Friday, December 28, 2007

Of Human Bondage - The Movie

Last night I saw Of Human Bondage. I was really glad that I read the book before watching the movie, because I would have had no idea what was going on otherwise. It was so fragmented. Understandably, it is a very long book, portraying the first 30+ years of Phillip's life, and the filmmaker obviously wanted to include as much of that as possible, focusing on Phillip's life in London after his art career in Paris fails miserably. But the business with Phillip's money situation, due entirely to Mildred, wasn't very clear, nor the length to which it went. It wasn't even clear whether Phillip ever passed his medical exam or not. Overall, I didn't like the movie too much, and again would not have been able to understnad what was happening without having read the book.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Could this be the saddest thing I’ve ever read?:

“Evening had worn into night. The busy city slept. Down by the wharves, now deserted, a poor boy sat on the bulwark, hungry, footsore, and shivering with cold. He sat thinking of friends and home, thousands of miles away over the sea, whom he had left six months before to go among strangers. He had been alone ever since, but never more so than that night. His money gone, no work to be found, he had slept in the streets for nights. That day he had eaten nothing; he would rather die than beg, and one of the two he must do soon.

“There was the dark river, rushing at his feet; the swirl of the unseen waters whispered to him of rest and peace he had not known since——it was so cold—and who was there to care, he thought bitterly. No one who would ever know. He moved a little nearer the edge, and listened more intently.

“A low whine fell on his ear, and a cold, wet face was pressed against his. A little, crippled dog that had been crouching silently beside him nestled in his lap. He had picked it up in the street, as forlorn and friendless as himself, and it had stayed by him. Its touch recalled him to himself. He got up hastily, and, taking the dog in his arms, went to the police station near by and asked for shelter. It was the first time he had accepted even such charity, and as he lay down on his rough plank he hugged a little gold locket he wore around his neck, the last link with better days, and thought, with a hard, dry sob, of home.

“In the middle of the night he awoke with a start. The locket was gone. One of the tramps who slept with him had stolen it. With bitter tears he went up and complained to the Sergeant at the desk, and the Sergeant ordered him to be kicked out in the street as a liar, if not a thief. How should a tramp boy have come honestly by a gold locket? The doorman put him out as he was bidden, and when the little dog showed its teeth, a policeman seized it and clubbed it to death on the step.”

By Jacob Riis, from his book, Children of the Tenements, “What the Christmas Sun Saw in the Tenements”

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Vanity Fair Part 2

Some things I jotted down while reading:

Is Becky Sharp innocent or not? (Which became, Why Becky Sharp is a big fat liar)

1. (Ch 55) Steyne gets Rawdon Crawly an appointment
2. (Ch 54?) Macmundo tells/suggests to Crawley that people (soldiers) have talked for years about Becky being "not so innocent"
3. (Ch 55) Were Wenham and wife really invited to Becky's with Lord Steyne? (No)

Ch 64 "A short time after Lord Steyne's accident, Wenham had been with the Baronet and given him such a biography of Mrs. Becky as had astonished the member of Queen's Crawley. He knew everything regarding her:...and what her conduct during her married life - I have no doubt that the greater part of the setory was false and dictated by interested malevolence."

"And Becky saw a number of old faces which she remembered in happier days, when she was not innocent, but not found out."

From an article: "In response to his critics, Thackeray explained that he saw people for the most part as "abomindably foolish and selfish." I have to agree.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Vanity Fair

Finished Vanity Fair last night. I LOVED this book. These people were very life like:
Amelia: Devoted to George, who never really cared; unable to see Dobbin's devotion, only taking advantage of it.
Dobbin: Devoted to Amelia, but she doesn't really care. He's much too good for her, and yet he comes back.

And above all, Becky Sharp. The world, I believe, is almost wholly populated by Becky Sharps.

Every time I read a novel from this period of history, I'm struck by how much better it is than novels of any other time period. How many of the books on the Modern Library's Top 100 would still be on the list if it were to include 19th Century works? Thackeray, Hugo, Dostoevsky, Dickens, Eliot, Hawthorne, Melville, the Brontes, Dumas, etc.. Nothing against the particular merits of the works of the 20th Century, but could Naipaul, Henry Miller, Carson McCullers, etc., really stand up to the giants of the 19th century? With each work from the 1800s that I read, compared to the 1900s, and particularly more modern literature, the more convinced I am that they certainly could not.