Lionel Shriver’s Big Brother deftly challenges ideas about food, success, and loyalty. Pandora puts a lot on the line when her older brother, an NYC jazz musician, shows up in Iowa having gained a shocking amount of weight. His large presence shakes her status quo and leads to a spur of the moment decision.
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With its chilly upper-midwest setting (accents included), Fargo is the classic Coen brothers’ film. A botched kidnapping planned by a bungling William H. Macy is met with the polite, small-town-smarts of a pregnant police chief (Frances McDormand). This is dark humor at its best balanced with warm humanity.
He’s been dumped, and she’s squatting with innumerable roommates. Twenty-somethings Tim and Daisy figure the obvious solution is to pretend to be a couple to get a flat. British comedy series Spaced is full of quirky references, characters, and situations you’d expect from Simon Pegg of Shaun of the Dead fame.
As a teenager, Michael Hainey found an obituary claiming his father died After Visiting Friends. As an adult, journalist Hainey treads lightly, but persistently, asking those who may know – what friends? This is an engrossing, mysterious story with a local connection – Hainey is a Park Ridge native and his father worked for the Sun-Times.
Mary Karr says her third memoir, Lit, is about “leaving home to find home.” It is a hard look at her early adulthood wrought with insecurity, denial, and alcoholism. Fortunately, she tells her story with sharp observations and a sometimes dark humor that helps make this a powerful story of redemption.
Michael C. Hall can’t seem to escape death. Before he was Dexter, he was a mortician in Six Feet Under. He’s part of a quirky family whose lives are entwined with the funeral home their father left after suddenly dying. Although the setting seems maudlin, the show is about relationships, expected and unexpected, and their complications.
Peter Gabriel’s album, So, is probably best known for “In Your Eyes” and the iconic image of John Cusack holding up a boombox to win back his girlfriend in Say Anything. Gabriel used experimentation, world music influence, and thoughtful – almost heartbreaking – lyrics to create a classic album.
It’s L.A. and everyone’s an aspiring something. In the meantime, they cater. Six struggling artists wear pink bow ties for Party Down, a catering company. Party Down, the show, is two seasons of hilarious catering malaise, romance, rivalries, and the mishaps of being close to, but not quite invited to the party.
Quirky Muriel’s love of ABBA is only surpassed by her desire to get married. Muriel’s Wedding has a fun soundtrack. It’s the backdrop to an often hilarious and moving story about a misfit who finds a way to move forward, let go of her fantasies, and face reality.
Dr. Faraday is fascinated by the thriving past of Hundreds Hall. Faraday is drawn into the lives of its three residents and its mysteries. The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters, is a gothic glimpse of a country estate (a la Downton Abbey) following the changes of the world wars.