Monday, 20 February 2012

Happy Family Day!

I thought I would take advantage of the extra day off work I have this week to write my post on Family Day Monday rather than wait until Wednesday morning, when I have less time to write.  I have lots to write about on this lovely, crisp sunny day after a long walk and as I settle down with a hot cup of homemade curried pumpkin soup... mmm!

Before I forget to do so, I wanted to mention something that ties in with my book club discussion of Pride and Prejudice.  I meant to write about it last week, but I was so excited to write about the 2 books that I had finished that it completely slipped my mind.  The famous opening line of P&P is "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."  If you recall, I wasn't overly taken with this novel and wondered whether I would be able to contribute in any meaningful way to the discussion.  Another book I have came to mind, and I thought it would provide an interesting opportunity to contribute to the discussion without actually discussing the novel.  I have an uncorrected proof of Mark Crick's Kafka's Soup:  a complete history of world literature in 14 recipes, which is a collection of "recipes" written in the styles of 14 famous writers, such as Jane Austen, Franz Kafka, John Steinbeck, Graham Greene, Homer, and my favourite, Raymond Chandler.  The recipe written in the style of Austen is for "Tarragon Eggs".  After the ingredient list, the cooking instructions begin with this:  "It is a truth universally acknowledged that eggs, if kept too long, go off."  It goes on to suggest that the main character, Mrs B-, hopes to make good matches for these eggs in the coming weeks.  I read online that Crick, a British writer and photographer, made a comment to his publisher that cookbooks would be more interesting if the text were written better.  His publisher asked how Crick would improve on this, and he said that it would be more interesting if the texts were written in the styles of the great writers.  This is how this project supposedly came to be, and I must say, it is hilarious!  I especially enjoy reading aloud the recipe and cooking instructions for "Lamb with Dill Sauce a la Raymond Chandler" in a gruff, grisled tone that I associate with Humphrey Bogart (isn't he the one who played in all those films based on Chandler's novels?)  I read the "cooking instructions" for Austen's Tarragon Eggs aloud to my group in what I thought was an appropriate voice and they found it very funny.  I passed the book around to them, and one member asked where she could get this book.  Unfortunately, we don't have it at the library, so I think if anyone is interested, they would have to order a copy online.  Anyways, there's my plug for Mark Crick.

I finished reading Laura Lippman's Life Sentences late last week.  Remember it was the one that had an opening line commenting on it being Valentine's Day and I actually started reading it on Valentine's Day?  It was a bit disappointing, to say the least.  I stuck with it, though, as I kept hoping it would all come together in the end, which it did, sort of.  I think I summarized it already but in case I didn't, it tells the story of a moderately successful writer who is looking for a subject for her next book when an old acquaintance from childhood, who was imprisoned for 7 years for the death or disappearance of her son, is suddenly in the news again.  She decides that she will explore her childhood and try to get this person to talk to her, to have the opportunity to tell the real story behind the crime.  It was just the type of story I love, childhood secrets explored in adulthood, old friendships and alliances revealed and rekindled or extinguished, as the case may be.  But this book was just too unfocused, to vague, brought in too many characters' points of views and stories.  Lippman didn't seem to know what she wanted this book to be, an exploration of the challenges writers face when they are between books, a quest for the truth behind the imprisonment of a woman for a crime that may or may not have been committed, the problems an adult daughter faces when trying to understand her father's abandonment, or the problems Americans faced in the 1960s when attempting to form interracial relationships, among other things.  This book ended up tackling all of these issues and focuses, but not very well, in this reader's opinion.  I believe Lippman would have done better to reduce the number of characters who presented their stories in first-person narratives and narrow the focus to maybe the writer and her quest for the truth about her friend's involvement in the crime and subsequent imprisonment, and how that relates to her relationship with her father, mother and stepmother.  But again, that's just my opinion.  I will definitely read some of her other stand-alone novels (I think I have I'd Know You Anywhere checked out from the library and sitting on my desk at work waiting for me to read).

I'm now reading The Woodcutter by British writer Reginald Hill.  Hill, who recently passed away, is probably most famous for his "Dalzeil & Pascoe" mystery series, which I've tried to read but have never really taken to.  This is a stand-alone, published in 2010, and tells the story of a man who grew up as the son of a forester on an estate, fell in love with the daughter of the estate owner, got rich and educated, and married her.  This fairy-tale story all comes crashing down when the main character, Wolf, is arrested and charged with possession of child porn and paedophilia, as well as fraud.  As he sits in prison maintaining his innocence, he reveals his story to his psychiatrist through journal entries, which he passes on every week.  Through these pages, we get insight into the details of Wolf's life, and I expect there will be clues as to what has happened to him, who has caused such chaos, and why.  I'm about a quarter of the way into this 500+ page hardcover, and I'm very interested in finding out all the details and discovering the answers to the above questions.

And finally, my husband and I went to see the new film "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" this weekend, and I must say, it was amazing.  It was very intense, the intensity created and maintained by the incredibly slow pace of the plot and action throughout the film, and of course the amazing performance of Gary Oldman as George Smiley.  I don't know how well the film was adapted from the novel, as I've never read that book, although I believe one of this film's Oscar nominations is for Best Adapted Screenplay, so I'm guessing they did a good job.  I really enjoyed it, but I found it difficult to understand all the details as they were happening.  Like with a film adaptation of a Shakespearean play, I had to just "go with it" and hope that I get the gist of the story by the end, which usually happens.  Just as in those cases, that is when all things in this film became clear.

I think that's it for today.

Bye for now!
Julie

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