Monday, April 30, 2012

Little Bee

The film will create connection where the book could not.

I so wanted to love this book. I wanted so bad to love what I was sure would be subtle political commentary. I wanted to learn more about the global economy and to suffer along with characters who try in vain to buck a system of racism and dictatorship.

And I tried. I really did. I re-read paragraphs I didn't like. I put off reviewing the novel so that I could really ruminate on it. I forced my bookclub to talk about it for a good hour longer than usual.

Despite the premise and timeliness of the subject, the cited research and constant presence on the wall of Employee Recommendations at my favorite indie bookstore, I just could not bring myself to care about any of the characters. At first I was sure that the lack of connection I felt to the writing had to do with the British stoicism that must, must be a characteristic of all UK writers. The uninspired dialogue must have been intended to be hyper-realistic. I tried to see the essence of innocence, femininity, and strength that embody the cover art between the lines of text. The problem I think, is that with such sensitive subject matter - the impact of war on individuals and separation between first- and third-world priorities - we as everyday first-world readers need our writers to lead us through the muck and mire. I'm not saying I want my every opinion shaped by left-leaning citizen journalists, but I do need a clearer picture of the emotions that true globalism and transparency will inevitably bring to the surface.

Hector and the Search for Happiness

Hector and the Search for Happiness is a pretty big title for such a little book. In another writers hands, the subject could be grossly over-written. (Is this a thing? Over-written? I'm going for a book equivalent to over-acted...ridiculously tiresome. I'd love to hear your thoughts.)

In general, I liked it. The writing style was an interesting change from what I normally read - childlike, but not childish. "It was Sunday, but Edouard was at the office because he had to finish a piece of work for the following day. He was going to show a very important man how to carry out a merger, and he wanted to do this ahead of another Edouard from another bank who wanted to show the same very important man how to do the same thing. And this very important man in turn wanted to carry out the merger ahead of another very important many who wanted to do the same thing. Hector had understood that in business everything was always a bit of a race whereas in psychiatry it wasn't really like that, you just had to be careful not to let your patients talk too much, otherwise you'd be late for the next ones, and they wouldn't like it." [page 41]

Also I like lists, and in Hector's quest, as he goes along he simply lists the 23 lessons in happiness he learns. It makes them easy to remember, and I suppose, to put them into practice.

What I don't like, is being reminded that for many men (although in this case it might just be a cultural difference since author Francois Lelord is from France and practices psychiatry there) infidelity is not a big deal, and as long as it doesn't make you feel TOO bad, you should just keep your indiscretions discreet and you can have your cake and it too.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Graduate

I found this musty copy of Charles Webb's The Graduate in the basement of my grandparents house, in a pile of old National Geographics and issues of Cosmo from 1974. Jackpot! With a hand-drawn silhouette of a woman's leg across the cover and commendations by the Chigago Tribune and the New York Times promising a "Brilliant...Sardonic, Ludicrously Funny" novel, I was so excited for a campy, sexy, comedy-of-errors to read on the plane back to Arizona.

I'm not exactly sure what passed for sexy or funny in 1963, but if this was it - we've come a long way, baby.

The Graduate is the story of a college-educated, son of a lawyer who returns home after four years of schooling to loll around his parents house, depressed, bored, and suffering an existential crisis. He's ornery, lazy, and entitled, but despite an ill conceived affair with the morality-challenged wife of his father's business partner, his cannot quite fight the strong inner drive to seek out the white bread path of least resistance that has been set before him from birth.