Book and film of the week for your lists: Origin and Tarnation

blog postLooking for some books and movies to add to your reading list? This week I finished reading Diana Abu Jabar’s novel Origin, which though has some mixed reviews some places–I loved. Set in Syracuse, NY, the story is narrated by Lena, a fingerprint specialist in a crime lab. The description of the story emphasizes the string of baby crib deaths that were thought to be SIDS but then reconsidered as murder, but it’s not as gruesome as it sounds. I don’t normally read mystery novels, but the few I have read give me enough insight to know that this book does not follow the conventions of the genre. It’s really more about the main character’s personal mystery as it unravels, one that is both magical in ways and metaphorical. I gave it four stars on Goodreads and recommend it.

I also watched Jonathan Caouette’s personal documentary Tarnation on Netflix DVD. The film, now 11 years old, should be watched with the context  of the time period it was made. Now in the age of YouTube the direct camera confessional feels almost commonplace. Caouette’s film was ahead of its time in that way and weaves together snippets of hours of footage he shot of himself and his schizophrenic mother from a young age. For documentary filmmakers looking for models of personal story telling, it is a useful example.


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