood even if Hollywood constantly spits on his face. Sestero does an incredible job at portraying this dark, mysterious and complex person as more than the guy we laugh at at the movie theater. Wiseau is human, heart-breakingly so, and you’re constantly reminded of that when his weaknesses and insecurities show between the cracks of his megalomaniac and arrogant exterior façade.

Set to be adapted to movie by James Franco (who will play Wiseau himself), The Disaster Artist is a treat to anyone who has ever watched The Room or is in any way interested in the backstories of Hollywood movies. To be quite honest, it’s a great read to anyone interested in, well, interesting people, because if there is anything to be said about Wiseau, it’s that he succeeded at being completely different from everyone else.

To sum up: watch the movie, read the book, and come and thank me when you manage to stop laughing.