This week, we have a load of solid new releases, including a new book from Jeffrey Eugenides, whom the reading public hasn't heard from in almost ten years and whose book Middlesex now holds a permanent spot in nearly every used book store in the country. We also have the DVD release of Terrance Malick's absurdly ambitious Tree of Life, a film that essentially attempts to explore everything. Not everything on our lists is all high-brow, though; there's also a new collection of Batman comics, one of this generation's best racing games and more.
The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides
We haven't seen a novel from Jeffrey Eugenides since Middlesex blew away the critics, won a Pulitzer Prize, and skyrocketed to the top of the sales charts nearly ten years ago. It's hard to describe Eugenides's style as anything but "literary," and seeing as how The Marriage Plot takes place in the '80s at Brown University and details a love triangle of students, it fits the cliché of high-brow literature in nearly every way. That's not to say it isn't worth reading; it most certainly is, and as a coming-of-age novel, The Marriage Plot will find a place among the best.
In Other Worlds, by Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood is one of the most interesting science-fiction writers out there, and her blend of imaginative fiction with political and social ideals makes her stand out. But this collection of essays and reviews ruminating on the very idea of science fiction opens us up to her world in a way we've never seen before. The book is a must-read for fans of science fiction, but it's worth checking out for casual readers who want to know more about the criticism and ideas she's had over the years. Atwood might be classified in the genre department, but her ideas are universal and usually much bigger than most authors even dream of.
Tree of Life
Terrance Malick's Tree of Life is about the history of the universe. No, seriously, it really is. Told through the story of a middle-aged man's childhood memories and mixed with all kinds of history (including dinosaurs!), it's one of those rare, non-linear and experimental films that's actually a joy to watch. One of the most ambitious movies since 2001: A Space Odyssey, its epicness is a little bombastic at times, but it's still a fantastic representation of -- well -- everything.
While on the surface Septien might just look like another boring, weird arthouse film, the movie manages to balance itself evenly by using a strong narrative and combining it with equal parts humor and twistedness. It tells the story of an ex-athlete/hustler who returns home to his Tennessee home, where his two brothers live in isolation on the family farm. Weirdness ensues, as you'd expect, as the three brothers readapt to each other and live out their lives. It's actually a funny movie on all counts, even if trailers make it look like a dark and twisted tale. The eccentricities of the characters are as believable as they are bizarre, including several who will undoubtedly get under your skin.
Forza Motorsport 4 (Xbox 360)
Racing games are a strange beast. At their core, they can barely be defined as "fun," but that's not really the point. It's about the simulation of driving cars -- car porn -- none of us could ever afford, and in that way, Forza 4 offers one of the best experiences around. The game features some 500 cars you can detail, trick out, customize and race around a track. There's a reasonable chance you can't afford to purchase a single Ferrari, let alone 500 cars, so if you've ever wondered what it's like behind the wheel of a sports car, this is your best chance to find out.
Batman: Arkham City by various
This book pulls together the entire Arkham City mini-series, including a series of digital-only chapters not seen in print before. It's all in celebration of the new video game of the same name, but don't worry about the quality: It's still a solid Batman book, even though it's a tie-in. It will also fill in a lot of the backstory and setting for those who plan on playing the game, so it should help smooth out the rough edge of the story.
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The Cabbie by Marti
The Cabbie is a weird tale, to say the least -- combining the likes of Taxi Driver and Dick Tracy into one twisted tale of urban justice, it's a book that comes from a European, but is so steeped in American lore you'll never know it. The premise is pretty simple: A cab driver gets pissed at how bad society has become and decides to enact his own kind of Batman-like revenge to bring justice through acts of insane violence. It makes sense; after all, cab drivers see us at our worst -- when we're late, drunk, sad, mad and everything else -- so it's no wonder they'd secretly want to beat us to a pulp.