After reading a book about a divorce middle aged white guy who has lost a child I thought what could be better than reading a book about a divorce middle aged white guy who has lost a child.
This grated a bit on me at the start. The hero being too American, too upbeat, too aww shucks about everything. But by the end I was won over. I saw the subtlety and the facade of the thing, the depth beneath the eyes, beneath the character of Frank.
It was what I suppose is called a picaresque. A series of vignettes. Some a bit forced, some real. All adding up to the evolution of a man.
I have the sequel and the third book in the series and now look forward to reading them. These books have resonance and profundity and are quite what I should be reading at this time in my life.
Am sure everyone is reading it, but hey, I’ve already finished it. David Nicholls. Us.
Few writers have quite such a capacity to tell a good story well, but here, with a journey through art and Europe, and European Art I suppose, he adds layers of subtext and meaning to his tale of soured love and makes a leap towards the more literary fiction most writers aspire to, without losing any of his storytelling instinct.
Where One Day gave insight into the birth of a relationship and how that first urgent love makes markers in the ground throughout a life, this book looks at what happens when you marry the next person along. Not the person who blew your mind, but the person who came afterwards to help you pick up the pieces.
Douglas marries his wife as she rebounds from, recoils from, the excitements of her first love. He never really knows it, but that infuses their marriage. The faint sigh of regret, born on a wind, never heard by the other partner. So Douglas goes about being a good husband, supportive always through sadness, a good hands on father, but rather too fastidious, conventional.
Her love of art and music and film she tries to pass onto him, but what is gold in her hands turns to dust in his, and though he tries, he kind of fails - and it doesn’t really matter. Except it does. As the story begins she is ready to move on and leave behind this well loved marriage and man and explore again, before her time is past.
Their son is artistic and sensitive, but like all teens his sensitivity manifests itself in anti-social behaviour and an inability to connect with his father, who he sees as dull, thudding, insensitive. And maybe he is. He has a job he doesn’t connect with in a house and town away from where they were happy. Compromises for the sake of the family that have ultimately laid him low.
So as the three prepare to go their separate ways they take a Grand Tour of Europe which Douglas hopes will mend the breaks, repair the fault-lines, and bring about a reconciliation of sorts and at least save his marriage.
What follows is funny, tender, sweet, wistful. Never mawkish, always brisk and readable, but illuminating too. This is the middle of life. Not the bright eager flush of youths beginning, nor the shattered end that Rachel Joyce’s books have recently pondered. It’s the meat in between, the quietly unspoken gap we all live longest in but speak least about.
Am on a plane to Atlanta, Georgia. Exciting work training trip thing.
9 hours in the air but due to reading fantastically good book I took a break to watch only one of the hundreds of film options. This one.
How charming? Lovely Keira Knightly and a really well cast Mark Ruffalo lovely songs, sweet story, laughs, mildly moist eyes. Just a lovely film. Charming really sums it up. Just that. Just, charming.
Not sure I was the target audience for this, but enjoyed it all the same. From a Young Adult book and probably would have suited me better when I was 15.
Still, good tale well told. Appealing cast. Ronan and MacKay very strong and made you care for the central relationship. The premise was good. Terrorist nuclear bomb on London. The fall out. Not melodramatic. Powerfully told tale of how society would fall apart.
I am greatly vexed by the idea of books going out of print, that they are so unloved and so unwanted that they cannot exist even in ebook form. And where this fate befalls books by pretty acclaimed writers it seems all the more peculiar.
And so I was sympathetic to After The War, which is long deleted and available madly cheaply in UK paperback or US hardback on eBay and Amazon. It had been turned into a ten hour drama for ITV in the late eighties and the book was hugely dialogue heavy so I think the two were written in tandem.
It started well and ended well, but sandwiched in between were a mad surfeit of characters who you could not remember from one page to the next. Everyone was wealthy and unsympathetic and they all worked in the theatre, film or TV, but it never gave you any insight into those industries. The characters were too loquacious to be believable and even the heaviest drama was undercut by tedious wordplay and jokes which made everything seem light, tenuous.
The ostensible theme was whether the promised land After The War was ever delivered but it hardly offered a mixed bag of human experience of life after WW2, it was just middle class people developing their careers and love lives. It had a low level theme about Israel which became more important as the book reached its end, but even that potentially interesting plot tailed off into ambiguity and the failure to take sides. Though more kindly, maybe that was what does come as a positive; a sense of the destiny of the Arab/Israeli conflict being perceived through a prism of the past.
In the end the book delivered nothing of the promise. Some memorable lines and good characters were subsumed by flaccid plots, hopeless minor characters who blurred into sameness, and an overall sense that the reach of the book had far exceeded its grasp.
And so I pack it away thinking maybe it’s right that some books don’t get reprinted. I’m not sure the world is missing much in this. And if you feel you are. Hit ebay.
Watched Ghost with the kids.
First time in twenty years I reckon. How well did this stand up? Lovely. Charming, moving, beautiful, funny. Sort of a perfect commercial film.
Whoopi Goldberg was inspired and excellent, Demi Moore was about as beautiful as it’s possible to be. Swayze and Goldwyn strong in their roles. Romantic, sweet but with a rich story beyond the sheen about the nature of good and evil, destiny, the power of love. All good stuff which I thought the kids would get some provocations from.
Some of the effects looked a bit hokey now and ultimately it’s a bit sweet, but really enjoyable and well worth seeing again.
Saw Everything is Illuminated. Odd.
I enjoyed it very much. Dangerously close to too quirky and the music was maybe rather heavy handed at times but in all it was a fascinating, funny, ultimately moving story.
Understand it is only a single stripe of the novel on which it is based and so excised much which might have helped tell the tale. A few more flashbacks would have been enjoyable, to move away from the pure road movie vibe occasionally. Where we did see the past it felt like a place to explore. Maybe it would have been a better mini series, where it would have had the chance to explore the wider story. Always feels a waste when a book is so shorn down to its barest essence.
That said, it was cute and stylish and the Alex actor, the singer from Gogol Bordello I understand, Eugene Hutz, was remarkable. His out dated American cultural references and inappropriate terminology always sweetly funny rather than patronising or cliched.
Really enjoyed it and recommend it. Was a fairly substantial flop I think, and can see why. A hard sell and no stars beyond Elijah Wood, but deserving now of a much wider audience.
What a surprise this was. If I have ever seen it before then it would have been decades ago. It’s gritty feel, excellent acting and emotional reach were at odds with the relative glamour of the later Rocky films I had seen.
It became pretty formulaic I guess but this first one actually won Oscars. If it had ended there it would have been seen as a classic, because it kept coming back, diluting it’s essence, it ultimately blew the critical goodwill, though the success of the final film a year or so back suggested the public goodwill was still there.
I liked Talia Shire best but Stallone was great too, and Burgess Meredith terribly moving. Really affecting and well done.
All good, and the kids liked it too. Now for the sequels.
New David Bowie compilation in November. Nothing Has Changed. Artwork under wraps.
A fresh chance to own another copy of Space Oddity.
Looks like a decent best of though. Some obvious inclusions of course but some different mixes and some unheard stuff, a new song.
Frankly, at this point it doesn’t matter what it has on. It’s all good. We’re blessed.
Didn’t go a bundle on this. Odd direction from Ryan Murphy. Tone rather curious. Light and comedic vibe to tell a strange and tragic tale. Actors mostly good, though the main actor was poor I thought. A sort of pre-disastered Kurt Hummel. Too fey and wispy for the role somehow, which I guess seems ironic, but a more robust actor carrying the film would have helped.
Alec Baldwin and Anette Bening particularly good, but the whole added up to little and I was not enlightened or engaged.
I slightly preferred the film the kids made me watch last night. A remarkable piece about a man afflicted with an eating disorder, trapped inside an obese body, the tragic outcome of indulgence by overweight parents unable to stop loving him too much.
The man, successful in his work, was unable to find love and desperately unhappy. Ultimately he was able to find a solution through drugs which helped him towards dramatic but temporary weight loss. He found that the weight loss made him more attractive, that he was perceived much more in the way he wanted to be seen, but he was less kind, harder, arrogant. Some of the softness had been lost, he was edgier, crueler.
It was a profound meditation on change, pursuit, desire, following ones dreams and ultimately being undone by them. A happy ending resulted when he was able to return to his larger frame but find love. I had not seen the film before but we all enjoyed it.
It was called The Nutty Professor and starred Eddie Murphy. It was very good. I shall look out for more of his work.