Tag Archives: Chad Kultgen

On Reading 100 Books (Actually, more like 50)

On January 21, 2014, I shared this picture on social media with the accompanying caption positing that I would attempt to read one hundred books during the year.


I’m so artsty it makes me sick.

Almost as soon as my fingers pounded out the goal, I realized that reading one hundred books was out of the question; it was already practically February.  So instead I said that reading fifty would be more likely.  I don’t have a calculator in front of me, but that’s like one every week or something.

As of writing this, I’ve read fifty-one books and am on my way toward finishing number fifty-two.

Now, I realize that this isn’t a great accomplishment by any means.  Still, I was impressed with myself for setting a goal and achieving it.  While I’ve always enjoyed reading–I do work at a public library after all–there was something almost stifling about knowing that I had to finish this goal.  In fact, almost as soon as I posted the picture, one of my friends commented that it’s better to keep the goals that you set to yourself because announcing the goals tricks your mind into thinking they have already been completed.

There were many times when I started reading a book and just couldn’t get into it, and wanted to stop.  For instance, I started reading The King in Yellow after watching True Detective over the summer, but I didn’t finish it until early December.  That’s outrageous! The book is only 256 pages.  I should have been able to knock that out in a weekend.  So I set it aside and read other books.  All the while I had this nagging feeling in the back of my head that the time I put into reading those hundred or so pages would be worthless unless I finished the book in its entirety.

So I pressed on toward my goal’s end.  I knew I had to, but it wasn’t just because I’d already put it out there on the Internet. I had to do it because if I don’t finish a book, I feel like I’m disrespecting the author.

When I first take a book in my hands, open the cover and feel the paper, crisp and dry between my fingers, I’m entering into an agreement with that author and into a relationship with that book.  For however many pages, I belong to that book and it belongs to me. When I put it down, even for a few days, I feel like we’ve abandoned each other. By not being interesting or not grabbing my attention, the book has recanted its agreement with me.

A recent study showed that putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, such as when you read fiction, improves your ability to show compassion.  Maybe that’s why I have trouble abandoning those books—because I know inside those pages, I’m someone else, maybe even someone better, if only for 300 or so pages.

Please save your psychoanalyses until the end, thankyouverymuch.

I’ve listed the fifty-one books on the next three pages, broken into three categories:  Good, Godawful and Great (because I like alliteration. If I liked assonance, I’d call them All Right, Awful and Amazing).  I briefly thought about ranking them, but then I realized that my rankings would do nothing to sway you if you’d already read a particular book and loved it and vice versa.  All I can say is that I highly recommend all the ones that I’ve put in the Great category.


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October: A Month of Movie Adaptations

As it turns out, there are quite a few movie adaptations of great books coming out this month.  So, if reading a book is too much of a commitment for you, maybe you can catch its movie adaptation instead.

Gone Girl (October 3)

When Gillian Flynn’s novel first came out, we couldn’t keep it on our shelves. Actually, we still can’t.  When I heard that David Fincher (Zodiac, The Social Network) was directing an adaptation, I decided to see what all the fuss was about.  Am I ever glad I did.  The titular girl disappears on her fifth wedding anniversary and her husband is the primary suspect. What follows is a story so full of twists and turns that I’d advise you hold onto something while you’re reading it.  The novel is four hundred and nineteen pages, but that didn’t stop me from gobbling it up in three days.  I could have done it in two if I hadn’t had to go to work.

Early rumors suggested that Fincher and Flynn changed the ending, but recent reviews say the ending remains faithful to the book.  I guess I’ll find out for myself this weekend.


Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (October 10)

Just the other day I was thinking about how totally awesome it is when children’s books are adapted into eighty-minute movies and how they’re almost never ever awful in every single way (That’s sarcasm, Ron Howard and Robert Zemeckis for your versions of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Polar Express, respectively).

Sadly, no amount of The Black Keys, Of Monsters and Men and CGI kangaroos presented in the trailer makes me want to see this movie.  I’m fully aware that I’m not the target audience, but Pixar has proven for years that family films can be intelligent and still appeal to children and adults alike. Despite being published in 1972, Judith Viorst’s book about a child having a bad day is timeless.  Adding in a subplot about the father getting a job at a “game design firm” run by smug millennials and injecting current Internet slang (“hashtag blessed”) are unnecessary and come across as pandering in the worst way.  And, yes, I already hate myself for typing that quote.  Can you ever forgive me, Noah Webster?

“Forsooth, nay.  I am disinclined to acquiesce to your request.”

Men, Women & Children (October 17)

I talked about this book and its big screen adaptation last month.  Since then, a second trailer has been released that gives us a better look at some of the characters.  Similar to the trailers for Gone Girl, it looks like certain scenes were literally ripped right from the book.  Adam Sandler’s performance looks subdued, subtle even.  That’s never a bad thing.

The Best of Me (October 17)

I haven’t read this book, but I have actually had a small desire to read at least one of Nicholas Sparks’ novels.  Judging from the trailer, this looks like it’s in the same romantic style of all the other Sparks adaptations and it looks like James Marsden might finally get the girl in this one (see his previous failures in the X-Men film series, Enchanted, Superman Returns and The Notebook—another Sparks adaptation.  Why do you hate James Marsden, Hollywood?)

This movie knows what it’s about and knows its target audience.  If you like that kind of thing, you’ll probably enjoy this.  I say step outside your comfort zone and go see Men, Women & Children.  Or Gone Girl again.

White Bird in a Blizzard (October 24)

A mother walks out on her family one day.  Her sixteen-year-old daughter, seemingly unaffected by her mother’s departure, continues on with her life.  In her dreams, however, the girl dreams of her mother, crying for help.  Soon, she can’t ignore her dreams any longer.

This is another book I haven’t read, but I have it on my list.  What first piqued my interest in this film is the director, Greg Araki.  I have a complicated relationship with Araki’s films.  On the one hand, we have films like  The Doom Generationa meandering mess of a movie and Smiley Face, a film just a little too dumb to be funny.  On the other hand, we have  Mysterious Skin.  An adaptation of Scott Heim’s novel of the same name, it remains one of the most disturbing and depressing films I’ve ever seen. I absolutely loved it.  It’s probably one of my top twenty favorite films.  That said, I have absolutely no desire to watch it again.  After I saw it, I literally felt sick.  I can’t remember ever having such a visceral reaction to a film before it.

I feel like Araki deserves the benefit of doubt from me on this one.  While I may not love all of his films, he does capture teen angst and despair quite well.  Plus, there is some beautiful imagery in the trailer and Araki has assembled a pretty knockout cast including up-and-coming It-girl Shailene Woodley, Eva Green and Thomas Jane

Horns (October 31)

I finished reading Joe Hill’s novel about a month ago and really enjoyed it. It was the most twisty-turny book I’ve read since Gone Girl.

The trailer for the movie looks promising, depending on the version you watch.  I’ll admit that summarizing the tone of the book is difficult, which explains why there are different trailers. The book is funny, spooky, unsettling and heartbreaking, sometimes all in one page.  I’m worried that the movie might ignore some of the more nuanced aspects of the story.  If it turns out to be a straight-up horror movie, it will be a huge missed opportunity.  A balance between Beetlejuice, Sleepy Hollow and American Psycho would be a near-perfect combination. I’m still interested in seeing it though, mostly because I’m probably one of the only people in the universe who doesn’t see Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter; I only watched those movies for the first time last year.  His American accent is on point. Not since Hugh Laurie’s turn as Dr. Gregory House have I heard such a convincing American accent from a Britt.

I’ll probably see it as a prelude to my Halloween activities.  Maybe I’ll see some of you there.



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Men, Women & Children

Let’s wind the clocks back to the last few months of 2013.  I was randomly looking up Jason Reitman, one of my favorite directors.  I knew he was in the middle of making a film, but I wanted to see what he was doing next.  After some very light digging, I discovered that his next project was an adaptation of Chad Kultgen’s novel Men, Women & Children.

I love Reitman’s films. Up in the Air speaks to me on a very deep, personal level.  An adaptation of Walter Kirn’s novel of the same name, it’s probably one of my favorite films of all time. It may even be one of the top ten.  Juno is as quirky as it is adorable and made me fall hard for Ellen Page.  Thank You For Smoking, also based on a book, is great too. The movie shifts the political thriller focus of the book to a much more tender father/son story.

I wasn’t too impressed with Young Adult, mostly because I’m not a fan of Charlize Theron.  Then again, I haven’t seen it since it came out.  Maybe I’m due for another viewing. His most recent film, Labor Day, is pornography for lonely divorcees. Even Reitman himself calls it misguided. Of course, I didn’t know that Labor Day, also based on a novel, was going to be as bad as it was when I learned his next project was doing Men, Women & Children.  Still, I’m willing to give Reitman the benefit of the doubt. The trailer looks amazing.

Much like with Jesse AndrewsMe and Earl and the Dying Girl, I ordered the book right away once I found out it was being adapted.  I must have been reading something else at the time because I didn’t get around to  it until near the end of January.  When I finally sat down to read it, I devoured the three hundred and three pages in two days.

bookcoverMen, Women & Children chronicles the goings-on of several suburban families and their middle school-aged children as they try to make their way through life in the age of instant information, instant gratification and instant humiliation. It is straight-up depressing in the best kind of way.

One father has to rush home during his lunch hour just so he can masturbate. His porn tastes are downright vanilla compared to his son’s, who is discovering just about every kind of kink there is thanks to the vastness of the Internet.

One mom runs a website where she charges men to view suggestive photos of her daughter.  The daughter only wants to lose her virginity before any of her other eighth grade peers.

One chaste middle schooler uses an alternate MySpace profile to present herself as a sexually promiscuous Goth.

A married couple is drifting further and further apart.  The husband struggles with whether or not he should hire an escort while the wife struggles with whether or not she should meet up face-to-face with a man she met online.

This is just a sampling of the characters in the novel.  I wish I’d had a character sheet to keep them organized.

Kultgen’s novel, at times both hopeless and hopeful, is an examination of what happens when the American Dream is digitized.  As I was reading, I couldn’t help but think about how different my middle school experience was from the kids in the book.  I wasn’t worried about losing my virginity, battling anorexia or harboring suicidal thoughts.  My mother wasn’t taking suggestive pictures of me and charging men to look at them.  Is this really what kids are going through these days?  I’m not being rhetorical here; I’m genuinely asking.  We live in a society that fosters the idea of growing up quickly.  Through their media consumption, kids already know what to do with sexual urges before they get even them.  If this is how kids really are in middle school, someone needs to do something about it; someone needs to talk to them.  But if we’re going by the narrative of the book, it won’t be the parents because they are just as screwed up as the children.

Despite my comparatively mundane middle school experience, I could still relate to the kids in the book.  And I could relate to the adults, too. The book posits that at one time or another, everyone has felt alone. Whether that feeling is in a relationship or in life in general is irrelevant because the feeling is still there.  Everyone has feared ridicule of presenting their innermost desires to someone.  That’s why the Internet is so great.  It brings like-minded people closer together.  You can look across the chasm you’re about to jump into and see that you’re not alone. Sometimes that’s all you need, to decide not to jump.

[The Internet is also awful because those innermost thoughts can be instantly shared with everyone that you don’t want them to be shared with.  If you need proof of that, just go read the comments section of literally any YouTube video.]

Regarding the upcoming movie, Reitman may potentially have the greatest movie of his career on his hands.  I imagine something like American Beauty meets Disconnect meets Blue Velvet.  While I’m less than enthused about the casting of Jennifer Garner and Adam Sandler, I’m still excited about the movie.  And if you’ve seen Punch-Drunk Love, you know that Sandler is capable of actually acting. I’m hopeful that Reitman will pull something serviceable out of him. It seems like Sandler is playing the man who wants to hire an escort.  Thinking back to his characterization, Sandler may be a perfect fit.

Men, Women & Children is set for a limited run starting October 3 before expanding on October 17.  That gives you a little over a month to read the book, so hop to it!

What are your thoughts on the oeuvre of Jason Reitman? Have you read this or any other book by Kultgen?  Sound off in the comments below.




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