Thursday, February 18, 2010

Moll Flanders

This month's book club selection was DeFoe's Moll Flanders (Norton Critical Editions).I'd say it's a fun read once you get used to the language and the convention of capitalizing most nouns. "Moll" whose name we never really learn, leads a wild life. She's born to a convict and luckily is raised by a prosperous family, but once she gets older and catches men's eyes, trouble begins. She racks up the husbands and lovers. The unexpected is the norm in this life as Moll even winds up inadvertently marrying her brother. The second half of her life, she takes to crime with unbelievable success and creativity. Throughout this chronicle, the main character looks back on her adventures and is quite open though we can see her unreliability and Defoe's hand behind the character.

It's a good read, but not a favorite, as some parts seemed contrived. It is one of the first novels so we should cut it some slack. There's a lot of energy and spice.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Chaucer and the Canterbury Tales, a documentary

My inattention to my Netflix queue landed a documentary on Chaucer, that I placed there last February, but it was unavailable then, in my mailbox. I watched it anyway though I had no particular urge to see it. Chaucer & the Canterbury Tales
wound up being an edifying, though sometimes dry, look at Chaucer's life and times. I learned a lot about the peasant revolt, the early stirrings against church corruption and how Medieval politics and government worked. The people were beginning to be more involved than I expected. I had never heard of this major peasant revolt against the baronage. The peasants wanted a good king to rule with no self-interested class in between. (They'd have seen a self-interested king as a tyrant.)

Terry Jones from Monty Python offered lots of interesting commentary. That was a high point. The weakness of the documentary was the long narration. The visuals were fitting when they should art of the period or some of the building from that time, but often it got repetitive. It seemed they were at a loss as to how to visualize Chaucer's life and times. I do see this as good for students learning about Chaucer, because they'll get a lot of information, though I'd probably break down the viewings to half hour segments.