Just repeat to yourself, it’s just a book, I should really just relax.

When purchasing textbooks on Amazon a little over a month ago, I decided to splurge on used copies of two books I’ve wanted to read for some time. Specifically, two books by MST3K alumni: “A Year at the Movies” by Kevin “Tom Servo” Murphy, and “Mike Nelson’s Death Rat” by Michael J. “Mike Nelson” Nelson. I read both over the past month (between pesky class reading assignments) and enjoyed both immensely.

“A Year at the Movies” is a collection of fifty-two essays, one for each week of the year 2001. Murphy spent every night of the year going to see a movie, some at local cineplexes, some in small-town art houses, some in film festivals, one in an igloo…as long as it was a movie being screened in a public venue, it counted. He then related his thoughts, whether they be about the specific films or just the filmgoing experience.

Now, by his own admission, Murphy can be a bit of a film snob, and I didn’t agree with each of his assessments about each film. For example, he speaks out against Universal Studios’ Movie Rides, which I happen to enjoy a great deal. Nevertheless, each essay is logical and well-reasoned, so even if you disagree with him, you can’t help but respect his opinion. His essays are always insightful, frequently hilarious, and occasionally very touching, often given me a new appreciation of a particular aspect or style of movies. I heartily recommend this book to anybody and everybody who loves film.

“Death Rat” is Nelson’s first (and so far, only) novel, a satirical look at celebrity, publishing, the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince, new-age spirituality, and, of course, the state of Minnesota. The style feels sort of halfway between Dave Barry and PG Wodehouse, filled with amusing situations and dialogue, and even more amusing descriptions of scenes and characters. At times, the book is laugh-out-loud hilarious, and even when it doesn’t go that far, it still left me smiling ear to ear the whole way through. The book is filled with endearing characters, including a small town with some eccentric citizens worthy of any “Northern Exposure” episode, and it offers a genuinely funny perspective on popularity, what some people will do to achieve it, and the consequences that follow. Perhaps not the most important fictional work of our time, but a very fun read, one that somehow combines cynicism and warmth in an impressive way.

I suppose next I should track down and read Nelson’s essay collection books (I’ve only read scattered articles of his online), and Bill Corbett’s plays. But before that, I’ve got midterm material to study, and hopefully a ride home to procure for Fall Break. The fun never stops here.

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