August 13, 2017

Book Review || I Met the Walrus by Jerry Levitan

Jerry Levitan's 'I Met the Walrus' left me in a pool of sad nostalgia. I felt like I was the teenager that Levitan was when he ran into a lucky streak that resulted in him meeting his ultimate hero, John Lennon, and being granted an exclusive interview with him. Full of passion and an eagerness to change the world, Levitan's retelling of his love for The Beatles and John Lennon especially is filled with innocence and hope, things you most certainly lose once you have to start making your own ends-meet.

Divided into three parts, the first will endear you to young Jerry as his love for The Beatles grows and evolves despite the band's ups and downs. Like many teenagers nowadays, he emulated his heroes, rushed to be the first to grab the latest album, and would have given anything to meet them. It also tells how Levitan's quick-thinking and spontaneity resulted in his meeting his idol.

The second part is basically a transcription of what Lennon and Levitan spoke about in his exclusive interview. Lennon sounds just as I would imagine - laid back, relaxed (maybe too relaxed, if you know what I mean), yet focused and determined to make a difference in the world with his very real influence. We also follow Levitan as he spends an evening with the stars and shares the interview with his class - he also has a very real hope of changing the world.

In the third part, we are told about Jerry's life afterwards; basically it's about how he grew up still loving The Beatles, following each individual and still treasuring John Lennon as his favourite. When Lennon was assassinated, Levitan experienced a breakdown for which he was hospitalised, as the event coincided with the death of his mother and the disintegration of his marriage. There is a heartfelt moment when Levitan cradles his young son thinking about Lennon's song 'Beautiful Boy', which was written for Lennon's own child, and tears streaming down his face. Until his interview was animated and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Short, Levitan lived an uneventful life.

Levitan's ascent (and some may say, descent from youthful dreams) into real life as an adult is a reflection of all the lives of the young and innocent of this world who hope to make a difference and inevitably fail at changing the world. It is more difficult today, in a world of Emma Watsons and Malala Yousoufzais, to really make a positive effect on reality because there are so many more people working against those who stand for peace. Just look at what is happening today in the United States' administration, which seems bent on stripping both citizens and visitors of their basic rights and shows no care for the harm a support of fossil fuels continues to make. It is a little sad that such a strong voice calling for peace had nearly no effect, except on the small people who admired the band and the man. I was reminded of a moment when speaking with a colleague after reading about someone's phenomenal success that it is so much more difficult to make an impression, to reach a popular stardom, in a world veritably drowned with a proliferation of people and an obsession with inanity and nihilism.

I was also nostalgic after reading this because my father, who died two years ago at the young age of 57 due to early-onset Alzheimer's Disease, would have been a young boy when The Beatles hit stardom and as a music lover he must have enjoyed their music, at least until Beatles albums were banned by the SABC in 1966. I was left to wonder how he felt about that, how he became interested in bands such as Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, and Santana, and what he thought of Lennon's death just three years before I was born, and how much else I never found out from my dad. These questions swirl around my head and heart knowing that my selfishness must have contributed towards me never finding out and now it is too late.

To return to the autobiography, 'I Met the Walrus' is an excellent reproduction of Levitan's youthful exuberance throughout the meeting and interview and his rediscovery of it when the interview gains new life as a short film. If you're a fan of The Beatles or music in general, this is an informative and enlightening book.

Related Features:
Facts About John Lennon
Beatles Records Banned in South Africa
You Don't Have to 'Imagine' John Lennon Beat Women and Children - It's Just a Fact
John Lennon's Killer Revealed Details of Shooting As Denied Parole for Ninth Time
Jerry Levitan (Wikipedia entry)
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August 2, 2017

Book Review || Charnel House by Graham Masterton

I am a big horror fan but have been particularly disappointed by horror films of late - I honestly don't know why I bother. The last film I enjoyed that was denoted as a 'horror' was 'The Autopsy of Jane Doe', a veritable oasis in a desert of palatable, interesting and focused 'horror' stories. I really think I should stop watching them and instead return to my first love of the horror: the novel. Graham Masterton is one of my favourite horror writers (better than James Herbert and Stephen King, in my opinion), and 'Charnel House' did for me in terms of scares what no horror film has been able to do in years: make me wonder if there is indeed something watching me from the darkest corners.

Not only was the story compelling, the plot sound, and the horror terrifying, I finished this book in only two days - a record for me lately.

The house in the title is inhabited by an elderly man who has coveted such a house his whole life. It is dank and dreary, but the ceiling cornices are made of real plaster and there isn't a spot of plastic anywhere. There are three storeys, an attic, real iron fireplaces - a magnificent place. But Seymour Wallis hasn't had good luck since he found that mysterious sculpture of a bear with a woman's face. Nor since he's started to hear the house's breathing. He visits the Department of Sanitation out of sheer desperation, I think, simply hoping someone will take his word and not think he's an utter nutter.

John believes Wallis is crazy, but investigates anyway with his friend. Their biggest mistake was waking the house up and it all goes downhill - and more entertaining - from there.

This classic seventies horror novel is filled with everything that originally defined the horror genre: campy, sarcastic, filled with outdated attitudes, violent and bloody ... but it is truly scary - and not just in a gory way: the backstory makes the evil ancient and unbeatable, just like any true horror would be. And even though I knew that I wasn't living in the house, that I did not have a bear-lady sculpture, my imagination ran away with me a little on that first night after I put out the light.

I'm silly; I know - no need to remind me.

Source: Giphy
Masterton is an excellent storyteller if you've never read any of his novels before and they are fast-paced and entertaining, despite zero character development. If you haven't read him before and would like a slow introduction, you should try 'The House that Jack Built', one of my favourite ghost stories.

Have you read any of Masterton's novels?
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