Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Crazed

The Crazeddisappointed me. I really can't recommend it. There are better novels and nonfiction on China. This is the story of a graduate student in China whose mentor has a stroke. He's engaged to the professor's daughter and genuinely is fond of him so he agrees to look after the old teacher since his daughter and wife are both out of town.

In his sleep the professor babbles or rants in full paragraphs for extended periods of time revealing his past infidelities, disappointments, and betrayals. I've been around people who talk in their sleep and it's never clear prose. It's fragments of truth mixed with the imagined. Thus I couldn't buy the main part of the story.

At the end the main character gets sucked into the Tienanmen Square uprising, which the cover blurbs played up. These important events are very much in the background till the end. I realize most people aren't actual witnesses to major historical events, but the marketing department didn't want anyone to know that. I was led to believe that those events were more central to the plot.

There's a lot on the politics of Chinese universities, but I think that's only of interest to students or people working in universities.

Find something else. Read something by Jan Wong instead.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Bridge of San Luis Rey

The May choice for my online book club is Thornton Wilder's novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey. I was curious about reading a Wilder novel and can see his style for description throughout. Yet this book left me a bit cold.

It's the story of Brother Juniper's attempt to figure out the reason why the rickety old San Luis Rey bridge suddenly collapsed killing five people. Was it fate? Retribution? What? Through this search we get to read the stories of five characters whose lives are all at a turning point.

I just couldn't get that interested in these characters or Brother Juniper. I really felt that old bridges collapse in this world that God created. They aren't likely to collapse when no one's on them, are they? I may have found the story more compelling and fresh if I read it when it first came out. Now several Latin authors are well known and weave wonderful stories. I'm thinking of Isabelle Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, etc.

For more on the book you can go to Thornton Wilder Society website

Sunday, May 10, 2009

King Lear - Again

My online book club read King Lear so I reread it. I had about the same reaction. I realize it's a classic, but it's not my favorite. I discovered I'm not alone.
I finished Lear last night and it's actually the second time I read it in the last 9 months or so as I read it for another Great Books group.

I have to say, while I know this is considered his best play, I don't like it as much as MacBeth or The Tempest or several others. I think I lose patience with Lear because as Jack mentioned, he brings on all his troubles. If he knew his daughters better . . . if he hadn't divided the kingdom which he obviously still wants to rule . . . .

Also it gets rather gruesome - Gloucester's eyes getting put out was too much for me.

The language is excellent as one would expect. I did like every scene with the fool in it.

In the back of my edition they included some of the source material for the play and criticism. One critic said that in other hands, this would be a disaster, I agree.

According to one critic, A.C. Brady, Lear is both Shakespeare's most admired play and one of the less popular and financially successful. He believes it's uneven and that it's in many ways too big for the stage. There is a log of emotion to take in.
If you're going to read this get, Norton's Critical Edition. I found the background and critical essays interesting.

In the online discussion one writer said that Kurasawa's version of Lear (Ran) convinced him to switch from theater to film as a major. That is a powerful movie. I think Lear makes a better film than play as a director can be more panoramic in film.