Monday, October 16, 2006

Brideshead Revisted

I only became serious about reading this book yesterday. Upon launching into the first few chapters, I became entirely focused on finishing the book as soon as possible. This was not for any feelings of love towards the book or the author. In fact, I was feeling quite the opposite. I needed to finish it so that I could move onto something I could find more enjoyable.

First, I spent the entire book thinking it had been written by a woman. On the contrary, it was written by a male who was named Evelyn. (Some parents can be so cruel. But that's England for you. Coincidentally, during one point in time, Evelyn Waugh was married to an Evelyn and the two went by "he-Evelyn" and "she-Evelyn". For more information on E. Waugh, I would highly recommend a quick Wikipedia read through here. It's worth taking the time for.)

Because I hated this book so much (ironically until the last 4 pages) I figured there had to be some underlying meaning to the work and some great philosophical argument that could be debated over after having read it. Alas, I am not wrong in my assumption. A quick online perusal of the book leads me to believe it is a "great work" focusing on God's grace bestowed upon sinful man. Naturally, it is classified under "the 100 best novels of all time" yadda, yadda, yadda. Waugh is praised as one of the best authors England has ever produced, etc., etc.. I differ in my opinion, but who am I to argue with the educated literary masses? It has been argued, written and decreed that Brideshead Revisted is a work of art. So let us discuss it.

It is a story told through the eyes and life of Charles Ryder who stumbles into a family's acquaintance via a school chum by the name of Sebastian Flyte. I'm not much impressed by Sebastian's character after his initial introduction to Charles, so I'll gloss over him to say he's a drunk and a lout. Nevertheless, Charles feels such great affection for his friend that he seldom tells him "no" and gives him money to pursue his drunken orgies. There are hints in the story that there was a romantic love between the two. Apparently it has been of some debate over whether or not a homosexual relationship actually existed between the two. I would say NOT although the hints are quite strong. In fact, Waugh himself apparently pursued a few such relationships in his own life and so I do not find it surprising that he would attribute such tendencies to the characters in his story.

In fact, after reading a tiny bit about Waugh, I would say that the character of Charles Ryder is based pretty heavily on Waugh's own life. Both of them seemed to have a small seed of faith at one time or another, yet both rejected it. Neither seemed particularly keen on Catholicism, which is the Religion of Interest throughout the book. Both Evelyn himself and Charles were artists. Both had unsuccessful marriages that ended in divorce due to their own infidelity. Both remarried. Waugh seems to be more successful at his second marriage than Charles was in love in this fictional work. If one is encouraged to write about what they know, then I think this book is eye-opening into the life of Waugh himself. It is not a life I'd envy.

The story weaves through the period of about 20 years of the Flyte family life. The only committed Catholic/christian in the bunch was the mother, who had been long since abandoned by the father (who chose to live out the remainder of his life with his mistress). When she died I felt relief (for her). I wouldn't have wanted to live to watch my children live the lives they choose either. In fact, at several points I hoped that some of the characters would die off to spare us all some grief. However, I suppose that would have defeated the point of the work if the point is actually to demonstrate God's grace extended.

Without providing a spoiler to the story, for those of you who haven't read it, I think a strong case CAN be made to say that this book is about God's grace bestowed. Truly, Waugh gives us the worst of all character qualities wrapped up into one family to extend the grace to. He certainly has a way of making you feel drug down into the depths of despair over his character's lives. Yet in the end, as I said, in the last 4 pages (give or take) wrongs are righted. Not in an entirely satisfying way, but enough so that you don't feel like you wasted a day of your life trying to work through the book. I think Waugh had enough of an interesting life to make his character's lives "real" to the masses. There is a sin which all of us can identify with, at least in some form or fashion (though I would hope not as severely as his characters). But if fiction can grant grace, this book would remind a Christian that God forgives the worst of sinners and offers salvation to the lowly. He gives grace to the humble. If this is the truth Waugh was trying to communicate, he does so very clearly and cleverly. He just makes sure you've waited a long time and that your hope is pretty deferred by the time you get there.

This is NOT a book I enjoyed reading. I would not say it's a pleasure book. It is definitely a book that took a lot of work and effort on my part to get through. Would I recommend it? Not for a good time, that's for sure. Although I'm sure there are some that would enjoy it for its "intellectual pursuits" I'd rather my fiction be more cheery. But that's me!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I am begging you, pleading with you....

Please, please, PLEASE withacherryontop, DON”T see the new Flicka movie until you have read the original book “My Friend Flicka” by Mary O’Hara!

I was really excited when I first learned about it because it’s always been one of my favorite horse books and I like Tim McGraw but then I saw that they changed the main character from a boy named Ken to a girl named Katy!

It makes me angry that sexism has extended this far. Why does it have to be a girl? Why can’t a boy love horses as well? In fact, all of the horse stuff is girly now. I can’t find anything other then cowboy motif that is UN-pink and UN-ribbony!

I am a girl who loves horses, I want my sons to love horses too and it’s really hard to encourage that when toys, books and movies all seemingly point to horsemanship as a primarily feminine area.

Cowboys are amazing and most definitely masculine. (In case any of you are thinking of the Sodom and Gomorrah of “western” books, “Brokeback Mountain” it isn’t about cowboys anyway. The stupid piece of literature that it is…) But you can love horses without being a cowboy!

And even if you don’t love horses you should read the trilogy of Mary O’Hara.’s

My Friend Flicka
Green Grass of Wyoming

At least the movie is remaining somewhat true to the West and isn’t morally sick and wrong.

But it is about cowboys and they didn't even leave the young men in this world THAT!

However, I am not asking you NOT to see the movie, I just would love to have you read the book first. I had it listed on our reading list but as the movie is coming out soon I wanted to tell you!

~ Sky
a very horsey person

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

At Home In Mitford

I was glad to see this appear on our list, because I've tried reading it before and always flagged at about the time the dog made an appearance. But it's a book that's been so highly recommended by so many people and moreover people whose opinion I respect that I so wanted to enjoy it. And I did, really I did. I read the whole thing in an evening and I'm glad I did.

However, I must confess that this genre must just not be my cup of tea. I couldn't really classify it as other than 'Heartwarmer.' And I know I like other stories that have heartwarming elements to them, but this book seemed to be nothing but Heartwarming. There was no real plot. Nothing much happened. Oh, yes, there were missing food, and stolen jewels, and a mysterious love story, and a kidnapped dog, but none of this felt terribly adventurous and I felt as if I was just sort of drifting along through the story. By the time I got to the end and Father Tim had celebrated another birthday, I found myself thinking, 'Goodness me, has it really been a year already?'

For some reason, small towns - and the slow pace of life that goes therewith - just fail to interest me. I've never lived in one, never wanted to live in one, and never been enchanted by the notion of living someplace where everyone knows your business and you have no choice but to shop at the one (overpriced because of lack of competition) store in town. What did these people have against driving fifteen minutes to the nearest supermarket in the nearby college town, anyway? Do they hate Walmart, too? Good grief. I just don't identify with that mindset. (Unrelated diatribe: recently I inquired at the local Publix as to whether they'd be installing self check-out lanes anytime soon, and was told that no, they preferred to keep the personal touch. That's all well and good, but if I want personal interaction I'll get together with my friends, thank you very much. I don't rely on grocery store check-out clerks for my social interaction, and I don't do my shopping based on the friendly experience I intend to have: I do it based on the convenience, efficiency, and low cost, all of which are enhanced by the very practical self check-out lanes. And anyway, if you're that desperate for conversation, you can always go through the traditional lane after all! I just prefer to have a choice!)

I really appreciated the wholesome and edifying tone of the book, which was moral, sound, and uplifting without sounding preachy. Father Tim's spiritual dilemmas seemed real, and his Scripture quotations were on the mark. There was no theology that I flinched at or found questionable, but the book did not read like a moralistic tract for all that. Which I very much appreciated. It's a very difficult and fine line to walk, and this author did it masterfully.

What I didn't get was the relationship between Father Tim and Cynthia. I could see the casual acquaintance growing into attachment, but why all the muddling about, awkward 'going steady' talk, and midnight hugs and hair-kisses?? It struck me as rather inappropriate behaviour for a clergyman. If he was interested in her romantically, why didn't he pray about it and act on it, one way or the other??

Finally, the cake-eating scene annoyed me no end. Okay, I've been known to make up a pot of fudge or toffee and gradually consume the whole thing over the course of an afternoon or evening, but 1) I really, really like fudge. Father Tim was just eating the cake mechanically; 2) I'm not at risk for diabetes; 2) I haven't specifically been warned to follow a strict diet and health regimen lest I develop diabetes. Given all these factors, it seemed an incredibly foolish thing to do.

But then, maybe that was another point of the book. Father Tim isn't perfect either, which is what makes him all the more lovable and endearing of a character. Because, really, I found him so, even though there was little about his life, his habits, and his sleepy little town that seemed noteworthy.

I'm not sure I'll read any more of the Mitford books. It was enjoyable while I was at it, but not compelling enough to entice me to return. But I'm glad I read this one.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Princess Bride by William Goldman Life isn't fair, but it's fairer then death!

First of all, if you haven't seen the movie yet, DO!
Secondly, there never was an S. Morgenstern.

I love Goldman's style of writing, it's almost like sitting down with him and hearing the story straight out of his lips. All the little asides and parentheses make me smile and add so much more background.
Most of the movie lines are right out of the book. Since Goldman did the movie as well he remained true to the original spirit. There are two notable differences; shrieking eels replace the sharks and the whole Zoo of Death vanished.
I actually like the theatrical aspect of the eels in the water rather then sharks, everyone knows about the sharks, so to have huge eels coming out of the water and screaming is something a little different and fun. (I am not a water person so this doesn't inhibit me anymore then anything else. I simply do not swim.)
As to the missing Zoo of Death, I do wish that they had really gone into it but I can see why G. cut it out, can you imagine how much more money would have been spent and how much longer the movie would have been?
The Zoo of Death brings me to Prince Humperdinck. I like the book character better, he is more evil, more powerful and so is the more worthy opponent. In the movie he is more of a snobby, weakling.
One of my favorite scenes in the book is the Princess Noreena of Guilder losing her hat. "Madam, feel free to flee!" I can just see the large Banquet Hall and the wind making the candles sputter and go out, the Prince turning red with fury as the sheen of her bare head gleams in the dim light!
I have never really liked Princess Buttercup, her love of Horse is the only reason I can somewhat tolerate her silliness. A woman of action am I so it is with impatience that I endure her lack of will to do something in scary situations.

I know that the ending is very unorthodox, I like it that way. For me I know that they all lived somewhat happily ever after.
I think that Humperdinck actually marries Princess Noreena because his mother finds out about his plot to destroy Guilder and threatens him with publicity unless he makes amends and provides her with grandchildren.
Westley and Buttercup sail away and live happily in ignorance of the fact that she is beautiful but dumb and he is handsome and intelligent but a somewhat bloodthirsty pirate.
Inigo and Fezzik write poetry books for children under the name Dr. Suess.
The Albino becomes the Head Gamekeeper for the London Zoo (this was after London remember.)
Yes, this book is strange and somewhat silly but I love it. Probably because of it's eccentricities. The movie is one of my all time favorites, the cast is brilliant and truly bring Goldman's characters to life. "As you wish" is an age old situation but in this book it has a few comical and interesting twists as well as many colorful people and alot of different stories.
I hope you enjoyed it.