Sunday, June 27, 2010

Little Women

My online book club read Little Women this month. I remember seeing a play of it as a child and being struck by Beth's death. I don't think I'd seen a young main character die. I may have read the book then. I'm pretty sure I did.

I was struck by how moralistic the book is. All the characters are so good and are constantly urging each other to live out their favored virtues. The style wasn't great, but there's enough that's sufficiently charming that it's readable.I did pick it up with the feeling of obligation, but got through each daily selection so I'd finish in time. Louisa May Alcott just isn't a great writer.

I did wonder about the society and woman that produced this book. This book is so overtly moralist and the problems quite easy to address that it doesn't instruct modern readers, but it does tell the about an earlier time, or one corner of the country during an earlier time. I can see how many people wouldn't like this. However, I am struck by how popular this book is in China. Many of my students love it. They love the sisters' togetherness and the feeling of family. They also love the morality and romance though it's predictable.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Raw Talent

Right up front: My friend David wrote this book, an autobiography, and this isn't an impartial review. How can one be impartial about a friend's autobiography.

Also, I haven't finished reading it yet.

However, after laughing about three times while reading a bit today, I had to write about it and recommend it.

Raw Talent follows the life of a journey man writer-filmmaker, one who so far hasn't hit the big time, but has found success and it seems peace.

Starting as a boy, Hall loved to write and make films. He chronicles his development of his craft, his mistakes, naivete, successes and insights. Now I'm reading about a time when he was living in Los Angeles, where we met, and he was getting a lot of opportunities to pitch stories. The anecdotes about the characters and egos he meets is hilarious.

He does mention me in the book a little and it's rather weird reading about a friend's perception of me.

A good book for anyone interested in making it in Hollywood.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Out of Mao's Shadow

Philip Pan's Out of Mao's Shadow: The Struggle for the Soul of a New China (Paperback) is an excellent read. He investigates China's current handling of issues like free speech, rural taxation, displacing hutong dwellers in Beijing and honoring those who died during the Cultural Revolution by looking at the work of brave individuals. Each chapter follows a person who has dedicated himself (yeah, it's mainly men here) to righting a particular wrong. Thus readers learn of a documentary filmmaker who worked for years on a film about a young woman who was imprisoned and executed during the 1970s, a blind human rights attorney who fights for fair implementation of the one child policy, and a man who succeeded in protecting a cemetery for those who died during the Cultural Revolution. (The local government wanted to turn it into a parking lot.)

The book is well researched. Philip Pan was a Washington Post reporter in China for many years and got good access to his subjects. Learning about China's current issues through the lives of brave individuals is a powerful way to learn about the country.