Capote

After reading In Cold Blood (and seeing the movie version) I was fascinated with how Truman Capote was able to accumulate such vast detail about the 1959 Kansas murders. With this movie, based on a book, I now understand how: the incredibly charming and brilliant writer ingratiated himself into the lives of just about everyone involved in the horrific murders (from townsfolk, to detectives, to killers), a fact completely missing from the so-called documentary fiction that Capote wrote. The truth, apparently, is that Capote was a manipulative bastard who used people heinously. This is not to say he didn't later regret his actions, as they tormented him enough to cause permit writer's block. This is not exactly a fast-moving film, and if you do not know the story behind In Cold Blood it is pointless to watch, but the acting is amazing and insight important. Capote

Zizek!

If you are interested in the Slovenian philosopher, Zizek, then this documentary is only sort of for you. While it attempts to enlighten viewers about the personality, ideas, and background about this contemporary thinker, the end result is a rather boring collection of clips, including such pointless ones of him appearing to be naked under the covers in bed (is this the director's way of saying they had sex?). It does little for those with any knowledge of Zizek, and will not interest those who know nothing. zizek!

Nathan Hale's Hazadous Tales: The Underground Abductor - Nathan Hale

I greatly enjoy these tales ostensibly told by America's first spy, who shares the name of the author, who, just prior to his execution, is able to recount tales throughout American history. And recount them he does, mainly geared towards a young adult audience but I like them just fine. This one is about the escaped slave Harriet Tubman (as she would name herself) and her amazingly adventurous life shuttling slaves to freedom. Plenty of stuff I never learned in school, this is perhaps one of my favorite in the series so far. underground abductor

Two Gun Hart: Lawman, Cowboy, and Long-Lost Brother of Al Capone - Jeff McArthur

Second generation Italian immigrant, horse rider/ acrobat/ boxer/ wrestler/ circus performer, music lover, blue collar worker, honored Veteran of World War I, Nebraskan Marshall, agent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, temporary bodyguard to President Coolidge, delusional and intractable in seeing the world in anything but black and white, idolizer of movie star Cowboys, perjurer, and flamboyant enforcer of the 18th amendment, are all terms that could be used to describe Vincenzo Capone, or Richard Hart, or one of the other names he (and others) called “Two Gun,” but if you called him anything at all—and that is extremely doubtful for anyone prior to reading this book—you would have called him the big brother of Al Capone: the most notorious Prohibition gangster of them all. This is a story so unbelievable, so incredible, it can only be true. The author does a fantastic job painting a vividly detail portrait of a man most could not even have imagined existed. Seamlessly written, the author takes the life of Richard “Two Gun” Hart and breaks it down into digestible chunks, brilliantly illustrating the people, times, and events that surrounded, influenced, and shaped the “other” Capone. This is not simply a book one reads, so much as devours, and not alone, as I constantly felt the need to share in the discoveries of the book, reading passages to friends and family alike just to see the shocked and thrilled expressions on their faces that must have mirrored my own. Even people who lived to the times discussed, were still taken aback in disbelief. It is disappointing that the citations to clarify the many fascinating historical events are broadly listed at the end only, making it difficult to allow the reader to separate and make their own opinion about some of the speculations that the author engages in on occasion (for example, he continues with the faulty notion that a cow caused the great Chicago fire), although not without circumspection and insight. It additionally could be argued that the author is too reliant on integrating information about the criminal Capones with that of their long lost brother (who is, after all, the centerpiece of the story), a fact that he touches upon at the end, although the vast majority of it is clearly necessary to broaden the understanding of “Two Gun.”

The story is historically fascinating, poignant and deeply moving; a true adventure tale that speaks to the American character. It is a story about immigration, American values (and their mercurial manifestations), the (im)possibilities of (re)defining oneself, and family—for better or for worse. I can't imagine someone not wanting to read this book. Find out more about the author and his works here

March: Book One - Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, & Nate Powell

The Georgian Democrat recounts his personal involvement with the civil right's movement in this first of three installments. The story is definitely interesting and inspiring as to how a poor black boy could rise above the injustice around him and help pave the way for greater freedom and inclusion for more Americans. He is truly a great American. I will criticize that I would rather read an account of the movement in general rather than "Bob" Lewis's bio and, as I seem to always complain about, I found it more of an illustrated account when I would rather see a comic. 

Trotsky: A Graphic Biography - Rick Geary

Geary presents a graphic biography on one of the founders of the Soviet Union. From his origins as a Jewish, farmer's son, Lev Davidovich Bronstein, to the amazing propagandist and organizer for the first communist state, Leon Trotsky, Geary does a nice job presenting how he developed and changed, becoming one of the key people that shaped the 20th century. I have to admit, I'm not positive why Geary picked Trotsky to write about; while the work was interesting and well done, I'm not sure I really care that much and find that I enjoy learning about murders--which has been another creative focus of Geary's work--much more. 

Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love - Patricia C. & Fredrick L. McKissack

Better known at Deadwood Dick, the life of this slave turned cowboy is amazing by any standard. The fact that there were any, never mind many, black cowboys, might be a shock to some and that is understandable, and thus I wished more was done to stress the fact that Nat Love was a black man and show how it mattered/didn't matter in his life. The art, by Randy Duburke, bothered me in that respect because, while elegant, makes ethnicity difficult to discern when I think it is an important factor. It is hard to put so much story in such a short comic book, but this was made somewhat harder as I didn't feel the McKissacks truly understand the medium or use it to its fullest (e.g., too much narration). Wish there was a movie/documentary on this man.