Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Books: Gone Girl. A Novel by Gillian Flynn, 2012

It is a smart, well written novel in the tradition of Patricia Highsmith. It is very hard to follow in her footsteps but Ms Flynn manages to do that pretty well. The novel follows a very complex structure and especially in the second half when the "trick" with Amy's diary is revealed, walks on the razor's edge trying to balance logic and conflicting psychological motivations. Often it seems the author is almost about to trip switching between the narratives of He and She but eventually manages to pull it off neatly, collect all loose ends and turn it all into one huge metaphor of male-female love-hate stand-off and psychological warfare. “One situation – maybe one alone – could drive me to murder: family life, togetherness” Patricia Highsmith is quoted to have said...Ms Flynn's novel is an intricate illustration of that statement with a little bit of Porfiry Petrovich thrown in -- his role being played by a female local cop...The language is witty with that type of wittiness that misleadingly steers the reader into "chick-lit" territory only to make them realize later that this genre affiliation is severely ironically undermined.

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Film: Nebraska. Director Alexander Payne, 2013

A little bit of a disappointment delivered by a favorite director... This is not "About Schmidt"...far from it. It lacks the drama, the surprise, the painful realization of a wasted life catching up shockingly with an unsuspecting Schmidt. In "Nebraska" the main character is too senile, too confused to be able to experience or sustain a drama. Actually, we don't know if he is capable of experiencing anything. Impossible to identify with him. All the characters are predictable cliches. The black and white vision seems like a whim - carries no meaning. It oddly reminds of a Bogdanovich film without a Bogdanovich message...Bob Nelson's script does not rise above the anecdotal. Overall - it seems like Payne took the path of least resistance and tried to do tell a story that he already knows how to tell.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Books: Paris: The Novel. Edward Rutherfurd, 2013

Could not finish this book by internationally best selling author of historical fiction Edward Rutherfurd.
It is a combination of a Paris tour guide and a soap opera intertwined with French history on high-school level. 
Think about the vast audience out there that actually reads Rutherfurd - readers endowed with intellectual naivete and literary innocence...

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Saturday, April 05, 2014

Books: My Struggle - Part 1. A Man in Love - Part 2. A Novel by Karl Ove Knausgaard, 2012, 2013

I resisted liking My Struggle. It won me over slowly after I had finished the first half of the book and at the end of it I was convinced that it is one of the best books I have come across recently. The ending of the first part of My Struggle (the events following the death of Karl Ove's father) is an example of some truly great writing without even trying to be one. This is actually the secret of the book - it is great literature pretending to be a documentary account of simple everyday events. The book has some of the magnificent qualities of  Scandinavian literature - the somber tone, the harrowing honesty to oneself to the point of self-flagellation and to the point of cruelty when it concerns the others, the fearless embrace of life. It is written in the great tradition of Ibsen, Strindberg and Bergman...And of course, it owes a lot to Proust but in a sense, it is also quite anti-Proustian. This book deals with the nature of memory but not in the narcissistic way that can be so boring in Proust. It dwells on the minutiae of life with a sense of desperation - the desperation that life has no essence, that there is nothing beyond the string of fleeting moments which can never be satisfactory because one is always speeding towards the next moment dreaming that it would be more complete. The sense that the present cannot be truly experienced because one always is in want of something else. 

I have never been so conscious of the oppression of small talk and socializing as after reading Knausgaard. His account of a child's birthday party is more valuable than a book with dozens of fictional characters vainly searching for happiness. His descriptions of a drive home after a failed attempt at vacationing with his family, or a Christmas party with friends, or trying to return a soup in a restaurant, or just smoking outside his apartment building and observing the kids' play, etc. etc. -- are more insightful than hundreds of pages of many (critically acclaimed) novels.

Sometimes, the emotions conveyed are so true, so close to reality, that because of that lack of fictional distance between the narrator and the reader, one just wants to close the book and cry.

I don't want fiction, I want to read Knausgaard.
                                                                                                                             "Too much desire, too little hope"

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