Monday, January 28, 2008

The Road and more Dance complaints

Finished The Road last night. I would give this a 4/5 stars if I was rating it. A bleak picture of the future, after some sort of disaster which covered the earth in ash, a group of remaining humans have turned to cannibalism, keeping people locked in basements to harvest their body parts for food. But this is the story of a man and a boy who are "the good guys" who are carrying the fire...which at first is meant to mean the lighters (or so I thought) so that they literally were carrying fire, but then it seemed to take on a new meaning as a fire within. The two are essentially on their own, treking through the US to get to the south/coast with all their belongings in a grocery cart. Off and on throughout the book, I kept thinking of The Stand, which I HATE with a passion (the Trash Can Man being the only redeeming point). I was very glad when the people didn't start having dreams to guide them where to go.

Some questions remain though: The people who adopt the boy at the end...were they following the man and the boy? It seemed to be suggested that they had been, as I assume that the little boy that The Boy had seen was the same one that was with the family. Also, what was up with The Boy being "The One"? Is it supposed to imply that he is a type of messiah (second incarnation of Jesus)? The novel was good overall.

So, now I'm back to trudging - grudgingly - through A Dance to the Music of Time. Did I say that I detest this book? But, I determined to get through it, as it is in the way of my goal of reading the Modern Library's Top 100. I hadn't read a word in it since the first week in January, so I'm a bit lost, but I did find the following websites to help me through it:
www.anthonypowell.org.uk/dance/dancesum.htm and http://www.andover.edu/english/jgould/dance/home.html.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Emma, The Road, and Wide Sargasso Sea - The Movie

Finished Emma yesterday. It was as I expected it to be. Enjoyable, mostly on a superficial level, not difficult to read, and everybody was happy in the end. The whole way through the book I was thinking of and comparing the novel to the movie Clueless, which was based on Emma. Now I want to watch that movie again. To picture Britney Murphy (the fat version) as Harriet Smith, and Frank Churchill as being gay made reading the novel more fun. I did think that maybe Emma would set her father up with Miss Bates, as they both were prone to Polonius-length speeches (“As brevity is the soul of wit, I shall be brief” or whatever it is that he says). But alas, it was not to be.

I also got Wide Sargasso Sea in movie form and watched it this weekend. What can I say… the wimp that they chose to play Mr. Rochester (Nathaniel Parker) was very disappointing, especially after the strapping version presented in the recent production of Jane Eyre (Toby Stephens). He (Parker) was a skinny, little weirdo with very nearly a uni-brow. Bertha/Antoinette was decent, though I imagined her to have a darker complexion, given the description in JE. It also really annoyed me that while in JE, she is called Bertha, but in WSS (the book), she is Antoinette until Rochester starts to call her Bertha. (I did notice in the film JE, she is called “Bertha Antoinette Mason,” which I didn’t recall from the book). In renaming her, Rochester is essentially removing her identity and heritage, as there is a great deal of issue made that she is French, and not an English woman…I guess because the French are wild and passionate, and the English are the pillars of civilization. Anyhoo… in this movie, rather than call her Bertha, he starts to call her Nettie, which is (in the movie at least) what Antoinette’s mother was called. This was extremely annoying. So, the movie for me was a flop. I was encouraged by the fact that the DVD came with the R rated version and the NC-17. I opted for NC-17, hoping it would live up to the rating. It didn’t. I think that the one view of Nathaniel Parker from the front was probably what gave it that rating. Not something I really wanted to see.

Onto better things… I’m really enjoying The Road. I’m on about page 90-something, and they just found the people in the basement of the house. How creepy! And he dropped the lighter! That’s where I stopped. It goes quick, it’s straight forward, well written, with lots of breaks. It’s definitely one of the best books I’ve read in a while...though there’s still a lot of time and potential for this to go downhill.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Sea - Banville

Just finished The Sea by John Banville. I don't really have a reaction to this book. I think that it took me longer than it should have, mostly due to the new job, and partly due to my new diet/exercise regime, which in all honesty I was more interested in than this book. But that's really all I can come up with to say about it. The language was good, and the plot wasn't bad. I'm pretty neutral here. Was I supposed to have figured out before the next to the last page that Miss V. was Rose?

I'm also reading Austen's Emma. I like it, like I like all Jane Austens. Except Mansfield Park. I wasn't crazy about that. Austen is my form of "lite" reading. In addition, I'm still "reading" Dance to the Music of Time, though "reading" isn't exactly a true statement, considering that I haven't opened it in two weeks. I really don't care.

The next book that I'm going to start is The Road, which was loaned to me in November (or was it October?) by one of my mothers-in-law (because I get two! - it's really not so bad though). I probably wouldn't have picked it up otherwise. It's also the book to be discussed at the library book club in March. I was supposed to be at book club tonight discussing The Sea but didn't finish it in time to go. Shawn (my husband) said I should just read the last page and be done with it, but that wouldn't have worked - I would just have been confused. But back on track, The Road appears to be short. I just hope that it isn't dense. I really just want to finish what I've got on my plate for January and move forward to Sister Carrie and I, Claudius in February.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Wide Sargasso Sea - Rhys

Inspired by Masterpiece Theater's broadcast of Jane Eyre, one of the best books that I ever read, I picked up Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys's "prequel," revolving around Bertha Mason-Rochester's life in the Caribbean. II was afraid of its characterization as specifically "post-colonial." I'm still not entirely sure if that's a descriptive only of the country/time of origin, or a category liked "post-modern," which I don't entirely get either. All I know is that the disaster that was Coetzee's Foe (another reaction/retelling of a literary classic), is "post-colonial" and it made utterly no sense to me. I just can't deal with that. But WSS was DEFINATELY an improvement. It was coherent and logical, for starters.

So we have Antoinette. Her mother is her father's second wife. her father dies. They had been slave owners but slavery was abolished. The mother, Antoinette, and her brother (who is mentally challenged or something) are dirt poor, living in Jamaica, surrounded by their former slaves. Her mother withdraws and starts to go "crazy." Is she organically crazy or reacting to her surroundings? I don't know. What categorized a woman as "crazy" in the early 19th century is vastly different than what we would call crazy today.

Then her mother marries Mr. Mason. The former slaves burn their house down, killing her mother's parrot (very disturbing). The brother dies, and the mother finally really goes crazy. Later, the Masons fix Antoinette up with Rochester. They are married less than a month after he arrives. Then her possible (disgustingly characterized) half brother tells Rochester about the craziness in the family. She starts to act a little out of sorts at time, then he takes her back to England and locks her in the tower.

The voodoo practicing caretaker - Christophine - very interesting. Antoinette is going to her to make Rochester love her. Is this a cause for her madness? Did Mr. Rochester have an affair with Amelie? It was suggested that he did. Who wouldn't be crazy being locked up in the tower? Rochester renames her Bertha - taking her identiy. The marriage wasn't what either of htem expected.

This short novel, for some reason, reminded me of Charolotte Perkins Gillman's "The Yellow Wallpaper." It wasn't until after she was "treated" for being crazy that she went crazy.

Dance Update

I'm still trying to plug through Dance to the Music of Time - 1st Movement. I'll be honest - I couldn't care less about this book. Which is unfortunate, because after reading it for a month, I'm only about 1/8 of the way through the book. I don't care about the characters, I don't care about their lives, or what happens to them. I had intended to read one movement per year, but have decided to change my approach and read one book (3 books in a movement) per month, so that I should be done by the end of the year. Then I won't have to dread what is coming as I work my way through the Modern Library's list...like I do with Henry James. At night I think to myself, oh God please just let Wings of the Dove be better than that scourage of the earth, The Ambassadors. It still is an irritating mystery to me how The Ambassadors made it on the list, and not To Kill A Mockingbird.