Though few would argue he lived a full life, the death of Ray Bradbury June 5, at the age of 91, marked the close of one of the most imaginative minds to ever take the leap and put pen (or typewriter, or computer…) to paper. So as you visit your local Stark or Summit County library branch this week to check out the latest Page Stage and Screen recommendations, be sure to pick up a copy of my favorite, “Dandelion Wine,” or its much creepier “sequel,” “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” or perhaps the classic “Martian Chronicles.”
Meanwhile, may we suggest a few more items that, like Bradbury himself, embark on journeys that aren’t entirely what they seem…cue eerie Twilight Zone-y music here…
Who would have believed that the scariest 1970s era story this side of “The Exorcist” would have (also) been a farce? In “Sybil Exposed” (Free Press, 2011) journalist Debbie Nathan presents a much different story of the woman with 16 personalities than we are familiar with. Given the fact that Nathan is a 30-year veteran investigative reporter, and not a group of doctors taking – we now find – broad liberties with psychoanalysis, gives this fascinating historical “rewrite” (or perhaps re-right) credibility. The fact that the great impetus behind the book was some 200 letters written by Shirley Mason – whom the world would soon know as Sybil – to her grandmother between 1954 and 1974 give it shocking immediacy. After decades as the almost literal poster child for multiple personality disorder, “Sybil” can now tell her own story.
Speaking of things one might find hard to believe, if someone would have told me in 2007 that I would come to place a movie starring Nicholas Cage as a dead biker named Johnny Blaze on the same vaunted pedestal as the “Spiderman” series, I would have told them they were dreaming (for the record, “The Amazing Spider Man” looks visually…okay, amazing. But the jury is still out on whether Toby Maguire can ever be topped as Peter Parker…but I digress). But Ghost Rider genuinely won me over. And its 2012 sequel, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance now carries on that tradition – and you don’t even really need the 3D option to enjoy it. Though the labyrinth plot, involving a French priest tapping Ghost Rider to help him save some kid from the devil is somewhat hard to follow at times, Cage – of all people – once again pulls off this character with a perfectly deadpan aplomb, although I still can’t really put my finger on why exactly. Perhaps the same reason I like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Conan movies; Cage simply doesn’t have to act much when he is playing ghost on a burning motorcycle.
Another intriguingly - or perhaps beguilingly - detached artist whom we haven’t seen, or heard, in a while is Fiona Apple.See Apple’s new disc Idler Wheel is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (Epic 2012) finds the unofficial queen of the long title in fine morose form, yet somehow even stronger and more defiant than the 19-year-old who shocked even the Ani Defranco/Tori Amos listening public in the mid-90s with gorgeously spiteful and attitude-filled on songs like “Boxer” and “Criminal.”
Page 2 of 2 - Now 34, Apple continues to show that minimalist production, frustratingly Prince-like public image guardedness, and one of the most underrated blues-jazz voices in the business can still be as enchanting as ever. In fact, it is sometimes disturbing to realize how enjoyable lyrics such as “While you watched someone else/I stared at you and cut myself” (“Valentine”) can be. Odes to holiday saints in song titles aside, Chet Baker, I dare say, would be proud.