The Film Club by David Gilmour is the November edition of our little bookclub, picked by Kat (in case you’re wondering, we drew names for each month except October). It did look intriguing, a memoir written by a film critic who made the decision to let his son (Jesse) drop out of high school so long as the two watched three movies a week together. It reads very fast so I finished it off the other night.
I regret to say I am underwhelmed by The Film Club. I was hoping there would be a little more film criticism/theory, in that Gilmour would include more real discussion about the films he watched with his son. The book instead is a memoir of Gilmour’s attempt to keep his son engaged with the world by letting the kid do something he likes – watch movies – instead of what he has no interest in – go to school – with some film trivia mixed in. As a memoir, I really don’t feel anything for David, Jesse, Maggie (Jesse’s mom), Tina (David’s wife), or any of Jesse’s spoiled girlfriends. There is a detachment – I’m not sure if it’s the writing or just the subject matter. I did find there was an alphabetical list in the back with all the movies the two watched over the years but it’s just a list, nothing more.
What I find strange is that no one is demanding that the movie industry reign in the prices, that the studios and theatre chains “compete” with one another by lowering ticket prices, that the A-list “stars” work for less. I don’t see anyone “voting with their feet” by going to a different movie theatre chain – particularly in my town where the prices are the same and the choices no better. I went to two midnight movie premieres this summer and not once did I hear anyone complain that they were spending $12+ and having to wait in line for hours ahead of time to get seats.
I’m not quite sure what I’m driving at in this post. I got off on this tanget because I was really tired of reading all these wonks who purport to understand the “business model” but who I’m pretty sure have never actually had to stand on a sales floor in their life. I sell books, pretty much everyday, and I can tell you what sells to what type of customer and what does not, “business model” bedamned. I’m also tired of consumers who think that the entire driving goal of the capitalist system is to see how much stuff they can acquire on the cheap; my part-Scottish great-grandmother called that “mean”.
There really isn’t much of a solution in this post. Just something I had to get off my chest before it manifested somewhere else in much ruder language.
I signed up for the First Look Book Club’s first ever YA group because I thought it would be fun. I was reminded that I really don’t care for paranormal romance. Regardless of the target age group.
Suffice to say, I didn’t like Hush, Hush. I forced myself to finish the book during the readathon because it was lurking in my bookshelf and if I finished it I could dispose of the advance copy. Two major reasons why this book got on my nerves:
1) if a female teenager complains to a teacher that she is being sexually harassed by another (male) student, the teacher shouldn’t blow off her concerns because it’s the only time the other student participates in class; in addition, said teacher shouldn’t decide that the female student should tutor the male student…alone
2) I am very tired of YA books that have a “helpless” quiet, studious, intelligent central female character who must be “rescued” from her life-endangering plight by a “bad boy” male….who turns out to have insert-your-favorite-paranormal-trope-here; why can’t the teen in need be a male rescued by a self-confident female sans special powers?
When the big climax of the book rolled around, I really didn’t care what happened to any of the characters.
So YA paranormal romance is not for me. If you liked Twilight and others in that same vein (Shiver, House of Night, etc) then you’ll like this one – angels/fallen angels/Nephilim instead of vampires and werewolves. If the thought of reading Twilight makes you gag…you’d best skip Hush, Hush.
PS: Nora, the protagonist, chows iron tablets like they were Flintstones vitamins. I’m an epidemiologist – I have never once ran across any chronic condition that called for the ingestion of iron tablets when one felt faint. If you want the heroine to have a condition requiring as needed medication when she starts feeling bad try diabetes. Otherwise that’s just poor research (put me right off The Sister).
Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge Count: 5/8
I picked up Roseanna last fall during a mystery book sale; I decided I needed to read a few mysteries and since I really fell in love with Stieg Larsson’s writing I went for at least one Swede. Roseanna is the first in the Martin Beck series; I’m not really familiar with the crime genre so I made sure I went for a “book 1” just in case.
The storyline seems “ripped from the headlines”: a young woman’s body found in a lake, no one knows who she is, can the police solve the crime, etc. There is a bit of a stylistic similarity with Larsson’s writing and Sjowall/Wahloo’s writing, making me wonder if it’s a Swedish thing, even though Roseanna was published in the early 1960s. It’s very matter-of-fact, no swirling images conjured by a flowing description just a simple statement of fact. This is what Beck thinks. This is what Beck does, eats, travels on, says. Just the facts, making the recounting of the murder and search for the killer all that more chilling because there’s no padding between the reader and the investigation.
If I hadn’t known the book was written and published in the 1960s I might not have guessed because the crime and investigation seemed very much what is still in vogue in the thriller genre today. Even the killer’s psychological state seemed straight from an episode of Criminal Minds. I really didn’t notice the absence of computers, Internet, and cell phones; the mark of a good story, yes? I’d like to read a bit more in the Martin Beck series but I need to read the Henning Mankell I’ve got on my shelves first.
Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge Count: 4/6
This will be a short review. For a long book.
I started Bloom’s Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human because Bloom looms large in the halls of Shakespeare criticism (no pun intended). You have to read it sometime so I figured I’d read it a bit at a time, not too awful. I’d listened to Bloom’s Portable Professor lectures on Shakespeare’s tragedies and thought them not bad (if you can get around Bloom’s voice, which sounds like the Impressive Clergyman from The Princess Bride, reading Juliet’s speeches) as well as reading The Western Canon the year prior (also not bad).
But the Shakespeare book? Well….Bloom likes Falstaff. A lot. A lot, a lot. Enough to make you want to gouge your eyes out during the very, very, very long chapter on Henry IV Parts 1 and 2. Which is what I wanted to do and caused me to put the book away for a long time; the cats helped by shoving it behind the nightstand. I did eventually dig it back out from behind the nightstand, finished the Falstaff love-fest, slogged through the commentary on Hamlet, and polished off the last 200 pages during the readathon. I am glad I finished because the Antony and Cleopatra chapter had some good insights but the reading was pretty painful for a while.
One thing that baffles me is a complete lack of bibliography, index, and annotations. Bloom quotes any number of different critics during the book but I would have quite a hard time finding the correct AC Bradley source (for example) because I don’t know which piece of criticism supplied the quote. No index makes this look like Shakespeare is for a layman, which might be the intent, but the language structure is advanced and assumes the reader has prior knowledge of the entire Shakespeare canon; at that point, you need at minimum a bibliography.
Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge Count: 5/7
My copy of the Man Booker 2009 winning novel arrived one week after the award announcement (luckily, I finished The Children’s Book just in time). Nice. Interesting red dust jacket. I know it’s about Thomas Cromwell…but why is it titled Wolf Hall?
I’m not going to tell you why the book is titled Wolf Hall (it’s an oblique reference, you have to know the history of Henry VIII’s reign, and then you have to draw your own reasoning). Sorry, but telling gives a bit away, not that the major action of the novel is a mystery because nearly every character in the book is/was a real person. Wolf Hall is most interesting in that Hilary Mantel has taken a man rendered very cold and scheming by history (Thomas Cromwell is usually portrayed as a bean-counting, social-climbing lawyer) and redrawn him as a family man, albeit one with a very shrewd business sense. Scary shrewd business sense. Cromwell is a man who suffers the loss of his wife and daughters yet perseveres in supporting his son and an extended network of wards, nephews, neices, sisters, sisters-in-law, etc. during Henry’s turbulent reign.
I did come to like the character Cromwell over the course of the novel. Mantel chose to write the novel using a limited third person narration so all events of the novel are told entirely through Cromwell’s point-of-view (his is the only inner monologue to which the reader is privy); it’s a bit like being the proverbial fly-on-the-wall in every scene because no scene in the novel occurs whithout Cromwell’s presence. Mantel also used “he” to reference Cromwell most of the time, instead of I, and this leads to my one and only complaint: approximately 80% of the characters of the book are male, 100% in a number of scenes, so using “he” to almost exclusively refer to a character when multiple characters speaking/acting are male becomes confusing. Does the “he” really refer to Cromwell (because it did most of the time) but in some instances does Mantel mean Henry? Or Percy? Or Norfolk, Suffolk, Rafe, Call-Me-Risley, Christophe? Backtracking multiple times in a novel does kind of get to me after a while. In a novel that is otherwise very enjoyable and well crafted the lack of clarity seems a failure on both the part of the editor and author.
If I compare Wolf Hall to The Children’s Book I have to say I’m a little disappointed. Byatt’s writing is lush, her novel well-crafted with fantastic multiple voices that give color to her time period. Mantel’s writing is much sparer – which I expected from a novel about Cromwell – but I didn’t find it as evocative of the Tudor reign and the narrative convention did rub me up the wrong way. Do I think The Children’s Book should have won the Booker? Yes. Am I biased because I think Byatt is fantastic? Of course. Does Wolf Hall deserve the Booker? On that question, my jury is still out; I enjoyed reading Wolf Hall (it is a good story) and it was a fun book to finish off during the readathon but since I didn’t read all the Booker-shortlisted titles I really can’t say if the race was solely between Byatt and Mantel. I’ve got some more reading ahead of me.
Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge Count: 3/5