I'm so annoyed at the Masterpiece Theater productions of the Jane Austen novels. They've had three on so far, and they seem to be making a regular hash of each book in turn. They've apparently allotted just 90 minutes for each story, which is hardly sufficient, and have ignored most of the major plot points and supporting characters to give the most time possible to Hollywood-izing the love stories.
Yes, love stories are mostly at the center of her novels, but to state what is apparently a sort of heresy, they are not the main point. Gillian Anderson has been given the task of introducing each show, and whoever is writing her copy is terminally clueless. Before the first show, she declared that the consuming theme of Austen's work was "the search for a soul mate." What rubbish! The big thing in the novels -- and it can't be shoved aside fast enough in these adaptations -- is morality. Austen makes a point of punishing pride, lust, greed, dishonesty, inconstancy. The objectionable characters do not win the heart of the discerning herione, or only if they change. Gamblers and drinkers fall ill. Rogues are exposed. Frivolous or silly people are their own punishment. And her people do not find their soul mates -- they find the mates they deserve.
I hate that Austen gets robbed of her depth and her real talent is not displayed. It seems like her books get written off as "romances," which is a very superficial way to describe them. Masterpiece Theater, you should stop screwing up these masterpieces!
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
In Cruddy, a novel by Lynda Barry, it seems like almost every ghastly thing that can happen does happen to the heroine, a 16-year-old named Roberta. Though the plot is more like a horror movie than a coming of age tale, there are spots of humor and it is a very readable book. I've loved Lynda Barry and her comics for years, and the tone and some of the themes of her comics are felt in the book. I worry about her, though. Where does all this darkness come from? I hope writing the book helped her expunge some of it. But then again--as Maria says--don't be afraid of the dark. Yay!
at 10:01 PM
Monday, January 21, 2008
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Unlike the last book, I blew through Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich in less than 24 hours. I've been meaning to read it for some time and it doesn't disappoint. For her book, Ehrenreich spent time working low-wage jobs (waitress, housecleaner, nursing home aide, Wal-Mart employee) in Florida, Maine, and Minnesota. Her aim was to determine if it was possible to live on minimum wage in the wake of welfare reform that was predicated on the notion that if welfare recipients could get jobs, everything would be fine. She found that minimum-wage living means using most of your earnings to pay for housing, and not being able to consistently feed yourself, never mind take care of kids or pay for transportation. And if you get sick, taking time off can mean not having money for groceries. Going to the doctor is often not an option at all. In short, many millions of people are working more than full time and are still not able to their meet basic needs. Barbara bottom lines it for us, with an alternative view of the way our economy works:
When someone works for less pay than she can live on--when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently--then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life. The "working poor," as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthopists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.
Preach it, sister. Yay!
at 4:21 PM
Friday, January 18, 2008
I'd never heard of Henry Green or his novel Loving until I ran across it on the list of the top 100 novels in English of the 20th century as chosen by the Modern Library's editorial board. (Re: the reader's list? Step away from the Ayn Rand -- she's a crazy lady!) I decided a few years ago that I was going to try and read all 100. This one obviously deserves to on be the list. It's a story about English people living in a mansion in Ireland during World War II. Most of the story is about the servants' lives and loves, and the tension between them and their employer. It's a visual book, almost cinematic. The action moves smoothly from one place to another -- you can almost see how it would be framed on screen. The characters have depth. So I don't know why I didn't enjoy it more. It is only 200 pages, but it took me forever to read. I kept looking to see what page I was on. I do believe that you have to be in the mood for books, and often when I really enjoy one, I think it's because it happened along at the right time. Your timing must be off, Mr. Green. OK.
at 9:50 PM
Friday, January 11, 2008
Sunday, January 6, 2008
The first book I finished in 2008 is Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most -- by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen. This book is terrific if somewhat overwhelming. The thesis is that in order to communicate effectively, you have to understand what's not being said in the average conversation: the feelings involved, the identity issues. They have a lot of good advice for delving into what's really going on, asking questions, listening carefully, and so on. It's very important stuff, but it definitely paints a picture of even the smallest human interaction as amazingly complex. One begins to consider the benefits of a hermit-like lifestyle, engaging only in monologues with animals and plants. But, barring that, this information will probably make life easier in the end, if I can screw up my courage to put it into action. Yay!
at 11:10 AM