Monday, February 09, 2009

Mini Review Roundup

Here are a few items I've read, watched, or otherwise experienced lately.

American Pastoral, by Philip Roth. I do believe that there were exactly three participants in the latest rendition of DCoE Book Club, and my slacker arse still hasn't written the final post. Until now. (here's the second to last post in case you're keeping track) We've been introduced to the Swede and his wife and daughter, who has blown up a building, killed someone in the process, and gone into hiding. Years later, the Swede discovers her whereabouts- the former murderous activist is now living as a Jain and working at an animal shelter. She does not bathe, she barely eats, and she lives in squalor. The Swede tells no one else of his discovery thinking that it's better for the rest of the family to consider her disappeared than see her in her current condition. I won't go into too much detail to avoid spoilers, but essentially the Swede learns to accept a bitter truth- there is no explanation for life's tragedies. A depressing book, indeed, but very interesting and exquisitely written. A couple of brief comments for those of you who read it- Dawn's affair? I saw that one coming a mile away. Also, what was up with Rita Cohen? Merry denies ever knowing her but I think Merry lied about that and am unsure as to why.
As an aside, I've decided that the whole online book club doesn't work that well. I mean, we all know that "book club" is code for "wine night" and so doing it online misses out on that aspect. I've actually joined a real life Book Club with some Boston-area bloggers and we're re-reading the classics- this month is The Great Gatsby. And yes there is wine involved.
Back to American Pastoral, another thing that struck me about it is that it seems like every generation suffers from its own brand of senseless violence. In the 60s and 70s, angry teenagers blew up buildings whereas in the 90s they started shooting up schools. Which brings me to...

Elephant- After watching Milk I decided to check out another movie by director Gus Van Sant, a 2003 fictional film about a high-school massacre. Slow-paced and beautifully shot, Elephant tracks the existence of a handful of high schoolers archetypes- the popular couple, the misfit girl, the photographer, a bulimic trio, and the two students who plan and execute a school shooting. Van Sant shot the film in his native Oregon, casting local students instead of professionals. The viewer knows what's going to happen, and the clean, suburban setting and mostly white student body immediately evoke thoughts of Columbine. What's unusual is the detached, observational feel of the film. We gain no insight as to the motives of the killers. We see no reasons behind who lives and who dies. When it came out, Elephant was both controversial and highly praised- here's an old review from Slate.

Okay, in case the gloomy content above is getting you down, here's a Youtube clip of 40 Inspirational Speeches in 2 Minutes. Now go forth and conquer. Is there anything more motivational than a slow clap? I didn't think so.


S said...

Book club is indeed wine night so maybe that's why I wasn't able to get into this book. That, and New Moon kept taunting me.
I've recently joined a new real life book club so I'll be interested in hearing what you all are reading.

mj said...

Thanks for posting another book club update. I think I finished the book in December or was it January? It's hard to keep track of the months when you aren't working. Anyways, it is a well written book and I agree with you that it's depressing. I was expecting a little more of the story after he found his daughter, it just seemed to go and on with all these little tangents. Especially Dawn and her beauty pageant days which I thought had already been covered.

Since finishing American Pastoral, I recently read Certain Girls, which is the sequel to Good in Bed. Now I'm working on Mirror Mirror written by Gregory Macguire. If that book is any good, I'll try his one of his other novels, Son of a Witch. Have you read any of his books beside Wicked?

eileen said...

MJ! I think you're the only other one who finished American Pastoral.

I haven't read any of the other Gregory Maguire books but I've been wanting to because, as you know, I did really like Wicked.