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Tipping Point: Our picks and pans ('The 355,' 'My Heart is a Chainsaw,' 'Weather Clock')

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BOOK TIP

My Heart is a Chainsaw

Stephen Graham Jones

After years of toiling in near obscurity, Native American college prof/horror writer Jones is hitting the big time. Recent novels like "The Only Good Indians," "Mongrels" and a collaborative effort, "Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn't Fly" with superstar Paul Tremblay, have resulted in deserved fame and critical approval. But with "My Heart is a Chainsaw," Jones hits another gear. "Chainsaw" is narrated by the irresistible rebel Jade Daniels, who hopes her essays on the slasher film phenomenon will earn enough credits for that elusive high school diploma in her depressing blue collar hometown of Proofrock, Wyoming. A loner who is estranged from her white mother and sick of her drunken Indian father, Jade finds escape in the minutiae and formulae of slasherdom through the prism of an actual mass slaying that happened at a camp at nearby Lake Indian decades ago. Jade is a spectacular triumph whose observations and exterior cynicism obscure a tender loneliness and wonderfully bring to mind — yes, I'm saying it — Holden Caulfield. And HE didn't have to outfox the real-life slasher who seems to have hit town.

— Rick Koster

MOVIE TIP

The 355

Good idea: Have a group of truly great actresses lead the cast of a trying-to-stop-villains-from-destroying-the-world thriller. Bad idea: Forget to punch up the script. “The 355” features Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o and Penelope Cruz. The story is trite, and the screenplay doesn’t give the stars things to do or say that live up to their acting talent. If you must know the details: A guy creates a computer gizmo (that’s my “does it really matter?” description) that can hack into EVERY system everywhere. Bad guys want to get the item to use for eeeeevil purposes. The spies played by Chastain, et al, try to stop them by chasing them, shooting at them, punching them, kicking them, and, of course, outsmarting them. All this is played as deadly serious most of the time. The actresses deserve much, much better.

— Kristina Dorsey 

MUSIC TIP

Weather Clock

July Skies

I consider it my duty to keep abreast of all that's new and happening in the world of music, which is why I want you to pounce on this dreamy album of instrumental guitar pastorals. Don't expect actual riffs or fingerpicking or even recongnizable chordal blueprints. July Skies — masterminded by British musician Antony Harding — unrolls  sonic tapestries and cloudscapes that sound like The Edge, David Gilmour and Robert Fripp having a chiming contest. Harding himself describes his efforts on "Weather Clock" as an attempt to capture the nostalgia and magic of  "lost youth" and "endless childhood summers." It's great, meditative and soothing stuff. Oh, yeah: it came out in 2008, so that I'm just now discovering it shows how adept I am at "staying on top of it."

— Rick Koster

 

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