Reading, listening, watching

May 11, 2011 § 4 Comments

Still no phone! They were due to turn it on today but the phone employees are on strike and we waited in vain.

You cannot have Internet till you have phone, and you cannot have phone until you have your AFM number, and even if you have that, you have to make an appointment and wait three weeks.

So for a month now at home I have been left to eat boiled vegetables and read. Which is not so bad.

Anyway, with a tip of my orange straw hat to Manolo I give you this list of what’s occupying my attention.

Mansfield Park

Kindle public-domain free books: enlarge your culture, indulge your stinginess.

I pretended to have read this in college. In fact, I’d read no Austen at all until this year, when I plowed through Pride & Prejudice and decided to go on. Finally I find I can wear pink without repugnance and read novels about marriages without going cuckoo with boredom. Girlhood came late but it came. And it turns out to be unromantic.

So with apologies to all you responsible literary types who did your assigned reading long ago in school, I find Austen to be, pleasantly, the opposite of a prose stylist; she is instead a shrewd portraitist and assessor of positions and strategies, analyzing through entertainingly revealing scenes all the iffy speculations and mistakes the heart makes in context of money and society. Not a purple flourish anywhere. Too bad the main character has the personality of a snail. Furthermore, since Austen’s romances seem always concerned with the problem of maximally valuing a lady’s maidenhead in the great one-time auction of her nubility, the name Fanny Price seems a bad joke.

Glee: The Music presents The Warblers

I am ashamed of my crush on Darren Criss.

The King’s Speech

Good dialogue, all actors in exceptional form (save for dull Derek Jacobi). That said, the plot unfolds without surprises, and the pacing goes a little soggy at the vital part (the king switch). Set and costume reek of big budget and small research. Accents sound surprisingly anachronistic. Ambitious camerawork sometimes distracts. But despite these quibbles, the film is enjoyable. Bonham-Carter’s queen mum is charmingly quick and acid. Colin Firth’s Bertie is perfectly sympathetic, with that hemorrhoidal, crumbling-from-the-inside expression that has served him so well. Geoffrey Rush is still a marvel of perfectly tuned choices, giving a subtle performance when an overweeningly hammy one would have been easy to turn in. Guy Pearce makes a convincingly abominably selfish, weak, abdicating Edward. The film is worth watching for these, though in truth there is little tension in the story at all.

Also, Churchill what?

As context for my bewilderment at the film’s portrayal of Britain’s attitudes on the coming war, I have had a good time recently reading, on the recommendation of a friend, the Cazalet novels by Elizabeth Jane Howard, which cover the same era in Britain from the point of view of an affluent English family. I find there greater acknowledgment of the ambivalence, understandable selfishness and apprehension the Brits had about war with Hitler. Instead whitewash coats this film, where the only character tainted with Nazi sympathies seems to be Mrs. Simpson. At some point all events must cease to be within living memory, and there will be no one left to correct us. So let us please be sticklers: let us please promulgate fewer flattering legends about how we met the evils that stalked our path, so those in the future who must meet their own evils are not misled by our little lies about the difficulties of doing so.

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§ 4 Responses to Reading, listening, watching

  • Amy says:

    I have a friend in Paris who waited six months for France Telecom to turn on her internet. (She had moved exactly one building over.) Sometimes I’m glad to live in the good ol’ U. S. of A., where customer service is a religion.

  • Victoria says:

    I think that my friend in India is waiting for hers (one year later!) 🙂

  • Persolaise says:

    It sounds as though we felt the same way about The King’s Speech… but history MUST be tweaked to meet the demands of test audiences.

    Incidentally, you do know which world-famous, oft-reviled woman has made a film about Mrs Simpson…?

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